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Everything You Wanted to Know About Appraisals, But Were Afraid to Ask

Reading time: 12 minutes

In honor of National Estate Planning Week, we thought we’d take a deep dive into the world of appraisals with an Ask Me Anything with our dear friend, colleague, and Ally of Stuff, Sarah Reeder, Founder of Artifactual History Appraisal.

In addition to being an expert on ‘stuff,’ and specifically the value of ‘stuff,’ Sarah is also author of the book Ray Eames in 1930s New York, co-editor of Worthwhile Magazine™ and co-creator of The Art Elevator Collector’s Club. Read on to learn more about what she does as an appraiser, when to contact an appraiser, and even those questions we all want to ask (but may be afraid to!) such as what the difference between an appraisal and a valuation is.

For our members who are new to the appraisal process, how would you sum up what you do?

Reeder: I like to think of what I do as being part lawyer, part accountant, and sometimes even part therapist! It might surprise some people, but appraisals are nothing like what you see on TV. My work entails numerous hours of research, the preparation of legal documents, and meeting meticulous professional requirements for appraising items to establish a value in a specific level of the market on a specific day (called the effective date) for a specific intended use. (We’ll come back to that later!)

Appraisals are nothing like what you see on TV...

The work appraisers do is a very specialized type of professional service akin to an attorney or an accountant that requires a lot of time and focused research, so the very quick and informal “off-the-cuff” depictions of appraising we all see on television have edited out the lengthy preparation (because it would be pretty boring to watch!) that goes into those short segments we see. But I wish it was more widely known that there is so much more work that goes into appraising than the 2-minute clips we see onscreen.

The therapist part sometimes comes into play because as you know so well here at Artifcts, objects can hold powerful memories and inspire strong emotions, totally independent from what their monetary value might be. Sometimes it’s a delicate conversation when the “heart value” and financial value are not aligned, and that is where I rely on market data and research to help individuals understand the current market conditions and corresponding value of the item. I always emphasize that market conditions should not diminish the positive sentimental associations they have with an item—they just happen to be the lens that appraisers must use in our professional work.

So, getting down to the nitty gritty, can you walk us through a typical day?

Reeder: There is no one typical day. That is one of the many things I love about being an appraiser, you never know what you’ll be working on next! There are two types of appraisals I spend most of my time on insurance appraisals and estate appraisals. And yes, they are different!

When I am working on an insurance appraisal, I am creating a legal document that will protect you and your items in the event of damage or loss. These appraisals are for the retail replacement value of the object and in doing so, pins that object and that value in time. That specific moment in time is called the effective date of the appraisal, and all appraisals have effective dates.

The effective date of appraisal is so important in all appraisal report intended uses, because it provides critical context for the numerical appraised value. The markets for art and antiques are always changing, much like the stock market we are more commonly familiar with, so the appraised values need to be contextualized to a specific day, because on the day before or the day after market conditions may have been different. For insurance appraisal reports, the effective date is typically the day I inspect the items in person as it establishes the condition I witnessed on that day.

The markets for art and antiques are always changing, much like the stock market...

When working on these types of appraisals, I spend a lot of time researching the object, documenting it with photos and a detailed description, cataloging it with a standardized format that will allow future users of the appraisal report to know the characteristics of the appraised item, researching the specific level of the market for similar items for the appraisal report’s intended use, and then developing an appraised value based on all the above.

In the case of insurance appraisals, the appraised value is generally the replacement value of the object (i.e. what would it cost to acquire the same exact or very similar object in a short period of time from a retail dealer). For example, if I am appraising a painting by a particular artist for insurance purposes, I’m going to identify which galleries represent that artist or sell paintings by that artist, and then compare their available inventory and pricing (which often is not publicly available and requires outreach to the galleries) to the appraised painting in terms of subject, size, condition, era of the artist’s career, and other factors.

Based on the current retail data I can obtain, I then make adjustments up or down if needed relative to the appraised painting, and document all relevant research for my appraisal client workfile, which I am legally required to keep for a minimum of 5 years. The final number after the specific adjustments from the comparable records accounting for differences from the appraised item is the appraised retail replacement value. So it’s all a lot more complicated and research-intensive than what the public typically sees in popular depictions of appraisers on television.

