Are you someone who collects very old stuff?
Well, if you like old things and pewter happens to be your type, then you can certainly collect antique pewter.
Now, where to begin?
Just like any collection, it is impossible to collect everything, unless you have plenty of time and a bottomless pit of money.
And just like any collection, you can collect based on themes.
The good news about collecting antique pewter is that you'd most likely be limited to collecting flatware and hollow-ware. You won't find as many types of pewter items as you'd find nowadays such as picture frames, and there's certainly no business card holder two centuries ago (none that I know of anyway).
So what's the bad news?
Well, there are still many themes even with just flatware and hollow-ware. And that's just one not-so-bad news.
Anyway, you can start a collection by themes such as plates and chargers, tankards, goblets, or measures. You can also collect by pewterers, which I think is pretty cool. Or you collect based on the area from where the pewter is made.
You should look out for the pewter marks as these will identify the pewterer, and the time and place it was made. But then pewter marks can be a frustrating study in itself.
There are hallmarks, touchmarks, verification marks, ownership marks...
Confused? That's normal.
And the use of these marks, especially hallmarks, was not really organised or standardised. Some hallmarks were copied wholesale from those of silversmiths, who obviously objected to it. But somehow the pewterers shoved the silversmiths' objections up somewhere and went ahead with it anyway.
Adorable bunch, these pewterers, no?
I thought they were funny. What could they be thinking? That they could pass off pewter as silver?
As with any antique, you will also find fakes here. That will add to your headache if you're not an expert. Not that every expert could tell a fake pewter, though, because it seems some of the fakes were terribly good.
As you can probably guess by now, I'm not really a fan of antique pewter.
But I can understand why it is a passion for some - the thrill of finding a piece that fits a collection beautifully, or getting an item from a particular pewterer of quality. Even the pleasure of understanding the history of the item from the marks, which is like solving a riddle.
But one big reason I'm not seriously into antiques is that I don't live in the UK or America where the action really is. These are the places where antique pewter collecting is serious and there are many items to be found and places to buy or trade.
Of course, I can get them online at eBay but that's a whole new game altogether with its own pitfalls for the uninitiated.
So I only get an antique when I happen to come across one in my pewter hunt.
By the way, you can also find antique pewter from China dated from the 19th and 20th centuries. The most recognised pewterware are those from Swatow (now called Shantou), a city on the east coast of Guangdong. Swatow literally means 'mountain head'.
There are many Swatow pewter items being traded and discussed online. In fact, Swatow pewter can also be your theme! The most prominent Swatow pewterer at the time appears to be 'Kut Hing'. Another pewterer is 'Hui Kee'.
Swatow pewter is normally adorned with artwork, with depictions of dragons being very popular.
If you're interested in antique pewter, you should really check out a couple of collectors' clubs. In the UK, it is The Pewter Society, and for the USA it is the Pewter Collectors' Club of America. Both sites provide great resources to members, and will be good starting points for your collecting adventure. Meanwhile, here are a some antique pewter items I have which you can check out.
Antique Swatow Pewter Tankard
Pewter Tea Set
Pewter Creamer Pot
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