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The History of Sterling Silver Souvenir Spoons

Silver Souvenir Spoons

Sterling silver souvenir spoons have been a hot collector’s item around the world for quite some time. It originated in Europe and by the late 19th century made its way to the American continent.

The beauty and personal touch that collecting sterling silver spoons bring has made a substantial impact on the tourism industry. They continue to be quite popular in the Western world.

Today, you can find collectable spoons in many households. However, the use of sterling silver spoons marks a special occasion that is memorable and celebrated.


Collector’s items have been around for many centuries. However, the focus on spoons did not begin at least for American citizens until the mid-19th century.

At this time, wealthy American tourists, on long tours of Europe, would bring home souvenirs.  They often carried the name of the city, country, or famous landmark that they had visited along the way. It was this tradition that fostered the idea of souvenir spoons becoming collector’s items.

The first sterling silver spoons for collecting purposes was created in the United States by Galt & Bros of Washington in 1889. The spoons featured George Washington, in profile, celebrating the 100th anniversary of becoming the first president of the US.

The company produced a spoon set that celebrated the legacy of Martha Washington shortly afterwards.


Salem Witch Spoon

What followed a year later was arguably the creation of the most famous collectable spoon collection of all time. Seth F. Low, a jeweller, went to Germany and obtained several odd-looking spoons.

When he came back to the US, he used what he purchased as inspiration in creating the Salem Witch Spoon. He sent the design to the company run by his father.  A trademark applied to the design ensured its success.


The spoon featured a raised figure in the shape of a witch and three witch pins.  These were similar in size and shape to those seen at the Court House of Salem.  In addition, the word Salem was prominently displayed.

This souvenir spoon was a big hit and several thousand sold quickly helping to create a national obsession. The Salem Witch Spoon was also a hit in Britain and Scotland.

The spoons continued to be the most popular of all souvenir spoon items until the beginning of World War One.

Explosion of Sterling Silver Souvenir Spoons

The Salem Witch Spoon seemed to touch off an explosion of interest in the souvenir spoon market. Only a few of these items had previously been produced.

However, by 1891, the Salem Witch Spoon had been released and hundreds of new patterns were being created.  These sold across the United States and soon reached into Europe and Britain.

It was not long before books were being published about collecting sterling silver spoons. By the Chicago World Fair of 1893, it was considered the beginning of the Golden Age of souvenir spoon collecting.

Golden Age

The Chicago World Fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas. A collectable spoon set commemorating  the event was more popular than any before or since.

This even helped to bring collectable spoons to new heights where the public now had great interest.

This was because the fair drew upwards of 27 million visitors from around the world. This exposure led to the creation of many different sets of these collectable items which a typical tourist would love to own.

The World Fair helped to foster the phenomenon of collecting commemorative spoons which coincided with an economic boom in the 1890’s. Industry and technology were rapidly advancing at this time which helped with manufacturing.  In addition, spreading the news about what sets were becoming available was made simpler.

The collecting craze heightened at this time, with more spoons on the market and more money in people’s pockets.  Silver prices collapsed and reduced manufacturing costs so savings were passed on to consumers.

This helped to spread the craze from the well-to-do to the common person who could now afford to purchase a commemorative spoon collection or perhaps a single sterling silver spoon that honoured an event, person, or community without breaking their wallet.

The Ending of Golden Age

From the Chicago World Fair to the beginning of World War One, souvenir spoons were all the craze thanks to their collectability and notoriety.

However, all good things must come to an end and this era of the hobby faded once World War One began to dominate the headlines. A new generation with different interests finally pulled America into the conflict by 1917.  This reduced the desire to obtain sterling silver souvenir spoons.

After the war, the collectable spoon industry had dried up to only a small interest. British, Scottish, and American companies managed to find some interest, mostly from older people who remembered the Golden Age.

It took decades before interest in the market began to rise again. In part because of the fascination caused by renewed interest in antiques, as demonstrated in such popular programs like PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow”.

Because of this renewed interest, it is now easier to obtain sterling silver souvenir spoons.  Both in terms of historical antiques and newly created versions that celebrate communities, recent events, and people. Plus, the collector’s value will only increase thanks to the inclusion of sterling silver and its inherent value.

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