Insurance appraisals are very different from estate appraisals. Estate appraisals are not used for insurance coverage.  Estate appraisals are prepared at fair market value and are required in some situations to be filed with the federal government or relevant state and local governments for estate tax filing. The legal professional handling an estate is the one who determines whether this is required in specific estate situations.

While insurance appraisals are typically prepared at retail replacement value, estate appraisals are prepared at fair market value, which is often quite a bit lower. The United States government defines fair market value as

"The price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts." According to Technical Advisory Memorandum 9235005 [May 27, 1992], fair market value should include the buyer's premium. [Source: Treasury Regulations Section 20.2031-1 (b).]

For estate appraisal reports, the effective date is typically at the time of the death of the deceased. This is very different than with insurance appraisals as it could take an executor months and months to close out an estate and yet the value is still pegged to the date of death. There is something called the “alternate effective date” which is 6 months after the date of death, which the estate can elect to use if the market has changed significantly in that time period. I always like to confirm which effective date the estate is using as this is a critical factor in guiding my valuation research.

Can you tell us a bit about the tools of your trade? What do you take with you when you visit someone’s home to start an appraisal?

Reeder: I always like to take a good camera with me for capturing documentary photos, a tape measure so I can obtain the dimensions of artworks and the other items I am appraising, a clipboard and paper so I can take notes on-site that will later be expanded with research back in my office, a blacklight for examining artwork for inpainting and other restorations, a jeweler’s loupe for studying silver marks and other small details, and a flashlight for studying artist signatures and providing additional ambient lighting for my photographs in dark locations. I carry multiple flashlights and measuring tapes with me so if one breaks while I am on-site, I have a backup available to be able to continue working.

I have to make sure I capture all the precise details that make your object unique. If it is artwork, is there an artist signature? Any blemishes or marks? Water or sun damage? All of these things are important to ascertain the value of an object, and I need to be able to document them while onsite.


Worn leather bag used for appraisalsSarah's trusty go-everywhere appraisal bag full of her tools of the trade. 

Some people, and I admit, I was one of them at the beginning, may not know the difference between valuation services and an appraisal. Could you help explain what makes the two different?

Reeder: Sure! The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) define valuation services as:

“A service pertaining to an aspect of property value, regardless of the type of service and whether it is performed by appraisers or by others.”

An appraisal is defined by USPAP as:

"(noun) the act or process of developing an opinion of value; an opinion of value. 
(adjective) of or pertaining to appraising and related functions such as appraisal practice or appraisal services.
Comment: An appraisal is numerically expressed as a specific amount, as a range of numbers, or as a relationship (e.g., not more than, not less than) to a previous value opinion or numerical benchmark (e.g., assessed value, collateral value).” 

In terms of the general popular context of these two words outside of their specific USPAP definitions, a valuation is typically more closely associated with ballpark estimates and not with a legal document. Think of it as something that will get you basic guidance, such as getting an approximate sense if an inherited collection is simply sentimental and has no monetary value, or conversely, if it might have significant monetary value.

A valuation is typically more closely associated with ballpark estimates ...

Appraisals are legal documents.  A verbal ballpark numerical range cannot be used in court to settle an estate, with the IRS to document tangible assets for tax purposes, or with an insurer to document items for an insurance policy. USPAP-compliant written appraisal reports are needed for those intended uses.

Are there any red flags our members should watch out for when looking to hire an appraiser?

Reeder: One of my personal red flags is if the appraiser essentially says, “I will tell you how much it is worth and then purchase it from you.” There is a major conflict of interest there, and their interest may not be in your best interest.

Another major red flag is if an appraiser is not USPAP-compliant. USPAP is a very important professional and ethical standard regulating appraisers to help protect users of appraisal services.

It’s always best to look for an independent appraiser who is USPAP-compliant, and ideally is also a member of one of the professional associations for appraisers such as the Appraisers Association of America (AAA), the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), or the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). I am a Certified Member of the Appraisers Association of America and a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers.

You also want to make sure that any appraiser you hire has expertise in YOUR object(s). A jewelry appraiser may be great for your jewelry collection, but not your collection of mid-century modern furniture and vice versa. In USPAP, this is called the “Competency Rule”—basically, is this appraiser competent to appraise your items? If they aren’t, they shouldn’t do it.

You also want to make sure that any appraiser you hire has expertise in YOUR object(s)...

When should people hire an appraiser? Are there any life transitions that may necessitate an appraiser?

