Silver is usually available as either fine silver or sterling silver.
Fine silver (often called pure silver) – Contains 99.9% silver and 0.1% trace elements.
Sterling silver – An alloy containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, such as copper, nickel, or zinc to make it stronger. In most cases, copper is used as it doesn’t discolor silver.
Silver purity is expressed as a percentage and silver items will often be marked 925 or 999.
925 or .925 = 92.5% pure silver
999 or .999 = 99.9% pure silver
Silver prices are typically quoted by the troy ounce which is 31.1034 grams. Most pawn shops pay for silver by the gram (to the tenth of a gram).
Current Spot Price
Silver is a commodity that’s traded on the open market, similar to oil or gold. It’s bought and sold 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all over the world. The price of silver largely depends on supply and demand, but speculation also plays a role.
As a traded commodity, the silver price fluctuates all the time. There are many websites, such as apmex.com/silver-price that show the current spot price.
Once you know the silver purity and weight of the item you want to sell, it’s easy to calculate the value of the silver it contains based on the current spot price.
Let’s assume you want to sell a sterling silver item that weighs 30.5 grams. Since sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver, your item contains 28.2 grams of silver (30.5 grams x 92.5%). If the current spot price of silver is $24.16 per troy ounce, it works out to $0.78 per gram ($24.16 divided by 31.1034). The value of the silver is $22.00 (28.2 grams x $0.78 per gram).
Note: It does not mean that your item is worth $22. It only means it has an intrinsic value of $22. To release the value it may have to be sent to a refinery, and the process of extracting the pure silver costs money.
The Item You’re Selling
Some silver products are more valuable or in greater demand than others, even if their silver content has the same intrinsic value.
Silver Bullion Bars
Silver bullion bars contain 99.9% silver which is the closest you can get to pure silver. They can be bought and sold as-is and have a good resale value. They are popular with investors who want to add physical silver to their investment portfolio.
Several factors will determine how much pawn shops will pay for silver coins. It includes the condition of the coin and how scarce it is.
Like silver bullion bars, 99.9% fine silver coins in mint condition are popular with investors and have a good resale value. However, there are more coin collectors and investors that buy silver coins than there are investors that buy silver bullion bars.
Like most jewelry, jewelers sell silver jewelry at inflated prices well above the value of the silver they contain. It will typically be sent to a refiner that will melt it down unless it’s a unique piece with a good story.
Based on the above, jewelry has a poor resale value. For more information, refer to our article on how pawn shops determine value.
Silver antiques, such as the above fish serving plate, are often sold for more than their silver content as it’s a collectible item. The value of the silver it contains is of secondary importance.
That’s a Wrap
We trust this article gives you a good idea on how pawn shops calculate the value of silver and the factors they take into account when determining a price.
Note that pawn shops need to make money too and cannot buy and sell items at market value.
The price you will be offered for your item is based on its market value, less an amount the pawnshop considers fair that will allow them to make a reasonable profit on an item that might take months to sell. And remember, the silver price fluctuates daily, adding additional risk for the pawnshop.
Maxferd specializes in buying and selling silver items and will gladly provide you with a free evaluation on any fine silver or sterling silver item.
Call us at (800) 888-7296 or visit one of our five locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles to find out how we can assist you.