SAVING STUFF

How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions

by Don Williams, Senior Conservator Smithsonian Institution and Louisa Jagger

a book review

As Don Williams humorously writes in his introduction:

Saving Stuff” is about preserving and maintaining “the museum of you”. This museum is made up of the objects that have special value for you. I can’t stop an earthquake, flood, or alien invasion, but I can share how to prevent most homegrown catastrophes as well as how to go about saving stuff: comic books, wedding dresses, baseball cards, furniture, stamps, papers, film, pictures, records, DVDs, CDs, doll houses, flags, and weird and wacky things like Cousin Cecil’s African water buffalo head or your private collection of sheep’s eyeballs kept by your grandfather in mayonnaise jars. In this book I will show you how to save almost anything you want.”

At the time of publication, the author was the Senior Conservator of the Smithsonian Institution. His years of experience in the conservation and preservation of objects, mark him as an expert in his field.

His writing collaborator, Louisa Jagger, is a “saver of stuff” and the stories she shares revolve around common mistakes she has made in caring for her own collectibles, mistakes she hopes she can help the reader avoid.

According to the author, this book is not meant to be read from cover to cover. It is important to read through Chapters 1 and 2. There the reader will find basic important information about how to care for objects in general.

The following 13 chapters consist of in-depth discussions covering a particular category of collectible as well as how to care for and preserve each object. Since each type of collectible has its own section within the category chapter, the reader can turn to the chapter to find the information he or she is most interested in without having to read through the entire book.

Williams includes a Risk Chart for Collectibles at the end of Chapter 1. Each category of collectible — paper, glass and ceramics, wood and baskets, textiles, metals, photos, paintings, watercolors, pastels, plastics — is listed and across the page are the risks for damage from which the object would be most in danger. The risks, depending on the object, include light, insects and mold, handling and misuse, contaminants, normal use, temperature and moisture.

He also includes puppies and kittens (and children) who “…inflict 90 percent of the damage on collectibles as compared to grown-up pets. As a note of encouragement, pet’s manners often improve with age. Kid’s manners do, too.”

Included in these two chapters are ideas on how to decide what you would like to save.

Williams says, “People save stuff for sentimental as well as for financial reasons. Deciding what is a collectible is all about what is important to you.”

Unless you have unlimited space and resources, you can’t save everything, and so most people are forced to make choices. Once choices are made, don’t feel guilty, because it is okay to sell, give or throw stuff away.

The author stresses the importance of prioritizing to compile a list of objects. Two worksheets for this purpose are included at the end of Chapter 2. On Worksheet 1: Why It Is Important to You and on Worksheet 2: Everything You Know.

 Completing Worksheet 2 is vital because it asks the questions who, what, when, and where.

Who owned it? Who made it? How did you acquire it? Do you plan to leave it to someone?

What is its value?  What did you pay for it and do you have the original bill of sale? What is it made of? What is its condition?

When was the object made and when did you or your family acquire it?

Where did it come from and are there marks to give you clues to its origin or maker?

A list like this would also provide valuable information to family heirs, to appraisers for purposes of valuation, and to insurance adjusters in the event of damage or loss due to earthquake, fire or flood.

Interwoven throughout the chapters are Don’s Tips, where the author shares his vast experience and knowledge of preservation and includes “everything from debunking old wives’ tales to novel uses of everyday materials around the house.” From never wrap your silver in Saran Wrap to never use furniture polish, as well as an interesting comment on the “mythology of cedar chests”, are among the many useful nuggets of information.

He advises when it is necessary to get a second opinion. Williams states: “If you are faced with the unenviable task of sorting through a garage, attic or basement filled with family stuff, you might be wise to have an appraiser take a quick walk-through with you to advise you on what to keep and what is really ready for the dumpster.”

The final section of the book is entitled Resources and contains a complete A to Z list of what the author describes as Your Saving Stuff Tool Kit.  Everything anyone would need to maintain and safely keep every kind of collectible is briefly and clearly described. A list of suppliers where all of these tools can be found is also included.

