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It happens quite often when I perform a house or estate contents appraisal. A client brings out an item with a note from mom, dad or the grandparents which basically says “This is extremely valuable” or “This is worth $xxxx”. And usually this “value” was obtained from a well-intentioned individual with little or no expertise in the category, and is nowhere near today’s realistic value.

Often it’s a piece of Cut Glass, Artwork or Print, Furniture item, Limoges Plate or Vase, China Set, or perhaps a run-of-the-mill Chotchkee. The other day it was an antique and very primitive workbench that was 10’ long, weighed several hundred pounds, and the young owner had been told it was worth at least $1,000 by a family member. I doubt that it would have brought $5 at Auction today.

Frequently it’s up to me to break the bad news regarding value. And a sad reality today is that few in the younger generation want most Antiques & Collectibles the same way their parents or grandparents did.

When anticipating leaving treasures to loved ones, remember that there are actually two totally different types of value:

•  Sentimental Value: This encompasses all of the stories, memories, family lore, and history associated with the item. Who owned it? Where it came from? What makes it so special? Why should it remain in the family? Sentimental Value can be extremely valuable to family members who want to carry on the family legacy and share details with loved ones and future generations. If someone important or famous was associated with it, value can increase exponentially. That’s called “Provenance”. But you can’t spend “Sentimental Value”

•  Cash Value: This is totally different from “Sentimental Value”. This is what someone can sell it for if they wish to convert it into cash. And unfortunately, all too often those who are left these “valuable” items want nothing to do with them, and are disappointed when they hear how little they’re actually worth today.

My advice is that if you’re planning to leave some “treasures” to family members and loved ones, you need to do three things.

•  First, make sure they actually want it.

•  Second, create a written “Sentimental Value” legacy of the items you wish to pass on which leaves no room for misunderstanding or confusion.

•  Third, get a professional and impartial appraisal or opinion of “Cash Value” from a knowledgeable individual who has no interest in buying it.

After all, you’re leaving your family treasures to your loved ones. It’s only fair that you leave them with an accurate history as well as realistic value expectations.

WHAT’S IT WORTH: We perform many “Equitable Distribution Appraisals” for clients who wish to avoid any family disagreements after their passing. Some prefer to leave specific items to specific loved ones. Others simply want their heirs to understand value so they can more equitably divide items among themselves. That’s precisely what an Equitable Distribution Appraisal can accomplish. Another benefit is that values provided by an independent, unbiased, and impartial third party can protect you or the Executor against undue criticism. Either way, you need to remember that Sentimental Value and Cash Value are two totally different entities, and it’s only fair that you leave both to your loved ones.

Mike Ivankovich is an Auctioneer, Appraiser, Home Downsizing Expert, and host of the "What's It Worth? Ask Mike the Appraiser" Radio Show. Now in its 5th year, “What’s It Worth” airs live in the Philadelphia PA area on Friday mornings from 9:30-10:30 AM EST on WBCB 1490 AM, and on the Internet at: You can also visit his Radio Show Web Site:  If your local station doesn’t carry “What’s It Worth” tell them they need to add it to their programing mix. If you know anyone who needs any Personal Property Appraisal work, or if you need a Speaker for an upcoming meeting or event, call Mike at (215)-264-4304, or visit: