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GUEST COLUMN: Going Through Our Parents’ Things

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

By Connie Sue Davenport, ISA, AM

If you were fortunate enough to visit your parents during the holidays, you and your siblings might have set aside time to manage their personal property. The chore can be the beginning of the next phase of your lives without adult supervision. As an appraiser, I’ve been privy to tender moments as well as tense sibling rivalries. I remind families that it IS just stuff and not worth damaging a family relationship.

After you have assimilated as much as possible into your homes and passed things to grandchildren and family friends, it is time to make some decisions. Buyers are likely to be your kids—the Millennials—who covet the mid-century modern items lurking in your parent’s moldy basement.

Here are some frequently encountered items and their current values.

  1. A box of colorful Christmas tree ornaments (circa 1940) can sell for over $50.

  2. An aluminum tree with a working color wheel sells from $75 to $150.

  3. Hand-stitched quilts start at $75 and can exceed $350.

  4. Vinyl records are hot commodities with albums selling for as much as $10 each and collections going for $100 or more.

  5. Clothing from the 1940’s to present is often cleverly stored in chronological order. Pull out the pieces that scream the era it was made such as the mod 60’s shift, hot pants from the 70’s, 1950’s aprons, and sequined anything. And these days, be mindful of labels. Millennials buy online and they search for clothes by designer.

  6. Typical knit separates from Sears and Castners still haven’t hit the “trendy” collectible list, so please donate these.

  7. Those 50 year old report cards and craft projects have little market value. So have a giggle, and then let them go.

  8. Look for American-made colorful pottery. It sells for $15 to over $100 and may be hiding beneath plastic flowers.

If a house was occupied for over 30 years by the same family, there is money in those closets and attics. Take your time and determine value before discarding vintage items. It IS just stuff, but stuff sells.

Connie Sue Davenport, ISA AM, is a credentialed antiques and personal property appraiser with 38 years of experience. She is a popular speaker and author who writes 30 columns a year for Tennessee periodicals. Contact her at, (615) 672-1992, or visit


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