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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Eat, Drink, And Be Merry: Silver, China, Spoons

( Orginally published 1962 )

Craftsmen of all the ages have catered to man's necessities, and because of this the treasure hunter can search his attics, his cellars, and the second-hand stores for treasures unimaginable. Dishes that look like junk, battered teapots, little figurines to make your tables and your rooms look prettier, silver of all kindsall these you can find and all of them are worth money in your pocket if you will only look for them.

Silver of any kind if it was made by Paul Revere is valuable if you can find it. Collectors and museum curators will always bid eagerly for it, paying thousands of dollars for even a goblet made by him.

One man owned a Revere goblet but thought it was only junk. However, he called in dealers to look at it. The first one offered him the current price for silver by the ounce, but the second dealer recognized it as Revere and paid him over $4,400 for it.

This does not mean that the first dealer was dishonest, but it does show that even experts can overlook lost treasures because they do not look closely enough or because they do not know which treasures are missing and therefore valuable.

These missing treasures of Paul Revere can be anywhere! A missing Revere copperplate, the one on which Massachusetts shillings were printed in 1775, was found in a junk pile in Scotland. Today it rests with the Antiquarian Society in Worcester.

How far a treasure can travel before the discerning eye of the treasure hunter spots it for what it is! Much of our early American silver, including Revere silver, was sent to England in the early days by families who remained loyal to the Crown. But much of it is still in America. Some of it is in the museums-but some of it is hiding in America's attics, waiting for the treasure hunter to find it.

On the other hand, some of the English items were sent to America. Tea caddies of this period, for example, worth from only a few dollars to several hundred dollars apiece, depending of course on age, condition, rarity, maker, etc.

The ever popular Toby jugs should be on every treasure hunter's list, for they are on every collector's list. Worth from a few dollars to $100 or more apiece, they can still be found-if you are willing to look for them.

Even the round, three-footed, cooking pots used by our ancestors in their open fireplaces can be worth something-if you will take the time to locate them.

However, in looking for American silver, caddies, and threefooted cooking pots, do not neglect items of European older make which are missing, such as the fabled Medici china!

In the late fifteen and the early sixteen hundreds Medici china -bowls, plates, vases, etc.-was made in Florence, Italy, and today there are not even fifty pieces of this magnificent china in existence-that is, unless you can find it.

Any piece of this china would truly be found treasure if you could locate it. There is no museum in the world that would not want it.

But not everyone can find Medici china. So try for Staffordshire china, made in Staffordshire and slanted toward the Pennsylvania Dutch market. Pieces of Staffordshire are rare, because in the past collectors thought very little of them and they were allowed to be lost or destroyed. Today they are not only desired but sought after by the collectors, who are more than willing to pay for whatever you can find. A piece of Staffordshire can be worth over $100-if you are lucky enough to find it. I have even seen prices quoted as high as $1,800 for one piece of rare Staffordshire.

Also watch for Lowestoft china, a rare piece of which can be worth hundreds of dollars. A rare but complete set of Lowestoft can be worth a couple of thousand-at least.

A set of Worcester china, if complete, can also be valuable. A complete set can be worth over $1,000-if complete, fine enough, and rare enough.

Also watch for Crown Derby china, any of it. If you are lucky enough you will find a rare piece, or if you are very lucky, a complete set.

Historical interest and not monetary value alone is sometimes important. There is also the excitement of finding important missing items, like the dessert service of flowers and blue and gold, with the mark "S," which belonged to George Washington. Only three pieces are known to be extant today-unless you can find the rest of them.

There is also a set of plates decorated with an eagle and initialed "G." and "M. W." for George and Martha Washington. Only one of these plates is known to be in existence. The others are lost-unless you can find them. Nor can any value be placed on Washington's missing china, until someone finds it. Perhaps it will bring a great deal and perhaps very little, depending on its condition and how badly the collectors want it.

Anything which comes out of the dining rooms or the kitchens of yesteryear can have some value, however-even if it did not belong to a president. Even such odd-sounding things as spiders and trivets have some value. Spiders and trivets are both names for a metal stand used to hold hot kettles. Used in front of fireplaces as early as the 1600's, they are today collectors' items.

Or perhaps you might find lusterware, each piece worth $50 or so-depending on condition, age, etc.-or some of the gold work of the early colonies, or Sheffield plate, which is in such demand by collectors.

Or you might find early pewter ware-items which always sell to collectors. Or, if you are very lucky, rare Chinese porcelain, sometimes worth a great deal if it is old enough, rare enough, and in fine enough condition.

Or you might find figurines, some of them worth only a few dollars, some of them worth $1,000 or more.

Any old silver, old china, or anything made for the comfort and beauty of the dining rooms and kitchens of the past has some value.

Even spoons have value, and one kind of valuable spoon is the apostle spoon! Collectors vie for these apostle spoons, which were made during the Middle Ages and which were still being made as late as the sixteenth century. Souvenirs of the birth of a child, these spoons would be presented as gifts at the christening.

Spoons were so rare at that time that when a person went visiting he was expected to bring his own-if he was wealthy enough to have one in the first place.

To give out apostle spoons made of silver was a mark of good breeding, fine birth, and social standing, in the Middle Ages, since only the wealthy could afford spoons of any kind.

The Middle Ages were filled with superstitions and not the least of these was the one that silver could drive out disease. For this reason, when a baby was born to a wealthy family, the parents had a silver spoon placed in his mouth to protect the child against illness. From this comes the expression "To be born with a silver spoon in the mouth" which even today means to be born of wealthy parents. For only the wealthy could afford a silver spoon and only the very wealthy could afford to give away apostle spoons as christening gifts.

Each of these latter spoons was dedicated to a particular apostle, and the finial [a decoration at the top of its handle] of each spoon showed a likeness of one of the apostles.

A full set of apostle spoons would consist of twelve, although occasionally there would be an extra spoon picturing Christ, and sometimes there would also be a spoon representing the Virgin.

Only one complete set of apostle spoons, all of them of the same date, is known to be in existence today. Dated 1628, this set is in the Goldsmith's Hall in London. It consists of thirteen spoons, because it includes the extra one representative of the "Master."

Even one apostle spoon is of some value-but if you should find a complete set and all of the same date, remember that only one other complete set exists today.

Whether it is china, silver or gold-if it belonged in the dining rooms and the kitchens of yesterday-it belongs in the museums of today.