Trust me, I know your kids better than you. - anonymous Forbes contributor


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Trust me, I know your kids better than you. - anonymous Forbes contributor

Feb 6, 2020, 6:36 am

And it's all about the cash value.

Objects Your Kids Don’t Want & What To Do When They Don’t Like You

1. Books

Unless your grown kids are professors, they don’t want your books. There are a couple of common mistakes my clients make in valuing books:
The 17th-century books are likely to be theological or grammar-based and are not rare. The 19th-century books are probably not in good condition, and since most came in a series or set, it’s unlikely you’ll have a full (valuable) set.

Remedy: If you think the book is relatively common plug the title, author, year of publication, and publisher into a search engine. A favorite book site of mine is Once you have background information, call a book antiquarian.

2. Paper Ephemera

Things like family snapshots, old greeting cards, and postcards are called paper ephemera. Old photos are not worth anything unless the sitter is a celebrity or linked with an important historical event or the subject is extremely macabre, like a death memorial image. Old greeting cards are not valuable unless handmade by a famous artist or sent by Jackie O. Postcards are valued mainly for the stamps.

Remedy: Take all your family snapshots and have them made into digital files. The other option is to sell those old snapshots to greeting card publishers who use them on funny cards or give family photos to image archive businesses like Getty. If the archive is a not-for-profit, take the donation write-off.

3. Steamer Trunks, Sewing Machines and Film Projectors

Trust me, every family has at least three steamer trunks from the 19th century. They are so abundant that they are not valuable unless the maker is Louis Vuitton, Asprey, Goyard or some other famous luggage house. Likewise, every family has an old sewing machine. I have never found ONE that was rare enough to be valuable. And every family has a projector for home movies. Thrift stores are full of these items, so, unless your family member was a professional and the item is top-notch, yours can go there as well.

Remedy: Donate this category and don’t look back.

4. Porcelain Figurine Collections and Bradford Exchange “Cabinet” Plates

These collections of frogs, chickens, bells, shoes, flowers, bees, trolls, ladies in big gowns, pirates, monks, figures on steins, dogs, horses, pigs, cars, babies, Hummel’s, and Precious Moments are not desired by your grown children, grandchildren or any other relation. Even though they are filled with memories of those who gave them to your mom, they have no market value. And they do not fit into the Zen-like tranquil aesthetic of a 20- or 30-something’s home.

Remedy: Find a retirement home that does a gift exchange at Christmas and donate the figurines. If you want to hold on to a memory of your mom’s collection, have a professional photographer set them up, light them well and make a framed photo for your wall. Collector’s plates will not sell anywhere to anyone. Donate these to a retirement village as well or to anyone who will take them.

5. Silver-Plated Objects

Your grown children will not polish silver-plate, this I can guarantee. If you give them covered casserole dishes, meat platters, candy dishes, serving bowls, tea services, gravy boats, butter dishes, and candelabra, you will be persona-non-grata. They might polish sterling silver flatware and objects, but they won’t polish the silver-plated items your mom entertained with. The exception may be silver-plated items from Cristofle, Tiffany, Cartier, Asprey, and other manufacturers of note.

Remedy: None. Give it away to any place or person who will take it.

6. Heavy, Dark, Antique Furniture

There is still a market for this sort of furniture, and that market, in the fashionable areas of the U.S., is most often the secondhand shop. You’ll receive less than a quarter of purchase price if you sell on consignment in one. Unless your furniture is mid-century modern, there’s a good chance you will have to pay someone to take it off your hands.

Remedy: Donate it and take a non-cash charitable contribution using fair market valuation. Use reporting services such as to find where this class of furniture sells.

7. Persian Rugs

The modern tranquility aimed for in the décor of the 20- to 30-somethings does not lend itself to a collection of multicolored (and sometimes threadbare) Persian rugs.

Remedy: The high-end market is still collecting in certain parts of the U.S. (think Martha’s Vineyard), but unless the rug is rare, it is one of the hardest things to sell these days. If you think the value of the rug is below $2,000, it will be a hard sell. Like antique furniture, it may be best to donate.

