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Urban finance: Are you holding onto silver?

BY DAN STRUM | It used to be that families kept their wealth in the form of silver — silver flatware, platters and bowls were cherished items that were used and passed down for generations. Owning silver was a way for families to know that their wealth was something that they could carry, bequeath or sell. There is a lot to be said for holding onto things that have real, sentimental and practical value. But there are elements to modern life that challenge the wisdom of holding onto silver.

Space. In the past, people would take out their elegant silver for special events. But ornamental tableware has been out of fashion for a generation! Our culture is decidedly less formal than it used to be. Unused silver flatware, trays and bowls cram our drawers and cabinets, and items that are on display are dull with tarnish. In apartment living, this translates into a cluttered, dreary environment. For people who absolutely want to hold onto precious metal, I normally recommend buying an ounce of gold rather than holding onto approximately 7 pounds of assorted silver.

A small sterling flatware set can be worth $400. (Photo by Dan Strum)

Security. During times of upheaval, families may find themselves moving from one at-risk economy to another. During such times, it is important for people to hold tangible assets. But our world is thankfully secure. We can reasonably expect that we’ll remain in our homes and that our financial system will remain intact. Money deposited or invested with modern financial services is not subject to loss or theft, and can be accessed from almost anywhere in the world. Furthermore, bank deposits are normally insured by the FDIC — a level of protection that you can’t get from a suitcase full of flatware. And, once again, if security is your aim, you’d still be better off with one portable ounce of gold rather than all that silver!

Liquidity. It used to be easy to sell precious metals, but it is not so anymore. Pawn shops and other buyers can be wily: Assessing the value of your silver and actually realizing that value is extremely difficult.

Use. Perhaps there is something else you would want to do with the money? Even a small sterling silver flatware set (four settings of six pieces each) can be worth $400, and large sets are worth substantially more! That’s not to say that money should be squandered. But perhaps the value of your silver could be applied toward something that would enrich your life today.

If you have silver to sell, there are a few steps to take. First confirm that it is indeed silver! Unfortunately, “silver plate” items have very little intrinsic value. Next, estimate the weight of the silver. And finally, find someone who will be able to assess the value of what you have and offer you a fair price for it.

Strum buys estate silver in New York City. Contact him for an at-home consultation at or text him at 917-678-4568.

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