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How to Handle Heirloom Items Many elders of our nation are often in possession of some rare and often-forgotten items that are stored somewhere inside their homes. As those items are discovered, it is very important to handle them prudently. What looks like nothing more than an old letter or contract could prove to be a valuable historical piece, something that the Library of Congress, a historical professional, or Raab Collection might be interested in. As you move through these items and other possessions, you should use good organizational skills as well as careful handling skills. Let's review how to take the best possible care of these belongings. Careful Identification Knowing what is valuable and what is not can be a very vexing process. Bringing in a qualified antique appraiser can be very expensive, and if few items of significant value are found, could turn out to be a waste of money. By the same token, the sheer volume of items that must be handled can make it very easy to discard something at first glance. Most people know the valuable collectibles in a home--glassware, furniture, possibly artwork. But many books, letters, and legal documents can prove surprisingly worthwhile as well. Perhaps the best starting point is to group and organize things, then to find an expert in that particular field and take the entire collection to him or her for review. For example, get the vinyl records to a music store and the baseball cards to a sports memorabilia shop. This will reduce the time and expense associated with getting the items in front of expert eyes. Proper Removal Some things shouldn't even be moved without some careful consideration. Furniture, pianos, and home fixtures may have been in place for decades, undisturbed. This may have caused them to settle and twist, developing weak places in the frame. There may have also been home maintenance that affected them, such as painting or floor varnishing. These two processes could potentially leave them stuck in place, necessitating a careful extrication using a sharp knife. Other things, such as books, may appear to be intact but could fall apart when they are moved. Consider using a thin piece of cardboard or some other sturdy material to slide gently under the item so that it can be lifted as a unit, rather than grasping the corners and lifting. Proper Storage Many items you find have been stored in less-than-ideal conditions for many years. They have deteriorated to the point that they can tolerate very little additional neglect. These items require immediate attention. Stamp collections, garments, books, and jewelry may need to be stored immediately in a location that maintains proper humidity, temperature, and sunlight. Artwork and photographs may have been subjected to the gleaming sunshine from the same window for decades; it needs ultraviolet protection right away. These goods have survived somehow for a very long time, so you must do whatever you can to arrest the decay of their conditions to preserve them. Cleaning out a lifetime is an overwhelming task. Like anything else, it must be addressed in stages rather than with an overwhelming task list. Doing so will preserve items with both sentimental and financial value.
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