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 and continues 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.
While collector’s items have been around for many centuries, the focus on spoons did not being at least for American citizens until the mid-19th century.
At this time, wealthy American tourists would go on long tours of Europe and would bring home souvenirs that 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 United States.
The success of the collectable set was not lost on the company as they produced one that celebrated the legacy of Martha Washington shortly afterward.
Salem Witch Spoon
What followed a year later was arguably the creation of the most famous collectible spoon collection of all time. Seth F. Low, a jeweler, 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 his father was running, and it was quickly trademarked.
The spoon featured a raised figure in the shape of a witch, three witch pins that were similar in size and shape to what was seen at the Court House of Salem, and the word Salem prominently displayed.
This souvenir spoon was a big hit and several thousand were sold quickly which helped create a national obsession. In addition to American audiences, the Salem Witch Spoon was also a British and Scottish hit as well.
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. Before, there were only a few of these items being produced.
However, by 1891 after the Salem Witch Spoon was released, there were hundreds of new patterns being created and sold across the United States and soon reaching into Europe and Britain.
The spoons were being produced as commemorative items for famous people, historical events, cities, and towns. As souvenirs, the spoons provided a welcome combination of the familiar with the beautiful depending on the designs that were used.
Plus, it provided a new, memorable way for communities to celebrate their leaders and events that could be appreciated for many years to come.
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.
The Chicago World Fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas. It is said that the collectable spoon set for this 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. It was only a few years earlier that it was considered a niche hobby, by the time the fair was over, it had expanded to a national obsession.
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 1890s. Because industry and technology were rapidly advancing as well, this helped with the manufacturing of the spoons and spreading the news about what sets were becoming available.
With more spoons on the market and more money in people’s pockets, the collecting craze only heightened during this time.
It also helped that silver prices collapsed which reduced manufacturing costs that was passed on to the consumer.
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 honored 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. It was a combination of new generations that had different interest and the war which finally pulled America into the conflict by 1917 that ended 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.