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Buying Pewter - An Opinion

There are any number of reasons for buying antique pewter and I list a few below.
Let me state clearly that I am not an expert, that my experience began in October of 2004, that I have made very many mistakes, and that the advice I offer is of simple personal experience on a short time scale. May I also remind you that this a web site whose sole purpose is to help you to find and enjoy early pewter as I have. In doing so I hope to lead you to those sources that might give you better advice than I am capable of. So then - after my excuses - let us move forward. You might buy antique or early pewter simply because –

You appreciate the DECORATIVE EFFECT


called ‘sadware’ by collectors - produce a desirable decorative effect. I show elsewhere that when combined with old oak furniture the result can be delightful. By themselves around a room, or in volume on a wall, or placed discreetly they might make a statement you find pleasing.

Firstly decide how you like them. You can find them very clean, or pock marked and dark with oxidation, covered with knife marks through use, darker or lighter, as you might want them if you will but look out for them. In decorative terms the odd crack and slight warping can add to character. Varying patches of grey patina can be effective.
If however you have an eye to value - then the less faults, with a convincing pewter patina and carrying the makers touch marks, and cleaner rather than pitted and dirty, and without cracks, splits, or small holes, any warping, and without obvious repairs, and with signs of use like a multitude of early users knife marks to the centre, will always carry more value to collectors.

Read the section on plate rims – as the earlier the better for value, and if attributable to a maker and owner – better still. Armorials and high quality early decoration can increase interest.

Mugs & Measures & Smallwares

called ‘holloware’ by collectors. Comments - read the above and - if collecting for value then do look out for – new lids, new handles, new thumbpieces, reattached handles, any small holes and splits. A slight difference in metal colour around the handle attachments to the body, footrims, or thumbpieces or anywhere else, might indicate work that has been done some time after making – and all such can detract from value.
The earlier and more pristine; the more is their value. These METAL colour differences can be very subtle, like the differences seen in a crowned tooth against the natural one, however good the match it will seldom ever be exact. Makers marks are all important for value.

Spoons & Candlesticks

are subjects on their own requiring good expertise and I hope I have led you to books that will help. It is one thing liking them – it is a totally difficult and different subject when it comes to value – and values can be remarkable – but only if the collectors want them.

So enjoy them and risk it – or study the subject - that is what it comes down to.
CURIOUSITIES – these can be really interesting. I find syringes, egg boilers, card trays, sustenteurs (Dutch worker’s lunchtime soup containers/pressure cookers), milk jugs, mustards, funnels, Britannia Metal Coffee Pots and Tea sets, European Wine Measures, - great fun. And that is what they are - unless you know what others collect. Only if others collect it - is there any market for it at all. So a resale value can be negligible, whilst the piece might be a pleasure to live with.

Where to find Pewter for sale

The main specialists are Bonhams and details follow – taken from their website.
Oak Furniture - Oxford, United Kingdom

General enquiries
David Houlston
The unique Oak Interior sales include 16th, 17th and 18th century carpenter-made and joined vernacular furniture. Pieces are mainly British, and made principally in oak, but also from a variety of other timbers, including ash, elm, fruitwood, walnut and yew. The sales often include single-owner private collections and offer the opportunity to purchase, amongst other things, refectory-type tables, panel-back armchairs, coffers, side tables, chests of drawers, back stools, joint stools and Windsor chairs. Related works of art, including early carvings in wood and stone, early metalware, (brass, copper, iron, pewter and steel), treen, folk-art related items and textiles are sold alongside furniture in sales that caters for both connoisseur collectors and clients wishing to re-create period interiors.
Auctions take place at New Bond Street twice a year, in the Spring and Autumn. If you are considering selling early vernacular furniture and/or related items, our specialists will be pleased to offer expert advice by telephone, e-mail or in person.
Also, The Antiques Trades Gazette has occasional articles and a good e-mail alert facility for pewter at auction throughout the UK, but year in and year out, for a number of years, Bonhams in the UK have two OAK sales each year (at Bond Street London) of antique pewter, and other antique metal wear.

There is also the wonderful world of eBay and they offer a search and notification facility.

Please see the LINKS section for full up to date list.