Selling pewter on the internet
Some notes to help you sell your pewter on the internet.
The best prices for antique pewter will be paid by specialist collectors and specialist dealers, most are knowledgeable and if not have access to those who are. Presenting your piece or pieces well will help to sell the goods. Presenting and describing them poorly will turn off many potential customers.
First a few general points
Where does antique pewter sell?
As a general rule pewter made in the British Isles (including Ireland) sells well in many English speaking countries including the UK and Ireland, North America, Australasia, South Africa etc., American pewter sells best in the USA, Continental pewter sells better in the country of its origin. There is little market for Continental pewter in the British Isles, there is some in the USA. Chinese pewter interests some in the USA but has little following elsewhere, except in Chinese communities.
Photographs are all important in selling items of antique pewter. They need to be well lit and in sharp focus. If a piece merits it, front and rear sides, any marks or inscriptions included in the pictures will help to sell it well. If you have an interesting piece you may well get requests for extra photographs. There is much to be gained by meeting such requests.
Condition of pieces
Pewter collectors place considerable emphasis on the condition of pieces. This includes the surface condition of the metal; that is what colour is it, is it heavily corroded, are there patches of corrosion, are there dents and scratches, tears or old repairs. Old pieces that have been cleaned by chemical stripping and highly polished will sell better in the USA than in the British Isles.
Reproductions, fakes and forgeries
You need to be aware that there are reproductions of older styles around. Some of these were produced in the 1930s when there was an oak and pewter revivial. Whilst most were not intended originally to deceive, with time they may have gained a patination that makes them look older than they are. Regretfully, some reproductions were deliberately ‘antiqued’ to enhance their potential value.
More insidious is the practice of applying to unmarked pieces of pewter fake marks, decoration or inscriptions. This was not uncommon in the 20th century, and the aim was to enhance the value by making the piece seem older or rarer or give it an ‘interesting’ provenance. The Society’s Database of Pewterers identifies known faked marks, but new ones come to light from time to time. Faked decoration and inscriptions can be more difficult to detect, but be particularly careful with dated inscriptions.
Out-and-out forgeries of historic styles do exist, but they are not as common as it was much easier to ‘enhance’ a genuine piece rather than make a forgery from scratch.
The overall advice is try to find out where a piece was made and try to market it in the place where it was made, it is likely to sell for a higher price.
What terms do you use to describe something?
A few critical terms are listed below, ones which seem to cause problems:
Antique – usually only used for something over a hundred years old
Saucer – something with a diameter of seven inches (18cm) or less
Plate – something with a diameter over seven inches and less than twelve inches (say 18 to 30cm)
Dish – something with a diameter of between 11 inches and 18 inches (say 28 to 46 cm)
Charger – something with a diameter over 18 inches (over 46 cm)
Flagon - a large vessel with a lid, handle and later styles have a spout
Pot or mug – a drinking vessel without a lid
Tankard – a drinking vessel with a lid
Measure – something obviously used for dispensing a given measure of liquid rather than drinking from (example baluster and bellied measures). The shape and design will often indicate the unsuitability of the item for drinking.
Touch mark – this is the personal mark of pewterer used to identify the pewterer and often registered with his guild. No other types of marks should be described as touch marks
Labels – As the centuries go by increasing use was made of labels in addition to the touch. These can include quality marks such as the Crowned Rose and Crowned ‘X’ and various labels reading say “English Block Tin” etc. Address labels and labels giving the pewterers name are also found. On drinking vessels and measures you will find labels giving the capacity of the piece, e.g. “PINT”.
Verification marks – In many places official inspectors were appointed to check the capacity of drinking vessels and measures. When they completed a check they would often put a small mark on the piece. Such marks can help to date a piece. They have nothing to do with collecting customs or excise duties.
Hallmarks – In the 17th century English pewterers started placing what look like silver hallmarks on flatware items. The use of such marks spread in time, widely. Unlike silver hallmarks they never formed part of an official system of quality control and the only thing of importance is that they can help to identify who made a piece.
Inscriptions – Many pieces will bear inscriptions of one sort or another. Some take the form of punched letter triads or names, others of engraved names and addresses, crests, coats of Arms, etc. Whatever form an inscription takes there are two things to remember. One is that you do not know when it was added to the piece, at manufacture or much later. Secondly it may be of considerable importance to the buyer of the piece.
We hope this will help you. There other areas of this site, like the detailed Glossary of terms that can provide further help. You may also want to join the Pewter Society and so gain access to our many other sources of information.