$$$ in the Attic

Old letters and diaries may be far from worthless

When my 93-year-oldĀ mother-in-law died several months ago, my husband and I did three things with her personal property. First, we took what we wanted and then hired an estate liquidator for the rest. Finally, we bought a paper shredder for the boxes of stuff that took up most of her basement--old handwritten receipts, meticulous business ledgers, military correspondence, personal (but not too personal) letters and even my mother-in-law's report cards from Brown University (then Pembroke, class of '33).

The estate liquidator quickly rendered the paper shredder almost unnecessary. "There's a strong market for ephemera," she told us. "I can sell whatever...

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