Here's a find that took place at a yard sale this summer. But this find starts a couple years earlier, let me explain. In my spare time I learn as much as I can about precious metal objects. I've learned that children's cups can be made of sterling silver, not just utensils like spoons.
On this morning, I arrived at the yard sale and walked around the tables keeping my eyes open for potential precious metals. There had already been many people at this sale, as it had been open for an hour or so. I had just watched a lady pick up items looking for marks, and then put them back down (you can tell what people are doing if you are a precious metal buyer, just watch for yourself). Finally, I came to the corner where there were silver colored cups and kitchen items - it was my turn to browse through these items. I looked at the cups, they were all sitting there very shiny silver. When one little cup caught my eye, I quickly picked it up. It was a child's cup, badly tarnished (see picture below). It looked dirty sitting next to the shiny silver-plate adult cups. Yes, I checked those items too - all silver-plated.
I knew this had to be sterling - it was tarnished and a child's cup (that I previously learned about). I turned it over to find a mark (see picture below). Do you see it in the picture below? Neither did I.
However, when I rocked the cup back and forth in the light, I caught writing on the bottom (see picture below). It said Rogers Sterling. There is was! I knew it!
I looked at the price on the cup - 25 cents. This cup was coming home with me.
Here are the stats on this child's cup. It is 2" high and 2" wide (see pictures below). It weighs 1.854 troy ounces (see picture below). At the current spot price for silver ($23.965) and taking the purity of sterling (92.5%) into account. That cup is worth $41.09 scrap in pure silver. Minus the $0.25 cost of the cup. The cup is a profit of $40.85. Not bad for a small child's cup.
Here are my tips:
In your spare time research what type of items can be made from precious metals. Knowledge pays off even when there are other precious metal buyers looking at the same items. I found and bought the cup, while the other people looking before me put it back down. If an item is badly tarnished there is a good chance it is sterling, look for the mark - it can be hard to spot. Again, if the item is cheap enough, I'd buy it and look for the mark at home. I don't like taking chances that I might regret (miss buying an item when I know it is a precious metal).
Good Luck and Happy Hunting,
Author of "Cheap Gold and Silver"