As a high-volume antiques dealer, the vast majority of what RIAM sells comes out of homes. Our staff makes multiple house calls a week, and many of the people we visit are senior citizens or folks nearing retirement age. People have lots of reasons to decide to sell. Sometimes it’s to downsize or to liquidate a family member’s estate. Other times it’s simply to raise a little cash, reduce clutter or make room for new things.
Lots of treasure, squandered
One thing that happens at lots of house calls is that the things we were initially called about rarely turn out to be the things that are really worth something. While it doesn’t happen every time, in most cases a thorough search of the house’s basement, attic, closets, cabinets and dressers winds up yielding some “buried treasure” that the homeowner had either forgotten about or never knew was potentially valuable in the first place. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that in more cases than not, the items we find are either significantly diminished in value or frequently even worthless due to deterioration from moisture, heat and rough handling. Chances are, you’re storing things in a basement or attic if you have one, despite the fact that we all know how damp the basement can get and the extreme temperatures the attic can reach.
Attics and basements are no good for valuables
The fact of the matter is, virtually nothing can withstand prolonged exposure to these environmental extremes. Anything organically based (textiles, wood, paper items) will become moldy and rot in dampness. The same items will dry out and turn to dust in elevated heat and an arid atmosphere. Even glass and porcelain items that you think can survive will become “sick,” crazed, faded or stained from prolonged exposure. Then there’s the matter of leaks, floods, animals and insects. Who hasn’t experienced most if not all of these problems at one point or another? If you haven’t, lucky you. Start selling storage space in your home to your friends.
Now is the time to sell…or relocate
The message here should be clear. Now is the time to empty your basement and attic. Anything you think might be worth keeping should then be stored in a climate-controlled room in your house, preferably in the dark, since light will also deteriorate most things. If you’re ready to sell, an antiques dealer will usually be willing to work right along with you to decide what to keep and what to dump. If you’re not ready, at least you’ll sleep better knowing your heirlooms are preserved.
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