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Collectibles and Heirlooms May Be Treasured But Are They Worth Protecting?

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An Heirloom’s Value?

As a fine art conservator I’m often asked, “Is the painting’s value worth the money I could put into restoration?… or How much is the item worth?” It’s a logical question but there is not a straight answer.

You see, the “value” or “worth” of a vintage work of art may be one of three:

1. Financial value – appraisal value

2. Historical value

3. Emotional value

For an entertaining story of how emotions took priority when an art appraiser should have been called in, see this video about a “Priceless Russian Renaissance Icon”

But this story takes a different slant:

At the end of last year, I had a lady call me about the painting conservation – restoration of a small painting of sailing ships from about 1880 in a nice Victorian frame; “a nice package” as an antique dealer friend of mine would say. But not really financially valuable, maybe worth a few hundred dollars.

But this painting was her husband’s beloved, inherited heirloom from his grandmother. It’s the only thing he has from this beloved woman who is now gone. They were moving things around the house and a chair leg, I think, went through the painting much to the emotional trauma of the husband. So now it has a good 5-6 inch rip in the painting canvas (which is huge in a 12 inch painting!) plus its super dirty with 120 years of grime and discolored varnish.

How To repair a rip in a painting

How To repair a rip in a painting

I feel honored when someone entrusts me these types of emotional items. This very nice lady was going to surprise her husband and have the rip repaired and the painting cleaned as a Christmas present. She was so excited about the reaction she was going to get when he saw it looking wonderful. She was sure he was going to “flipout” (for joy I assume)!

Just before she leaves, this very nice Chatty Kathy told us all about her husband’s work as the head set designer for the TV show, “Castle.” That’s cool! We love that show and watch it every week at our house! When she heard that, she reached into her car and produced a TV lot access card not only as a souvenir but as an invite to get the “grand tour” after she surprised her husband with the completed project, of course. That kind of got me excited.

The rip repair of the canvas of the painting involved realigning each fiber of the rip back together and then lining or backing the painting. It was cleaned and the losses of paint (which were surprisingly few given the violent damage) where inpainted carefully. The final varnish was a slightly shinny finish in keeping with a historical, traditional late 19th century picture. Here’s a short video to see the rip repair process:

Repaired rip in canvas painting

Repaired rip in canvas painting

I hear the giving of the gift was a thrill for both the giver and the receiver… the giver was not disappointed with the desired reaction; tears, hugs etc. Nice! Afterwards we got gushing thanks and kudos for a repair job well done.

Their enthusiasm spilled over into the VIP tour my wife and I got at the Castle TV lot which was really a lot of fun. We saw all the sets, got the inside scoop on stories and experiences behind the scenes of the show, we saw the actual filming of the show and all the actors (we didn’t get to meet them… they were working). Then we got taken to lunch at the restaurant on the lot. Really special and fun especially for a couple of fans like us. Here’s a shot of Castle’s NY apartment set from the outside. Having walked through the sets now and heard the stories from the head set designer, we watch the show with an added familiarity.

Outside of set of Castle's NY apartment

Outside of set of Castle's NY apartment

I can’t tell you how many times he thanked me for doing such an amazing job of restoring his grandmother’s vintage oil painting back to its original glory. So, what is this family heirloom worth? Was the $500.00 value painting worth the $1,800 to repair it? The family thought so, without reservations! Its now able to stand the test of time for a couple of more generations.

This subject of this article is also as valid for collectibles, cherished heirlooms, memorabilia, and treasured family history items. Of course everyone must make their own decisions when it comes to balancing financial value of heirlooms and costs of repair. But, financial values are not the only consideration.

If you have questions that need discussing, give me a call and we’ll discuss the options.

Scott M. Haskins, art conservator 805 564 3438

Richard Holgate, art appraiser, 805 895 5121

This article may also be read on our blog at

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37 Responses to "Collectibles and Heirlooms May Be Treasured But Are They Worth Protecting?"
  1. Briana Danapeals says:

    One of the best thing about art is that, it creates a memories. There’s a story involved in every work of art and that what makes it special. No matter how old or new the forms of art, still it must be treasured and protected. More than it’s value, we have to consider as well the purpose of these arts. In fact, it gives me satisfaction to know people who are fond of collecting it. And I am one of them. Yes, I truly believe that art is worth protecting and it must be given real value.

  2. Francesca Turner says:

    As an artist, I don’t see any reason why artwork should not be valued, in some way. What would life be without art? Everywhere and anywhere we go there is art. It is part of our history and the present. Art is a great way to express one’s self so I think it should be valued, preserved, protected and restored continuously.

  3. Morris Shells says:

    Wow, i didn’t know it was possible to repair paintings like this. I think it is well worth the money if it is a family heirloom like that. It looks a lot better overall i think. It must be pretty cool to be able to save something like that from being total’d.

