Pamela Tells All About Your Possessions: Buying & Inheriting






You may have seen our Chicago-based arts and antiques columnist, Pamela Pierrepont Bardo, shuttling between the Woman’s Athletic Club, the Casino, the Arts Club, and fashionable Chicago and North Shore residences. A former museum director, she’s a certified professional appraiser, and here offers her best advice on dealing with your life possessions. She tells you how to acquire, care for, and let go of your valued assets.


…Pamela Tells All About Your Possessions: Buying & Inheriting


For many of you, the contents of your home are often more valuable than the real estate itself! Many people are surprised to learn that possessions move in a life cycle in our lives too. In our earlier years we do more acquiring, in our mid-life we tend to concentrate on maintaining, and in the later years we think about the letting go of our possessions. Your paintings, silver, oriental rugs, engagement ring are your money. Possessions are usually  passed down through the female line. Women inherit the jewelry and the crystal and china in most estates. Men usually fall heir to the real estate, boats, and cars. 

Women and wealth? According to Morgan Stanley as of 2022, women own or control 33% of the wealth in the U.S. and according to NerdWallet women trade 48 % of the stocks on the N.Y. Stock Exchange.

Regardless of gender, it is smart to learn about what you want to own before you own it! You can acquire by auction, estate sale,  retail purchase, or inheritance. With a private dealer, you can establish an on-going working relationship. You can use his expertise to make good purchases and learn from, hold him accountable for what he says and does and what you paid for, and build a collection just like you would with stocks and bonds and a financial advisor. Also, under many circumstances a purchase from a dealer can be exchanged or returned.

Going to auctions can be exciting and profitable! But do it the smart way–send a professional appraiser to the auction house to check-out the object and do some homework before you buy it. With auctions, what you see is what you get. There are no returns or exchanges. There are buyer’s premiums don’t forget. You have to know what you are looking at before buying it. It is up to you to decide how high you will go in bidding for the work because it only takes two people with financial means who want the same work at the same point in time to escalate the price above any estimate. Auction is the roll of the dice. You could also get lucky.  Another reminder about auction: You cannot expect the same instrument to both provide you with the highest yield for your property when selling and be the source of the greatest bargains in the world.


1960’s Baker Breakfront                                                                                                              18th Century George III Breakfront


Another method of acquisition is inheritance. If property is not specifically listed in a will or other legal instrument, you can be sentimental and smart when making your choices of what to take. No need to go to war with your siblings over that diamond brooch or the set of Chippendale chairs! You have the right to have a professional appraiser review the property with you and old insurance and appraisal reports before you make your final selections. The appraiser can discuss with you what is going to rise in value and what are smart choices and why, so you don’t “Act in haste, repent at leisure”.  

Why snap up a 1960’s Baker breakfront over a real 18th Century George III breakfront that just needs some repairs? Real antiques and fine arts usually appreciate. Reproduction fine art and furniture depreciate. Bottom line: the quality of your valuables is only as good as the advice you receive about them. 


Next month: Read all about saving big money on insuring the valuable possessions in your home.