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Grandma's stuff - Part one

"It will be better if you say it very quickly...."
-Maria, regarding bad news, in West Side Story

One of the hardest things about dealing and appraising antiques in an indifferent market is having to tell people that their beloved treasures aren't worth a great deal of money.  For me, at no time is this more difficult than when someone very proudly (and usually emotionally) shows me 'Grandma's stuff'.

I like people.  I do.  I can't quite say, as did Will Rogers, that 'I never met a man I didn't like', but truly, I have rarely met a human I didn't like, if one considers all the thousands of humans I have met.  And I truly hate hurting people's feelings, which includes bursting their bubbles, particularly about 'Grandma's stuff'.  My grandmother's things mean a lot to me, and I'm sure yours do to you, too.

There are a few problems with Grandma's stuff.  One is that your grandma may not have been particularly old, so if her collectibles included mid-Century items mass-produced by the tens of thousands, they're worth diddly today.  The other is that Grandma may have bought it, but did she buy it two years ago at the modern equivalent of a five-and-dime?  Furthermore, Grandma may have bought it a long time ago, but she may not have shown great taste or vision in so doing.  I say this kindly, because my own grandmother was good for this; she would buy some amazing pieces, but she would also buy some absolute crap just because she liked it at the moment.  Crap jewellery, crap glass, electroplated silver when she *could* have made me rich buy buying sterling.  And why oh why didn't she scoop up all the Tiffany glass she could lay her hands on when it was still relatively cheap? Because she didn't really like a lot of it and Grandma (quite sensibly) bought what she liked.  After all, she was the one who had to live with it.

Point is, just because it's old, doesn't mean it's good.  Or valuable.  Not even if it was your Grandma's. If you bear this in mind, you'll have a much easier time of it when appraisal time rolls round, and you won't be cross and blame the appraiser for taking a professional and realistic approach to your treasurers.

But hark, now!  Grandma's stuff might contain ye olde 'sleeper', or a real treasure, and you don't want to get ripped off, either!

To be continued...watch for Part Deux!


Felice said...

Hi, your Blog was suggested to me by a dear friend who has been following my fruitless search to learn about my Grandmother's vase/ewer jug. (Grandma was born at the turn of the 20th century.)
All I know is it was given to her for her wedding, around 1920. I don't want to sell it. It could be worth a fortune or a few cents, I suspect the latter as it has been repaired at some point due to a large crack/break. To me it is worth the universe.

It has been suggested I take it to an antique store for an appraisal; What I want is to know the style, the year and location of manufacture and what the number (x9388) painted in red on the base means.

What do you think? Do I appreciate it for what it is, a gorgeous jug shrouded in mystery or do I get it appraised for insurance reasons and hopefully find out the history, maybe giving me an insight into my Grandmother's life?

that's life! said...

Oh, dear!

Felice, I wrote a long reply to you yesterday, and it doesn't seem to have been published!

In a nutshell, we'd be happy to have a look at the ewer for you, with a view to identifying it.

The damage will make a difference, I'm afraid.

If you wanted an appraisal from an accredited appraiser/valuer, these can cost $100-$300. It's a judgement call, because this could be many times the market value of the item, so people usually request appraisals when they're reasonably confident of an item's worth.

If you take clear photos of the ewer, the damage, the base and the marks, we'll be glad to have a look for you and give you an opinion.