New collector with questions

I recently purchased a few items of American sterling holloware. I’ve found myself intrigued with collecting sterling (I like history; I also love collecting in general; and with the increasing value of silver as a commodity, it seems like this would somewhat minimize the risk of bad decisions or limited knowledge for a beginner).

My first purchases have been International Silver Co. (bowls, salt and pepper, cream and sugar all in the Prelude pattern) and a few Gorham Corp. small 6" sterling bowls.

As a beginner, I’m looking for advise – would you recommend that I try to stay with the same manufacturer and/or the same pattern? Or, should I just buy what I find pleasing and keep in mind the salvage value? Is International Prelude a good pattern with which to begin a collection, does certain manufacturers and/or patterns have higher demand and/or greater supply?

I have purchased several reference books including the Encyclopedia of American Silver, etc, Can you recommend additional resources – particularly something that might provide updated value estimates?

I’ve read that monograms don’t necessarily harm the value, what are your thoughts? Like with other collectibles, I know condition is important but with antique sterling how do you determine the value of something mint vs. something well used…

Any help or advise for a novice would be appreciated… Thank you in advance for your help…

Hi richawki, welcome to Since I’m the American silver guy, I’ll offer some thoughts.

International Silver is good quality and vast quanities are out there. The Prelude pattern is one of their most popular. My view is that you should concentrate on one pattern and manufacturer for a while until you get comfortable - become a “mini-expert” on that first, then branch out.

My view is that elaborate monograms add value to silver as pure art. Others have opposite views. There is an excellent article in the current issue of Silver magazine on the art of hand engraving silver and its resurgance.

Ebay remains the best measure of value for “common” American silver. Do a search now and then on the “completed items” of your choice and see what’s being paid. Another good reference is where they are asking retail prices. That site is also excellent for identifying patterns and makers.

Thanks for joining us here and we hope to see you again soon.

Uncle Vic