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Castle Top Silver – History, Valuations & How to Sell

The history of castle top silver

 

In the mid-19th century, small silver boxes depicting images of castles, manor houses, or churches were used to carry cards, snuff, and vinaigrettes. These silver cases were fashioned by the Birmingham ‘toy’ makers. They were engraved or die-stamped with British landmarks. Castle top silver cases were likely marketed as souvenirs for honeymooners and day-trippers in Victorian England.

The custom of leaving visiting cards lasted throughout the 19th century, and the need for covering up offensive odours outdoors (which vinaigrettes were used for) certainly persisted through that period. Yet castle top silver was at the height of fashion between the period of circa 1830 to 1860. This rather brief period of popularity makes these cases highly collectible today.

 

how to sell castle top silver

Castle top card cases

Calling cards were left behind at a residence if the required person wasn’t available. They served as both an introductory letter and a symbol of manners and social standing. Cards for unmarried men were usually smaller than the cards married men carried. The most desirable card cases in the mid-19th century featured scenes of British landmarks.

Castle top vinaigrettes

Vinaigrettes held sponges dipped in strong fragrance to help mask unpleasant street smells. Wealthy citizens could afford the fragrances needed to mask the strong scents. The beautiful castle top silver cases helped a disagreeable situation feel a bit more tolerable.

Castle top silver in the 21st century

Castle top silver is now valued for the variety of depictions of British landmarks. The rarer the building, the higher the demand in today’s market. You can find engravings of Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Melrose Abbey, and Oxford College, just to name a few.

 

What to look for in castle top silver items 

castle top silver subjects

Condition

The condition of the decoration on castle top silver is very important.  Lookout for signs of an over zealous cleaner as a previous owner; if it has been over polished there will be no fine details left.  A split around the seam of the case is normally repairable.

castle top silver hallmarks

Hallmarks

The hallmarks on your card case are likely to be on the inner rim of the base.  As they are placed in direct contact with the closing lid they can sometimes become obscured.  As long as the date and maker are readable it is considered ok.

castle top silver sell

Card Cases

The record for a castle top card case stands at £9,800 which was for a very rare example of The Post Office, Dublin.  More typically they sell for £300-500, with the value being mostly formed from how rare the building or castle is.

what is castle top silver

Vinaigrettes

Although castle top vinaigrettes have a higher average selling price, often around £500-1000 depending on the subject, the record stands at a much lower £6,600.  Look out for vinaigrettes in their original boxes as they are often in perfect condition.

castle top silver valuations

Embossed decoration

Most castle top silver is made by die stamping (pushing the metal out from behind using a stamp).  The greater the decoration stands clear from the front of the cover, the harder it was to make and quite understandably is now very sought after by collectors.

castle top silver valuations

Engraved Decoration

The second type of decoration of castle top silver is engraved decoration.  A specialist engraver would often be employed just to add the decoration to the front of the card case or vinaigrette.  As the decoration is shallow it can be prone to rubbing and loosing details.

The Market

 

The market for castle top silver, both card cases and vinaigrettes, has never been stronger.  The world record for a card case was broken three times in one sale in 2016, with the record now standing at almost £10,000.  Although this is the exception not the rule, castle top card cases often sell for over £1000 at auction.

The dual characteristics of being instantly appealing to a wide audience and having an academic side means that castle top silver is now sought both by collectors and private buyers as a one off purchase.

To get the best price for your castle top silver it really needs to be exposed in a specialist silver auction.  There are around three specialist silver sales we regularly use for clients, and the prices they achieve are considerably more than your local saleroom could.

We also have private buyers looking for some castle top card cases and vinaigrettes.  By selling privately we can save you up to 40% in saleroom commission so it can be a much more profitable route than auction.

If you would like a free valuation of your castle top silver please use the form at the end of this page or head to our CONTACT US page.

The Main Makers

 

Alfred Taylor

Birmingham – registered mark 1851, active circa 1853-1870.  Currently it is an Alfred Taylor card case which holds the world record price for an item of castle top silver.

alfred taylor hallmark

George Unite

Birmingham – registered first mark in 1832, active circa 1832-1901.  The record for a George Unite castle top card case is £9,200.

george unit hallmark mk 2

Nathaniel Mills

Birmingham – active 1826-1857.  The record for a Nathaniel Mills castle top card case is £9,200.

nathaniel mills hallmark
a castle top silver card case

The history of castle top silver

 

In the mid-19th century, small silver boxes depicting images of castles, manor houses, or churches were used to carry cards, snuff, and vinaigrettes. These silver cases were fashioned by the Birmingham ‘toy’ makers. They were engraved or die-stamped with British landmarks. Castle top silver cases were likely marketed as souvenirs for honeymooners and day-trippers in Victorian England.

