The high price of silver is making it worth more to scrappers than antique dealers.
Dealers with sterling flatware, tea sets, pitchers and serving trays are finding that many mass-produced, boring patterns net the biggest haul at a scrap dealer, said Althea Willette, a Twin Cities silver appraiser.
Sellers are astonished to find that a serving tray, for example, can be worth $2,500 as scrap. One reader, Monica from Plymouth, was so surprised that her dad's silver set is worth thousands that she wouldn't allow her name to be used, fearful that she would be robbed.
Scrap dealers don't care if the silver is dented, tarnished, plain or ugly, said Todd Meyer at Enviro-Chem in Rogers.
"Antique dealers sell me stuff because I can pay more than what they can sell it for," he said.
Only sterling silver will bring in big bucks, not silver plate. Anyone with sterling sitting tarnished and unused in the drawer can make about $1,500 for eight-place settings of forks, spoons and knives, Meyer said. Depending on weight and the number of additional serving pieces, he has paid as much as $4,125 for a set that weighed 5,428 grams. (Knives are less valuable because they contain other metals for strength.)
A person can distinguish sterling from silver plate by looking for markings.
"Silver brags," Willette said.
Look for markings of 925/1000, indicating that the piece is 92.5 percent silver. Other pieces are marked with a symbol that tells purity, country of origin, date or maker.
Like gold, silver nets widely varying scrap prices. Earlier this week, Enviro-Chem was paying 88 cents a gram. Wedding Day Diamonds in Maplewood was paying 52 cents a gram.