Saving Stuff, as stated on the back cover of this comprehensive guide, “is for both the serious collector and the sometimes sentimentalist. With step-by-step instructions, detailed illustrations, tips for making the things you use every day last, and stories about how the Smithsonian takes care of our national treasures, Saving Stuff is the only book you need to take care of the stuff you love.”

Source

Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions

Don Williams and Louisa Jagger, Fireside Book, Simon & Schuster. New York, 2005, 365 pages, ISBN 9780743264167

Other Sources

 Downsizing the Family Home.  What to Save, What to Let Go

Marni Jameson, Sterling Publishers. 2016

Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand, Downsizing the Home Press. 2004, Kindle Edition. 2013

Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life

Peter Walsh, Rodale Books. 2017

Downsizing the Family Home: What To Do With All the Stuff

Interview with Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand for Next Avenue by Jill Yanish, Forbes Magazine. March 27, 2014

Don Williams retired from the Smithsonian in December of 2012 after 30 years as Senior Furniture Conservator. He purchased a large barn in Illinois, dismantled it and re-assembled it in the rural Virginia mountains. He now resides at the Barn on White Run where he offers classes and workshops. He writes articles and books, researches historical craft and artifacts, and constructs and conserves furniture and decorative arts. He also makes and sells tools and supplies for restoration, conservation and construction.

ANTIQUE and PERSONAL PROPERTY APPRAISALS

Antiques and Personal Property Appraisals

Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a full time Certified Appraiser of Personal Property.  Designated with the International Society of Appraisers in Antiques, Furnishings + Decorative Art.  Nineteen years of personal property appraisal experience, since 1999.  Generalist appraiser specializing in estates, collections and large donations.  Specialty in art glass.   Member of the Desert Estate Planning Council, Decorative Arts Trust, Foundation For Appraisal Education and Art Alliance For Contemporary Glass.

760-205-2582 (Palm Desert); 619-670-4455 (San Diego)

Serving the Palm Desert and San Diego, California regions.  Willing to travel for large projects.

Reference: The Collector’s Handbook

The Collector’s Handbook, 10th edition  is written by James Halperin, Gregory Rohan and Mark Predergast in conjunction with Heritage Auctions.  Updated in 2016,  it contains sections on administering, estate planning, evaluating and selling your collection.  There are good references in the appendices as well.  At 181 pages, there is a wealth of information and advice for collectors and their heirs on how to protect their investment.

There are discussions in several chapters about the importance of having your collection appraised for different reasons including insurance, planning, donation, selling, estate tax or division.  It also mentions the importance of using professional and qualified personal property appraisers.

The book is available by free download on the Heritage Auctions website (registration required) or by hard copy for a nominal fee.  I highly recommend taking the time to download and keep a copy of this handy reference book.

Resource:

The Collector’s Handbook,

2016 Revised Edition, Ivy Press, Inc.

 

 

 

Insurance Coverage for Valuable Possessions

Your home / condo owners or renters insurance policy should be reviewed once a year to make sure your coverage is right for your current needs.  One of the most common mistakes people make is to assume their valuable possessions are covered under their standard property policy.  This is not true in most cases.

Some of the items that need extra protection include jewelry, furs, cameras, silverware, antiques, musical instruments, collections, fine art and manuscripts or books.  Some policies don’t cover breakage, so if you have a collection of art glass or porcelain you may need special coverage as well.

Additional protection can be obtained by purchasing scheduled personal property coverage or a floater / rider.   Rates are generally a small percentage of the total value of the items you are insuring.  To determine the value, you’ll need to provide a receipt or hire an independent appraiser qualified to appraise the type of items you have.

Everyone’s policy is different, so check with your insurer to determine your needs.   If you purchase new items you’ll need to add them to your policy as well.  Review your policy regularly.

Resources:

Insurance Coverage: Know Your Choices from A Homeowners Insurance Guide to Natural Disasters

What is Covered by Standard Homeowners Insurance? from the Insurance Information Institute

International Society of Appraisers

 

About the Author: Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a certified appraiser of personal property designated in Antiques and Residential Contents with the International Society of Appraisers. She is based in Southern California and serves the San Diego and Palm Desert regions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appraisal Foundation’s Resource Page for Personal Property Appraisers

The Appraisal Foundation sets the guidelines for all appraisers and publishes the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). 

