Pewter is commonly found in a wide variety of utensils and decorations, including common household items like pots, flatware, mugs, candlesticks, and decorative elements. The good news is that pewter may be worth more than you realize. Antique and vintage pewter items can fetch high rates from the right buyers. And, even if your pewter item itself isn’t worth much for its craftsmanship, melted pewter can still sell.
In This Article
- Identifying Marks on Pewter
- Reproductions, Fakes, and Forgeries
Is Pewter Worth Anything?
Pewter is a metal alloy of tin and lead, but it’s mostly composed of tin. Tin prices generally fluctuate between $7 and $11 per pound. When selling for scrap, you can expect to get roughly 50% of the current price — so scrap pewter, therefore, is generally worth around $3 to $5 per pound at a scrap yard. You can find a local scrap yard and check their prices with the iScrapApp.
Your pewter items can have value for what they are, beyond just the base value of the pewter. There is a lucrative market for pewter kitchen items and decorations. Examples of these include tankards, mugs, salad ware, flatware, pots, or candlesticks. You can browse eBay’s collectible pewter metalware page to get an idea of what items are out there and what they sell for, and how your own pewter items compare. The value of any given pewter item will depend on its age, condition, brand, and other factors.
Antique kitchenware and figurines can sell for surprising amounts of money. The most popular kitchenware items are tankards or pots. There are many different types of pewter tankards, so it’s best to know which features belong to an antique era. For example, the earliest known pewter tankards had thumb pieces instead of footed rims or handles. These older models will fetch the highest price on the market.
Pewter was also a popular material for making figurines. Most figurine companies used pewter due to its pliability and aged appearance. Some popular figurines were those depicting stage coaches or cowboys. An antique, collectible figurine in good condition could sell for over a thousand dollars.
Pewter is usually silver in color, but could be a bit more bronze colored if less lead was used to make the alloy. Your pewter items might have certain markings on them that can help you identify whether they’re worth anything, whether they’re authentic, or whether they’re knock offs.
Identifying Marks on Pewter
Writing, labels, and marks on your pewter can help you identify your item’s collectability and age. Marks you can find on pewter include touch marks, hallmarks, quality marks, labels, and catalogue numbers. These marks are made by the pewterer or manufacturer who made the item. Even if your pewter piece doesn’t have markings, that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. According to the Pewter Society, many high-quality pewter pieces weren’t marked at all.
Touch marks identify the pewterer. Usually, they are a thumbprint, fingerprint, or initials. Hallmarks mimic the hallmarks left on silver because new pewter has a similar color. But, they don’t actually mean anything, as pewter isn’t measured like silver. Quality can help identify age — a crowned rose was used in the mid 16th century and an X was used after that. After the 18th century quality marks lost their significance. Labels might identify where a pewter was made, but they aren’t always accurate. Numbers are most common on pewter from the 19th and 20th centuries, when pewterers numbered their pieces to be part of a catalog. And, capacity marks like “pint” or “quart” became required by law in 1836, so anything with such marks was very likely made after 1836.
Reproductions, Fakes, and Forgeries
Depending on the type of reproduction, some items may or may not have been made to deceive buyers. Marks on pewter might be helpful identifiers, but most of the time there was no regulatory body in place to ensure that pewterers put truthful marks on their pieces.
Know your pewter terminology. With respect to pewter, “reproduction” refers to any item that was made following the same production methods and using the same materials as older models. “Forgeries” are usually made from molds of real collectibles, so they carry all the same blemishes and marks. And, “fakes” are most commonly authentic, unmarked items that have later been illegitimately marked. “Fakes” may also have been decorated to appear antique.
How to Sell Pewter
The best way to sell pewter is through your nearest certified antique dealer or through antique fairs. The Pewter Society holds two auctions a year exclusive to members. Antique dealers have the expertise to appraise the item and give you a ballpark selling figure. When navigating antique fairs, keep an eye out for true pewter specialists, otherwise the best items or prices may not actually be available.
There are also several online resources for pewter sale, such as pewtersellers.com and pewtersociety.org (mentioned above). Online auction sites like eBay are another great way to sell. You can browse eBay’s collectible pewter page to compare your own pieces to similar pieces, and get an idea what yours might sell for if you sell alone and don’t go through a dealer. Selling on Craigslist doesn’t get the audience reach you need to sell this specialty metal for a decent price.
Geographical factors can also play a large role in how well an antique may sell. It is usually best to sell the pewter in its country of manufacture; this is where the most interested buyers and best prices will be found. Pewter made in the British Isles will sell well in any English speaking country, but American pewter is going to sell best in the United States. Within the United States, markets vary based on region. For example, pewter from the Midwest will sell best there, while eastern or southern pewter sells best nearer the Atlantic.
It’s important to take the time to get high quality, professional photos of your pewter if you’ll be selling it online or using photos to advertise. The photo of the item can make or break a sale. Photographs should have good lighting and focus to accentuate color and texture. The surface condition of the pewter is very important to buyers, so take notice of dents, scratches, or random patches of corrosion; these will decrease the value of the object. On the other hand, a thorough chemical cleaning, some polishing, and the proper discoloration can be major selling points. Also, don’t forget to call attention to any touch or capacity marks to ensure authenticity.
Pewter is an alloy of tin and lead. While it doesn’t have the metallurgical value of silver or gold, it can be worth a significant sum depending on its age, condition, and manufacturer. Check for marks, clean your pewter well, and you can sell it — through an antique dealer or on eBay are two of the easiest options.