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Beanie babies & Grandma's China: Estate appraisers value the hidden treasures in your home

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Posted at 7:56 PM, Feb 24, 2019

BALTIMORE — Whether you're feeling inspired after watching Marie Kondo's "Tidying Up," or just looking to declutter your home, estate appraisers can help you decide what's worth keeping and selling. Maureen Winer, a certified appraiser with Parting with Possessions, Inc., sees a variety of items on a daily basis.

"We see fabulous pieces, or we see everyday, ordinary, Nancy Drew books," Winer said.

And happening more frequently, her clients are millennials.

"What's happening is that the millennials who may be only children, or one of two, are looking at all of the stuff coming to them and they're saying to their parents, 'I don't want it.' So, the parents are coming to us saying our kids don't want this, what can I do with it?," Winer said.

If you're looking to sell something, her advice is to look for marks or signatures then look online to see what the item sold for. The keyword is 'sold' instead of 'selling.' She once had a client who thought she could pay back a business load by giving her up Princess Diana Beanie Baby.

"Someone [on eBay] was asking for $6,000 each, and it was my unfortunate responsibility to tell her that these are not valuable," Winer said.

She calls Beanie Babies a "made market." Owners see the estimated worth in a book and think they can collect that amount of money, but Winer said the demand just isn't there.

Another 90's relic taking up space and worth near to nothing are VHS tapes. "Yes, unfortunately. Go to Goodwill, you'll find these on every shelf," Winer said.

Artwork, pottery, especially signed pieces are a few items that have more value.

"This is actually stoneware, it's very heavy, and I like heavy pieces, I think they're substantial," said Winer holding a piece of pottery valued at around $600 by Swedish artist Wilhelm Kåge.

If you're looking for a bigger return, start with the jewelry collection. When meeting with potential clients, Ron Samuelson looks for diamonds, watches, and metals.

"We have Stieff Silver here, that's very popular because Stieff was made in Baltimore so we see a lot of that here," said Samuelson, CEO of Samuelson's Diamonds and Estate Buyers in Pikesville. "We don't take silver plate, so the magic word to look on the back of all of your silver is sterling. If it says sterling that means that is has value to it."

They don't need full shiny sets, the worth is determined by weight.

"Because knives have steel blades, so the weight on a knife is not as much as the weight on these spoons or forks," said Samuelson.

Same with coins, gold will get you more than silver, and signed pieces as well as brand names like Tiffany & Co. and Rolex are what will make you top dollar.

"I think the jewelry industry, the veil was lifted off the diamond and jewelry industry with the internet, and there's really no secrets with us. We tell you exactly what items are worth, we can look together online and see what your watch or what your ring is going for and we explain how we have to buy your items," said Samuelson.

But if you're looking at a tangled mess of Grandma's gold necklaces and beads, try this trick: hold a strong magnet over the jewelry pieces. If something sticks, it's likely not a precious metal.

Winer and Samuelson seem to have the same sentiment when it comes to sifting through family heirlooms: if you use it, keep it, if you don't, find it a good home. Just because something's old, doesn't mean it has more value, but know that purchases used to come at a higher cost.

"We didn't have credit cards, and you had to save and scrimp for every single penny. So, if you were able to get something nice, it's valuable to them because it took their time and effort and sweat and tears to get it," Winer said.

Even if you use your grandparent's wedding china once a year, the memories are what make it special.