They have added a new page to their website with resources for consumers seeking personal property appraisals.   The following is available:

Resources For Personal Property Appraisers

  • Links to major appraisal societies with searchable databases of personal property appraisers (including the International Society of Appraisers, of which I am a member).
  • Brochure titled “The Personal Property Qualification Criteria”, effective Jan. 1, 2018.
  • Informational brochures describing the process of valuation for different types of property including Gems and Jewelry, Fine and Decorative Art (see below), Machinery and Equipment.

Valuation of Fine and Decorative Art

Users of appraisal services are encouraged to take advantage of these informative resources.

Three Major Appraisal Organizations Unite to Alert the Public to Risks Associated with Engaging Uncredentialed Personal Property Appraisals

Circle of Trust

A Circle of Trust has been established by the three major professional societies for personal property appraisers to jointly promote education to the public regarding the importance of using credentialed appraisers.  They include the International Society of Appraisers, American Society of Appraisers and the Appraisers Association of American.  The joint announcement states:

Members of these associations earn their credentials through a stringent admissions, training and testing process, are required to comply with IRS and AQB guidelines, adhere to a code of ethics, and to complete continuing education requirements. These qualifications provide a level of professionalism that is unmatched, and ensure the public that appraisals performed by an accredited appraiser are among the most reliable appraisals available.

All three organizations strongly urge the public to verify the educational and experiential background of an appraiser prior to retaining their services, and to be wary of red flags that indicate an appraiser may not be objective in conducting appraisals. These include charging for appraisals based on the appraised value of an item, or offering to purchase an item the appraiser has appraised. Professional, competent appraisers always conduct appraisals at “arm’s length,” without self-interest.

The full news release and contact information for the three societies can be found at PRSYNC.

 

  

7 Best Practices for Gifting Art to Museums

Appraisals for Charitable Deductions in Southern California

 

Investment News has a good article titled “The Art of Legacy Planning – 7 Best Practices for Gifting Art to Museums”.  In the article they state that high net worth individuals spend an average of 17% of their wealth on art and antiques, a passion investment.   Part of managing this investment is planning for the future of the collection.  One option is to donate to a non-profit organization such as a museum.  To maximize the benefit from a donation these steps are suggested:

1. Create a plan with your client, legal counsel and an independent art adviser that includes the donor’s close family or other heirs as appropriate. Including family and/or heirs in the process can help clarify a donor’s intent, prevent future conflict and actively aid in preserving the donor’s legacy. The plan should include having the artwork professionally appraised by an accredited appraiser with relevant experience in the type of artwork being donated. The appraisal cannot be made earlier than 60 days before the donation. In cases where donors are concerned about whether the IRS may accept a valuation, such as when there are fluctuating markets for similar artwork, an IRS Statement of Value may be obtained for artwork valued at $50,000 or more to provide the donor with certainty.

2. Try to place artwork in museums that have missions and continuing collection interests that strongly align with your clients’ intent and contents of their collection. Clients often will know of strong prospects. But clients focused and passionate about their collection may not recognize how their collection will best fit with a museum’s broader collection, its goals and its limitations in space and other resources.

3. Consider art museum policies and practices for donors and “deaccessioning” (removing items from museum holdings, usually to sell them). Mr. Welch pointed out that “many museums want to retain the ability to improve their collections through the acquisition of better examples. In such a case, a gifted artwork might be deaccessioned and the proceeds used to acquire a superior work. When that happens, the donor’s name of the original gift typically appears in the newly acquired work’s credit line.”

4. Consider museums that are members of monitoring or regulating associations. For example, the Association of Art Museum Directors requires a written policy for “deaccession principles, procedures and processes”. They also require that “funds received from the disposal of a deaccessioned work shall not be used for operations or capital expenses. Such funds, including any earnings and appreciation thereon, may be used only for the acquisition of works in a manner consistent with the museum’s policy on the use of restricted acquisition funds. In order to account properly for their use, AAMD recommends that such funds, including any earnings and appreciation, be tracked separate from other acquisition funds.”

