1. Insignificant objects from significant occasions.
People should pass along the diamonds and the Picassos. Kidding! In all seriousness, focus on keepsakes that represent something you’re passionate about, things that will help your kids understand what matters to you. In 1968 I went to a concert in London featuring the Doors and Jefferson Airplane. A handbill was given out, and I held on to it. I kept it in a folder, and each time I moved, I would find it again. I didn’t think much about it until I talked to the person who appraises rock memorabilia for the TV show I appear on. To my surprise, that handbill was valued at about $1,000. But, of course, in terms of nostalgic value, it’s worth even more.
Eric Silver is the director of Lillian Nassau, a New York City–based antiques gallery, and an appraiser on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.
2. Something mortifying from your childhood.
You should hang on to your most awkward teen memento so your kids know that you can relate to them. I’m thinking of the photo where you and your sisters were forced to wear matching outfits or the one in which you piled on top of your family in a pyramid formation. Mine shows me (at age 14), my brother, and my parents in skis at the top of a mountain, doing a Rockettes kick line. It actually inspired me to create the website AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com. For many years, I thought the photo was embarrassing; now I see the beauty in it. We all love our families, but there is value in capturing not just the great moments we share with them but the weird ones, too. They’re often the most revealing.
Mike Bender is the cofounder of AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com.
3. Your practical, high-quality household items.
People really love getting stuff they can use: those big soup ladles, or prayer books and Rosary beads, which are functional while helping people feel close to their ancestors. One of my clients was thrilled to find candle-sticks that had belonged to her great-grandmother. Now she plans to light them during her weekly Shabbat dinners. Family history doesn’t do any good when it’s stuck in a drawer.
Rafael Guber is a consulting genealogist to the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, in Los Angeles.