  4. Eka Kristik says:

    Working with a professional art conservator makes all the difference. Nice blog…thanks

  5. Gretta Main says:

    What is something worth is a hard question to answer sometimes. We just finished trying to figure out the value of a lot of things in my grandmother’s house after she died. It seems that most the things I wanted were family memories. I would be really sad if I lost the items I got because I wasn’t careful. I want my children to have them later.

  6. Anastasia says:

    This was a fun story. Thanks for maintaining this blog and making it fun to read.

  7. Milfred says:

    How great! Sometimes the sentimental value can be worth so much more than the monetary value. The feeling you get from something is what truly matters most 🙂

  8. Jasmine Conti says:

    This was so interesting. The idea of saving stuff for my future family puts a smile on my face. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  9. James Brown says:

    An Artwork is like a Gold. It should be Treasure and Remember. Thanks for the idea of restoration of the broken piece of an artwork. It will help to preserve the memories and value of an artwork.

  10. Ashly Petro says:

    Thanks for this little lesson. We’re going through grandma’s boxes and your ideas have helped.

  11. Ramonda Shop says:

    I am very pleased with what you have mentioned. Sometimes my clients get fixated on the price of something and don’t consider the emotional or historical value. So, great points!

  12. Adam Samuelson says:

    Wow fascinating article. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Emma Neeley says:

    Wonderful post. For sure do whatever you can to protect your heirlooms, antiques etc. As I wrote before, I work for a moving company and you have to cover yourself. Some of these workers in our industry are brutal!

  14. Emma Neeley says:

    I work for a moving company and damage to art happens all the time. Weird cause you would think the company would learn and take better precautions.

  15. Thanks for this little lesson. We’re going through grandma’s boxes and your ideas have helped.

  16. Esha says:

    I Love it when people put more value into the emotional part of collectibles and art. That’s what they are meant to convey. Sometimes it’s expensive to restore some pieces, but if you can spend 5 buck on a cup of latte you can exchange 100 lattes for prolonging the life of something your heirs will treasure for years

  17. Vima Donoughly says:

    What is something worth is a hard question to answer sometimes. We just finished trying to figure out the value of a lot of things in my grandmother’s house after she died.

  18. Timmy Zula says:

    Really good points about value and this was a fun story.

  19. Natalie says:

    Thanks for the tips. My grandmother left us with an old painting of her and my grandfather during their wedding.

  20. Bell Lock says:

    thank u you so much to tell us the value of the heirlooms i really like that thanks so much.

  21. Mamie Sutton says:

    This is such a great post, and was thinking much the same myself. Another great update.

  22. Rodger Okoye says:

    I guess, if your lucky, you may actually inherit something of real value, personally, I’m not a material kind of person, but I can understand why people would want to treasure them.

  23. Manuel Bailey says:

    It’s a good idea to determine just how much a potentially valuable heirloom is worth by getting it evaluated while the person who owns the object is still living. Thinking ahead will save a lot of money and haggling later?

  24. Stephen says:

    I got a chance to talk to Scott yesterday about an Adolph Menzel painting. He was very knowledgeable about where to take the painting to see if it is authentic and the appropriate steps to take. He didn’t push me to buy what he was selling he seemed genuinely interested in the art.

  25. Divyesh Pandy says:

    Its a good thing to repair historical things its for the our coming generations, if secure the things then you make grandson to seen great things.

  26. Eduardo Munoz says:

    Making the decision to have a treasured belonging conserved can be a big decision. It is important that you feel comfortable with the process and the person doing the work.

  27. Nitin Shezum says:

    This info on collectibles is priceless. As Francesca as mentioned above, “What is life without art?”!

  28. ed brown says:

    in numismatics it is considered destructive to “restore” a coins patina. Actually, it’s quite desirable to have a nice “toning” of the coin.

    Never ever clean an old coin you think is valuable.

  29. aya teak says:

    Thanks you for this little lesson… I truly believe that art is worth protecting.

  30. I’m not sure that my body always knows how to react when confronted with a situation such as something valuable to me getting ruined, because I always have mixed thoughts. One to jump up and down in a 3 year old tantrum and another is to just be calm, I think I usually get a mixture of both…not fun. Good job with the restoration, though.

  31. Bob Sampson says:

    I really like your post! Thanks a lot for sharing this amazing piece which really has my mind going about my collectibles. I want to buy good quality items but I admit I’m a bit in the dark when it comes to knowing the condition before I buy.

  32. Rebecca West says:

    I learned so much in your post. I believe painting is the best representation of artist character and emotions. So even the painting don’t have much financial value but the emotional value of it is priceless.

  33. Saadou Ram says:

    Nice Video…
    Feeling Great to read such a amazing one.

  34. Anil Kumar says:

    Every Art Work is immense amount of gold in itself, its beauty is par excellence and amazing.

  35. Karan Khanna says:

    Well, that’s really amazing and cool when the real Art Work is provided here,

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  37. mmskmm says:

    enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing.

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