Reeder: Life transitions are a great time to take stock of what you have and what’s it worth. Some common life transitions where it can be useful to engage an appraiser are:

      • If you have inherited potentially valuable items such as artwork. An appraiser can provide expert guidance on their value and prepare an insurance appraisal report so they can be scheduled and protected with your insurance company.
      • If you plan on moving it can be very helpful to have valuable items appraised for insurance purposes in advance or to update an existing appraisal to make sure the insurance coverage is current.
      • For estate filing purposes when someone has passed. The estate’s attorney will direct whether an estate appraisal is needed.
      • For proactive estate planning purposes—if you have large collections, it can be helpful to get a sense of their value and how they might be structured in your estate plan for maximum tax efficiency for your heirs (again, your attorney will be a very helpful resource in this process).
      • Sometimes divorces are another life transition that may require an appraiser for the equitable distribution process. 

And finally, you’ve experienced firsthand the joy (and usefulness!) of Artifcting. Any advice for our members or thoughts on how Artifcting can aid the appraisal process?

Reeder: Yes! Artifct your ‘stuff.’ Don’t wait! The details, photos, even video can help an appraiser get to work immediately determining an appraisal scope of work and sometimes even using the Artifcts as a resource to appraise items that may now be damaged or lost. It can save a lot of time and back and forth emails if you Artifct and share your Artifcts with your appraiser. Artifcts really is perfect for an appraiser’s workflow!


Sarah Reeder is a Certified Member of the Appraisers Association of America, a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers with the Private Client Services designation, and a graduate of New York University's Program in Appraisal Studies in Fine & Decorative Arts.

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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A Family History in Five Artifcts

Reading time: 4 minutes

It’s family history month, and if you had to, could you tell your family history in five Artifcts or less? Sound impossible? We weren’t sure, so we decided to put it to the test. 

We reached out to one of our super Artifcters, @Grandmom and asked her, if she had to choose just five Artifcts to tell her story, could she? And if she could, what five would she choose?  

Thankfully, Grandmom was up for the challenge, although she did preface it by saying “Are you sure, just five? That’s all I get?” Yep, that all you get, at least for this ARTIcles story. “Well, good thing I have my timeline, at least I know where to start!”

Over to you @Grandmom to walk us through your family history, Artifct by Artifct. (The below excerpts are from an interview we did with Grandmom; the words in quotes are direct from the source!)



Artifct #1: The Beginning

The Milking Chair My Grandfather Built

“Well, I guess I better start at the beginning, sometime in the 1860s. One of my oldest Artifcts is the milking chair my father’s father made his wife. They lived on a farm in southern Georgia. He built it for her because she was so short, that none of the regular chairs were a good fit. He built it right after the Civil War, I don’t think he used a single nail, only pegs. You don’t see that these days.” 

Artifct #2: Childhood in Rural Georgia

Mother's and Grandmother's Wash Boards

Next up? “Well, that would have to be Mother’s and Grandmother’s wash boards. I still have them after all my moves. We grew up in rural Georgia, and we didn’t have much back then, but Mother always made sure we were well dressed and presentable. I still remember her using these boards to do our laundry. I even used them when I was younger! It’s just what you did back then. I can’t imagine what the kids would do today if they had to use washboards. I can tell you; they probably wouldn’t do laundry!”   

Artifct #3: Traveling Far Far Away

Snake Tales

“The next one is one of my favorites—my snakeskin! I still remember [my friend] Shirley’s reaction, ‘I’m not going to do it Martha, you do it, you shoot the snakes!’” What makes the snakeskin so special? “It reminds me of all the crazy adventures and travels that Bobby [my husband] and I had when we were first married. I never could have imagined living overseas, or going on safari, or doing all the crazy things we used to do. I was telling [my granddaughter] about what we did back then, and she didn’t believe me at first. I had to show her the pictures AND the snakeskin. I was something back then!” For the record, we still think you’re something @Grandmom!   

Old photo of a group of people standing around a large dead snake

If ever there was a moment to be glad to have the story behind the photo, it's this one!

Artifct #4: Family Time

Our Trusty Station Wagon

“I guess my next Artifct would be our old station wagon, and the photo of the three boys [our sons] in the back. [It's a private Artifct.] Back then we didn’t use seatbelts; I’m not even sure if we had them in the way back! But man, those boys loved that station wagon; Bobby and I did too! We took it everywhere—Brazil, Europe. I still remember I once got a speeding ticket in Rio while driving the station wagon. I had never gotten a ticket before in my life! So many memories. I can still hear Bobby yelling at the boys to quiet down back there or else. The boys remember too!”  

