Personal Effects: Tongs aren’t for chicken, but they’re worth quite a bit

By JERRY SAMPSON

Personal Effects

Question: Mr. Sampson, what would my Wallace sterling fried chicken tongs be worth? I bought

them years ago. I think that they are so beautiful, but frankly I find them hard to use. They measure 7 inches long and have a weight of 3 ounces. I have always wanted more in this pattern but have only found tongs, one other pair like these. I should have purchased them but they were $90. Thanks for your time in researching this.

Answer: Yes, they are beautiful. I could imagine that you would find them hard to use. They’re for ice and not fried chicken. But I give you high praise for whipping them out of a drawer and using them for something. I guess in the grand scheme of things, it could work. However, you’ll notice that the bowls are slightly cupped, to catch a chunk of ice.

By the way, these would be great on a bar, with a nice silver or crystal bucket or bowl of ice. They do have the maker’s mark for Wallace. And since it’s one of the older marks with a stag head, I’d date these ice tongs to the early 1900s up to the 1930s or so. I love the simple pierced design.

That leads me to discuss the pattern, or lack thereof. When I was a kid and worked at Graves

Jewelers, we had a huge silverware pattern book that dated back to the early 1920s. I’m lucky enough that when the store closed, I begged Miss Graves for it and she gave it to me. Your patten wasn’t in there. 

But, I have discovered/remembered some things. In that old pattern guide, there were several

designs that were marked, after the pattern name, “N.L.P.” As Miss Graves told me, and I have long since learned, N.L.P. stands for “not line pattern.”

Not line pattern means that this particular pattern was not manufactured in a fully developed dining line or service. They may have only made fancy demitasse spoons or fish sets or dresser or desk sets, and not a whole line like you’d find in huge patterns, like Chantilly or Old Colonial.

I think that Wallace might have only made ice tongs in the pattern or design. I did find that

Replacements.com had this pattern listed as WAS173. The tongs featured were, sadly, out of stock. I checked a few other silver sites and determined that ice tongs, like yours, were for sale, anywhere from $250 to $375 for a single pair.

I would certainly place your pair of tongs somewhere right in the middle of those prices. So, if you had the chance to purchase a pair for the lowly price of $90, that was a steal. Thanks for a great question and for sharing them with us.