You may be surprised to learn that many pewter objects from the 17th and 18th centuries are still on sale at modest prices. In addition, many collectors around the world and in America buy pewter objects dating from the American Revolution.
Tin from the British and American sides of the war is popular. This includes everything from military buttons and clothing buttons to tin for eating and serving food.
The big hunt for old pewter was relaunched in 1976 during the Bicentenary celebration. Not only were collectors on the hunt, but reproductions were made by the thousands. As you are about to learn, they are an ongoing problem for collectors today.
Historically, the manufacture and use of pewter objects dates back 2,000 years to Roman times. They were mainly utilitarian objects.
Fast forward several hundred years in England and Europe. The average person used wooden utensils. The wealthy and royalty used pewter and considered it a luxury item. Tin makers identified their work stamped with a mark called a “touch mark”.
Before the American Revolution, the British used a tactile mark in the image of a lion. The pewter was marked not only by the makers, but by the owners. They stamped or engraved their initials on important pieces such as family crests or coats of arms.
In colonial America, English pewter was so valued that many early pieces were stamped “London” or “Old England”. to make them more valuable. In Jamestown, Virginia, and the New England states, in 1630 newly arrived settlers brought tin from England. Pewter makers trained in England began working in America.
During the American Revolution many pieces of pewter were donated to be cast into musket balls.
HINTS: You don’t hear much about antique pewter knobs, but they still show up. British and American uniforms, both army and navy, used them on uniforms.
Pewter buttons were in great demand for women’s and men’s clothing in the 18th and early 19th centuries in England and America. Patterns included floral motifs and stars. Designs were cast or stamped. Currently, a single button can sell for $175 or more. There are reproductions of the many models offered on the Internet.
Reproductions of American pewter utensils were made in the 1920s to 1940s by Stede Co. in Germany. They are marked with a horse’s head in a square and “Stede”. Prices are usually under $50. Reproductions are still made by individual tinsmiths.
To learn more about pewter, visit the Pewter Collectors Club of America.