When cleaning out Grandma’s attic, are you making decisions based on memories — just guessing an object’s value as you go? When it comes to your valuable objects, would you recognize the treasures from the trash?
My quiz game, “Dumpster or No Dumpster,” will help you to use your antiques knowledge to determine whether you should throw something out or keep it. You may have already done this when you were downsizing, sorting out belongings during a heated divorce, settling your parents’ estate, or just cleaning out the clutter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, do you know if you made the right choice about your stuff?
Using my education and experience evaluating approximately 20,000 objects every year, many in homes like yours, my job is to research the market and provide accurate appraisals based on actual sales records where somebody paid cash, wrote a check, paid via ApplePay or PayPal or swiped a credit card to buy an art, antique or collectible item.
With an appraisal, my clients can make informed decisions about buying, selling, insuring, donating or disposing of family heirlooms and other stuff.
If you’ve read my columns over the years, watched me on TV or attended my public appraisal events, then you know how fun it is to test your knowledge with the “Dumpster or No Dumpster” quiz.
Question 1: Your family is cleaning out Grandma’s house. Your brother-in-law wants to throw out Grandma’s vintage Shiny Brite Christmas ornaments from the 1950s. Your sister -in-law wants to throw out Grandpa’s Lionel train set. Who is making the bigger mistake by tossing a family heirloom?
A. Brother-in-law, who wants to toss the Christmas ornaments.
B. Sister-in-law, who wants to get rid of the Lionel train set
C. Both brother- and sister-in-law.
Answer: C. Both pieces headed to the dumpster could bring hundreds to thousands of dollars. For instance, if you sell the Christmas ornaments at prime holiday selling time, from Nov. 1 to Jan. 1, you will do best to bring home a good return. And, you should list and sell each ornament individually on eBay.com, Etsy.com or Rubylane.com, highlighting its best attributes in your listing with a clear, closely cropped photograph.
For a large collection of Christmas ornaments by Shiny Brite, Christopher Radko and other name brands, you can command several hundreds of dollars for them at holiday time when people are looking for ornaments that spark memories while decorating the tree.
If you have a set in a box, the value of all of them increases a little more by keeping them in the original box.
Similarly, your sister-in-law probably doesn’t know that, depending on the condition, pieces included in the set, gauge and rarity of the Lionel train set, it can be worth thousands when selling online.
Question 2: In the purest definition of the word, which object has been patinated?
A. A Bakelite bracelet.
B. A bronze sculpture of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Answer: B. Patina references the application of pigment on cast metal sculpture, in a foundry environment, when discussing sculpture. Knowing the vocabulary of antiques helps to properly identify what you have and find out, with an appraiser’s help, what it’s truly worth.
Question 3: Your mother is downsizing and moving to an active senior-living community to be near some of her friends. Mother tells you and your sister to share the Spode holiday china service for 12, featuring the decorated holiday tree.
Mother wants to be fair, so she splits up the Spode service evenly between you are your sister, giving you six place settings and a few platters and serving pieces and giving your sister the same amount of place settings and a few platters and serving pieces. This seems fair but is this a good idea for long-term value?
A. It is never a good idea to split up sets.
B. It is fine to split up a set as long as it is split equally.
Answer: A. China sets should be kept intact to preserve value and condition.
Keep sets in the same environment so they may age evenly over time. While it is difficult to choose who gets a beloved holiday set of china when it comes to family heirlooms, it is a good idea to gift one sister the entire holiday china set and give the other sister another family heirloom of similar value and equal family and sentimental importance.
To make things fair, the sister who got the china service can be given the chore of always inviting the other sister over for holiday dinner.
You stand to lose a lot of money when you play “Dumpster or No Dumpster” in your grandmother’s attic without expert advice, so be sure to consult an expert, like me, if you need to know what goes into the dumpster and what does not.
Don’t just guess what’s valuable. You can play “Dumpster or No Dumpster” with me regularly on YouTube and other social media.
With a Ph. D. from Penn State, Dr. Lori Verderame is an award-winning antiques appraiser on History channel's hit show “The Curse of Oak Island” — highlighting the world's oldest treasure hunt — and on “Doctor & the Diva.” For information about your antiques and collectibles, visit www.DrLoriV.com and www.YouTube.com/DrLoriV.