Sunday, August 28, 2011

collecting: vintage baby silver

Whether you collect vintage baby silver for yourself or as gifts, there are a few things you should know. Prices range from just a few dollars to several hundred depending on a piece's age, condition, ornateness, and composition of metal. Sterling silver (sometimes marked "925") tends to be more expensive than electroplated (sometimes marked "EPNS"), and heavier pieces are more expensive than light. When collecting baby silver, take note of such details but don't be limited by them.

Early examples of silver baby cups were very utilitarian. The S. Kirk & Son Co. (c.1920) sterling cup (top left) had a heavy bottom which made it less likely to tip over. The Blackinton (c.1920) juice cup (on table, at right) was designed with a lip or sanitary edge to help keep liquid in the cup.

The curved handles of these spoons made it easier for children to feed themselves. Antique sterling spoons vary in price. The spoon, like the one by Weidlich (far left), are more common, and therefore less expensive. More ornate ones, like the Reed & Barton spoon engraved with a child's face in its bowl (left), are more expensive.

Children's silver was often given in sets upon a baby's birth or as a christening gift. Rather than being locked away to gather dust, silverware sets were put to use at the table. Some, like this bunny fork and elephant spoon (bottom right), were molded to give the child something interesting to grip and fun to look at, while others, such as a fork and spoon (near right), were simply classic patterns done in miniature.

Plates and other tableware were often decorated to hold a child's interest, with the alphabet, nursery rhymes, and images from children's stories.

Throughout the twentieth century, silver producers borrowed details from birth announcements to create personalized keepsakes.

At the turn of the century, children were taught to use food pushers in one hand to push food onto a spoon clutched in the other. Some pushers, like the 1920 sterling one (bottom), were purely functional. Others, like the 1899 Buttercup pattern pusher (top), were as formal as the table manners they were meant to encourage.

No crying over spilled milk here!!