Karat Chat

How to make money shopping silver at yardsales

Spring is coming and many of us are excited to see yard sales popping up in and around our neighborhoods.  Some of us go out searching for a deal, or a treasure of some sort. We see scrap jewelry, old flatware pieces and hear the occasional story on the news of someone finding a $20,000 diamond ring in a pile of costume jewelry. Last year while treasure hunting, there seemed to be quite a bit of silver scrap around.  Plated silver isn’t worth much these days, although there are still some unique pieces that one may like to have and may be of worth, but how to tell if something is real…

Ways to tell if silver is real:

  1. For jewelry, look for the .925 or “S” stamp (hallmark). On flatware the “S” or “Sterling” stamp will be on the underside of the piece.
    1. In the 1860’s to 1940’s when silver was quite popular, hallmarks were not available on pieces. If a piece is quite old but real, it may have capitalized letters in a square engraved on it.  These letters stand for the country of origin and usually have a year engraved as well.
    2. An English hallmark, popular on old silver pieces, is a picture of a lion. An interesting marking for sure but make sure the lion is facing to the left.
  2. Silver tarnishes. If you see a shiny new silver piece, it is probably plated. Real silver is a cool tone, a cool gray not as shiny as silver plate.
  3. Use a silver cloth or a soft light colored cloth and polish it. If you see black marks, it’s most likely silver. Keep in mind that silver tarnishes but white gold and platinum do not, so you may want to read our next blog to learn to identify those. 🙂
  4. Pure silver is softer than plated silver, so particularly on older pieces you may see a few dings.


  5. If you can, tap your silver on a hard surface, if the sound is clear as a bell, chances are, it’s silver.
  6. If you are trying to identify pieces in your home or business, purchase an acid testing kit online.  When you place a drop of nitric acid on a silver piece and it turns green, it is a plated material; however if this drop turns a cloudy gray, it is probably sterling silver.

Pure silver is on the market for anywhere between $16 and $22 an ounce so save it up and send it in. It’s something to do on a beautiful weekend afternoon and you can make some money.

If you are a business, request your free collection container today or call for a scrap pickup.

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