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Treasures: Plate contains 22-carat gold, but not enough

This plate has a lot of pizazz, but not a lot of gold.
This plate has a lot of pizazz, but not a lot of gold. TNS

Q: I inherited this beautiful 22-carat gold plate and I am sure it is 75 to 100 years old and would like to have an idea of its value.

D. F.

A: We got all excited when we read that someone was sending us a photograph of a 22-carat gold plate. Sadly, we should have known better.

The photograph reveals a china plate — which we assume is either a 10-inch dinner plate or an 11-inch service plate because no diameter was given in the letter and one of these larger plates would be typical with this sort of decoration. The design is actually a decal of fashionably dressed Victorian ladies and is generally referred to as the Godey prints pattern.

Yes, 22-carat gold was used in this decoration, but there is an old saying in the antiques trade: “There isn’t enough gold to fill a gnat’s tooth!” And that would actually be the truth because very, very little 22-carat gold was used to decorate this lovely plate — say just a smidgeon or less.

The fact that this precious metal was used does not increase the value of this piece by as much as one dollar (even though an ounce of pure gold is currently selling for roughly $1,200).

The maker of the plate was the Salem China Company of Salem, Ohio, which began production in 1899. Unfortunately, the company fell into financial difficulty and in 1918 was taken over by the famous Sebring family. Under the Sebrings, the enterprise flourished for a time but went out of business in the 1960s. Some say they continued to exist as a distribution company.

The plate in today’s question is part of the Godey prints series, which was based on fashion prints published by Louis Antoine Godey (1804-1878) in his popular Godey’s Lady’s Book, which is said to be the first successful women’s magazine and was very influential in the field of women’s fashions. Salem used decals based on images found in this magazine on a number of its shapes.

These Godey prints can be found on a variety of dinnerware shapes including cup and saucers, coffee pots (the most valuable of the grouping), creamers, sugar bowls, bowls of all sizes and even ashtrays.

The earliest date we could find for this pattern being used was 1938, and this leads us to believe that D. F.’s piece was probably manufactured in the 1940s. This makes the piece just a touch younger than D. F. supposes, but this really makes no difference because this piece is as old as it is supposed to be.

Perhaps it should be mentioned that Salem did use a dating system and if there is a number on the back of this piece, e.g. 40 or 48, that is the year of manufacture (i.e. 1940 or 1948 in this example). There is more to this system, but for reasons of brevity, this is all that needs to be detailed for the purposes of today’s question.

We found the exact service plate being offered for sale on Replacements.com. It was listed at $33.95 and marked down to $21.99.

Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email treasures@knology.net. If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.