The custom of leaving visiting cards lasted throughout the 19th century, and the need for covering up offensive odours outdoors (which vinaigrettes were used for) certainly persisted through that period. Yet castle top silver was at the height of fashion between the period of circa 1830 to 1860. This rather brief period of popularity makes these cases highly collectible today.

 

how to sell castle top silver

Castle top card cases

Calling cards were left behind at a residence if the required person wasn’t available. They served as both an introductory letter and a symbol of manners and social standing. Cards for unmarried men were usually smaller than the cards married men carried. The most desirable card cases in the mid-19th century featured scenes of British landmarks.

Castle top vinaigrettes

Vinaigrettes held sponges dipped in strong fragrance to help mask unpleasant street smells. Wealthy citizens could afford the fragrances needed to mask the strong scents. The beautiful castle top silver cases helped a disagreeable situation feel a bit more tolerable.

Castle top silver in the 21st century

Castle top silver is now valued for the variety of depictions of British landmarks. The rarer the building, the higher the demand in today’s market. You can find engravings of Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Melrose Abbey, and Oxford College, just to name a few.

 

What to look for in castle top silver items 

castle top silver subjects

Condition

The condition of the decoration on castle top silver is very important.  Lookout for signs of an over zealous cleaner as a previous owner; if it has been over polished there will be no fine details left.  A split around the seam of the case is normally repairable.

castle top silver hallmarks

Hallmarks

The hallmarks on your card case are likely to be on the inner rim of the base.  As they are placed in direct contact with the closing lid they can sometimes become obscured.  As long as the date and maker are readable it is considered ok.

castle top silver sell

Card Cases

The record for a castle top card case stands at £9,800 which was for a very rare example of The Post Office, Dublin.  More typically they sell for £300-500, with the value being mostly formed from how rare the building or castle is.

what is castle top silver

Vinaigrettes

Although castle top vinaigrettes have a higher average selling price, often around £500-1000 depending on the subject, the record stands at a much lower £6,600.  Look out for vinaigrettes in their original boxes as they are often in perfect condition.

castle top silver valuations

Embossed decoration

Most castle top silver is made by die stamping (pushing the metal out from behind using a stamp).  The greater the decoration stands clear from the front of the cover, the harder it was to make and quite understandably is now very sought after by collectors.

castle top silver valuations

Engraved Decoration

The second type of decoration of castle top silver is engraved decoration.  A specialist engraver would often be employed just to add the decoration to the front of the card case or vinaigrette.  As the decoration is shallow it can be prone to rubbing and loosing details.

The Market

 

The market for castle top silver, both card cases and vinaigrettes, has never been stronger.  The world record for a card case was broken three times in one sale in 2016, with the record now standing at almost £10,000.  Although this is the exception not the rule, castle top card cases often sell for over £1000 at auction.

The dual characteristics of being instantly appealing to a wide audience and having an academic side means that castle top silver is now sought both by collectors and private buyers as a one off purchase.

To get the best price for your castle top silver it really needs to be exposed in a specialist silver auction.  There are around three specialist silver sales we regularly use for clients, and the prices they achieve are considerably more than your local saleroom could.

We also have private buyers looking for some castle top card cases and vinaigrettes.  By selling privately we can save you up to 40% in saleroom commission so it can be a much more profitable route than auction.

If you would like a free valuation of your castle top silver please use the form at the end of this page or head to our CONTACT US page.

The Main Makers

 

Alfred Taylor

Birmingham – registered mark 1851, active circa 1853-1870.  Currently it is an Alfred Taylor card case which holds the world record price for an item of castle top silver.

alfred taylor hallmark

George Unite

Birmingham – registered first mark in 1832, active circa 1832-1901.  The record for a George Unite castle top card case is £9,200.

george unit hallmark mk 2

Nathaniel Mills

Birmingham – active 1826-1857.  The record for a Nathaniel Mills castle top card case is £9,200.

nathaniel mills hallmark

FREE CASTLE TOP SILVER VALUATIONS

If you would like a free, no obligation valuation of your castle top silver please use the form below.

You can also email details about your silver to [email protected] or call us on 01477 410893

Castle Top Silver Valuation Form