Ask the Expert: Antique Pewter

51e19802f3982671692338e8591871f6Question: Hi! I have just inherited a large collection of pewter from my grandparents. Is antique pewter even worth anything? Any thoughts or ideas on how to display it if I decide to keep it? Thanks! – Anne Marie in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Answer: Thanks for your question. I love pewter! Let me see if I can help you. Some people think of pewter as “a poor man’s silver”, but that is not the case at all. Pewter is an alloy consisting predominantly of tin, but alloyed with other metals, like copper or lead, to make it stronger. So, it’s not exactly cheap to make. It’s been around forever and in the medieval times you would have only seen it in castles, the estates of the nobility, or churches. By the mid 18th century, it became more widespread in households and was primarily used for kitchenwares. Another term you might hear dealers and collectors use in regards to pewter is “sadware”. Sadware actually just refers to plates, dishes, and chargers, but many have come to use it interchangeably with pewter. It has been made in countries throughout Europe and the rest of the world, but England was the world’s predominant supplier. European pewters in turn migrated to the United States and there are also excellent examples from our own country.

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The value of antique pewter, like most things, depends on the age, quality, rarity of the piece, origin, etc. Unfortunately younger generations have not collected it like those before us and it has driven the market downward. That being said, the value depends entirely on what pieces you have. Here for example is a pewter chalice from Lancaster, Pennsylvania attributed to the German craftsman, Johann Christoph Heyne c. 1760 that brought $5,000 at the notable auction house of Pook & Pook in 2012. The piece sold right in line with it’s pre-sale estimate of $4,000-$6,000.

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On the other hand, here is a set of twelve George II English plates, c. 1730-1750 that only brought $400 at auction last week.

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And again, here is a lot of 19th century English pewter that only sold for $100.

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Identifying the maker, date, and origin will be helpful to you in identifying whether a piece is valuable or not. If you decide to keep it (and I hope you do), here are some ideas. It can be overwhelming to have a table full of pewter, so try breaking up the set and incorporating different pieces around the house. Remember petwer is grey, which seems to be one of the designers’ favorite colors these days. I hope this helps! “Happy Pewtering”!

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