Nostalgia, Psychology

Sentimental Value

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As a kid, my father and I frequently tuned in to PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. Despite it’s seemingly geriatric following, the show had the universal appeal of great emotional suspense. Every episode had me on the edge of my seat. Someone could discover the painting they found in the garbage to be worth thousands, while another person’s smug smile shattered with the realization that their Auntie Sue’s turn of the century, Tiffany vase was in fact a popular dupe complete with a phony signature. I was also consistently impressed by the esoteric knowledge of the appraisers. Two or three tiny details meant the difference in two or three decimal places of an object’s estimated value.


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The most inquisitive aspect of the show for me was pondering what happened after a celebratory reaction took place. In some cases, the antique at hand was haphazardly acquired. This made decision of whether or not to cash in on it seemingly obvious to a non-collector like myself. In most cases, however, the antique had a story behind it. It may have been an exotic trinket brought home from a war, a staple toy from someone’s childhood, or a family heirloom passed down for generations. I often wondered if the awe-inspiring price tags revealed for these objects ever caused hesitation with the owners. “What if I told you this is worth…”, were the famous, instigating words posed by the appraisers. Regardless of whether or not that rhetorical question was answered, the part you never got to see was what happened next.

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Sentimental value is the notion that something possesses such strong ties to our identity (personal,collective or cultural) via a part of our past that it is considered priceless. It transcends any economic designation. It seems that we all have varying tendencies to assign object’s with this construct. For me personally, I’ve never been one to get attached to things. I’d classify myself as a purger over a hoarder. I tend to think experiences trump objects. However, I can see why in some cases one would feel obliged to uphold an object’s legacy if it evokes experiential memories. I have not yet been bequeathed a family artifact but when I do I will probably take photograph of it, laminate it,  and write on the back the address to the museum where I sent it.

Let me know, comment below:   Do you assign sentimental value to things?

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