Selling a cello, hoping to not lose a sister, too.
September 24, 2013 11:32 AM   Subscribe

How do I tell my sister I'm selling our mother's cello?

I've had the cello for 14 years. Our mother lent it to me my senior year of high school; she died less than a year later. It's been in my possession ever since. Our father died 3.5 years ago, and that's when we split up the estate. We talked about the cello at that time, and mutually decided it was mine.

In the last three years, it has been clear we feel differently about the items we own that belonged to our parents. I feel what she took is hers: she can sell something for money, give something away, use something, whatever. She feels differently. She still talks about things like they're ours; if one of us doesn't want something anymore, the other has right to it. I'm in the midst of moving, and on the phone I casually mentioned I was selling a collection of some things, and she immediately asked for one of them.

The cello is an emotionally charged item, an iconic emblem of our mom, and it was a very, very difficult decision for me to sell it. I feel of course my sister needs to know it's leaving the family, but I'm 90% sure she'll ask me for it, and that opens up a really complicated question of how to get it to her. She lives a plane ride away, and I'm in the middle of moving clear across the country. I also want the money it's worth, because the cello is mine. I feel it's my possession, particularly after I've cared for it for 14 years, and I have the right to make decisions regarding it. I have no idea how to tell my sister, no, you can't have it, but you can buy it from me. We're tenuously building a new, better relationship between us, and I'm pretty sure she'd be aghast at that request.

How do I tell her I've made this decision?
posted by missmary6 to Human Relations (59 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you don't have to tell her that you've made this decision. After you've sold it, if she ever asks about the cello, you can tell her "sadly, I no longer have it," and then change the subject.

She might press for information. I'm not advocating that you lie to her, but you can tell her whatever you want about where the cello went.
posted by bilabial at 11:36 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


You can tell her the way you've told us; however, there's absolutely no way you can tell her that guarantees the reaction you desire. From what you've said, she will probably insist upon taking it, she will be aghast at paying full value, and she will be very upset if you go ahead and sell it.

You will simply have to be clear and firm, and accept the fallout. There is no convincing her that you're "right" and have her not be angry.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:36 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's better to ask forgiveness than to seek permission.
posted by resurrexit at 11:37 AM on September 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think you should rethink your decision to sell the cello. I totally understand where you are coming from and I would share your perspective on possessions for the most part, but if my sister sold my mom's piano without offering it to me first, we would have a very serious problem.

If she doesn't want it, it's easy. If she does want it, she should pay for it to be shipped to her - this really isn't an insurmountable problem. Expecting her to pay you for it is a little off as well, I think. The main value of the cello is not financial, it's sentimental. I think you have to honor your sister's attachment to your mom/her cello over your financial need.
posted by yogalemon at 11:40 AM on September 24, 2013 [111 favorites]


Just to make things even more confusing for you (poor thing), I'm suggesting a third option - tell her you need to get rid of it, but at the same time tell her what a real and serious hassle getting it to her would be. Insist that if she wants it, that she be the one to do the legwork involved in arranging shipping, because hell, you've got enough going on.

It's very possible that, once confronted with taking responsibility for shipping/transport, she'll realize "wait, I see what you mean" and say "fuck it, sell the thing".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on September 24, 2013 [36 favorites]


Be generous at heart about this. If you really need the money from the cello, then tell her you really need the money and have to sell it, and that doing so is how you are translating your mother's gift to you. However, generously offer her the first chance to buy it and consider reducing the price so that you can still benefit but so can she. "I have to sell it but I wanted you to be the first to have the chance to buy it." If she wants to, then help her to figure out how to get the cello. Maybe it is even worth it to her to come out and get it.
posted by third rail at 11:43 AM on September 24, 2013 [42 favorites]


I think you should offer her the chance to buy it before you sell it. I've been on the other side.
posted by feste at 11:43 AM on September 24, 2013 [23 favorites]


Tell her that you are going to sell it. Give her the option to buy it at a fair price.
posted by Good Brain at 11:50 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm 90% sure she'll ask me for it, and that opens up a really complicated question of how to get it to her. She lives a plane ride away, and I'm in the middle of moving clear across the country.

It's not that I don't see where you're coming from, but I think this particular part is a little bogus. People ship musical instruments all the time. I don't see why shipping it to her would be any more complicated than the shipping of any other musical instrument that happens every day.

I'm guessing it just seems like a headache on top of something that you already resent. But, I think offering her the chance to buy the cello and have it shipped to her is the right thing to do in this situation, if you want to preserve your relationship with her.