8. Linens

Go ahead, offer to send your daughter five boxes of hand-embroidered pillowcases, guest towels, napkins, and table linens. She might not even own an iron or ironing board, and she definitely doesn’t set that kind of table.

Remedy: Source those (to) needlewomen who make handmade Christening clothes, wedding dresses, and quinceañera gowns. Also, often you can donate linens to costume shops of theaters and deduct the donation. A site like has auction results to establish the fair market value of such objects.

9. Sterling Silver Flatware and Crystal Wine Services

Unless the scrap value for silver is high enough for a meltdown, matching sets of sterling flatware are hard to sell because they rarely go for “antique” value. Formal entertaining is not a priority these days. And of course, sterling must be hand-washed and dried. Can you see your kids choosing to use the silver? The same goes for crystal: The sets you have are too precious, and the wine they hold is too small a portion. Period.

Remedy: Sites like offer matching services for folks who DO enjoy silver flatware and have recognized patterns. Because they sell per piece and therefore buy per piece, sellers get a rather good price. Sell your whole silver service; it will be “pieced out.” Unless your crystal is Lalique, Moser, Steuben, Baccara, or another great name, you will not be able to sell your “nice set.” Give “unknown maker” sets away, fast.

10. Fine Porcelain Dinnerware

Your grown children may not want to store four sets of fancy porcelain dinnerware, and frankly, don’t see the glory in unpacking it once a year for a holiday or event. This is the saddest story I have to tell my clients: your grown kids and grown grandkids DO NOT want and will NEVER want five or more fine china services. They don’t even want one. They do not see the logic. They don’t want porcelain tea sets or dessert, fish, or fruit services either. Ask yourself, when was the last time you witnessed your grown son using a saucer?

Remedy: Like silverware, china is something to consider for sale to a replacement matching service like Know your pattern to get a quote from one. Because such replacement companies buy per piece, the aggregate of the selling price is always more than a bulk sale at a consignment store, which might be your only other option.

Feb 6, 2020, 6:37 am


Feb 6, 2020, 6:50 am

The second part of the article is even more absurd. For example:

McCoy further observes that grown kids may recoil if they perceive their parents as being needy. “What really turns young adults off,” she says, “is the idea that their parent has a problem and they’re supposed to fix it.”

Feb 6, 2020, 7:35 am

I hope my parents and grandparents never read this article thinking it to be the universal truth.

I think I mustn't be a grown child because we have more fine china, silver and silver-plated objects, antiques and decorative porcelain than our grandparents and parents combined. Any old picture/film and the means to view/create that the family does not want, I own. Even though I have them digitised, the value of those pictures, now nearly a 100 years old is immense, to the family.

What really strikes me is the pure focus on monetary value, the broad assumptions about what your kids would never want and the disregard for emotional worth. While I understand that kids probably don't want to receive the entire contents of the house, going completely the other way seems quite harsh. Yeah maybe every US home/family has multiple steamer trunks that are worth nothing, if that's the one that was used when the family came from the old country, that trunk has value. Just discarding it because you can't sell it for top dollar seems so... wasteful. I'd be so hurt... Also, apparently young adults only have minimalistic homes and never any boho styling....

And I wish my mom would be more vocal about her needs, maybe then it would be easier for me to help...

The author must have alienated his kids, hated his parents or have some traumatic experience....

Feb 6, 2020, 8:19 am

I am struggling with the paper ephemera category.

My sister gave me a trunk last month (A sturdy Wear-Ever salesman's trunk, that my dad used briefly when he sold the kitchen ware door to door.) It is full of family photos and several scrapbooks. Appears my mom saved all of the cards she got with baby shower and birth announcement gifts. They are mildly interesting, but not really mementos that I want to keep.

Feb 6, 2020, 10:14 am

A generation ago we got all the 'good' stuff from both sides of the family because none of our sisters wanted it.