Feeling inspired? Create a new Artifct!

Not a member yet? No problem! Sign up free to start Artifcting.


Artifct #5: Small Momentos of a Life Well Lived

International Spoon Collection

Sounds like travel and all your adventures overseas are a big part of your family history and story @Grandmom? “It was our life back then. We didn’t think twice about it when we were doing it, but it was what our family did. It’s what our boys remember. Living overseas teaches you so much. So, I guess my last Artifct would have to be my spoon collection.

I have one from every place I’ve ever lived or visited! I have at least two hundred! The one spoon I didn’t have until recently was Monrovia. I couldn’t find one when we were living there, but then Joy [my daughter-in-law] found one on Ebay and now my collection is complete! It’s amazing to think that had life been different, we could have stayed in Georgia. I know my boys are thankful we did not do that.” 

Souvenir spoons hanging on a wooden display rack

One of these is not like the other. Is that a spork in the spoon collection?

And there you have it! Five Artifcts; five stories; five memories of a life well lived and well-traveled. If you had to choose, what five objects would you Artifct to tell your story? You can write to us at and let us know, we’d love to hear from you! 


A very special thank you to @Grandmom for sharing her Artifcts and story with us. For those of you curious about this amazing woman, she is in her 80s, has three grown sons, 10 mostly-grown grandchildren, and has lived in six countries and traveled to well over 50. She was married to the “love of her life” for over 40 years and is proud to be her family’s keeper. Why does she Artifct? “To tell the histories and stories behind all my stuff. If I don’t the boys will have no way of knowing what is what.”

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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How Two Sisters Overcame the Guilt to Lighten the Load of Family Heirlooms

Reading time: 6 minutes

Up until a few years ago, Rachel Donnelly, founder and CEO of AfterLight, and her family owned their old family home that had been in their family since 1890. Imagine the history those walls could tell! This home, in Eastern Tennessee, was where Rachel’s great-grandparents lived, where her grandmother was born, and where her mother was raised.  
After Rachel’s mother died, the family made the difficult decision to sell this beloved turn-of-the-century Victorian home that was in Rachel’s words “slap full of absolutely everything from our family's life. China, silverware, crystal, knickknacks, handwritten letters, newspaper clippings, coin collections, and of course, countless pieces of big brown furniture. You name it, it was in this house.”  
Buckle up, ladies and gents, we're going on a guilt trip. 
Rachel and her sister grew up with the expectation that the items filling this family home would one day fill their own homes, including the big brown furniture. Their mother made them swear they'd never get rid of these items that, in her mind, were priceless and irreplaceable. So, for years, Rachel and her sister were on a never-ending guilt trip.  
Fast forward, and the sisters’ homes have indeed become orphanages for the big brown furniture and knickknacks that their mother passed down. But guess what? Guilt be darned - the sisters are fed up! The time has come for them to unload the stuff of generations past to homes where families will cherish the pieces of their mother’s estate that simply do not fit with their own lifestyles. 

The sisters’ homes have become orphanages for the big brown furniture and knickknacks that their mother passed down.

