by Leslie Doyle

There are many places to sell silver, but some places are better than others if you need fast cash…

…or if you are clearing out your mother’s house after she died last year. You and your siblings look at the cabinets full of mismatched heirloom china, the collection of demitasse spoons, the sterling silver tea service. You think of the substance of all these years. You know you don’t have places for any of this; the heft of the guilt distills you. You start to look for a buyer.

You need to know the true value of your silver items. You want to accept an offer close to or above the spot value of your silver.

Understanding the value of something is difficult. Is it the sheer weight of the silver, or the way it felt in your hands when you were a child, and your mother taught you how to polish the spoon collection, and the tea service that was a wedding gift to your great-grandparents in 1906, and the baby cup with the dents from your grandfather’s baby teeth?

The first step is to verify that your silver is real. You can look for purity hints that show markings such as 925, which stands for 92.5% silver. But to really know for sure, you need to do a few tests.

Your mother showed you how to rub the pink paste on to each spoon, each vessel, scrubbing with a soft rag, maybe an old handkerchief of your father’s, until the tarnish slowly cleared, like wiping the condensation off a car window as your parents drove on a rainy day. It was the time before rear defrosters, and so they’d throw a hand towel, or someone’s scarf, or maybe a crumpled handkerchief, to you, and have you turn in your seat, kneeling backward on the bench, to reach across the ledge to the rear window, wiping away the fog, so you could see where you’d just been.

For scrap silver you can use our scrap silver calculator. You just need to enter the weight of your item, select the purity, and then hit calculate. It’s as easy as that.

You try to calculate the weight of loss, but the math defeats you. You try to count the value of the length of time you had to spend with your mother. Over sixty years.

What a fortune in moments—her voice reading A.A. Milne to you as a child, her strength when her husband died forty-five years before she did, leaving her with the weight of bringing up three children alone. The burnished metal sheen of the water beside the lake cottage she rented to bring her kids and grandkids together, that lake that had been her childhood summer home, the place she felt lightest.

The cradled density of her great-granddaughter on her lap when she met her three months before she died, oxygen cords carefully pulled aside so she could feel this new person beside her heart.

The best place to sell is going to depend on several different factors: the type of silver you are selling, how fast you want to sell. So there isn’t one best place.

The tea service waits in a plastic storage unit under the bench in your dining room.

A plastic bag full of silver utensils you kept meaning to bring to the local jeweler, until Covid hit, is somewhere under a pile of scrap paper and bills on your desk.

The last time you saw your mother in the hospital reflects in your face like the scratches in the tea service tray catching the light in concentric circles, as reflected flaws will do.

Selling Tips—selling is selling, and selling silver is no different than selling any other item. The first tactic is to let the potential buyer make the first offer.

That morning, the call from your sister had been calm but urgent. “I think you need to come now.” Your mom had been in the hospital for a few days. She had been getting weaker, but the doctors said there wasn’t anything “specific” wrong with her heart. Her vessels are “leaking” fluid and her oxygen levels keep going down. You thought you had months. Like time is something that you can hold, keep in your wallet. Spend as needed.

Before the call, you had planned to teach your classes and then drive the two hours to Pennsylvania the next day. Instead, you cancel your classes and call your husband and adult kids. Your son rides with you; the rest of the family follows.

You find her in the ICU, suspended in a net of fluids and bags and tubes. Vasopressors course into her veins, keeping her pressure up enough to keep her alive for the moment.

Another good tactic is to be willing to walk away.

After a confusing discussion with hospice, you agree that the medications would be stopped in the morning. Everyone else goes home to get some sleep. Your husband and you stay. You hold mom’s hand as she gestures towards the places her limbs are cramping with pain. You sleep in a chair after she is given morphine.

The nurses remove the tubes, switch off the IVs that had pressed life into her veins.

You and your sister and brother hold her hands. You tell her you love her.

You watch the light fade from her eyes, the silver-blue fading to nickel-gray.


*Italicized words adapted from


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