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Could you have a valuable heirloom in your closet?

You might have a valuable piece of family history without even knowing it.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — You could have a valuable family heirloom tucked away in your closet and not even realize it. On a recent trip home to visit my family, my mother pulled out a quilt from her linen closet that has been passed down in our family for generations. This was the first time I’d ever seen it, and she was passing it on to me.

Inside an old linen pillowcase was a beautiful blue velvet quilt with a handwritten note from my late grandmother. It said the quilt was made by my great-great-great-grandmother who was born in the 1800s.

Curious about the story it told and if it was a collector’s item, I took it to QuiltFest Jacksonville, an event going on through Saturday at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

Brenda Grampsas is a certified quilt appraiser who helps unravel the stories of quilts.

“It's a crazy quilt. It's made of velvet,” Grampsas said. “Crazy quilts were very popular. They were a fad they started in the 1870s and they were so popular everyone wanted to make them.”

The quilt features ribbons with 1902 and 1904 on them and a picture of President Grover Cleveland and his wife. At first glance, it appears the quilt was made in the early 1900s. But looking closer Grampsas finds clues that tell a different story. 

“I'm seeing some things that are telling us this was probably repaired in the early 1900s, but I think it was actually made earlier than that,” Grampsas said. “We're seeing a piece that has oil painting underneath it. And someone has put on very skillfully another patch over the top.”

Grampsas thinks the quilt was likely made in the 1880s

“So, I think you have an older piece,” Grampsas said. “And this was not made by the person that you thought it was. It's actually been made by someone before her time.”

The sentimental value is priceless, but what would a collector pay for it?

“Looking at this and the condition it's in I would say you're looking at about $400 would be the value of this,” Grampsas said.

The value can depend on how many of a particular style are in circulation. She shared a valuable piece of advice for storing your quilt, the fewer creases the better to prevent damage.

“When you're folding your quilts, you should always look for a new line to fold it on. And they should be refolded about every about every three months,” Grampsas said.

And don’t put anything on top of your quilt in your closet because that could make the creases worse. Always store it in an air-conditioned room out of direct sunlight.

Grampsas suggests including a note with your quilt explaining its story and when it was made. Just make sure not to put paper next to the quilt. Put the paper in a protective cover so the acid from the paper doesn’t harm the quilt.

If you want to have your quilt appraised contact a local quilt guild or a certified quilt appraiser. You can also visit QuiltFest Jacksonville Saturday September 15, 2023 where Grampsas has a booth. 450 quilts on exhibit. Visit www.quiltfestjax.com for details.

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