We can all do better for the next generation.
What if we skip the proverbial guilt trip we create by unloading our stuff on our family, intentionally or not, and instead make a plan that will allow everyone to enjoy a trip down memory lane instead? At AfterLight, Rachel guides her clients down these planning paths every day. In honor of Make-A-Will Month this August, read on to learn some ins and outs that may help you on your way.   
Ellen Goodwin: I imagine that based on that fun introduction to our conversation, people can easily picture you and your family in good ol’ southern U.S.A. And that’s really important context for our readers. Our family relationships as well as the types of ‘stuff’ we tend to collect and pass down as family heirlooms often differs by region. 
Rachel Donnelly: Even though dealing with it was quite burdensome, I feel so fortunate to have had this family home as part of my childhood. This home was beloved by generations of my family and was full of so much history. The town in which the home was located was referred to as the "Utopia of Temperance," as it was a planned community where alcohol (aka the Devil's Drink) was strictly prohibited and any trace of liquor would lead to the property's confiscation by the city. Well, if walls could speak, they'd have tales to tell! I've always cherished the stories behind the various items in the house and what they symbolized in our heritage. My grandmother was an incredible cook and one of my prized possessions is her index box of recipes.  
Goodwin: What is universal in life is loss. And you are at the very forefront of helping people in modern times get through the planning and after-loss realities. It’s complex! Please help our readers understand the “why” and “what” of AfterLight. 
Donnelly: I like to say I received an immersive MDA (Master of Death Administration). After my own experiences with loss, including the death of my parents, and serving as the primary caregiver for and eventual executor of my uncle’s estate, I struggled to manage all the unavoidable administrative tasks that accompany aging, end-of-life, and after loss.  
It can take over 500 hours of effort and 100+ tasks for an executor to settle an estate. And executors are expected to complete these tasks, which are for the most part ones they have never done before, all while trying to grieve, work, take care of their family and/or prioritize their mental health. 
I searched for help with the tasks, paperwork and logistics in the weeks and months after my losses but struggled with where to turn. I experienced this struggle personally and noticed that there was a gap in the market of businesses meeting this need. 
They say that need is the mother of invention, … At AfterLight, our goal is to provide overwhelmed executors with practical, personalized support. We’re on a mission to help the living deal with dying, fostering lighter hearts and lighter loads. AfterLight assists clients in managing the unavoidable administrative tasks associated with after loss and legacy planning. Whether you’re facing an unexpected loss or want to prepare your legacy so your family can grieve in peace and settle your affairs with ease, AfterLight is the answer to your overwhelm. 

After my own experiences with loss, [...] I struggled to manage all the unavoidable administrative tasks that accompany aging, end-of-life, and after loss.

Goodwin: An interesting parallel between your work at AfterLight and the act of Artifcting is that both are about human behavior and habits. If we want better outcomes, we have to take steps proactively to do something about it, whatever the “it” is. What do you find are the one or two most challenging steps for people to take in terms of planning and preparedness? 
Donnelly: In my opinion, the primary challenge is our discomfort with the fact that we know how this ends – i.e., that we’re all going to die someday. Therefore, many people avoid thinking about it or taking action, as though doing so might somehow become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
The second challenge is that organizing one's affairs can be overwhelmingly complex, because people don’t really understand how it works and therefore, it's easy to be unaware of all of the steps they need to take to not leave a flaming dumpster fire for their family. Along the same vein, legacy planning is often filled with misconceptions. I've come across various attitudes, from "My kids are smart, they'll figure it out," to "My estate isn't significant enough to warrant planning," or even "I'll be dead and won't care."

I've come across various attitudes, from "My kids are smart, they'll figure it out," to "My estate isn't significant enough to warrant planning," or even "I'll be dead and won't care."

Goodwin: So, it is Make-a-Will month. Obviously, some people don’t even have wills (yet), while others simply need to update their wills. But there are also those of us who have wills that check the box only. Wills can and should do more to help people through grief by very intentionally addressing legacy, memories, and even anticipated points of … ahem, contention … among family members and other heirs. In your view, how can folks take a good, better, best approach to life preparedness this month? 
Donnelly: I believe that approaching life preparedness with intentionality and strategy, rather than simply treating it as a checklist of documents, leads to a more comprehensive and meaningful end-result. 
When working with our clients one-on-one, we take on the roles of accountability partner, coach, and organizer. Our aim is to help our clients to explore critical questions they may not have considered, procrastinated on, or underestimated the importance of. Some of these important questions include:

    • If you do have estate planning documents (such as a will, trust, financial power of attorney, and advance directives for healthcare), does your family know how to access them? Where are these documents located?
    • Have you shared the unlock codes for your phone and computer with a trusted contact?
    • Are your beneficiaries correctly designated and up to date?
    • Do your loved ones know your funeral wishes?
    • Have you communicated with your family about who will inherit specific items of personal property and when? (Hello! Get going on Artifcts!)
    • There’s no better solution to convey what everything is, what it means to you and your family, and WHY you are gifting it to the person you’ve chosen.)
    • Does your family have a clear understanding of your debts and assets, including a comprehensive list?

@rbdonne is a "family keeper" for family heirlooms big and small.

Vintage oak icebox by stairwell in modern home

A vintage oak icebox and cricket cage, each brought forward through generations. Click an image to view on Artifcts.

