Monday, September 27, 2010

Criteria for Purchasing Antique Sterling

All polished up.
To someone who knows a great deal about sterling silver, this process will seem simple and routine, but for the novice, it can be nothing short of mystifying.  I want to lead you through the process of what sterling silver antiques you should be buying and why.  To do that, I want to show you the process of purchasing a pair of sterling candlesticks from the find to the listing on my shop.
I was in a small disorganized (my favorite) antique store on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  After going through the whole shop, I spotted a pair of candlesticks.  Nearly black with patina, I picked them up for a closer look.  I could make out the stamp STERLING on the bottom.  This is crucial for modern American silver.  I see many candlesticks and seldom buy them for one of two reasons:
1.) They are too common
2.) They are overpriced.
These were unique in that they were 10" tall.  That's fairly tall in the realm of affordable sterling candlesticks that I run into.  They were also a well-matched pair.  Although in sore need of polishing, they had no apparent damage and were strong.  By strong, I mean that they did not seem weak at the joints which is a common problem with poor quality sterling.  They also weren't cheap.
So, I went home and I didn't buy them.  Why?  Because I research every purchase I make to examine profit margin, competitors and the product itself.  After a quick look on Google Shopping, it became apparent that you couldn't buy a pair of 10" candlesticks in this condition and style for less then $250.
A week later, I went back and pulled the trigger.  I don't have a warehouse, so I have to enjoy living with something in my home until it sells.  These were elegant, so they met the last criteria..Can I live with them?
But, who made them?  I had identified "comparables", but could I identify the date and maker of these particular ones?  Of course, it's easy.  After polishing, the maker's mark became clear.  It looked something like this:  <M>.  My guess was that these were American, so that's the first assumption you have to make.  Then, it's a quick trip to a fantastic online reference source:  This is a fantastic web site to learn about sterling from.  you click on American makers and then look for the mark.  Mine is an M, so I look through the M's looking for the mark.  There under M, I find that this mark is for the Mueck-Carey Co. of New York and dates between 1940 and 1950.  Done, you now know exactly what you have.
Armed with that information, you can return to Google Shopping and do a comparative analysis with the following search string: Mueck Carey 10 Candlestick Sterling.  This brings up 2 listings for the exact same candlesticks.  One is $400 for 4 matched candlesticks and the other is for two.  The set of two is on sale for $282 dollars on EBay and the set of four is $400 on Ruby Lane, a common antiques web site.  So where to price them?  Assuming I can afford to, I want to beat out the single competitor selling a pair.  I price at $185, a savings of $100 from one competitor and substantially cheaper than the other as well.  And voila, you have the listing:
All said, I have now purchased great antiques from a shop owner who could not move them, have something in the house I will enjoy, and will provide a very inexpensive high quality product to the potential buyer.  And that, is business that makes me smile.  I want to have the cheapest, best antiques that a small budget can afford. 
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  1. Great blog! This content keeps lots of information about antique which is so valuable for antique collectors. Thanks for sharing. For collectors, the functionality of a piece of Sterling Silver Candlesticks is sometimes the most important consideration, especially if that functionality is archaic.

    1. Thanks! Glad to know someone is reading!