How to Appraise a Silver Coffee Service

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While you may not have a butler to serve you coffee from a silver service, you may own and cherish a silver coffeepot, creamer and sugar bowl. The pieces may have been passed down through the generations, or perhaps you fell in love with the service at an antiques store. Whatever the story behind the pieces, you may not know their value. Take the time to do some research into the history of, and market for, your coffee service to learn the modern worth of this vintage collectible.

Educate yourself about your coffee service. The more you know about your service, the easier it will be to get an accurate valuation. Look on the bottom of the pieces to see if you can find a maker’s name, a pattern name or an indication as to whether the pieces are silver or silver plate. For example, if you see the hallmark of a walking lion on your service, you have a piece of British sterling silver. Replacements, Ltd., which sells china, silver and crystal replacements, is an example of a source that can assist in identifying the maker and pattern of your service. If you send such a company a picture of your pieces by email, fax or postal mail, it will use its information to identify the service.

Look for information in price guides. Take a trip to a bookstore or library to find silver price guidebooks. If you have been able to determine the manufacturer’s name, look for a book that deals with that specific maker. If not, search in guidebooks with information on many silver manufacturers, such as “Warman's Sterling Silver Flatware: Value & Identification Guide” by Phil Dreis or “Miller's Buyer's Guide: Silver & Plate” by Daniel Bexfield.

Explore what your service would be worth on the open market. Compare your pieces to those that have sold in recent months to get a good estimate of value. A popular choice for seeing the sale price of collectibles is the "Completed Auctions" feature on eBay. Another online resource is the website WorthPoint. This subscription site lists prices of objects sold at different auction houses as well as those sold through Internet antiques stores.

Hire an appraiser. If you need a written appraisal for insurance purposes or if your research has led you to believe your coffee service is quite valuable, it is worth the cost of having a professional appraisal performed. Organizations such as the American Society of Appraisers or the International Society of Appraisers can help you find silver experts in your area. Another option is to contact a local museum with an extensive silver collection and ask for a referral to a reputable appraiser.