An antique cricket cage

By addressing these questions and actively engaging in the planning process, we can each achieve a more well-rounded and thoughtful approach to securing our legacies and ensuring our loved ones are better prepared for the future. And who knows, you might even have some fun in the process, especially if you share as you go via Artifcts.


You may also enjoy these additional ARTIcles by Artifcts:

Gift Your Loved Ones a "Why"

What Have You Done for Your Legacy Lately?

Storytellers, Beware!


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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The Value of Cherished Objects in Our Life Stories

Reading time: 4 minutes  

Objects are important to us for a reason. While it can be that they have monetary value or are particularly beautiful, their real value comes from the meanings we attach to them.  

People’s life stories are intertwined with objects; they tell us about that person, and they hold memories and emotions in their own right. That is why we pass them down through the generations as family heirlooms, and it is why we cherish and take care of them.  

This is part of the reason why LifeTime Memoirs does what it does. The team at LifeTime Memoirs believes that there is no greater gift that you can give to the future generations of your family than your life story, shared in the form of a private autobiography that combines memory and heirloom.  

LifeTime Memoirs helps people to unlock their thoughts and memories, something that is deeply significant to the company’s founders, Roy Moëd and Yvette Conn. 

Roy’s inspiration for founding LifeTime Memoirs was very personal. It all started when Roy realized that he was not listening properly whenever his father, Jules, told stories. Like many of us, he thought that he had heard them all before, but he was so wrong! Roy decided that he wanted to capture those stories for his family and future generations and for Jules to have a wonderful project to focus on. The excitement and joy that Jules felt in reliving the stories of his life was palpable, and he revelled in remembering stories that he didn’t even know he had forgotten.  

More than 10 years on, what began with Roy’s father is now making a difference to so many people around the world. 

Suitably aligning with Roy’s passion and dedication to the art of memoir writing, one of the treasured items that he has Artifcted, and that he would feature in his own life story, is a poem. Roy writes, “In 1969, as a 16-year-old schoolboy writing an English literature exam in London, I scribbled four simple lines on the back of the exercise book that I used for my poetry.  

Poem handwritten on sheet of paper


I can’t now remember why or where these lines came from, although a lot of the poetry I wrote at the time was relatively introspective. I rediscovered it later in life, when my interest in my old poetry was reawakened, and a friend engraved it on a carving of a wooden sculpture of a book. I also started to use it on cards that I would send to people. I honestly didn’t think I’d written it, so I Googled everything I could but realized that it was original. It obviously has a lot of meaning to me. 

Considering that over 50 years on, my business is in memoir writing and especially legacy, this short poem is now very poignant.” 

One of Yvette’s Artifcts is also a book, though it is somewhat different to Roy’s book.  

Old book belonging to Yvette Conn Artifcts


“It was presented to my mother in the 1960s,” Yvette writes. “It was given to her by her grandmother as a wedding present. It is absolutely extraordinary, giving huge insight into Victorian England and life at that time.”

If you happened to page through one of our authors’ books, the chances are that you wouldn’t just find photos of marriages, births, parties, and the like but other equally interesting forms of imagery, too. At LifeTime Memoirs, and particularly within the company’s bespoke Opus department, the team stretches the boundaries of what autobiographies can look like to create something truly special.  

Books can contain scans of important documents, such as marriage certificates, programs from significant events, and newspaper articles that detail the author’s achievements. They can also contain photographs of objects small (jewelry, toys, and even tools) and large (furniture and cars appear frequently). These all provide rich texture and context to the narrative. Often, these objects and documents have considerable wear and tear, and that in itself tells a story to the reader.

Both LifeTime Memoirs and Artifcts value the idea of capturing cherished objects and preserving their meaning for future generations, and of seizing this as an opportunity to declutter and downsize. Photographing treasured objects and documents comes in handy when people have to decide what to keep and what to purge from their homes. Few of us can keep everything, but, even if we have to get rid of an heirloom, we can still preserve its stories. LifeTime Memoirs’ recommendation is to take a photo, capture the story—ideally through creating a simple Artifct—and let that story continue in another household.

The fact that objects are so integral to the tapestry of our lives is something that we strive to reflect in our books. This way, the precious possessions that our authors treasure become immortalised in the autobiographies they write and share with future generations. As with Roy and Yvette’s own Artifcts, the books themselves eventually turn into precious heirlooms: memory made material.


