Antique Silver Spoon Appraisal

From Coin to Spoon: Colonial silversmiths refused to buy British silver



Thank you for sending me a picture of one of my favorite objects, a coin silver spoon. I have always been fond of coin silver spoons and started collecting them when I was a teenager as they were historical, identifiable and usually reasonably priced.

Coin silver describes silver items that are made from melted coins. Coin silver typically consists of 90 percent silver alloy. Sterling silver is 92.5 percent silver alloy. This sterling standard was set in England in the 13th century! In the 18th and early 19th centuries, there were no silver mines in the United States that yielded silver for the new Colonial silversmiths. At this time, silversmiths and jewelers would have to purchase their materials from England and, as they did not want to buy anything British, they would simply melt silver coins or other silver objects to create their wares. One can almost envision a patron passing along a handful of coins to a silversmith to shape into a spoon.

Recently I sold a large coin silver tea and coffee service that was accompanied by a letter from the 19th century discussing how the silversmith was given a large collection of coins to be melted to make a hot water urn to accompany the set as a wedding gift.

One of the great things about collecting coin silver is that it is clearly marked and fairly easy to research with today’s reference material. Your spoon bears the hallmark of J. MOULTON, which tells us that this is the mark of Joseph Moulton IV of Newburyport, Mass.

Joseph Moulton IV came from a long line of silversmiths who settled in Newburyport in the 18th century. The Moulton family was the longest contiguous span of American silversmiths, running for 200 years. His great-great grandfather lived in Newbury, Mass., in the late 1600s and was a silversmith known for making shoe buckles. Joseph Moulton IV was born in 1814 and lived until 1903. He had a retail business at the junction of Essex and State Streets in Newburyport.

There he made and sold coin silver tableware with his assistants Anthony Towle and William Jones, who were apprentices in his father’s shop. Eventually Towle and Jones founded their own company which later became known as the popular Towle Silversmiths.

Your spoon has a classic fiddle pattern design and dates to the early-to mid-19th century. Because it is a larger spoon, I would estimate its value at $95.

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