We use the silver (I assume plate) every day. It goes in the dishwasher and hasn't seen silver polish in at least 20 years, and looks it. But I don't think the boys want it. We have his grandparents good china. Not really china, a nice Thanksgiving pattern that we only used at Christmas. Our oldest has the platter, and wants the plates, but doesn't want to pay shipping. My good china gets rare use, and I now let it go into the dishwasher because I figure the metallic paint will outlast me at this point. I rather doubt we will ever use all twelve settings again, either.

Feb 6, 2020, 10:58 am

My grandmother regularly wants me to look up her porcelain figurines and old books on the internet. She expects them to be worth a massive amount of money. They never are. She was especially sad about a porcelain dog she was told was brought over from Europe - the dates associated with the factory stamp on the bottom make that impossible.

If I was given these things I could never throw them out because they are important to her, but it's true I don't want them.

Feb 6, 2020, 1:58 pm

I think the difference is between the author saying that nobody would want anything at all, and picking one or two pieces to remember somebody by. I do agree with the evaluation that most of it won't be worth nearly as much as people think it will be. My book collection can go to the charity shop if I ever die, it is not worth the effort of selling it. However, I am glad my mother kept my dad's books after he died. When he died I was 14 and didn't really like SF like he did. Now SF is nearly the only thing I read, and I am glad to have my dad's books as a connection.

While I will throw out most vacation pictures and such without people, I couldn't throw out the ones with people on them. I don't know, maybe my kids or family will later on, but I just love family history.

The more I think about it, the more I think the difference is between "forcing" stuff on your family and loved ones, and having it available for them to get after death (or whatever). Having one or two pieces from my grandma (neither of them really worth anything) is nice. Having her whole display case of statuettes... not so much.

Edited: Feb 6, 2020, 2:06 pm

My mother recently moved into a nursing home, and the sister she had been living with is also moving, so some of Mom's things were up for grabs. I have asked for the tile I chose in the Netherlands over 50 years ago. But the other stuff I really don't want.

I don't need a whole stack of pictures either, but was glad to get this one. Guess who the little person is!

Edited: Feb 6, 2020, 3:35 pm

>9 MarthaJeanne: Not only is the photograph of you and your mother charming, it reminds me of how much lovelier people were back in days when housework was actually work, and when beautiful dresses hung in closets (instead of a myriad of casual clothes).

Were you the first baby? She looks settled, and yet a bit nervous.

Thank you so much for the gift of this photograph. Every day ought to have a bit of joy in it. :-}

Feb 6, 2020, 3:43 pm

First baby after 3 miscarriages. I doubt that I would have been that brave. At Christmas I would have been almost 2 months old.

Feb 6, 2020, 3:49 pm

Even if I wanted my grandmother's stuff, where on earth would I PUT it? The days of many people being able to buy houses are gone. We live in an apartment that's full of our own furniture, with not a lot of storage space. There's nothing in my kitchen that can't go in the dishwasher, period. I still love my family though.

Feb 6, 2020, 7:32 pm

>11 MarthaJeanne: I weep for your mother. Miscarriages happened both to my mother, and to one of my aunts, and each time, there was terrible grief, with no place to turn to (or so it seemed, at the time).

I'm glad to live now, and not back then.

You were a very sweet looking baby, and the happiness on her face is palpable.

Feb 6, 2020, 10:15 pm

My children will eagerly inherit my books; they've said so. We never had cable TV while they were growing up, and my shelves were always open for them.
And there are a couple of particularly nice furniture pieces that have been spoken for.
Other than that, I think the plan will be a sale or auction. People 'round here love that activity of a Saturday.

But meanwhile, I've been working on whittling the whole collection down, and will send photos so they have first dibs. Younger daughter has surprised me. She has always been a minimalist. But having a baby has made her more sentimental. She is taking household goods that seem out of character - family dishware and linens.

Edited: Mar 30, 2020, 4:27 am

I'm currently reading Secondhand (Minter) which is an eyeopener on how the secondhand market works. What actually has a value?

Mar 30, 2020, 6:32 pm

....I am confused by the assumption that because it isn't significantly valuable on the resale market, your kids don't want it.

