The history of the Reed & Barton company began in Taunton, MA in 1824. Today, the company has developed into a world renowned maker of sterling silver, silver-plated, and stainless steel flatware. Reed & Barton silverware is prized by consumers and collectors. Because of the long history of the company, there are many patterns from which to choose. Learning to identify the various patterns is a matter of doing some research and familiarizing yourself with the different types of decoration found on Reed & Barton silver.
Verify that you have a Reed & Barton piece. Check the markings on the back of your silver. A Reed & Barton piece will be marked with the company name or with the letter R inside a shield. In addition, between 1928-1957, the company included a date mark on its pieces. Check the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks, & Maker’s Marks, or the website A Small Collection of Antique Silver and Objects of Vertu, to see examples of these marks.
Study guidebooks. Look for Reed and Barton flatware in books dedicated to silverware pattern identification. Search the library, a bookstore, on online for titles such as “Silverplated Flatware” by Tere Hagan, “Warman's Sterling Silver Flatware: Value & Identification Guide” by Mark F. Moran, “Silverware of the 20th Century: The Top 250 Patterns” by Harry L. Rinker and “Sterling Flatware Identification & Value Guide” by Tere Hagan.
Compare your pattern to other pieces. A time consuming but effective way to identify your pattern is to compare your piece to pieces that already have been identified. Use an Internet dealer that specializes in replacement flatware to compare your silver to the many patterns in their inventory. Another option for comparison are online auction sites, which are useful because of their vast and quickly changing inventory. In addition to helping identify your pattern, doing this comparison exercise will give you an idea of how much it would cost to add additional pieces to your collection.
Get some help. Seek out identification services that will help you identify your pattern. One such free resource is the china, silver, and crystal dealer Replacements, Ltd. This company offers free help in identifying silver pieces if you send them pictures of your silver. Photos, or even a drawing, can be sent via e-mail, regular mail, or fax. Be sure to include a clear picture of the marking on your piece, as well as an image that shows any decorative detail on the silver.
Shelia Odak has over 10 years writing and editing experience for consumer and trade publications including "Radio/TV Interview Report." She has worked for over nine years in education and holds a Ph.D. from Georgia State University. Odak writes on a range of topics including education, literature and frugal living.