The railroad dining car was a four star restaurant on wheels. It was a first class experience and by far the highlight of any rail trip. It is not surprising that everything associated with the dining car is very collectible today. Sadly, collectible doesn’t always mean exceptionally valuable. However, plenty of silver sells for good money. One big thing to remember is that the vast majority of silver is plated. It is not sterling. So the weight isn’t terribly important. Keep reading to learn the four factors that affect the value of antique railroad silver.
What Makes Railroad Silver Valuable?
In no particular order, the following variables determine the value of railroad silver. If you understand these factors then you can accurately price 99% of silver.
Marking Location – If silver isn’t marked then it is basically impossible to know which railroad or line it was used on. However, just being marked is not good enough. The placement of the mark also matters. Collectors are looking for silver that is marked on the side or top of the article. Bottom marks are not as desirable.
Specific Railroad – The railroad always matters. This is a day one lesson. Silver from some railroads is just more valuable than others. This could be the result of fewer pieces of silver being used so there are fewer survivors. Some railroads are just more popular than others. If one railroad has 50 collectors trying to obtain its silver, and another railroad has 10 collectors going after it silver, then odds are that silver from the railroad with 50 collectors will always sell for more money.
Style Rarity – As you can imagine, creamers and flatware are extremely common. They are easy to buy. Think about what would be rare in your standard dining car. Larger pieces that were rarely seen are always going to be in demand today. We aren’t going to specifically list rare silver items, but you can use common sense to get a good feel for what is likely common and what is rare.
Condition – It wasn’t always a smooth ride on the rails. Silver got knocked around and bumped into things. Issues like dents and scratches will definitely lower the value of antique railroad silver. Collectors expect silver to be in near perfect condition.
Price Guide for Railroad Silver
Most Common – The price point for common silver is usually $5 to $50. A solid 85% of the market sells in that range.
Common but Collectible – The range here is about $50 to $200. Silver that is slightly rare and in demand would typically sell in that range. This probably consists of 10% of the market.
Rare and Desirable – The very best antique railroad silver sells for $200 to several hundred dollars. This would be the top 5% of the market. These would be top or side marked pieces, in great condition, from popular railroads, that are also in a tougher to find shape (vase, platter, etc).
Railroad Silver Manufacturers
As we have said above, the driving factor behind railroad silver values is based largely upon which railroad mark is on it. Most silver will also have a manufacturer mark. Here is a brief listing of those makers: CH-CH Hanson, Elkington, GMCo-Gorham, Harrison Brothers & Howsam, IS-International Silver, Mer-Meriden Brothers, Rogers-Rogers & Hamilton, R&B-Reed & Barton, Smith Bros, Stanley Thermos Co, Toronto-Toronto Silver Plate Co, Victor, Wallace, and Wiley. That is a just a selected list. Many other manufacturers made silver for the railroads. Just remember that the maker really isn’t that important. Collectors care about the railroad a lot more.
A Quick Word About Fakes
There usually is not much financial motivation to fake railroad silver. However, there have been odd occasions where scammers have tried to add railroad marks to regular commercial use silver. The vast majority of antique railroad silver you see is in fact old and authentic.
Looking To Sell Or Need An Appraisal?
We are looking to buy any and all antique railroad silver. We are of course interested in rare and unique pieces. However, we are also buying entire collections. Just send us pictures whatever you are looking to sell. Be sure to include pictures of any relevant markings. It is also helpful to have dimensions of the silver. We look forward to hearing from you soon.