If your kids don't own their own homes, they are thinking in terms of having limited space and having to move. If they do (or even if they're moved into an apartment they plan to stay in for awhile), they probably want:

1. Books. If your kids are book people, they would probably love to pick over your book collection (They are probably not going to pick the ones you think are valuable. They are probably going to pick the ones you taught them how to live out of.) (They probably are going to pick the 17th century ones though. Are you nuts? I've been book collecting my whole life and never even touched a 17th century book.) If your kids aren't book people, they were never going to want any books.

2. Paper ephemera. This is, again, a storage issue: a lot of young adults would like to hang on to the family records, but that's tough to do if you don't have a stable place to live with storage space. Also, old postcards and photos are trendy right now in decor and design right now, as are old greeting cards. Ask your kids if they'd like to go through it all with you; it will give you a chance to pass on the stories behind it, and put it in formats that will let it be stored better long-term.

If your kids have no interest in doing this with you, then either wait until they're a bit older, or else work on building better family relationships with them in general first.

(Who hangs onto old family photos for the resale value????)

3. If the steamer trunks are actually usable as steamer trunks, your kids may want them! These are actually really great furniture items for people who are moving a lot and have limited space. Everyone I know has at least one steamer-trunk style piece of furniture and loves it. Ask.

Treadle sewing machines are in high demand among young people right now. I have never seen one at a thrift shop; if they show up, they go. (Older electric ones are tough, mostly because it's harder to keep them running and new ones that do more are pretty cheap.) Film projectors are pretty hard to find these days, too, though probably your kids don't want them unless they have a film collection. VHS players that work well are also turning up a lot less - if you have one that's new enough to connect easily to a modern TV, someone will want it (Though maybe not your kids.)

4.... Yeah, nobody wants your figurines. Sorry. Maybe you can talk each kid into taking one as a keepsake of Grandma.

5. Kids might want silver-plate if it's attractive and something they can use. They don't want ugly decorative-only silver plate. See above about space and moving. Also, be glad nobody polishes it, because by now they'd've polished off the plate. (Nobody wants ugly decorative sterling except for the weight of the metal, either.)

6. If your kids are even slightly settled, they want real wood furniture! It's hard to find these days unless you go really high-end (even at thrift stores) and you get very tired of the flatpack ikea stuff really fast. Ask your kids if they need furniture, or if they want you to save something for when they have space.

They probably don't want your giant, hard-to-move china cabinet though. Unless it's a good size for displaying action figures in, and even then probably not.

7. Area rugs are big right now. Especially for apartment living. They probably don't want ones that are very worn out and/or hard to clean, though.

8. A lot of young people are trying to get away from using disposable paper products. Are the napkins usable? Are they actually linen? Do they take more care than it's worth?

Otherwise, if they were embroidered by somebody your kids remember (or know stories of) see if they'll take a few for memory. Then donate.

9. If you don't mind them using it and breaking it, it's fine? You can wash sterling in the dishwasher, and if you're using it as everyday flatware, it probably won't need polished. It won't be super shiny, but who cares? I guarantee they're putting their special souvenir Star Wars glasses in the dishwasher, so they'd be perfectly willing to wash grandma's silver too. Or sell it for scrap value, which isn't going to be negligible to them.

10. Everyone I know who inherited "good" china uses it to eat off of on a regular basis and puts it through the washing machine. Do you care if they do this? Then they might want it.

....actually if you're an 80-year-old who reads Forbes, all of that probably applies to your grandkids more than your kids.

Mar 30, 2020, 6:58 pm

Whether or not 'Good' china belongs in the dish washer depends a lot on the pattern. Mine has metallic paint over the glaze. With time, this will wear off. And a lot faster if washed by machine. The black design under the glaze won't.

Chipping and such are much less of an issue. We've gone through several sets of everyday dishes that were much softer than the china, but not because of the dish washer. They got dropped, or pots were dropped onto them, or someone heated them in the oven and then put them onto a wet counter. If our current dishes break too much, I'm likely to move the china into general use. As I said above, I don't care that much about the silver part of the design any more. However, (metallic paint again) they can't be used in the microwave. This was not an issue in 1978. Come to think of it, neither was the dishwasher.

