As professional silver dealers, with a specialist department for buying and selling canteens of silver cutlery and flatware, we thought it would be a good idea to pass on answers to questions that we are frequently asked. Please view our web-site (follow links on our "about me" page) for further information.
What is a Canteen?
A full canteen consists of twelve place settings
A half-canteen consists of six place settings
A double canteen consists of twenty-four place settings etc.
The components of a canteen vary according to particular tastes and desires. Standard components are table and dessert forks, table (or soup) and dessert spoons, and usually teaspoons. Knives may or may not be included. Further items that can be included are: other eating implements (e.g. fish eaters) and serving items (e.g. ladles).
Canteens can be supplied loose, in cutlery rolls or within a fitted box. We can supply rolls from our web-site.
A straight canteen effectively means that all components are the same pattern, by the same maker, and generally of the same date.
A mixed canteen means all components are the same pattern, but not necessarily by the same maker and date.
An eclectic canteen is exactly that – anything goes – usually the main course eaters match each other, and probably the dessert eaters, but servers can be mixed.
Within these main categories are sub-categories, for example a "made-up straight canteen" is all the same maker, but the dates can vary, a canteen such as this may have differing proportions throughout – the more exact it is the more valuable it becomes.
Within the mixed canteen heading are two main sub-headings of canteen building; matching sets of 6 (i.e. same date, same maker) or one-offs (i.e. the pattern is constant throughout – but the hallmarks differ).
The relevancy of all these differing types of canteen is the effect on both the pocket and the table! Basically the greater the consistency of the canteen in terms of size and proportions of each piece, the more expensive it will be too.
Which Pattern should I buy?
With such a large choice available it can appear quite daunting which pattern to choose. However, answering the following questions can drastically narrow the field down: -
1. Do I want a plain or decorative pattern?
2. How much do I wish to spend?
3. How quickly do I want the canteen? (especially if you are building your own canteen)
A scarce, decorative pattern, such as Stag Hunt, will take a long time to build and be very expensive, whereas a plain pattern, such as Old English, is much more readily available and will be a fraction of the cost. Generally speaking the scarcity of a pattern is proportional to the price and the time it would take to build a set. The following is a list of the more commonly found patterns where building a canteen should prove relatively straightforward. Click the patterns that interest you for more details and an illustration.
Plain patterns: Old English, Fiddle and Hanoverian (including rattail).
Plain patterns with limited decoration: Fiddle & Thread, Bead and Old English Thread.
Decorative patterns: King's, Queen's and Fiddle, Thread & Shell.
Illustrations of all the above patterns can be found on the Flatware Patterns page on our web-site at antiquesilverspoons.co.uk.
Should I buy a new or an old silver canteen?
If you have in mind a contemporary pattern for your canteen, then you have very little choice than to buy new. On the other hand if you are looking for a traditional pattern you have a choice; new will be pristine and you can have the quantity and type of pieces of your choice "off the shelf", whereas second-hand or antique will be far less expensive & have some history. Remember this simple truth: if you are buying new, the value of your canteen will go down from the moment you buy it and will only begin to increase again once you have passed away - old will continue to appreciate in value from the moment you buy it!
How much will an old canteen cost?
There are many criteria involved in valuing a canteen, here are some of the main ones: -
1. Straight or mixed. The "straighter" a canteen the more it is worth.
2. Abundance of the pattern. The commonly found patterns are much less expensive than rare patterns - although conversely sets of rare patterns can be picked up relatively less expensively as they have a smaller market and therefore there are fewer people to bid against.
3. Quality. Generally this refers to the weight of a canteen – the weight reflects the gauge of silver used. Another form of quality is in the decoration; hand-made pieces are much crisper and more appealing than mass-produced stamped out items where dies may wear and lose the desirable clarity of decoration. Certain canteen makers are well known for the quality of their products, e.g. Chawner & Company, Elkington & Co., and Francis Higgins, these items will therefore command a premium.
4. Condition. This relates to the length of tines on forks, the shape of spoon bowls, the sharpness of decoration and the presence of engraved initials or crests. The presence of engraved crests can be desirable to some, but not to others. All our items are supplied in first class condition and should not be compared with the majority of those found in auction salerooms or internet auctions!
5. Age. The older the canteen the more expensive it will become.
6. Loose, cased or in cutlery rolls. A good fitted box will add considerable value. Not everybody wants a wooden case therefore cutlery rolls are a handy alternative. Items bought loose can be fitted in to rolls at a later date if desired, but are unlikely to fit a case.
7. The presence or absence of servers. The presence of servers will add value, although they can usually be bought at a later date.
8. Where you buy the canteen. The least expensive way to buy a canteen is to do it yourself by searching eBay and other auctions. The most expensive way is to visit a prestigious retailer. However buying a canteen is akin to buying a car. If you know what you are doing it is fine to buy privately, if you do not you may end up wasting a lot of money. The safe option is to buy from a trusted dealer. You may pay a little more but you will get exactly what you want without falling in to the many pitfalls that can be encountered along the way and ultimately save yourself both time and money.
We hope this guide proves useful and that you have fun in buying or building a canteen.
Please view our web-site at antiquesilverspoons.co.uk for more information on canteens, canteens for sale, illustrations of available patterns, makers, knives etc etc . If we can be of further help, please contact us.