Selling family silver

I have a lot of family silver stored in a bank vault. I would like to sell it. Although it is both plate and sterling and includes bowls, trays, and flatware, it is not particularly extraordinary. How should I go about selling it? -- P. L.

Right now, I suggest not selling it. Silver prices are depressed and likely to fall even further for a while. However, long- term market prices are likely to be higher. If you do sell, look first at the possibilities of selling to collectors. Consult one or more of these publications: American Antiques, RD 1, New Hope, Pa. 18938; American Collector, Box A, Reno, Nev. 89506; or The Antique Trader Weekly, PO Box 1050, Dubuque, Iowa 52001. You're likely to get more for your pieces as collector items than as silver. The plated pieces will not likely be salable for their silver content to be melted down. If you sell the sterling pieces for their silver content, check with a local coin or precious-metals dealer -- one who has been in business in your community for years. If there is none in your community, ask one or more jewelers for references elsewhere. Avoid outfits that come into your area advertising for silver and gold of all kinds; they usually pay only a fraction of the metal's real w orth.

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