February 09, 2023

At Muzeum, we don’t just buy silver and gold jewellery, bullion, and flatware; we also purchase hard-to-find valuables like antique silver toys and other collectibles.

If you’ve been holding onto valuable items from a yard sale, flea market, inheritance, or antique store, or if you’re a long-time collector of antique toys, you could be sitting on some very valuable items if you can find the right buyer.

At Muzeum, we buy a wide range of antiques, collectibles, and silver items. We have an extensive database of customers and wholesalers with a variety of interests. That helps us pay the best possible rate for your valuables. Muzeum is the quickest and most reliable way to get the best price should you want to get rid of unwanted silver items.

If you’re sitting on a collection of silver toys, and you want to know what they might be worth, let’s first look at the difference between antique and vintage.

Antique vs Vintage

The ultimate difference between antique and vintage items is decided by the era in which the item was made.

The term ‘antique’ refers to items that were made 100 years ago or more. To clarify further, any items that were made before the 1920s would now be considered antique.

‘Vintage,’ on the other hand, refers to items from a later run. Pieces that fall into the vintage category were created in the 1930s up to the year 1999 (believe it or not).

Antiques can be worth significantly more than vintage items, especially if there are no restorations, breaks, or repairs. Antiques made by an esteemed maker or brand can also be even more valuable. Some antiques may also come with provenance, a history of ownership and documentation that tracks the item through collections. In some cases, the appeal of an antique can be heightened by the names of those who owned it in the past.

A History of Antique Silver Toys

The popularity of silver toys in Europe first started in the late 17th century. Production was predominantly in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. At the end of the 19th century, both the demand and the ability to produce true silver toys ebbed; more economical materials like pewter, wood and brass took silver’s place.

Types of Antique Silver Toys

What sort of toys would fall into the antique silver toy category?

Dollhouse Miniatures

Dollhouses first entered the toy market over 400 years ago, in the late 1500s. It wasn’t until the end of the 17th century. However, that miniature furniture sets made of sterling silver became a popular gift for girls in affluent families.

In Holland at this time (The Dutch Golden Age), silver miniature furniture pieces became extremely popular with young girls and, later, even adults. These “toys” were not necessarily meant to be played with but were replicas of real silver items meant to be used in dollhouses. The dollhouse was initially meant as an educational tool for affluent girls to learn the basics of housekeeping.

Beautifully decorated dollhouse rooms would be filled with intricate, filigree piano wings, tables, chairs, sofas, armchairs, and silver kitchen accessories.

This trend of housekeeping practice gained momentum among the elite, and the dollhouses of privileged young ladies were soon filled with silver furniture and accessories, mirroring the 18th-century mansions of London.

Some furniture items for dollhouses were made to mimic the fashion of other eras, leaving some room for ambiguity in accurately dating and valuing silver dollhouse furniture. For example, some 20th-century doll sets were made to imitate the historic French rococo style of the 1700s. Knowing how to accurately spot this difference involves some sleuthing and, most often, a trained eye.

These miniatures can undoubtedly be considered a type of toy. But their intricate nature, their value, and the ease with which smaller children might swallow them means they were crafted with an older demographic in mind.

A row of silver antique dollhouse chairs against a dusky blue background

Baby Rattles

While rattles date back for millennia, silver rattles gained popularity in the Elizabethan era, when they were a cherished christening gift.

Silver rattles were often considered a sign of family standing and were quite popular among affluent families through the 18th century. Artisans would craft rattles using silver or gold. They would also incorporate bells and whistles and devices to help infants teethe.

One well-known way to identify antique silver items is by searching for a hallmark. In the case of rattles, however, early examples before the 18th century are often unmarked.

Toy Soldiers

While toy soldiers were more commonly made from tin, lead and composite, some early models were crafted using wood, porcelain, and silver.

Similar to dollhouse furniture, figurines weren’t always created for fun. In fact, some silver soldiers were crafted for generals and monarchs to strategize war maneuvers and prepare for attacks in elaborate tabletop war games that simulated the real thing.

