Shiny or Dull, Silver Makes for a Great Collectible

Shiny or Dull, Silver Makes for a Great Collectible

When it comes to precious metals, one of the best to collect in terms of long-lasting value is silver. Some people like how it shimmers when polished. Others like to wear it. Still, others know that during hard economic times, silver tends to be resilient.

We see a lot of silver come through our auction house in all forms. Here are some things to consider when buying silver:

Know the difference between sterling silver and silver-plated:

Just because a piece is marked as silver, doesn’t mean it’s sterling. Most sterling silver will have a hallmark, or stamp, of .925. This means that the metal is 925 parts of 1000 pure silver. Rare sterling will have a hallmark of .999, but this is harder to manipulate. Silver-plated items have a thin layer of silver bonded to a metal base, such as copper, nickel or brass. These pieces tend to be magnetic, and will jump towards a strong magnet.

Examine the makers’ marks:

Earlier this month, an antique silver Russian icon realized $475 at one of our Saturday auctions. This 12.5-inch by 10.5-inch unique piece was marked as .875 silver, and dated back to 1881. The silver value alone was not worth a lot, but in this instance, bidders knew the value of purchasing a piece with the maker’s mark of Andrey Shikhin, and assay master’s mark of Ivan Yefimovich Konstantinov.

Going back to sterling silver marks, many foreign pieces do not have the .925 marking. That’s because the standard varies. For a list of foreign hallmarks and makers’ marks, visit the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks and Makers’ Marks at

Tarnish is natural:

How many of you reading this have the good silverware for company stored away? You know that if you left it out in the air, eventually it would tarnish. Polishing will remove the tarnish, but be careful not to polish or clean antique pieces or coins. Collectors often prefer their natural patina and cleaning solutions could damage coins.

Research silver coins:

I could write a separate article just about this topic. Whether you’re collecting silver coins, silver rounds or silver bullion bars, be sure to do your research. A good guide is the Standard Catalog of World Coins.

Recently, we sold a 2016 ANACS-graded MS70 Canada S-Shield Superman coin for $120. The $5 coin was marked .999 silver and weighed one ounce. It was purchased on the first day of issue as number 47 out of 743. Superman is an icon that’s not going away anytime soon. I believe this partnership between the Royal Canadian Mint and DC Comics was smart as this coin will most likely appreciate in value over time.

As for gold versus silver, it’s a lot more expensive to collect gold. I guess you could say that’s the silver lining in collecting this grayish-white metal. Silver is more affordable and much easier to collect.


Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Consignment in Glendale.

Contact:, or @EJs_Auction on Twitter.


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