What do you own that was passed down to you?
We all want to be remembered long after our days on earth end and heirlooms are a great way to make that happen. Family heirlooms refer to anything of monetary or sentimental value that is passed down from one generation to another.
While we’ve said they don’t have to be worth millions of dollars – sentimental value qualifies them too – this post’s focus is to highlight some of the most common family heirlooms that are worth a fortune out there.
Do stick around for plenty of ideas!
Setting Up a Family Heirloom
If you are one of those people who had nothing passed down to them, don’t fret. You can be the pioneer of your family’s heirloom. By simply knowing that any object can be turned into a family heirloom, you are well on your way. However, it is good for each piece to have a story as this story is what keeps it alive for generations.
Heirlooms represent your family’s wealth, history and memories so you may need to talk to family members before making any heirloom decision and find out what items they may consider important.
How Much Are Heirlooms Worth?
Usually, heirlooms will vary in market value but the bottom line is, they are always worth something to the owner even if it isn’t financially. It therefore, isn’t advisable to dismiss an heirloom as “not worth much” without first having an expert’s appraisal.
Getting an appraisal from an expert isn’t as effortless or cheap as it sounds but this is the surest way to find out if the item is worth anything.
25 Best Family Heirlooms
From jewelry to clothing and accessories and recipe ideas, here are some of the 25 best – most common- family heirlooms to consider as you build your family heirloom.
This is the most common heirloom among many people because jewelry tends to be valuable a lot of the time. It may be a statement bangle, necklace or an engagement ring with a precious stone in it or a simple jewelry piece that is without much value but sentimental. All those earrings, lockets, brooches and other items make for great family jewelry inheritance options.
This makes for such a great heirloom really. If you’ve had that bed, dining table or rocking chair passed onto you, you know how convenient it is on top of being the new owner of a family treasure. Why? You won’t need to go buying another rocking chair or bed and you instead use that money for a refurnish or on a different thing altogether if style isn’t a concern for you.
3. Musical Instruments
That cute shy guy in your class who liked to play guitar and carried it everywhere probably inherited it from his grandpa. Musical instruments can be quite expensive or just have sentimental value. Even much better if they are skillfully crafted because it makes them durable and therefore common heirlooms.
Be it a grand piano, we’ve seen lots of them get passed down, or a tambourine, musical instruments are such a perfect family keepsake.
A family heirloom that tells the tale of time sounds just about right. No wonder almost everyone today owns a pocket watch that was given to them by their father or grandfather. In fact, most homes have a vintage clock on their wall that has been in the family for years. Timepieces including clocks and stone sundials are everything really.
Now this is another family heirloom that we all would want. You get to prepare family favorites effortlessly following a hand me down recipe book that your mama gave you. By cooking a lost loved one’s heirloom handwritten recipe, we remember them and their legacy lives on.
6. Letters, Scrapbooks and Diaries
We know old souls who still love handwritten letters today. They enjoy keeping a diary for personal accounts, scrapbooks and practice bullet journaling every so often. We’d bet these people learned this art and even have love letters that their great grandparents and the forbearers before them wrote. Our loved ones’ personalities shine right through these intimate memorabilia.
7. Bibles and other books
If you saw your mum’s bible or books with names of family members and the dates of their demise written on them, there can only be one explanation. The bible or book was an heirloom. They are some of the most treasured heirlooms as they can be autographed copies, first editions or favorite books.
8. Military memorabilia
Families that lost a loved one to war or after leaving military service will always have a memento that reminds them of the person. This could be a medal, boots, or a weapon, simply anything military related that the loved one owned.
9. Small Weapons
These may be a pocket knife used by a sailor family member or a sword that easily reflects the loved ones status rank in the society. The weapons were initially made of iron or steel but makers shifted to the more durable steel in the late 1800s.
It is standard for every home to have a quilt, doesn’t matter how it came about. While they can easily be bought today, quilts were usually made by the women in the home and customized to represent the family’s history or heritage. The materials used to make quilts are diverse and include silk, cotton and wool. Most people display their quilts on a stand, hang them on the wall or use it for warmth on the couch or bed where they can take in the quality and skill their loved one put into making them.
11. Land or Family Home
Maybe this should have come at the top because it is a very common family heirloom around the world. Everyone knows how hard it is to acquire a piece of land or a home and so everyone would want to inherit these things. A home which multiple generations have lived in is a powerful representation of a lineage’s endurance over the decades.
We know people who love and enjoy collecting things. These may be stamps, coins, baseball cards, postcards, figurines, name them. Most of the time, these people do this because it brings them joy but also because they are hoping to pass down their collection to someone who will add on to it and pass it down to another. The good thing thing is you end up owning different things and many of the collections
If a loved one collected coins, stamps, figurines, baseball cards, or anything else, the collection is likely to be passed down to the next generation. Many collections’ value increases with time too, so a collection heirloom may be worth a hefty amount..
Yes, clothing qualifies as heirlooms too. Wedding gowns and other vintage wear especially. We all want to save our favorite clothing pieces because it probably cost us a good chunk of money to acquire them or we are just attached to them and would want those close to us to have them in the end after we are gone.
14. Photos, Photo albums, and Yearbooks
Remember going through your family’s photo albums as a child? Oops! Some Gen Z have no idea how that feels having grown up in the age of phone photo albums. Either way, we all get the gist. A meaningful way to keep family memories for the coming generations is through photo albums and yearbooks.