As one of our Allies in 'Stuff', LifeBook Memoirs is offering all Artifct members an exclusive $500 off any private autobiography package. If you’d like to find out more about starting your private memoir journey give one of their expert memoir advisors a call on +1-844-669-5039, or visit the LifeTime Memoirs website

Even more reason to capture your life stories in your own autobiography!


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What to Consider When You Plan to Donate Art and Other Collectibles

Reading time: 3 minutes 

It does not matter if you have one piece or dozens of art or other collectibles you would like to pass on via a charitable donation. The same processes and rules of the road generally apply. While Artifcts does not offer tax or estate planning services, we certainly know a thing or two about ‘stuff’ and the questions and concerns top of mind for many people about their own collections and valuables and those they inherit.

Today we’re talking about all the art, historical documents, family heirlooms, and other collectibles you may want to donate. Whether you’re planning on a donation soon or it is years off and a part of your will or estate planning process, these insights offered to you direct from consultation with seasoned estate planners and organizations on the receiving end of donations will help make sure you don’t miss anything in the art of the possible (and the reasonable) in donating your ‘stuff.’

Think beyond museums!  

Libraries, universities, halls of fame, historical foundations, and hospitals may be even better fits than the museum you had in mind, depending on your personal affinities and passions.

While preparing this story for ARTIcles by Artifcts, we chatted with Michael Darling, co-founder of the Museum Exchange, “The first digital platform for art donations, which enables collectors to donate works of art to institutions in North America. If you are struggling to find the right institution for your donation, you may want to contact the Museum Exchange. We are intrigued by this new enterprise.

Have a conversation with the (desired) receiving institution.

Find out if the institution is accepting donations, whether your item fits within its current or planned collections, and how often the institution will be able to display the item. You might learn of other conditions of donation, too, such as accompanying one-time or ongoing donations to cover preservation, installation, storage, and other costs.

Be prepared. Details matter. 

Do you have proof of ownership? Where’s the qualified appraisal? What’s the provenance of the item? Where is the item presently located? (Ahem, all information easy to attach to your Artifcts!) 

Inform yourself.

A little self-study never hurts and will help ensure your broader interests and intentions are met. Read up on and consider:

  • What is your timeline? Do you want to donate now, during your lifetime, or via your will and or estate plan posthumorously?  
  • How will you donate, e.g., directly to the institution versus a vehicle such as a donor advised fund or a charitable trust or foundation? 
  • Ideally, do you have any gift conditions in mind? The fewer the better for a smooth process. And does your perspective on any of these conditions change if you consider your aims for the donation during your lifetime versus your direct heirs’ lifetimes versus 100+ years from now? 
  • Would you change your mind if the institution you donate to wants to receive and then sell the piece to use the funds to support its work?
  • If you want to receive a charitable tax deduction for the gift and/or if you plan to donate the gift in your Will or through a charitable vehicle, you should contact your tax and financial advisors early to make sure your wishes (and any tax or other benefits) will be met. 

Be patient.

It’s a process from donation agreement to actual appearance on display, unless terms dictate otherwise, of course! The institution will have its own registration process once they receive the item(s), in addition to potentially undertaking preservation, restoration, and cleaning, before finally adding the item(s) to its collection.

Special Consideration: Are you the creator of the item you plan to donate?

Do you want to donate the piece only or the piece and the copyright? And, again, don’t forget the tax consequences, which change when you're the creator.

With all this in mind, we wish you Happy Artifcting. May your Artifcts make even charitable donations that much simpler!


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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A Peek Inside the DAR Through Its Myriad of Pins 

Reading time: 4 minutes 

While some little girls are practically born into the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), I was a young adult before I’d even heard of this lineage society.

My greatest familiarity with the DAR came from the TV series the Gilmore Girls. The matriarch of the Gilmore family, Mrs. Richard Gilmore, would often attend DAR chapter luncheons, help organize fundraisers, and the like, and led a life that bore no resemblance to my own.

Years later, even after walking by the DAR headquarters in Washington D.C. on a regular basis during my tenure working in our nation’s capital - and, fun fact, attending a Jack Johnson concert at DAR Constitution Hall back in 2013 - I never considered whether I could join the DAR. I still didn't know anyone who belonged.