Mar 30, 2020, 7:18 pm

There are a lot of dishes where putting them in the dishwasher will wear the design off faster (it absolutely does on the commemorative Star Trek glasses!) The question is if you care about that enough to not use it in the dishwasher. And, yeah, microwave is another question entirely.

There are some older dishes where putting them in the dishwasher can damage older paints in ways that make them dangerous to eat off of, which is a tougher question, though.

Mar 30, 2020, 8:23 pm

I have a set of dishes from the late 1800s, and I was not as careful about putting them in the dishwasher as I should have been. The pattern is just fine, but the porcelain they were made from was damaged from the heat of the wash (or perhaps the dryer). I only damaged a few, but it still made me sad to learn.

I no longer use the dishwasher, other than as extra drying space when doing dishes. I have used it in past to sterilize canning jars that I'd picked up from relatives, but that was probably 8 or 10 years ago. I rather doubt that it works now, any way.

What your children will or won't want will change over the years. My daughter would have had no interest in my antique furniture, but that's changed. I can guarantee that she might want a piece of two of my carnival glass, but I've already written down the best place to take it to (so that she'll get a decent price).

Anything she doesn't want, she can deal with. I'll be done with it, and I'm fine with anything she decides.

I have probably 10 or 20 years left, although that can always change of course. Life goes on.

Edited: Mar 30, 2020, 9:45 pm

>16 melannen: I like your analysis much better than that of the Forbes writer.

I take pics of whaterver I'm considering deleting and text them to my girls. I'm surprised at how much the younger, minimalist has taken.

Mar 31, 2020, 4:11 am

We have bought our dishes at an auction. It is a famous pattern for "common people" here in The Netherlands (Boerenbond), but our dishes are about 50 years old probably. We abuse them a lot (dishwasher, toddlers use them and break them). It is just one of those patterns that is cheaper buying old at auction than new, and we don't care if they break, we can always get a new box full at auction...

Edited: Mar 31, 2020, 4:04 pm

>21 divinenanny: I grew up with Corelle, which is the closest thing to an American equivalent, I think. And there's still so much in thrift stores that we will never have to buy any more. (Of course I decided my favorite pattern was a relatively rare one, but that just means it will be harder for my mom and aunts to bury me in 50-year-old "spare" plates.)

Apr 2, 2020, 6:14 am

>15 MarthaJeanne: OK, I'm shocked. What do the rest of you say? Minter suggests that many people replace shirts that just need to have a button sewn back on.

I won't say that I sew lots of buttons on - we don't lose many. But if either of us lose a button it gets sewn back on right away. Usually today if we have the button. A few days later if I have to hunt, and maybe move a button so the mismatch is less noticeable. Maybe I'm a dinosaur.

Dec 31, 2020, 11:02 pm

>23 MarthaJeanne:. Polyester thread is so much more durable than cotton. So rarely need to sew a button back on. But I have been known to replace the whole set with a style I like more.

Jan 1, 2021, 4:00 am

>24 2wonderY: I prefer cotton thread. I would rather the thread gives way than that the cloth rips.

Jan 5, 9:08 pm

My dad passed away in September. While cleaning out his RV I found a briefcase full of cards and photographs that my sisters and I had sent to him over the years. I sent them back to the appropriate sister, they can do with them as they please. I also texted to them photos I'd taken of more "heritage" stuff, like my dad's high school diploma, in which was tucked three report cards. Eldest sister wants the stuff, she's into genealogy.

Feb 6, 4:01 pm

I just started listening to The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter and I can tell you I’m going to hate it. In the first chapter, she sells an heirloom bracelet rather than waste time conversing with her 5 children about it.

My young adult granddaughter helped me clear out my old house. The items we touched all had small stories to tell about my history. Some that my children have never heard. I found that method so rewarding. I can’t imagine doing it solo. How sad!!