Sterling Silver Matchsafes with Sporting ThemesBy

Sterling Silver Matchsafes with Sporting Themes

Latest Reproductions Identified by New Hallmark

A batch of sterling silver match safes featuring sporting themes is available. The new safes first appeared in antiques markets and fairs in England. They have now been seen in American shows, malls, shops and many online auctions.

Most pieces of this group of safes–including all that appear in this article–have a distinctive new "hallmark." The new mark (see Figs. 9-10) looks like an entwined G and J inside a diamond. This mark is modern and has no known old counterpart. New pieces with this mark are thought to be made in Thailand. Along with the new hallmark appear 925 and STERLING.

At least two of the new safes are direct copies of old originals. The male golfer in Fig. 2 was originally made by Gorham Mfg. Co. of Providence, Rhode Island, catalog #B223. Originals date to the turn-of-the-19th century. The new version is made in a smaller size measuring only 1¾″ tall; the Gorham original was a larger safe, about 2½″. Virtually all of Gorham's products are marked with the company name or hallmark.

The other new piece that copies an original is the circular box in Fig. 5. There are two similar original circular styles known with golfing scenes. All originals have full English hallmarks including date marks, maker's mark and city mark. The closest original to the safe shown here has the authentic hallmark JF for James Fenton. The reproduction has the new GJ hallmark.

Like other reproduction safes, this group has the proper silver content. All of the new safes shown here test at .925 silver content.

The detail quality varies among the new safes. Some, like the golfer in Fig. 2, are quite good. This safe has realistic grass, a fairly accurate human figure in the appropriate clothing and decent scrollwork.

But other new safes, like the tennis player, have terrible detail. The face of the tennis player has a cartoon-like amateurish appearance that would never be found in a vintage original safe.

All the new pieces shown in this article were purchased from retail sellers in England. When the English prices are converted to American dollars the prices of the new safes ranged from a little over $12 to a high of about $18. The Gorham original golfer can sell for $800-$1000; The English circular golf safes can bring $1000-$1,200.

Special thanks to George Sparacio for his background information on the history of originals.

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Fig. 1 New safe with female golfer. Marked GJ, 925, STERLING; 1½″ tall.

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Fig. 2 New safe copied from Gorham original. New safe marked GJ, 925 and STERLING; 1¾″ tall.

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Fig. 3 New male tennis player safe. Marked GJ, 925, STERLING. About 1½″ tall.

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Fig. 4 New safe, male golfer. Marked GJ, 925, STERLING.

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Fig. 5 New round safe copied from vintage original. New safe is marked GJ, 925, STERLING.

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Fig. 6 Detail from lady golfer in Fig. 1. Note bulging eyes.

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Fig. 7 Detail from tennis player in Fig. 3. Note cartoon-like facial feature.

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Fig. 8 Close-up of Fig. 2 Good detail overall.

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Fig. 9 Enlarged view of marks on new safes shown in this article. Actual size is less than 1/16th of an inch tall, unusually small compared to marks on originals.

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Fig. 10 Line drawing of new GJ hallmark appearing on new safes shown in this article.

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Fig. 11 Detail of striker on new GJ safes. Very sharply defined grooves show no signs of normal wear.