Think about it, what item in your kitchen would you want your kid to have and pass it down to their kid? It could be something as simple as a cookie jar because no one enjoys making and eating cookies more than you. A cast iron skillet may be? Quality kitchenware from the previous generations means we can get functional and sentimental value from one thing in the kitchen.
16. Vegetable Seeds
Still on that kitchen streak, now would be a good time to know that vegetables are heirlooms in some families too. Well, not the one you’re thinking about right now – actual tomatoes – but plants. People have passed down seeds of vegetables, flowers and fruits over the years and even named some varieties after these families.
17. Cedar chests and steamer trunks
Another common family heirloom is a chest or trunk. In movies, these most contain super valuable possessions that are inherited from one generation to the next but they don’t necessarily need to cost million of dollars for them to be treasured.Steamer trunks are a good example of the latter as they were used to carry one’s most valued possessions as they traveled or immigrated to new places.
18. Embroidered Linens
We left out hope chests so we could talk about them here. A young woman preparing for marriage would keep a hope chest with her handicraft. Some of these handicrafts were handkerchiefs, pillowcases and embroidered linen. They would be used in her new home and passed down to the younger generation.
Besides being a way of people to express themselves creatively, artwork also makes for good interior decor. Now imagine having a vintage heirloom art from a popular artist passed down to you? You get to be part of telling your family lineage story and quest to preserve its heritage. Heck, you could even make a lot of money from selling the art piece if worse comes to worse.
Now this is one interesting heirloom if you ask us. You can’t touch a story but you can hear and feel it, how sentimental! Family stories that are passed onto coming generations are some of the most cherished intangible heirlooms you will come across. We keep our loved ones alive by telling these stories over and over which also ensures they are not completely forgotten.
While it may be hard to save every toy we own as children, there is always one or two we have a hard time letting go of. This could be because we got them as a gift or had them passed down to us, bottomline is they remind us of a moment or someone.one may even assume that their children and those after them will enjoy playing with them and thus these toys qualify as family heirloom.
Not many people want to deal with tools like carpentry tools but their importance has never been overemphasized for any household. Yes a plumber will come with his tools, but it’s good to be prepared. That is how tools like hammers ended up becoming a family heirloom as each generation passed its tools to the next.
23. School Work
This may sound like a newer family heirloom practice but we are willing to bet it is one that has existed for a while. People want to save some of their school work so they can show it to their children. It could be a particular art project and there is no doubt that it will mean the world to the little loved one who receives it.
24. Holiday Decorations
Anyone who has tried shopping for holiday decorations such as wreaths, candles and menorahs will tell you how much of a task it is. Not to mention how many dollars these things can cost, it would be absolute joy to have them passed down to you. We love a good saving point and the holiday memories live on for the family.
25. Precisely Anything!
This last family heirloom idea is what we have been saying from the start. Anything can and will qualify as a family heirloom as long as it has monetary or sentimental value attached to it. It doesn’t have to fit what anyone thinks an heirloom should be as long as it is unique and something the family considers special.
Who Will You Pass It Down To?
Say you have this diary or antique watch and are confused about who you should pass it down to in the family. When the options aren’t many, it is simple to decide on one person but that isn’t always the case unless there is only one person. If one is not careful, these family heirlooms which are meant to unite a family’s present and future can be a source of strife and separation.
The best thing is to put a hierarchy in place. Come up with the rules for passing down each family heirloom.
Here are some rules you might want to consider while making the decision;
Most times, you will trust your blood relatives and more so those you share a close bond with more than anyone else. Immediate family has an upper hand and better claim compared to extended or close family friends.
A person who has an unmediated relation with the family heirloom is best to receive it because they aren’t a total stranger to it. Take for instance, a son who stays at home and one who moved. The one who stays at home instead of visiting regularly should be considered first.
Consider who is to be trusted in taking good care of the heirloom and ensuring it remains in perfect condition until the next keeper. Make sure the successor actually wants it because if they do, they will definitely take good care of it. If no one wants it, the heirloom may be donated to charity.
Preserving Top Family Heirlooms
To ensure your family heirloom piece survives, there aren’t as many secrets. If anything it is only one – keeping it in great condition. That is why the keeper must want it so they can care for it.
Here is how they go about it;
Good Storage Environment
This is always a major factor even for other things. Find out what storage conditions are best for each item you own. A basis would be to keep your heirlooms away from extreme temperatures, pests, acids, water and other liquids.
Handle Them Gently
The surest way to ensure family heirlooms last for generations is to not handle them at all. However, if you must handle any family heirloom, let it be gently. Most of them including antique furniture and vintage clothing are used daily and this increases their chances of wearing out. If stored on shelves as decor pieces, handle delicate heirlooms gently as well and store them in protective cases.
Proper cleaning of your heirlooms is essential and unlike most people would assume proper cleaning to be, heirloom pieces though durable may not stand the chemicals in today’s cleaners. Clean them as gently as possible preferably with natural ingredients like lime juice and vinegar.
Don’t Spoil It Fixing It
We know you can fix small flaws around your house but on your heirlooms please don’t be so quick. You might end up putting more damage on it so why not just hire a professional with the expertise and material to restore or repair your heirloom?
Whichever direction you decide to go with your family heirloom, remember that while the monetary value of your heirloom is important, it doesn’t trump the sentimental value you attach to that thing based on perspectives, memories and lessons from past generations.