Other Examples of Antique Silver Toys

Beyond the toys mentioned above, other examples of antique sterling silver toys include yoyos and children’s-sized versions of household objects. Although they are not toys, christening sets were also very popular silverware gifted to young children during the Victorian era. Chess pieces were sometimes made of sterling silver, especially for high-end boards fabricated in Germany.

Hallmarks on Antique Silver Toys

A hallmark is a stamp on a piece of authentic silver that tells you information about who made the piece and the time period in which the piece was made. Hallmarks were used by silversmiths, and the best-known silversmiths are easy to trace.

Not only is a hallmark an excellent way to establish if the piece is authentic silver, but a hallmark is also a solid way to determine how old a toy is, as well as when and where it was made. Knowing key elements of information like this will help establish the value of the toy. This system applies to other genuine silver items, too.

Often, a hallmark will also show the purity of the silver. This system dates back centuries. In fact, in the United Kingdom, Edward I (1272–1307) instituted a rule during his reign requiring all silver to be of the sterling standard: a purity of 925 parts per thousand. This system still applies today; on newly-made sterling silver, you'll often see a mark of 925 or 92.5%, or STER or Sterling Silver.

Different styles of hallmarks abound. Those used in Holland often include the outline of a sword. Other Dutch varieties indicate the following:

  • A smaller sword stamp will show the items that were made between 1814 and 1905.
  • If a dolphin features on the stamp, the toy was likely created between 1859 and 1893.
  • A longer stamped sword will denote creation between 1906 and 1953.
  • From 1815 onwards, a letter on the sword highlights the year in which the piece was made.

The hallmarks on silver dollhouse miniatures often indicated prestige. In Amsterdam, three respected families crafted these furniture items.

  • Peter van Somervile and family, 1710
  • William van Strant and family, 1715
  • Arnold van Geffen and family, 1764

Miniature furniture in good condition and stamped with one of these distinct maker’s marks can be quite valuable today. Online research into hallmarks can sometimes help identify the maker.

That said, if you’ve been unable to find a hallmark, the piece might still be true silver. As mentioned above, sometimes genuine pieces, like rattles, may not bear a hallmark or predate the practice of hallmarks.

Fortunately, when attempting to ascertain the value of a toy, there are other ways to establish whether an antique toy is silver (making it much more valuable), aside from looking for a hallmark.

A close-up of a magnifying glass with a red wooden handle and gold rim

Silver vs Silver Plated

As discussed, when you’re looking to sell an antique toy, it’s important to establish the authenticity of the silver. Pure silver is worth a lot more than silver plated items.

Silver plated (otherwise known as electro-plated) items are cheaper metals coated in pure silver to give the illusion of a more valuable piece. Silver plated antique toys may not be as valuable. That said, they may still have collectible value given their age and rarity, especially if they are in good condition.

Some signs that a piece may be silver-plated include flaking or peeling, discoloration, and a reddish colour appearing, indicating the use of copper.

Now that we've listed some ways to establish the authenticity of an antique silver toy, it's essential to know how to store the piece until you’re ready to sell it.

Safe Storage of Antique Toys

Keep your antiques in an area that isn’t affected by the climate. Direct sun, heat vents, radiators, and humidifiers are poorly suited to keeping antiques in good condition.

Furthermore, keep antiques and other items of worth out of the reach of young children and pets.

If you believe you have an actual silver antique toy, don't attempt to clean it or repair it in any way. Doing so could tarnish or damage the piece, thus reducing its worth. Instead, if the piece needs repairs or extensive cleaning, consult a professional.

You may want to attempt to look online and gauge the worth of antique silver toys, but we always recommend getting an evaluation.

Sell Your Antique Silver Toys with Us

We can help you sell your silver antique toys. In fact, we can help you with any silver items, including jewellery, coins, and collectibles.

At Muzeum, we pride ourselves on being transparent and offer free on-site evaluations for your antique silver toys and anything else you may bring us.

We have a vast network of collectors and specialists worldwide who are enthusiastic about buying antique silver toys. You might get money for your silver and, in some cases, much more than you expected.

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