Thursday, October 14, 2010

Provenance: Sharing your Story

In my ten years as a dealer, I have heard many stories from customers. Some were funny stories about how people came to collect a particular genre of items or happy stories about bargains hunted. Others were stories of sadness over treasures broken and lost or families competing for estate items. Countless people have come in looking for a treasure "just like the Grandma's."

Many grandparents have also told me sadly that their children and grandchildren don't care about their collections. These collectors are imagining their treasures being sold for pennies on the dollar at a yard sale or - worse yet - being chucked in the landfill. This is why it's so important to tell our children the stories of our collections. Even if descendants choose to sell their inheritance, they should know the value of it. Whether your collection is worth hundreds or thousands of dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars, it has more value when accompanied by the story or provenance of your items. Personal stories add value for your family, and stories of origin add value for resale.

There are various media for capturing stories.
  • A Journal - draw the items and write down their stories
  • A Scrapbook - photograph the items and write or type the stories
  • A Video - Tell the stories of each item while videotaping several angles
  • Computer database - include digital/scanned photos and the stories
  • Simply write down the story and store it with the item
Include in each story
  1. purchase price if known, with original or scanned receipt if possible
  2. story of origin as well as how and to whom the item has been passed
  3. info about professional cleaning, restoring, repairing that has occurred
  4. professional appraisal documents if appraised
  5. any personal stories about the items

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mid-century Coffee Table Re-do

When my great uncle Jon died my senior year in college, he left behind lots of laughing memories, a cross and a coffee table. Truly his possessions were few. The cross hung on my bedroom wall, and the coffee table went into storage not to be rediscovered until I was preparing to marry. It's a mid-century (20th) piece. The legs remind me a bit of the Mission style or Arts and Crafts style. When I saw it again, the table reminded me of many good times in the living room that my uncle and grandmother shared. It also spoke practicality and fit the combined eclectic style of two twenty somethings trying to merge lives.

For six years it held the traditional role of a coffee table - a place to sort mail, stack magazines, display coffee table books, and yes, place a coffee mug. When my son came along and began to crawl, the coffee table was laid off. It was not home to mail, magazines, books . . . definitely not ceramic mugs with hot liquids. The table sat barren, its sharp corners now rounded by the latest baby proofing technique. Its lone drawer was empty. Had the coffee table become useless?

Right after my son's birthday, we moved. New surroundings and a new layout changed my view of our household furniture. At Christmas the table displayed a toy nativity scene making it easy for my fifteen month old to play. After the holidays the table began to collect toys as it once had mail and magazines. It now had a use again! It was also a mess. My mother-in-law gave me some small canvas bins, and I began to envision a play table that could appeal to a mom's need for order and a tot's need to play.

Our play center, puts the drawer handle to the wall in order to protect the drawer and curious hands. Canvas bins can be purchased for $1 - $10 each and up. If you are creative, make your own bins or use found items that are safe for children. If you are using the table in a play room or child's room, you could also use the bins to teach organization by adding pictures of what goes in each bin.

Other ideas for Coffee Table Re-dos:

  1. Create an entertainment center - create a remote drawer, never lose a remote again
  2. Cover with a fitted table cloth - use the shelf for hidden storage, top with coffee table books
  3. Create a game table for older kids - store games below, add risers for height & pillows as seating
  4. Add a fitted glass top and display travel memorabilia or a postcard collection
  5. Refinish the table and enjoy as a traditional coffee table