Furniture Labels: Telling the Makers, Retailers and Associations Apart

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The difference between sterling silver and silver plate seems small but the implications of value can be huge.

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925.

Although the origin of the word “sterling” is controversial, there is general agreement that the sterling alloy originated in continental Europe, and was being used for commerce as early as the 12th century in the area that is now northern Germany. (www.wikipedia.org)

Silver plate typically refers to a process of applying a veneer of silver alloy in extremely small (thin) quantities to other metals often copper. One of the most commonly seen types of silver plate is electroplated nickel silver (EPNS).

EPNS was introduced in the 19th century as a considerably cheaper alternative to sterling silver.  In many ways silver plate is sterling what costume jewelry is to fine jewelry.

How to tell the difference between sterling and silver plate:

In America: In the US sterling silver comes in many forms, flatware; knives, forks, spoons etc. Holloware: Vases, teapots, cups etc. Jewelry (both fine and costume, Sculpture, and many other forms.   All of these pieces, if they are sterling silver will be clearly marked with the word “sterling”.  There are makers out there who try to deceive the buyer by marking their wares with confusing symbols trying to give the impression of being sterling.  These pieces usually use a system similar to the British hallmark system with a series of 3-5 small symbols that often will have Old English-style lettering reading EPNS or EP or SP.  The primary rule to remember is if it is American and it does not say “sterling” it is NOT sterling.  Once you have determined it not to be sterling the subtleties of which type of silver plate it might be have very little effect on the market value.

In the UK: In the United Kingdom the history and practice of marking sterling silver goes back hundreds of years.  The practice of accurately marking silver and gold is overseen by the Assayers office.  Each year the assayer assigns a unique symbol to be stamped on the sterling object to differentiate the year of production.  Records of such unique mars date back to the 16th century.

Typical Marks (www.925-1000.com)

A typical set of antique British silver hallmarks showing (left to right); 1.Standard Mark, 2.City Mark, 3.Date Letter, 4.Duty Mark and 5.Maker’s Mark.

This set of marks tells us that this piece was made of Sterling, in the city of London, in the year 1789, during the reign of King George III, by the silversmith Thomas Wallis.

The rest of the world: The marking practicing for the rest of the world can vary greatly and can often be confusing if not read properly.  We recommend contacting a professional silver appraiser if you have any questions.

Foss Appraisal would be happy to assist any readers with identification of silver marks.  Feel free to visit our website for contact information: www.fossappraisal.com

Used Building Material Appraisals

Buying a House That Needs to GO?

What You Need to Know to Donate Used

Building Materials!

If you are considering buying a piece of real estate and have plans to either tear it down or complete a major renovation you might consider donating the usable building materials to charity.

Before you ask, no, the charity is not planning on making a house out of your used windows, doors, cabinets or flooring.

There are many charities across the country that have established techniques for receiving used building materials in order to sell them and raise capital for non-profit purposes.  Some examples of such charities in the Seattle area are: Habitat for Humanity, Earthcorps, Historic Seattle or The Re-Store.

Each of these Charities work with salvage professionals who specialize in working with home-owners to ensure that as much of the project is diverted from the landfill and is either recycled, re-purposed or re-used.  These salvage companies (in the Seattle area) include: Earthwise, Second Use and The Re-store.  All of these companies work with the same method, they sell the salvaged building materials and use the proceeds to support one of the previously mentioned charities.

Sounds simple, right?

In some ways it is, but it gets more complicated when you want to receive a tax benefit from the donation.

According to the IRS any non-cash charitable donation valued at over $5000.00 requires an appraisal be completed prior to the donation.  They also require that the appraisal be conducted by a qualified appraiser.

IRS Rules for Used Building Material Appraisals

Are you Confident that you know the Rules?

From the IRS website:

Section 170(f)(11)(E)(ii) provides that the term “qualified appraiser” means an individual who (1) has earned an appraisal designation from a recognized professional appraiser organization or has otherwise met minimum education and experience requirements set forth in regulations prescribed by the Secretary, (2) regularly performs appraisals for which the individual receives compensation, and (3) meets such other requirements as may be prescribed by the Secretary in regulations or other guidance. Section 170(f)(11)(E)(iii) further provides that an individual will not be treated as a qualified appraiser unless that individual (1) demonstrates verifiable education and experience in valuing the type of property subject to the appraisal, and (2) has not been prohibited from practicing before the Internal Revenue Service by the Secretary under § 330(c) of Title 31 of the United States Code at any time during the 3-year period ending on the date of the appraisal.

This is where it starts to get complicated.  In plain english you need to make sure that the appraiser you choose to value the donation is qualified to do so in the eyes of the IRS.

The appraiser must:

  • Be a member in good standing of a recognized professional appraiser organization, these include but are not limited too: The ISA or the AAA.
  • Be a professionally practicing appraiser, this means cannot have a friend join the ISA and do your one appraisal.
  • Most importantly the appraiser you choose must have demonstrated verifiable education and experience in valuing the type of property being appraised.  This means you can’t go to a jewelry appraiser and have them appraise your used building materials.

While any one of these qualifications are NOT difficult to find. Putting all three together in one appraiser for your used building materials website IS difficult.

Chris Foss, ISA is the principal appraiser for Foss Appraisal Service and meets all of these qualifications. Chris is a member of both the International Society of Appraisers and the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. Chris is a full-time appraiser who has been offering personal property appraisals over the last 10 years and has operated Foss Appraisal Service since 2006. Since 2008 Chris has worked with Second Use Building Materials in their receiving department purchasing, researching and selling used building materials.

Chris is available to talk with you or your General Contractor about how an appraisal might assist you with gaining valuable tax benefits from your donation.

The savings are not only tax refunds.

King County has instituted many green building incentives to encourage green practices such as used building material salvage.

From the King County Department of Development and Environmental Services website:

What is meant by green building?

Green building, or sustainable building, in King County refers to design, construction, and operation practices that significantly reduce resource consumption and environmental impacts through

  • sustainable site planning
  • energy efficiency
  • water conservation
  • waste minimization
  • pollution prevention
  • using resource-efficient materials
  • providing enhanced indoor environmental quality for occupants.
Greenbridge, a Built Green development. Learn about incentives for going green.
Go-green incentives: DDES permitting incentives as well as state, federal, and utility energy-efficiency incentives are available to help encourage green building and low impact development in unincorporated King County.

Call Foss Appraisal Service, 206-779-6834 today to learn how valuable a used building material appraisal can be.

Pure silver, also called fine silver, is relatively soft, very malleable, and easily damaged so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper.

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