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It’s not unusual for us to find strange things at thrift stores. Even after selling full time on eBay for several years we still find things we can’t identify. In fact, I’ve found several things that I’m almost certain are worth good money…if I could just figure out what they are.
Such was the case this past week when I came upon a fancy metal and wood contraption sitting (sparkling, actually) on a shelf at my local Goodwill. It was unusual, high quality, and cheap so, in the spirit of thrifting, I bought it with hopes to identify it later. With the help of Reddit’s What Is This Thing I was able to figure out that the thing I thought was a mini bedpan was actually called a Silent Butler.
What is a silent butler, you ask?
A silent butler is a small metal container with a hinged lid and wood handle. It functions as a dust-pan and is used to collect ash try ashes and crumbs. Silent butlers reached the height of their popularity in the 1940s and are now mainly prized for their retro appeal and collector’s value.
What makes a silent butler valuable?
Typically, there are three things that make a Silent Butler valuable, and none of them have to do with the actual function. What a silent butler is no longer matters as much as their use seems to be, in general, obsolete. So what makes them an eBay BOLO?
- The Maker. There are several designers that made “high-end” silent butlers when they were common in households. While they are rare, a brand such as Tiffany or Kay Bojesen can sell for hundreds of dollars.
- Design. The majority of people who want a silent butler in the homes have no intention of using them but appreciate the aesthetic and history. Therefore, the more aesthetically pleasing your example is the more it could be worth. Etching, a carved handle, or an unusual design or colors can all contribute to the price you can ask.
- Material. The last reason that a silent butler can be worth money is perhaps the least exciting: what it’s made of. As was typical for dinnerware of the era, many silent butlers were made of silver plate or pure sterling silver. These tend to be more in-demand brands as well that hold their value but many of them are purchased simply for the value of bullion. In addition to silver (or other precious metals) look for examples made out of teak or with a built-in brush.
So what about the silent butler I found?
The one that I found was a great example of an antique. It was in excellent shape and unusual enough that it sold within a week of me listing it. I paid $8 and it ended up going for $75 + shipping. This is on the highest end of recently solds. In general, a Silent Butler seems to be worth between $10-50 on eBay or similar auction sites.
6 Examples of Silent Butlers
Because there are so many different shapes and sizes of silent butlers it seems prudent to have several examples so you’ll be able to identify one should you see it:
Similar Items that are also eBay BOLOs
In addition to silent butlers, there are several other similar items that, once you learn about them, can be a source of great profits for eBay or other reselling platforms.
So of the eBay BOLOs that we pick up regulary are:
- Vintage wooden kitchenware
- Anything silver/silverplate
- Vintage Pyrex
- Carnival or Depression Glass
If you’re curious about more eBay BOLOs that aren’t shoes or clothing, check out our guide to thrift store items you can flip for profit!