As a picker and collectibles curator, people often ask me for advice on picking items that will hold value well or become a great family heirloom. Whether you’re sorting through a deceased loved-one’s belongings, de-cluttering your attic, or shopping for a gift that could make a great collectible, I’ve put together a short list of items that make great collectibles and what features to look for.
Let me start by saying that heirlooms and collectibles don’t need to be overly-expensive designer or ancient relics. Sure, there is a whole category of high end antiques collectors and fine art conoisseurs, but the thing about collectibles is that your most cherished items won’t be the same as someone else’s. I think it’s important to know that it’s those little items of sentimental value that are often treasured the most. Like those shells you collected on your first walk down the beach. Or your grandfather’s green Schwinn bicycle that he passed down to you. Or a bunch of tacky bright colored brooches from your mother’s jewelry box from the 60s.
But, if you’re like me, you might have all sorts of random items in storage in your attic or basement that you haven’t been ready to part with yet…and yet they’re just sitting in boxes collecting dust. During our move into our new Florida bungalow, I found my anxiety levels rising every time I moved a box that I realized hadn’t even been opened in years. I knew I needed to make some decisions on what was coming into the new house and what should probably be parted with.
So how do you know when something is worth keeping? What IS a collectible and what’s just junk?
Here are the three magic questions to ask yourself:
- Is there financial value in this?
- Is there historical value in this?
- Is there overwhelming sentimental value in this?
I’m not gonna lie to you – it’s really hard to not stash and store every single drawing my son has ever made me. And there are other little gifts and random bits that have absolutely no value to anyone but myself that I’m never going to throw away. I’m working on ways of creating some rotating display options for these types of things so that they aren’t stuffed away into a box or shoved under a bed. I’m sure I could develop a whole separate blog dedicated to this, but here are a couple of quick tips for curating your items of sentimental-but-not-exactly-design value.
Financially valuable and historical valuable items are a lot harder to figure out, especially since most of us aren’t antiques or art appraisers! It takes a lot of leg work and research sometimes to find out the history of an item, but here are a couple of online guides if you’re interested in learning more:
To be considered an antique, an item must be 75 years or older. (That’s anything older than 1942 at the time of writing this.) So just because Aunt Doreen’s scarf collection seems outdated and “old” to you, they’re not antiques. BUT, there ARE some very collectible scarf brands, like VERA scarves which feature bold colors and patterns and are very “IN” right now. So don’t toss the non-antiques just yet…more on this in a bit.
So what ARE some good antiques worth collecting that hold their value?
Great Timeless Antiques
Furniture is always a great investment. Your best bets are untouched, smaller pieces. And hard woods like teak and walnut have lasting power. Desks, side tables, and small chests of drawers are all good examples of collectible antique furniture.
Sculpture & Glass is another genre of lasting antique collectibles. “Eighteenth-century English glass at the top end is still a good buy. Large sculptural items from the late 19th century through to Art Deco are a good investment,” says specialy dealer Mark West.
Pottery is one of the oldest relics of human civilization around the world – it’s no wonder so many people collect pottery. The huge variety in pottery means you can focus on particular geographic regions, cultures, shapes, materials, or colors and design. They add tremendous decorative value and can often be quite useful for storage or flower arrangements. Pots and vases are high on the list of collectibility!
Great Collectibles at any Age
Quirky figurines or decor items that bring a bit of fun to your atmosphere are high on my list of collectible items – you’ll see tons of them rotating through my boutique! Animals are a subject matter that appeal to a very wide audience. Nautical items seem never to go out of style either when used tastefully.
Global goods have mass appeal and can fit into a wide variety of design styles. Global chic and boho chic are design trends that are here to stay. My personal aesthetic gravitates to mid-century modern, and Eastern items (like Chinese vases or Indian carved wood pieces) fit into my funky vintage style beautifully.
Art seems like an obvious thing to mention. But I’ll give a twist on the age-old advice that ‘art is always a good investment.’ Invest in things you LIKE. Don’t buy a Jackson Pollock if you’re not into that aestheticc. For example, as I mentioned in my last post, I have been a huge fan of the George Rodrigue art since the period I lived in New Orleans, so I always keep my eyes peeled for prints and items with his signature Blue Dog because they are colorful, quirky and have sentimental value to me. They’re not for everyone, so the right buyer may not be a click away, BUT I will enjoy having them on display around me for as long as it takes for them to sell. Find things that have both financial AND emotional value for you.
I hope this helps narrow down your hunt for a great heirloom gift or helps you wade through the overwhelming task of “what stays, what goes” next time you’re clearing out the attic (or a family member’s!)
Here’s your recap, and happy collecting!
Furniture Look for smaller items with classic silhouettes and strong wood.
Pottery Antique ceramics, global designs, and dual-purposes
Art Follow your heart!
Sculpture & Glass Antique through Art Deco, Murano glass
Global trinkets Statuettes, jewelry, textiles
Quirky decor items Animals, nautical, and things that make you happy!