Expert Q&A

Q. My aunt gave me an antique silver tea set that belonged to my grandmother. How can I tell if it’s worth anything?

A. First of all, you need to make sure the tea set is really an antique (defined as at least 100 years old). This definitely affects its value. Luckily, every piece of solid silver or silver plate has a mark on it that makes it easy to determine when it was made, by which company and possibly the name of the model. With some sleuthing, you can find out what the mark on your set means. Go to your local library, where you’ll find plenty of books (such as Guide to Silver Marks of the World) that contain pictures of silver marks with which to compare yours.

Once you’ve identified the correct mark, I recommend doing an “image search” for the tea set on Google. On Google’s homepage click on “images” in upper left hand corner, then do a search by typing in the model name and/or manufacturer of your set and the year. You will usually be rewarded with a bunch of photos from antique dealers’ Web sites. Examine them to see if any look similar to your tea set. When you find a match, divide the listed retail price in half. That’s the realistic amount you can expect to get from a dealer or a buyer on sites like eBay. For more info, check out the Antiques Almanac Web site.

Expert Bob Brooke is the author of How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit (Globe Pequot Press 2006).

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