The price of silver has recently risen to the highest it's been in more than 30 years. That means that beautiful collections of sterling flatware can be sold for scrap for more money that you would expect, and vastly more than most people paid for it. I bought most of my silver when it was $5 an ounce, and it was only $10 an ounce just a few years ago. The high prices also mean that very few pieces are selling on eBay because people can sell solid pieces for scrap right now for more than most people are willing to pay at these silver prices.
As to selling sterling silver flatware for scrap, the short answer is that you can get 85% of the current spot price for solid sterling silver flatware pieces from at least one company. You can also probably get (not confirmed by my personal experience) 75% of the current spot price from another different company for the silver content of filled pieces such as hollow-handled knives.
But you can make a very serious mistake if you're not careful. Many (most) (almost all) silver recyclers will pay only a tiny fraction of the spot price of silver for scrap sterling silver flatware. Almost everyone advertising online says they pay top dollar for silver, but they are trying to cheat you. They are really paying somewhere between 25%-33% of the spot price value of the silver in your sterling silver flatware. 85% is a very good deal, and even 75% isn’t bad, given that the sterling silver flatware has to be melted down so the 7.5% of non-silver ingredients can be removed.
For the record: I have no association with any company, store, dealer, refiner or anyone else; I'm just a regular private eBayer like you. I'll let you know of other quality buyers as I learn of them.
How To Calculate What Your Sterling Silver Is Worth
- The “spot price” (the current market price) of silver is for 1 troy ounce of pure silver.
- One regular ounce is equal to 0.911458333 troy ounces.
- Sterling silver is only .925% pure silver (at least technically, but in practice it's less due to after melt weight loss and assay at .9 and not .925).
- 1 ounce of sterling silver is 0.843098958025 of a troy ounce of pure silver, or 84.3%.
- Weigh your SOLID sterling silver flatware pieces (not hollow-handled items like knives) on a regular post office-type scale;
- Multiply that weight by 0.843 to get the weight in troy ounces of pure silver in the flatware;
- Multiply by the spot price (just google silver spot price), and that is the value of the silver in your flatware if it were in pure form; and
- Now multiply that value by .8494 (84.94%) to get the price you can get for flatware.
How Some Buyers Will Try To Cheat You
There are a great many unscrupulous companies out there, particularly on the internet, who are making bogus claims to offer top dollar for silver. Most of them won't even say how much they pay until you actually ship your pieces to them, at which point you've obviously lost the game. For example, here is an unscrupulous national website that does put its price on the website: cashforsilverusa .com, but they will offer less than half of what you can get elsewhere. Most of the other big websites hide their prices, but they are no better and often worse. You can call them to ask if you don’t believe me. They say they’ll pay as much as anyone else guaranteed, but don’t you believe it.
The cheaters will quote you prices in pennyweight, which is often written “dwt”. You will see that the cashforsilverusa website will pay $0.60 per pennyweight, which is just their way of obscuring what a ridiculously low price this is. The price for less than 50 ounces is only $0.50 per dwt. Remember that 1 regular ounce = 18.2291 dwt (pennyweight) or 1 troy ounce = 20 dwt (pennyweight). So today, when the spot price of silver is $43 per troy ounce, or $2.15 per dwt, this website is offering 28% of the value, instead of 85% or even 75%.
Where To Get 85% Of The Spot Price
The only place I know of that will pay 85% of the pure silver content in sterling silver flatware is Midwest Refinieries (midwestrefineries.com). They don't give a shipping credit, which isn't surprising when they're paying this much. They say they pay 90% of the value of the silver you send them after they melt it down, and they do, but it really comes out at 85% due to a couple of adjustments (see below). Keep in mind that they won't take any filled pieces such as hollow-handled knives, so it's only solid pieces like forks, spoons and many serving pieces.
When I first started out to sell about half my collection as silver prices were spiking, Midwest Refineries answered my request for additional information and reassurance with a polite, professional reply that noted two important adjustments to what you can expect to receive, and why it doesn't come in at the full 90%:
- There is a 3% average after melt weight loss; and
- Sterling assays out at 90% not 92.5%, so that is the figure they use in the calculation to predict what a customer will recieve.
So, when you do the math, it means you should receive 84.94% of what the value would be if the sterling was actually 92.5% pure silver, and there were no melt weight loss or any other costs at all.