Fast forward another decade. This March I joined a small local chapter of the DAR based on my curiosity about my family's history (and the context in which they lived) and to participate in another philanthropic and intergenerational outlet in my local community. I'm too new to the DAR to comment on the experience yet, but I'm eager to learn more about how these women support the community.

For now, I’m sharing with you, the curious, the historians, the genealogists, a peek into what was the substance of the very first DAR speaker I listened to. She was actually hilarious. Her topic? All that bling, aka insignia, that decorates the ribbons DAR women wear. 

The Ornamental and Patriotic World of DAR Insignia

Hold onto your hats. This stuff is complicated! In fairness, the DAR insignia committee is the oldest of the DAR committees, dating back to the DAR's founding in 1890. That’s 130 years to muse over the artistry and pageantry of pins. Disney pin creators and traders cannot hold a candle to that! 

The world of DAR pins started simply with a largely intuitive pin design representing the DAR itself. While the symbolism has proved timeless over the last 130 years, you can now buy it with diamond as well as ruby upgrades. This pin, and only this pin, is always hung from the bottom of a member’s DAR ribbon, in theory to rest over your heart. A tricky prospect if you choose a 14" ribbon.  

DAR original insignia pin

13 stars for the original colonies, a spinning wheel and flax-filled distaff, blue and white in a nod to the uniforms of George Washington's troops — learn more from the DAR. You can check out this pin Artifcted, too! 

The DAR provides members with a helpful guide to correctly place the pins on their ribbons as well as information about when to wear which pins and ribbons and even sometimes with what. Here are some fun facts and tips I learned from the speaker: 

    • Most members start with the basics: a ribbon, a chapter bar engraved with their chapter’s name, an ancestor bar (also engraved), and the official DAR insignia, over their heart. Second most common are state pins for the state(s) the member’s Revolutionary War ancestor(s) were from and where the member resides. 
    • Consider paying for an upgrade to a magnetized ribbon or you’ll need the "eyesight of our national bird" to be able to get the pins on. Ditto about the eyesight if you want to read the engravings. Upgrading to the black ink laser printing helps a smidge. 
    • Ribbons go from 4" to 14" and from one ribbon to five ribbons wide. Don’t worry, however, because there is a skinnier ribbon version for formal attire. 
    • Members can donate money to the current DAR President General’s special projects funds and qualify to purchase the corresponding pin. Interestingly, the current PG is a jewelry designer from Houston, so I imagine she took a heavy hand designing her official pin. If I ever meet her, I’ll ask.  
    • Members may not wear the pins with denim. Sorry Texas cowgirls and cool casual Californians.  
    • If wearing DAR insignia on a sash, the member must wear a skirt.  
    • As members may only wear DAR insignia to official DAR events, if they have to step out, the advice is to toss a scarf (also available for purchase from the DAR store) over the ribbons. Ta da! 
    • Members may bequeath pins, but heirs cannot wear the service or donation pins until they do the same and they must remove any non-shared ancestors from the ribbons. Pins were originally gold filled and are now generally gold plated. It’s financially wise to know which are which should you inherit any. 

Do you think these rules are bizarre and outdated? If so, take a closer look around you. There are similar rules in the military and even professional sports. From this newbie’s perspective, there is also a simpler reason for many of the rules: Making it easier to decode the insignia of others when you meet. If you know where each pin type is located, you can much more easily and rapidly find common ground to strike up a conversation with anyone. Community is a hallmark of this organization after all!

Artifcting Tips for DAR Insignia

As with any Artifct, the more you record now, the less of a headache later for your loved ones. Artifcting is a way of life; some would call it the means to continuously practice Swedish death cleaning. In these tips we talk about pins, but the same tips apply to any family heritage memorabilia that you Artifct.

    • Description. We recommend for each pin including the name of the pin and any engraved details.  
    • In the Future. What would you like to become of your pins one day? Many people bequeath them to a loved one, but you may also decide to donate them to your chapter or the state or national DAR offices. Capture your wishes in the “In the future” field of your Artifct. 
    • Location. Make note of where you have stored your pins so you don’t send loved ones on a wild goose chase. 
    • Documentation. We recommend privately attaching your membership card with your ID number and chapter name for easy reference in your Artifct's documentation section. For individual pins or sets you buy, you might also want to attach the receipt for insurance and estate planning purposes. 

Happy pinning. Happy 4th of July. Happy Artifcting!


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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