George Aiken Coin Silver Tankard, ca. 1790
My boyfriend passed away a few years back, and it's from his estate.
It is an 18th-century American tankard, and this is made of coin silver, which was what they used in the late 18th century into the mid-19th century in the United States. There was not a tremendous amount of silver made in the United States in the 18th century. Not a lot of it has survived, either. Most silver at that time was imported from England, because that's where all silver craftsmen were in the late 18th century, for the most part. There were some very good silver makers, and they were in the more metropolitan areas, and Baltimore at that time was a major port city. So it is made by George Aiken, who was a prominent Baltimore silversmith, and he did make a tremendous amount of silver, actually, and a lot of it has survived. It's marked very clearly on the bottom with his mark, and that mark has his first initial, G, and Aiken, his last name, and that was a mark that was used around 1790. He began making silver in Baltimore as early as 1787, which is when he first ran some ads in the local papers. What struck me most interesting about it was that they made lots of spoons and lots of small cream pitchers, but not a lot of large hollowware. You do see it in America in the 18th century, but it's primarily in the northern part of the country. Another thing that's interesting about it is the name on it. It has two names, Griffith and Lee, and I learned from the Baltimore Historical Society that Griffith was actually a very prominent merchant family in Baltimore in the late 18th and early 19th century, and then, of course, the Lees were very, very famous in the Baltimore, Annapolis, Maryland, and Virginia area. So, what did you pay for it?
I paid the... into the estate I paid $1,000 to get this.
And do you have any idea what it might be worth, or any thoughts about what it might be worth?
I had it appraised about seven years ago, by somebody who was not specific on the silver appraising. Thought it was worth about $6,000.
I would think if this came up to auction today, it would conservatively bring $12,000 to $15,000, maybe as much as $15,000 to $20,000.
It's a very rare example by a Southern colonial silversmith, and whenever it comes up, they do really fight for it hard, so there'd be a lot of competition if it did come up for sale.
Okay, well, that's wonderful to know.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.
Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.
Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.
Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.