More New Matchsafes Marked SterlingBy

More New Matchsafes Marked Sterling

Two more new matchsafes have been found marked "sterling" and .925. Since the mid-1970s, most silver reproductions were marked .925 only. Sterling was originally found only on vintage pieces of American silver. Only recently have reproductions been found with both sterling and .925. Any piece of silver marked with both .925 and sterling should be examined very closely for signs of normal wear and age.

The matchsafes shown here were purchased in England for $19 each. One safe has an Indian chief with feather bonnet on both sides; the other safe is done in the Art Nouveau style with wreaths of smoke surrounding a woman's head. Both of the new matchsafes appeared at shows and on Internet auction sites.

The Indian matchsafe is roughly similar to a 19th century original by Unger Brothers which sells for $600-$800. A design of two interlocking ovals in the Indian's head band might possibly be mistaken for the U and B that form the original Unger Brother's mark (Figs. 6 & 7).

One of the warning signs on these new matchsafes (Fig. 5) is an unusually thick spring bar which holds the lid shut. Spring bars on vintage matchsafes are rarely over one-sixteenth inch thick. The new springs are over 1/8 inch thick. Another suspicious sign is the sharp ridges in the striker which show no sign of wear. Although artificial wear can be applied to new strikers, some wear should be expected in genuinely old matchsafes.


Fig. 1 New Art Nouveau style matchsafe. Marked .925 and Sterling.


Fig. 2 Indian chief with feather bonnet matchsafe. Marked .925 and Sterling.


Fig. 3 Vintage 19th century sterling matchsafe by Unger Brothers.


Fig. 4 Close up of .925 and STERLING mark on new matchsafes shown in Figs. 1 & 2.


Fig. 5 The spring bar (that keeps the lid closed) on these new matchsafes is about three times as thick as original spring bars.


Fig. 6 Design on new Indian headband.


Fig. 7 Mark of original Unger Brothers.


Fig. 8 Sharp ridges in new strikers show no signs of wear.


Fig. 9 Catalog group of original Unger Brothers matchsafes.

Samples loaned for photography courtesy George Sparacio

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