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By Lori Verderame
Tips for those who inherit a collection
Love is one of the most common reasons why we collect or hand down objects. Objects come with emotions. Most people will not part with a particular item or group of items if they were handed down or amassed by a loved one, family member or friend. I feel this way about my father’s nutcracker collection and my mother’s canister set. I wouldn’t part with them no matter what!
And when someone stops collecting or is no longer able to collect, the collection is often handed down.
If you can retain a collection for the long term, it historically will increase in value over time. Hold on to it and add to it when you can. Familiarize yourself with the collection by learning about its history and market value.
For many, the love of collecting is also comforting. At other times, a collection can be a burden and present new problems. When a collection comes to you from a deceased loved one, the situation may prove difficult. For instance, when Frank, a longtime collector of duck decoys passed away, his collection became the property and project of his widow.
Irene was glad that Frank enjoyed the process of collecting throughout their marriage. But now she is in a quandary, with no children or interested relatives to take over the collection. And she doesn’t want the duck decoys. Reason #1 is that she can’t bear to display them as they prompt heartache, reminding her of Frank’s passing. Reason #2 is the overwhelming number of duck decoys now stacked in the basement. Reason #3 is that the vast collection is unfamiliar to Irene, a non-collector. She can’t identify the sculptors or the regional characteristics of each decoy. She is at the mercy of anyone with information about decoys and their market value — these buyers may take advantage of her. She realizes that auctions may not be the best place to sell the collection because Frank got many of his best decoy bargains by buying at auctions. If a buyer at an auction is getting a bargain, then the person selling the decoy at auction must have lost money on the transaction.
Since Irene can’t tell one wooden duck from another, she begins to worry. She doesn’t want strangers to come into the house to make her an offer on the decoys. She doesn’t know what a good offer looks like, either. If someone wants to make a killing on this collection and buy it for a song, she is in a vulnerable position.
Irene doesn’t know how or if she should get into the market, and she doesn’t want to keep the collection. Like many other families of collectors, Irene never thought she’d be left alone with this vast collection.
Here are some tips for this common collecting problem using Irene as an example:
- Choose one or two favorite decoys to keep in remembrance of Frank.
- Get an appraisal from an appraiser who does not have any financial interest in the decoys: one who doesn’t want to sell or buy them. Be prepared to pay the appraiser for their expertise and time.
- Ask the appraiser to tell you the retail value of the decoy collection, not its auction value or insurance value.
- Take some time to consider the market information and then make a decision about how you will act.
- Don’t be hasty. Get information so you can make a good decision.
When a Beloved Collection Can be a Burden
Category: Arts & Antiques by Dr. Lori