In the world of antiques, a silver tray is usually two-handled or high-rimmed and can be as much as two feet wide. Several factors affect the value of a silver tray. The tray's maker will influence the price, as will the design. Condition and date are two other important considerations. Current fashion and trends can also affect a tray's value. However, very old trays by popular makers can often reach many thousands of dollars at auction.
Turn the tray on its front and check for any hallmarks on the back. There may only be a single mark, or there may be several marks alongside each other, or in different corners of the tray. Look for letters, digits and pictures. These all refer to information about the tray that can help determine value.
Look for the digits .925 impressed into the metal. This is one of several marks that signify sterling silver. Sterling is the highest-quality worked silver and usually brings higher sale prices.
Compare your hallmark to those shown in a hallmark guide. You can see many hallmarks online at the 925-1000 website. Alternatively, buy a book such as Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks. If your tray is more than 100 years old, or if it's by a notable designer, it will likely be of higher value.
Search the tray for signs of damage and feel for any dents and bumps. Trays in poor condition lose value, and evidence of solder may be a sign of forgery or imitation.
Beware of 19th-century trays that are made of old Sheffield plate (silver-plated copper) or electroplate. Search for the letters EPNS or EPBM. This is a mark for silver plate. All of these tend to be worth less than solid silver trays.
Feel the weight of the tray. Silver trays often increase in value the heavier they are. Look at the patterning to help indicate style and date. For example, if the tray has a silver rope twist border, it may be from the early 19th century--and very desirable. Sharp angles and lines may indicate an art deco-style tray from the early 20th century, which may fetch a lower price.
Determine current sale prices and demand by checking auction house websites. For example, a large auctioneer such as Sotherby's or Christie's will display its sale prices online. Check their recent silver sales for trays to get an idea of value.
Consult a local dealer or auction house for a professional evaluation. Remember that auction prices are an estimate--and that dealers are likely to offer lower prices in order to make a profit.
Things You'll Need:
- Silver tray
- Internet access
- Guide to hallmarks
Speak to an antique silver specialist for an appraisal on any expensive pieces.
- 925-1000: Online Encylopedia of Hallmarks
- Frederick Bradbury, Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks, 2010
- Speak to an antique silver specialist for an appraisal on any expensive pieces.
Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.