Here's The Deal I Got
Since I started this eBay guide the price of silver soared to almost $50 per ounce and then crashed back down again. I sent a lot of silver (almost 12 POUNDS) to Midwest Refineries as silver was at $43 and on its way up, and though it took longer than I wanted for them to process the shipment (eight working days), I basically got the same price as it was on its way down again. The details are that on 4/18/11 I shipped them 147 pieces of solid sterling flatware that weighed 178 regular ounces, they received it on 4/21/11, and Midwest Refineries sent me back the following information about my silver from the settlement on 5/3/11:
- Troy Ounces Weight Received: 162.062
- Weight After Melt: 155.936
- Assay Yield %: 90.016
- Troy Oz. Contained: 140.367
- % Payable: 90
- Troy Oz. Payable: 126.331
- Market Price: $43.15
- Settlement Amount: $5,451.17 (the check was enclosed)
So this came in about 1% below the calculation I used at the top of the guide, and that was mainly due to the "weight loss during melt" coming at 3.8% instead of the forecast 3%. The price on the settlement date was fluctuating, but it was about $43 most of the day and then dropping at the end to close at $41.66, so Midwest Refineries did not play any games here at all, but apparently just looked at the price at the moment they were doing the job and used that. This alone means that in my book they are stand-up guys, worthy of trust. They did what they said they were going to do, and I have to believe that if there wasn't such a mad rush by people like me to cash in at the top of the market, then the eight working day processing time would be reduced (see the latest info on how quick they are working in a regular market). At the end of the process I must say that while I was pretty nervous about the delay, given that the day I received the check (5/6/11) silver had dropped below $34, Midwest Refineries did this exactly right. My angst would have been assuaged if they had e-mailed me the settlement information the day of the process. But that's my problem I guess, not theirs, but it did give rise to every dark suspicion imaginable before the check came, all of them for naught.
UPDATE (2/2/13): An eBay reader of this guide (icbygod) wrote to me and asked for my advice. She was being offered 48 cents a gram by a local jeweller for her silver, but she thought it was too low. I did some quick math and told her she was being offered only half of what Midwest Refineries would pay her. She said she would send off half her silver to see if I was right. Here's the message she sent me a moment ago: "My husband and I are soooo excited! We got our check today from Midwest Refineries. It is was a quick turn around. I mailed the silver out on 1/28 and I got my check today, 2/2. We didn't send it all because some of it was my mother's. We sent 100.519 troy/ wt after Melt 96.67/ Assay Yield % 90.017/ Troy oz's Contained 87.019/ % Payable 90.00/ Troy oz's Payable 78.37/ Market Price 78.317/ Market Price $31.35/ Settlement Amount $2,455.25. We got exactly what we expected and you were right on the money."
Where To Get 75% Of The Spot Price For Filled Pieces
It seems you can get 75% of the spot value for FILLED sterling silver flatware pieces (hollow-handled knives mainly) from at least one place, arnoldjeweler.com, and they also say they provide a $15 credit for shipping so some of your shipping costs may be covered. Perhaps others will do the same, but I haven't learned of them yet.
Arnold Jewelers in Largo, FL, lists very clearly on their website that they will pay 75% of the spot price, and they list real prices adjusted daily on their website. When I first wrote this guide they were offering 75% of the spot price in a table they have on their website. They say very plainly on their website that they offer 75% of the market price for the pure silver content in your flatware pieces. They say on their website that they are the highest paying organization they know of (well, for filled pieces anyway that may be true).
I have not talked to Arnold Jewelers about another 46 hollow-handled knives that I want to get rid of, but I should do that to complete this guide I suppose. Since I sent the solid sterling silver flatware pieces to Midwest Refineries, I have to talk to Arnold Jewelers to get a sense from them about the 46 excess hollow-handled knives that I also want to get rid of. I have 20 dinner-size knives, 14 luncheon-size knives, and 12 butter knives.
UPDATE: Arnold Jewelers has written to me to say that a hollow-handled item contains about a half an oz. of silver and a smaller item like a butter knife has about a third of an oz. So far I don't have any reports from people who have used Arnold Jewelers, but they seem pretty solid to me from my communications with them, but I'm also looking for more feedback.
How to Ship It?
An eBay reader of this guide has pointed out that USPS has a new Express Mail Flat Rate Box for $39.95 with $5,000.00 insurance for $15.20. This is overnight service for about $25.00 less than Priority Mail. I sent my shipment Priority Mail I think, so this new Express Mail Flat Rate Box sounds like it might be the way to go.
What Is Your Silver Worth?
10 1-oz sterling silver teaspoons on a postal scale for example would be worth $307 from a 85% recycler and $271 from a 75% recycler at the spot price of $43 per troy oz for pure silver.
More Info And More Reputable Recyclers Are Welcome
If people send me an eBay message with the names of other stores or refiners that post similar information that is competitive with the two I have identified I'll list them too, entirely fairly. I'm the 129th-ranked reviewer on eBay, I wrote THE eBay guide on buying and selling sterling flatware on eBay, and I intend to maintain my high score and credibility. If there's anything that you think I should change above let me know, and I'll either do so or explain why I don't think that would be right.