Chinese Export Silver Cocktail Set

Value (2013) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction

My father was sent to China as a Marine in 1936. While he was there, he bought a number of items-- three special silver items-- and he brought back this cocktail shaker. And so I have the bill there from 1938.


I don't know a lot about it. It certainly is an interesting piece.

It certainly is very interesting. As you can see, it's a cocktail shaker and eight cups. As an object, it's not particularly unusual, but there are a few features about this one that I think make it very interesting. The hammered finish is one of them. All of these dots here are hand-hammered. This was quite a labor-intensive object. The scrolling dragons as well, and the auspicious symbols that we see on the object make it very, very typical of the sort of production that the Chinese were making for export. This is a Chinese export piece. There are a few other things about it that I really enjoy: the fact that we have the original receipt and we have a photograph of your father, and you know, at that time, there was a real sort of desire for China to be seen-- and Shanghai in particular-- to be seen as the Paris of the Orient; had this real exoticism. What can you tell me about the first thing on this receipt?

It says "Silver Table Set with Raised Dragon, 360."

Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Before my parents passed away a few years ago, they decided to divide up those items. My sister lives in South Carolina on the East Coast, so they decided that she should have the silver, the placeware. And she said, "Well, you live in the San Francisco area, and on the West Coast, definitely the cocktail shaker." I don't know what cryptic message she was sending, but she got the bill, though, the original receipt, and when she heard that I was going to the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, she said, "You have to show the shaker. I'll send you the receipt." In fact, she actually brought the silver set to ROADSHOW.

Funny enough, I was the person who conducted that filmed appraisal on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

That's why you kept asking me where did I get this receipt!

That's right. It's great to be able to see another thing on the receipt because I remember when I was valuing that flatware service, I said it'd be wonderful to be able to see the cocktail set, and here it is. It's a really beautiful cocktail set, and what's interesting to know about this set is how much it cost versus the cutlery canteen. The cutlery canteen I believe I valued at $6,000 to $8,000. The cost was 360 here, whereas the cocktail service was only 80.


Now, what does that mean in terms of the market today? Well, it's very strong. People in China wanting to purchase back things that were made there, even pieces that were made for export. This is a very attractive set. It's going to be worth, at auction, between $3,000 and $5,000.

That's nice. Very good.

If you compare it to the flatware service, the question is raised, "Well, why if this only cost 80 and not 360, where does the money come from?" And I think it's for several reasons. The fact that this is a cocktail set with the cups means that it's going to be a little bit more desirable. It's more immediately decorative-- you can put it on a shelf, you don't need to open up a box. There's going to be more competition for it. It's not going to just be Chinese people that are going to be bidding on it at auction. It's also going to be domestic buyers who want something a bit more unusual.

Thank you so much, I appreciate that.

You're welcome.

Daddy would be proud. (chuckles)

Appraisal Details

Freeman's Auctioneers
Philadelphia, PA
New York, NY
Appraised value (2013)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Anaheim, CA (June 22, 2013)
20th Century

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