Skip to Content

Are Those Family Heirlooms Worth Anything at All?

At my previous job I was offered a gift after five years of employment. What was five years worth? $200 seemed the going rate as each gift in the selected catalog was roughly equivalent to that amount.

At the time I waffled between two options: a very girly, pink bike and an ornate Waterford vase. At the time our garage was filled to the brim with shelves full of stuff. I already owned a bike, (though not a pale pink one), and had no room to store another, so I settled on the vase. If I could go back in time I would probably pick anything other than that vase, but at the time I was recently married and it seemed like the perfect choice to fill my new china cabinet.

Fast forward another ten years and the china cabinet is no longer in residence here. The plates, cups and saucers have all moved out so art supplies and children’s toys can occupy that space. The china was transported to the attic, though I doubt we’ll ever remove it from there. But what about that Waterford vase? What on earth could I do with it? It was heavy and unfortunately not designed for a large bouquet. When we brought flowers home they stood too stiffly inside it’s confided area and looked quite stifled and tight in there.

I wondered if I could sell that vase? I searched eBay for similar items, but even at low prices it seemed no one wanted the piece I owned. I found a few companies offering to buy Waterford, but none of them wanted it either.

I was told the number of crystal collectors is rapidly declining. “Who wants crystal,” one representative asked. “These days people want big screen televisions and trips to Tahiti.”

He went on to tell me that as the older generation passes away many children, (now in their 50s and 60s), have no desire to keep these family heirlooms. After all, even those who regularly entertain rarely do so with crystal goblets and sterling silver flatware.

We are a perfect example of this. We rarely host events, but our last party involved a backyard barbeque. We served food on paper plates with plastic cups and filled a wheelbarrow full of beer.

If we are representative of our generation it’s not difficult to see why the value of Waterford and other fine crystal is falling. There simply isn’t a market out there. Very few people want the stuff and even fewer are willing to pay good money to acquire it.

My family owns quite a bit of cut glass but I’ve never eaten off those plates or poured wine into those delicate glasses. This wasn’t the case for my grandmother who used them daily as a child. Even my mom remembers being served lemonade from crystal pitchers. This hasn’t been the case in my lifetime. I’ve only seen them behind glass doors, inside a china cabinet covered with a thin layer of dust.

I understand collecting beauty for beauty’s sake, but I doubt our generation or the one that follows will have much need or desire for china or crystal.

As for me, I no longer wish to own something I have no intention of using. If it is going to sit in a cabinet and take up space I’d prefer to pass it on to someone who might covet it.

As for my Waterford, I donated it. I hope it finds a new home where it can be treasured.