Look under the couch: an early iPhone sells for $63,000

From smartphones to rare 17th century sugar pots, silver shines in sales across the country

Some important silver will feature in Irish auctions over the coming fortnight.

Like gold, silver is a highly valued asset with an intrinsic value. While it is produced into pieces of tableware, jewellery and other trinkets, it also plays a part in industrial use as a component in LED chips and semiconductors. A smartphone is estimated to house around 0.34g of silver, along with other precious metals such as gold, copper and platinum. In a feature by the BBC in 2016, it estimated that a tonne of smartphones would deliver 300 times more gold than a tonne of gold ore, and six and a half times more silver than a tonne of silver ore, while a million mobile phones could deliver 350kgs of the precious metal – but extraction remains an issue.

Of greater value than the sliver of silver within the phone however, is the phone itself.

In 2007 the late Apple boss Steve Jobs told Apple’s annual Macworld expo: “We are going to make some history together today.” He was referring to the launch of the first-generation iPhone.


At the time the device retailed for about €568 ($599); these days it is selling for substantially more.

A 24-carat gold version, studded with a pink diamond, otherwise known as a Falcon Supernova iPhone 6 pink diamond, costs about €45 million. But even the older, simpler versions, also offer value.

Last month US tattoo artist Karen Green sold her device – an 8GB model “first edition” with an unbroken seal – through LCG auctions in an online sale that achieved a jaw-dropping $63,000 (€58,777), more than 100 times its original cost.

So it may be worth a snoop in your phone graveyard at home to see if there are any lurking around.

‘Rarest and most sought after’

John Weldon of Temple Bar will hold a rare Irish silver sale on March 28th at its auction rooms on Cow’s Lane in Temple Bar. The sale will feature “some of the rarest and sought-after examples of Irish silver from the 17th to 19th centuries”. The majority (176) of the 206 lots are from one collection, with pieces from Dublin, Limerick and Cork.

Highlights include what Weldon describes as an “extremely rare” William III Irish silver sugar caster from 1699. Older than Leinster House, the piece, adorned with intricate decoration, bears the hallmark of renowned Dublin silversmith Alexander Sinclair, whose works are part of the state collection in the National Museum in Collins Barracks. It was sold at Sotheby’s in 1929 for the sum of £256 (€293) and is expected to fetch €6,000–€9,000.

A beer jug from 1726 – the year Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was published – made by Matthew Walker features the family crest of the Wilson family and “is a prime example of the exceptional craftsmanship that emerged from Dublin’s silver industry during this period”, says Weldon (€10,000-€15,000). A rare George III Irish provincial coffee pot, circa 1770, by John Nicholson (€5,000-€8,000) also illustrates the skill and artistry of Irish silversmiths of that time. Not everything in the sale is in the thousands; there’s a lovely asparagus tongs from London, 1827 (€80-€120). Of the collection, Weldon says: “It has taken a lifetime to collect and I don’t think I will ever see the likes of it again.” jwa.ie

A silver salver by William Egan of Cork, inscribed with ‘Presented to Henry St J Glynn on leaving Skibbereen by the members of the Choral Society, Nov 1944′, also features

Cork auctioneer Lynes and Lynes’ online sale on March 25th has several house contents and individual lots from more than 30 vendors. Important silver includes an English silver lidded jug from 1877, which is inscribed with “Jane Countess of Bantry” (€500-€700). A silver salver by William Egan of Cork, inscribed with “Presented to Henry St J Glynn on leaving Skibbereen by the members of the Choral Society, Nov1944”, also features (€500-€700).

It’s an interesting sale and includes oak carved furniture – originally part of the decor of the old Fawcett’s Hotel in Ballycotton – in the form of a sideboard (€1,000-€1,500), while the 30 old stoneware beer bottles (€100-€200) and a 19th century rocking horse in need of a bit of love (€100-€200), show the sheer range of antiquities in the sale. Lynesandlynes.com

An assorted set of sterling silver cutlery by Tiffany & Co (€1,800-€2,200) from the 1920s features in O’Reilly’s of Francis Street, Fine Jewellery, Watches, Silver and Coin sale on March 22nd. Also for sale is an important silver bowl by Marika Murnaghan from 1980 (€500-€700).

More precious metals include the top lot, which is a diamond line bracelet with 14.7ct of diamonds set in 18ct white gold (€27,000-€30,000), followed by asolitaire ring with a 3.33ct diamond on mounted diamond shoulders set in 18ct white gold (€22,000-€28,000). Watches include a gent’s stainless steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer (€13,500-€15,000); a woman’s stainless steel Jaeger le Coultre “Master Compressor” wristwatch (€2,800-€3,800); and a vintage midsize woman’s 18ct white gold Audemars Piguet model at €2,200-€3,200. An interesting piece is a vintage retro gold bracelet of architectural form in 18ct yellow gold at €6,000-€6,500. oreillysfineart.com

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables