Chicago Antiques Guide

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Cracker or Sugar Cube Holder - That Is the Question

Posted Sunday, March 26 by Brian

Can you tell me what this is and when and where it was used? Its value?
[Chicago Antiques Guide responded that it was a cracker holder and requested information about markings. What follows is the response.]
Under the handle at one end there is : B R S , each letter in its own four-sided box, and, nickel silver. Under the other end is: SHEFFIELD , and 2 1 6 3.
My grandmother and her husband ran a small village general-store in Iowa about 1900, and her father came from near Tor Hill, England, before that. Would there be a connection?

The crackers would have been rather small, slightly less than a fifty-cent piece. Would this have been part of a tea service? Thanks again. Gordon
Cracker Holder.jpg
It can be difficult at times to determine if a piece of this shape is for crackers or sugar cubes. Some are easy. If it were rounded instead of "V" shaped, it would definitely be for crackers. If it were more boxed, with two sides and a bottom, it would more likely be for sugar cubes. But the "V" shaped holders could be either. If it is about 1" to 1 1/4" across the top, then it is more likely a sugar cube holder. If it is about 1 3/4" to 2" across, then it is more likely a cracker holder.

The "BRS" is a monogram for the name of the company that made the piece. I was unable to identify the company. With the Sheffield mark, it was probably made in England, although American silver companies weren't above using Sheffield in their name and English-like fake hallmarks.

Nickel silver is actually an alloy of copper, tin and nickel, which has no silver content. It is sometimes called German Silver. Nickel silver was commonly used as a base metal for silver plating. When a piece is marked "NS" or "EPNS" (for Electro-Plated Nickel Silver) it is always silver plated if it has tarnished. German Silver was sometimes used without plating, because it was close in color to silver and did not tarnish. It is seen on beaded purse frames quite commonly.

Whether it is for crackers or sugar cubes, it would have originally been used with a pair of tongs to remove the items.

Sterling silver versions of these holders can sell from $35-50 at the low end, to several hundred for very ornate pieces, or pieces made by famous companies. Unfortunately, most silverplated versions, especially if very plain like yours, would only bring about $15-$20. Yours was probably made in the early 1900's. Earlier holders would have been more ornate.

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