When cleaning out Grandma’s attic, are you making decisions based on memories, just guessing an object’s value as you go? When it comes to your valuable objects, would you recognize the treasures from the trash?

My quiz game, “Dumpster or No Dumpster,” will help you use your antiques knowledge to determine whether you should throw something out or keep it.

You may have already done this when you were downsizing, sorting out belongings during a heated divorce, settling your parents’ estate, or just cleaning out the clutter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, do you know if you made the right choice about your stuff?

Using my education and experience evaluating approximately 20,000 objects every year, many in homes like yours, my job is to research the market and provide accurate appraisals based on actual sales records.

If you’ve read my columns over the years, watched me on TV, or attended my public-appraisal events, then you know how fun it is to test your knowledge with the “Dumpster or No Dumpster” quiz.


1. Your family is cleaning out Grandma’s house. Your brother-in-law wants to throw out Grandma’s vintage Shiny Brite Christmas ornaments from the 1950s. Your sister-in-law wants to throw out Grandpa’s Lionel train set. Who is making the bigger mistake by tossing a family heirloom?


A. Brother-in-law who wants to toss the Christmas ornaments

B. Sister-in-law who wants to toss the Lionel train set

C. Both brother-in-law and sister-in-law


Answer: C. Both pieces headed to the Dumpster could bring hundreds to thousands of dollars.

For instance, if you sell the Christmas ornaments at prime holiday-selling time, from Nov. 1 to Jan. 1, you will do best to bring home a good return.

And, you should list and sell each ornament individually on eBay, Etsy, or Ruby Lane, highlighting its best attributes in your listing with a clear, closely cropped photograph.

For a large collection of Christmas ornaments by Shiny Brite, Christopher Radko, and other name brands, you can command several hundreds of dollars for them at holiday time when people are looking for ornaments that spark memories while decorating the tree.

The value of all of them increases a little more by keeping them in the original box.

Similarly, your sister-in-law probably doesn’t know that depending on the condition, pieces included in the set, its gauge, and the rarity of the Lionel train set, it can be worth thousands when selling online.

2. In the purest definition of the word, which object has been patinated?


A. A Bakelite bracelet

B. A bronze sculpture of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer


Answer: B. When discussing sculpture, patina references the application of pigment on cast metal in a foundry environment.

Knowing the vocabulary of antiques helps to properly identify what you have and find out, with an appraiser’s help, what it’s truly worth.


3. Mother is downsizing and moving to an active senior living community to be near some of her friends. She tells you and your sister to share the Spode holiday china service for 12 featuring the decorated holiday tree.

Mother wants to be fair, so she splits up the Spode service evenly between you and your sister. This seems fair, but is this a good idea for long-term value?


A. It is never a good idea to split up sets.

B. It is fine to split up a set as long as it is split equally.


Answer: A. China sets should be kept intact to preserve value and condition. Keep sets in the same environment so they may age evenly over time.

While it is difficult to choose who gets a beloved holiday set of china when it comes to family heirlooms, it is a good idea to gift one sister the entire holiday china set and give the other sister another family heirloom of similar value and equal family and sentimental importance.

To make things fair, the sister who got the china service can be given the chore of always inviting the other sister over for holiday dinner!


You stand to lose a lot of money when you play “Dumpster or No Dumpster” in your grandma’s attic without expert advice, so be sure to ask me if you need to know what goes into the Dumpster and what does not.

Don’t just guess what’s valuable; play “Dumpster or No Dumpster” with me regularly on social media and YouTube.


Dr. Lori Verderame is the award-winning Ph.D. antiques appraiser on History channel’s No. 1 hit show about the world’s oldest treasure hunt, The Curse of Oak Island. For more information, visit www.DrLoriV.com and www.YouTube.com/DrLoriV.

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