Based upon the number of questions I receive regarding the value of a reader's silver pieces, there must be a large number of people out there thinking about selling their silver flatware and hollowware pieces. Although I generally do not recommend selling silver pieces for scrap, it often helps to know what the scrap value is for a benchmark if nothing else. The first step in calculating the scrap value is to determine the weight of pure silver within a piece. This leads to the confusing world of units of weight measure for precious metals.
The world commodity markets value pure silver in terms of dollars per Troy ounce. The problem is that we are accustomed to measuring the weight of items in avoirdupois (or "regular") ounces. Troy ounces and avoirdupois ounces are not equivalent. It makes things simpler for me to convert weights to grams. Once I know the number of grams, I can convert to whatever system of weights necessary.
Another common unit of measure used in the industry is "pennyweight" (abbreviated "DWT"). Again, I convert to grams for simplicity. Here are the common conversion factors:
- One Troy ounce = 31.1034768 grams
- One avoirdupois ounce = 28.3495231 grams
- One pennyweight = 1.5551738 grams
Few silver flatware or hollowware pieces are made of 100% silver. So, one also has to determine how much actual silver is in a piece. In the United States, "sterling" pieces contain at least 92.5% silver. I say "at least" because one may find some pieces with slightly higher percentages of silver content. For example, I recently had some damaged pieces of sterling flatware melted down and they contained 93.4% silver on average. However, it's best to assume sterling pieces are 92.5% silver until proven otherwise.
Here's an example of the process to calculate value:
- Let's assume we have one Gorham Chantilly place fork that weighs 50 grams.
- 50 multiplied by .925 gives us 46.25 grams of pure silver content.
- 46.25 divided by 31.1034768 gives us 1.487 Troy ounces of silver in this fork.
- As this article is being written, the world silver price is $23.17 per Troy ounce.
- 1.487 Troy ounces multiplied by $23.17 gives us $34.35 as the scrap value of this fork.
Should I sell this fork for scrap? Heck, no! Here's why:
- A fork like this in decent condition will probably bring at least $50 (probably more) on eBay.
- If I tried to sell the fork for scrap, it's highly unlikely I would receive $34.35. The metal refiner and any middlemen would take a cut. I'd probably be lucky to get as much as $20 for the fork if I sold it for scrap. But just knowing the scrap value helps me determine a selling price.
You can find more information and calculation tools here: