If you have your heirloom china, crystal, porcelain and knickknacks in a lighted china closet or display case with lamps inside, don’t position your collectibles too close to the lamps. Once, during an in-home appraisal service call, I had to break the news to a Waterford crystal collector who had her entire collection on display in just such a cabinet.
She told me that every Sunday she turned on the lights inside that cabinet so her dinner guests could admire her lovely collection. Well, I found all of the damage that they were admiring. All of those Waterford pieces on the top shelf — the ones closest to the lights — were cracked from the heat trapped in that glass display cabinet. My client had been unknowingly damaging her crystal with a weekly dose of high-intensity heat.
And, like the hot china cabinet, another poor locale for storing your art or antiques is the attic, where temperature and humidity changes take place as often as the seasons change. The basement has all the room in the world for the storage of treasures such as china and crystal, yet it usually too damp to store those precious pieces.
Now that you know where not to store your stuff, here’s a tip on how to store it: no cardboard boxes. They attract bugs, are high in acid content and will stain your ceramics, photographs and works on paper. Cardboard boxes will soak up any water like a sponge. Water means moisture and moisture means mold — then we have a recipe for disaster.
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I have had clients and audience members ask me, “Dr. Lori, what if my antique or collectible (like my circa 1930s Mickey Mouse child’s tea set worth $500) came in a cardboard box originally? Should I keep that box?” Just because it came in a cardboard box, doesn’t mean it has to stay in a cardboard box when you store it.
The original box should be kept and does have value, but to preserve the antique object long term, take it out of the cardboard box for long-term storage. Depending on what your object is, store the object and the box separately wrapped in acid-free paper or in a plastic tub.
Remember bubble wrap is not for long-term storage, but instead it is for short-term transport. You should wrap your heirlooms in white, acid-free tissue paper or white cotton cloths but never in bubble wrap for long-term storage. Bubble wrap traps heat, and it captures damaging moisture. You want to keep your art and antiques dry and in good shape even while you are storing them.
Lori Verderame is an antiques appraiser, nationally syndicated columnist and author, and award-winning TV personality.