Successful Downsizing as an appraiser of fine and decorative arts, I have seen this scenario too many times. A couple that lives in a large beautifully decorated home decides to downsize to a more reasonably sized home or apartment. In preparation for the move, the wealth advisor asks me to provide the couple with a fair market appraisal of their personal property so that they can make educated decisions regarding their paintings, jewelry and antiques. With a reduction in size from a 5 bedroom home to a 2 bedroom home, there will be at least 50% of the personal property which will need to be sold or given away.
Too often, my clients who have amassed wonderful collections of porcelain, English furniture, and American early 19th century paintings are shocked when they offer their children these paintings and antiques, only to be turned down. Traditionally, it was common for a family’s collection to be seamlessly disbursed to their children. However, there have been major shifts in taste and life style which have negatively affected the transfer of personal property from one generation to the next.
25 to 45 year olds have different aesthetic tastes from their parents. With an eye to the modern aesthetic, younger people collect mid-century modern furniture, American and Italian art glass, post modern and contemporary paintings and prints. More importantly, they are frequently shopping at Crate & Barrel, not Mallets of London. Antiquing has been replaced by web shopping and interior designers.
In addition, lifestyles have affected taste. No longer is the parlor the official place where one meets their guests. The “great” room is replacing the dining room. Instead of an American Impressionist landscape being the focal point of the room, now it is a flat screen TV. Practical silverware has replaced sterling, which many younger people find too difficult to polish.
Jewelry, while still loved by all women, has become more practical, as “formal evenings” have been replaced by gatherings of families for large dinners.
For the couple that has amassed a tasteful and valuable collection, there are practical ways to sell or donate their art and antiques. There is still a vibrant dealer and auction market for American antiques, English sporting art and Victorian jewelry. However, it is extremely important that your treasures are sold in the right venue. In addition, in some cases, portions of the collection can be donated.