There are two main types of value associated with antiques and heirlooms:monetary and sentimental. The one thing that can add to both types of value is information.
As we work with clients they often times share with us the stories behind the things they or their parents owned. They like sharing the stories and we like having that information. So how does information add value to antiques and heirlooms?
You may or may not have told your family members the stories behind some of the things you own (or maybe you think you told them). If you want your heirs to cherish those things you leave behind you need to let them know why you cherish those things. Has it been handed down through several generations? Was it hand-made by some relative? What makes that item special to you beyond the fact that it may have some monetary worth? Share you stories and it’ll be more likely your heirs will view some of what you leave behind as something to keep and treasure rather than sell.
For items that are to be liquidated, information can make a huge difference in how much people perceive an item to be worth. What kind of information? If you know the following, record:
- Where it was made or purchased and by whom?
- Who owned it?
- When was it made or purchased or acquired?
It also never hurts to secure any supporting documentation such as:
- Purchase orders or receipts
- Photos of the item which support (ex. photo your grandfather as a young man standing next to the clock you are documenting)
- Records of who the item belonged to (ex. discharge papers of soldier who owned the sword your are documenting)
- Old letters mentioning the item or a period advertisement for the item
Even if all you have to go on is oral history, write it down. Example:
“My mother told me this hope chest was purchased by my grandmother in the 1930′s when she lived in Charleston, SC”
Even information about damage to the item can be useful. Was the hole in the hat made by a bullet? Was the desk beat up because it was in a shipwreck? These sorts of detail add character to the object.
These little bits of information could prove vital to identifying or validating the origin and value of the item in question or simply make the item more interesting to a potential buyer.
WHERE TO RECORD
We have found such documentation taped to the back of mirrors, paintings, and furniture. We have also found them on the bottoms of furniture or taped inside it.
Smaller items can be documented in some form of log (paper and/or digital) that includes a description of the item, the details or documentation, and if possible a picture. The log should then be filed with your other important papers such as your will and insurance policies.
Resist the urge to embellish the truth or to just make up a story. That would be fraud and could land you in hot water.
You’ve spent a long time and probably some money acquiring the things you own. Do yourself and your heirs a favor and take a little time to document the more important items for future reference. You’ll find it a rewarding task in more ways than one.