Eulogy Magazine

November 2010

Eulogy Magazine

Heirlooms: A Legacy of Love
By Susan Muncey

Heirlooms. Not the tomato type: we're looking at the valuable possessions that are passed down from family to family through succeeding generations - as gifts, or by inheritance. Nowadays, it has become popular to actively collect and invest in all manner of tangible assets to build up a future legacy for one's children, nearest and dearest, or favourite charities. This month, Susan Muncey an ex-investment manager and founder of presents the ten key tips to creating an heirloom legacy.

1. Let the buyer beware: Investing in antique furniture, vintage collectibles and such ephemera may seem more fun than purchasing stocks and shares you'll never get to see and touch, but be prepared for the price to go down as well as up. Buy something because you love it; if it appreciates, consider it a bonus. Also, look for quality – the very best you can afford – and beware of fakes.

2. Become an expert: If you've a passion or hobby for collecting something, you'll get to know the market and be able to pinpoint heirloom pieces of quality and value. If not, then get to know a suitably qualified and knowledgeable expert, agent or dealer. You can also do your own research on the Internet, which is great for checking on prices and availability.

3. Check the history: Investigate the provenance of your item: does it have an illustrious past that will add to its value? Think first-edition books, houses with blue plaques, or royal, celebrity and sporting memorabilia. You should also consider an item's historical record of performance over time: if you're buying gold jewellery, it's easy enough to check the performance of gold compared to stocks and shares. It's more difficult with assets such as art, antiques and retro collectibles, but remember that most of these things go in cycles - like the property market – if something has been out of fashion for more than a decade, it could be back in demand soon.

4. Look at liquidity: This is inextricably linked to saleability. If you're selling a super tanker you'll find the sale process and delivery rather more complicated and lengthy than for a vintage model sailing boat. To provide an inheritance for a number of relatives soon after you die, consider assets that are easily disposed of, like precious metals, jewellery and watches – things for which there's a ready market at a useful price.

5. Ease and cost of maintenance: Wines need to be kept at the correct temperature, vintage clothing and textiles protected against moths, houses re-painted and repaired. Some collectible items are perishable and the likes of perfume, or vintage port, may simply not survive.

8. Value added: Collections of china from an esteemed manufacturer, a selection of clothing by an iconic designer, or grouped items from a specific era - such as Art Deco figurines - are likely to be more sought after by other collectors than one-off pieces.

9. Specialist collecting: Unless you wish to keep your heirlooms in the family, or bequeath them to a museum, more unusual items are less likely to make you a fortune. Steer away from medical curiosities, ancient musical instruments and broken clocks unless you know how to use, play or mend them.

10. Think of the children: It may well be your passion, but are the grandchildren avid stamp collectors; will they appreciate your collection of antiquarian maps as much as you do? If you're intent on leaving something of financial value behind for future generations, you may be better off setting up a trust fund.

To read about the heirlooms of the world-famous designer Zandra Rhodes, click here: