1848 Boston Coin Silver Presentation Pitcher with John Quincy Adams Engraving

Value (2010) | $1,500 Auction$2,500 Auction

I found it in Minneapolis at an estate sale about five, six years ago.

Now, do you go often to estate sales looking for American silver?

I love collecting coin silver, so I have quite a bit of it.

Well, let's turn the pitcher over, and we'll see what it says on the bottom. We can see there's two marks there. The first is the maker's mark-- Jones, Ball and Poor. Many of the American makers did mark their silver very clearly with just their name. There are no halls of assay, so there are no hall or assayer's marks put on at this point. It also says there in very tiny little stamp "pure coin." And that's a mark you occasionally find on coin silver, but it's not a common mark. And coin silver is, as you know, it's a uniquely American form of silver. And it goes back much earlier than this pitcher, actually. In Colonial times, American silversmiths, of which there were relatively few, would often make their silver out of melted coinage, which is not of sterling silver standard. Sterling silver has a particular standard established in England centuries ago. But the American silver makers didn't adopt that until essentially after the Civil War. The piece was from a Boston silversmith that only operated for less than a decade or so, around 1850. But beyond that, we can date this one beautifully, because you've got a piece with great engraving. I know it mentions John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States. And what it says in detail and what the Adams papers letter confirms is that the piece was presented by the House of Representatives to the owner of a boardinghouse in 1848. Adams spent the last 17 years of his life, by the way, serving in the House of Representatives, and he was actually in the House of Representatives when he suffered a stroke which, ultimately, two days later, led to his death. But so the House of Representatives convened a little body to look after him on his way home on his final journey, and they presented this to the owner of a boardinghouse who must have put up the party. And I love the inscription at the bottom. It says she was "an excellent American...

American housewife."

I've never seen another one, and I searched others to see if perhaps there were other people who received one. We haven't found one. If it were an ordinary piece of American coin silver from 1848, a nice baluster-form pitcher with no engraving, it would certainly be worth a few hundred dollars as a little collectible item.

That's what I thought.

But the engraving escalates it into presidential memorabilia. And there isn't that much stuff related to John Quincy Adams.


This is a nice Boston-made pitcher, right from the time of his death and directly connected to that. And so when you bought it at the estate sale, how much did you pay for it?

Well, I paid $600 because I knew it had more value because of that, but...

And were you afraid of that price?


Yeah? I sensed you were. Well, I discussed it with a couple of my colleagues. I would say today, in a good auction of historical Americana, this pitcher should bring at least $1,500.

Oh, okay.

And possibly as much as $2,500.

Oh, wow. Well, good, then I made a good investment.

Appraisal Details

Heritage Auctions
Dallas, TX
Appraised value (2010)
$1,500 Auction$2,500 Auction
Des Moines, IA (August 07, 2010)
19th Century

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