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Since 1997, America has opened up its attics, cellars and storage units to show appraisers and the nation all the curios which they have been collecting. Every Monday night, PBS hosts the program Antiques Roadshow. This has grown into one of the network’s most popular shows.  Often, something is shown and we think we have that item or something more valuable.    But when examining items in our own home, let’s learn some general principles from our antique appraisers in gauging what is good and what is garbage.

  • How pristine is the item? The closer to perfect condition your perceived collectable is the higher the item’s value.  Boxes, wrappers and other documentation matter. If your item is now less than perfect, that will happen with time.  Remember, many items which are now collected were once used every day in their prime.  Forgive yourself if it is less than 100 percent.
  • Who wants it? If something is a family heirloom, this may have a greater value between you and your kin versus a retail value in the marketplace.  Look at collecting websites and selling websites including eBay or Craig’s List to find other similar items.  Collectors may swoon, but they also might also yawn.
  • Provenance rounds out the story. If you have a picture of your uncle holding this item back in the day, it makes the value of the item greater. Your personal history around an item is a highly important element.  This doesn’t diminish an item’s value but adds to it.
  • What you don’t know, you don’t know. Manufacturers, artists, trends and time periods all reflect your antique’s value. If you truly love or value an item, become a student of it.  Learn as much as you can about the history, the era in which it was made or the context of the item was used.  Many items have  around them associations, societies and guilds which keep alive both the history and the interest in certain collectables – Join one if you own an item you truly adore.

Have fun with these mementos, but keep in mind that they are only items. Don’t let the potential of an item’s value put a wedge between you and your family. Relationships and family unity should be more important. This is a time where too much greed is bad.

Knowing the value of an item can help you to determine whether this great kitsch item that your mother adores is a treasure or just the basis of a pleasant memory. The ultimate decisions are yours.

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