5. Check the health of organizational finances by looking at Form 990 tax filings and/or charity rating agencies like Charity Navigator. One quick test is to look at total assets and total liabilities. Stable charities — like stable businesses — generally have assets exceeding liabilities.

6. Consider supporting museum operating costs as part of a donor’s commitment to their gift of artwork. Financially supporting the museum is another way of helping to preserve a donor’s legacy and a logical step in a client’s charitable, financial and tax planning.

7. As you draft an agreement for the gift, consider including a “statement of intent” that clearly and personally outlines the desires and expectations of the donor for their donation. Sharing this statement with family (and/or other heirs) and the beneficiary museum can help clarify intent, expectations and address any concerns of heirs or the museum. A statement of intent can also clarify donor intent for future generations and may help prevent legal challenges. Donors who bequeath their art collections to museums share an intimate part of their lives. Advisers can help provide guidance that will preserve and protect their client’s wishes, smooth the process and help establish their client’s legacy for the benefit of future generations.

Source: Investment News The first item on the list includes having your artwork professionally appraised by an accredited appraiser.  Credentials for qualified personal property appraisers are earned with their professional appraisal societies.

About the Author: Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a certified appraiser of personal property designated in Antiques and Residential Contents with the International Society of Appraisers. She is based in Southern California and serves the San Diego and Palm Desert regions.

Untying the Knot

You may have seen the fairly new television series on Bravo titled “Untying the Knot”.  It features a prominent divorce mediator helping couples split up their joint assets.

As part of the process, appraisers are brought in to value the personal property.  The level of value may vary slightly by state, however in California the appropriate level is “Fair Market Value”.  For television purposes, the appraisers are verbally reporting the values.  In real life, a written appraisal report must be provided.  It is important to choose an impartial and credentialed appraiser who may be called to testify at formal mediation or court.

In most cases, property owned prior to the marriage is separate and retained by the individual.  Individuals with large collections or family heirlooms may want to consider having their items documented and appraised as part of their pre-nuptial planning.

As an appraiser, I cannot give legal advice.  Please consult a professional attorney.

Resources:

What Should I Know about Divorce and Custody?” from the State Bar of California

Divorce or Separation from the Judicial Branch of California Courts

 

About the Author:

Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a certified appraiser of personal property designated in Antiques and Residential Contents with the International Society of Appraisers.  She is based in Southern California and serves the San Diego and Palm Desert regions.

 

Are Your Prized Possessions Protected?

Insurer USAA posted an article titled “Are Your Prized Possessions Protected?” explaining the basics of homeowners insurance coverage and when valuable personal property insurance might be needed.   Antiques, fine art, silver, jewelry and several additional items can be covered under a specialized policy.   Included in the article is a list of steps to follow to get the most protection:

  • Check your current coverage. Before getting an additional policy, review your homeowners or renters policy and fully understand what the policy covers and what it doesn’t.
  • Update the appraisals. Keep appraisals current (at least every five years), and notify your insurance company if the value changes. Appraisals should be done by a certified professional appraiser with expertise and credentials in the type of item you are insuring.
  • Keep all documentation. Proof of ownership is required when you report a loss, so the more paperwork you have — receipts, appraisals, financing statements, and repair or cleaning bills — the easier it will be if you have to make a claim.
  • Details matter. Provide your insurance company with a full description of each item. For example, if you are insuring a diamond ring, you want to list the cut, clarity, carat, color, number and measurements of the diamonds, and the type of gold — the more detail the better.
  • Do your part. Keep your valuable possessions properly cleaned, maintained and safely stored to avoid damage, loss and theft.

 

An important part of special coverage is to have your valuable items appraised by a qualified appraiser, and updated every 5 years.

Source: USAA website

ESTATE / LIFE PLANNING APPRAISALS

There are many times in a person’s life when they need to make plans regarding their collections and other personal property:

1) Estate planning

2) Downsizing

3) Distribution to family members

4) Donation

5) Tax planning

An essential part of this process is to have your collection appraised so that you can find out current values and make informed decisions.  The appropriate level of value is Fair Market Value.

Remember, it’s important to choose a qualified appraiser with a designation from a professional appraisal society.

It’s about planning for life’s important moments, and the future of your treasured collections and family heirlooms.