How do I Choose the Best Vintage Flatware?

Mary McMahon

Flatware made in prior eras can be visually interesting, beautiful, or valuable. There are a number of things to think about when buying vintage flatware which can make the purchase easier and more productive. People should be aware that although such flatware can be valuable, it is also easy to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous merchants, and before buying a costly flatware set, it is advisable to consult a reference and/or an expert who can verify that the flatware really is what it is advertised to be.

A vintage knife and fork.
A vintage knife and fork.

The definition of the term “vintage” is a bit nebulous. Many people use it to refer to things between 100 and 50 years old, referencing the idea that they are from previous eras, but are not yet fully antiques. So, for someone in 2104, a silverware set from 2040 could be considered vintage, while a set from 1940 would be an antique. Antiques are often perceived to be of more value because of their age, but age isn't everything.

The first thing to consider when buying vintage flatware is whether it is being bought to be collected, or bought to be used. If the flatware is going to be used, people may also want to think about whether it will be brought on special occasions or whether it is intended to be daily use flatware. More fragile, unique, and valuable flatware can be purchased by collectors, while such flatware may not be suitable for ordinary use.

The materials from which the flatware is made can also be a concern. Vintage flatware can be made from a number of different metals in addition to plastic, wood, and other materials. Some materials may wear better than others. Wooden flatware, for example, can become cracked and unsightly, while flatware with handles made from ceramic or bakelite may start to crack and crumble with time and use.

The look of the vintage flatware is another consideration. Collectors may be drawn to specific aesthetics, to rarity, or to value, but people actually using flatware may want to think about how it will look with other table settings and accessories. People may also want to consider how easy the flatware will be to match if it is going to be in daily use or if pieces are missing. Hard to match sets can be frustrating for people who like their flatware coordinated and complete.

Value can be another issue. Valuing vintage items is tricky. Some things may become very fashionable and quite valuable, and then fall out of favor and be largely valueless. Others may be considered timeless classics which will retain their value. For people collecting vintage flatware who are concerned about value, it pays to research manufacturers and trends closely before making a purchase.

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