I think you could send her an email saying something like,

"Blah blah blah a few paragraphs about your life. I've also decided it's time for me to part with Mom's cello. It was a very hard decision to make, but after 14 years, I think it is time. I thought you would definitely want to know before I begin the process of selling it. "

Then say something else about your life. If she wants the cello or wants to buy the cello, then she can reply and say something and you can deal with it then, but despite how she has acted about other things, don't assume that she wants the cello! She might not! So if you go into it assuming she does it actually might create an issue where there wouldn't have been one.
posted by cairdeas at 11:51 AM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


I agree that it would be good to give her the right of first refusal on this. If you live in the US, you can take it to a UPS store or similar and they will package it up for you. Or a music store may do this (for a fee of course).
posted by dawkins_7 at 11:52 AM on September 24, 2013


As the child of a deceased musician, I would like to encourage you to give your sister a chance to take the cello. She should pay for shipping.
posted by matildaben at 11:54 AM on September 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'd call her up and really discuss with her the financial issues that you are having. "I'm moving, there's so much to do, everything is so expensive. It's heart-wrenching, but I'm going to sell Mom's cello. I've had it all these years and it just doesn't make sense to keep moving it. I know that it's going to go to someone who will use it and play it, and I think that's the best way to honor Mom. That poor cello must be miserable sitting around un-played." Then let your sister talk.

Either she's on-board, knowing that an un-played musical instrument is a sad, sad thing. Or she wants to hoard it for herself. In which case say, "I'd love to just give it to you, but I really need the money. Would you like to buy it from me?" If it comes to actually paying money for it, she may decide that she doesn't want it that much.

How much money are we talking about here? A couple hundred dollars, or a couple grand?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:55 AM on September 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


Another point you might make... the cello will now be played by someone who loves it. That would likely please your mother's musician heart. My instrument was sold to me at a very kind price because it's owner's survivors wanted it to go to someone promising. Perhaps a plan to pass along info about the musician who will be playing it will help your sister come to terms with its disposition. The cello should be played or it will deteriorate.

Or on non-preview, what RuthlessBunny said.
posted by carmicha at 11:57 AM on September 24, 2013


Do you know if she feels this way about your parent's belongings because of sentimental value or because she's possessive/greedy/etc? Like, would she feel this way about one of your parent's possessions if it had sentimental value but no monetary value? That's how I'd make my choice clearer.
posted by pibeandres at 11:59 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll second what Ruthless Bunny and carmicha wrote, with a caveat: if your sister is a cellist, and would play the instrument, then I'd give it to her or, if I sold it, do so for a nominal price. If she's not a cellist, then use their argument: would your mom have wanted her cello sitting unused in a closet, or played by a musician?
posted by brianogilvie at 12:02 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're tenuously building a new, better relationship between us, and I'm pretty sure she'd be aghast at that request.

In the interest of this better relationship consider eating the value of the cello. Ask her if she wants it, and if she does, offer to send it to her if she pays shipping. If she says she doesn't want it make it clear you are selling it. if she still doesn't want it then sell it. Remember, you may need her kidney someday.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:03 PM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


So... your sister is basically of the "what's mine is mine, what's yours is ours" school of thought? Fun.

Offer her the right to purchase anything formerly your parents'; the caveat here is that
a) she has to meet or exceed the amount anyone else has offered: there's no 'family discount'; and
b) she pays all shipping costs in addition to the purchase price --- the purchase price does not include shipping, unless shipping would have been included in the amount a total stranger paid, too; and
c) she has to both pay you and arrange the shipping (to include pickup of large items, like the cello, from your home) by a pre-specified date after any individual purchase.
posted by easily confused at 12:08 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see why shipping it to her would be any more complicated than the shipping of any other musical instrument that happens every day.

Well, size seems like an obvious complication that will at the least incur extra cost. And I see no evidence that the OP ships other musical instruments on a regular basis, so perhaps a better benchmark is 'more complicated than mailing a couple of books'.
posted by jacalata at 12:09 PM on September 24, 2013


Offer her the cello, explain you are in the process of moving so she'll have to arrange or pay for shipping, I'd just take it to a . If you need the money from selling the cello for some reason then offer to sell it to her. Unless it is a particularly valuable instrument I don't think it is worth alienating her over it. If you do want to establish your "right" to sell the items you have maybe start with a less emotionally charged piece.

My point of reference. My brother came and took my fathers cameras out of his house after he died, sold them 2 weeks later, my father loved photography and it was one of the few things my father and I had in common. I would have loved to have them to remember him by, and remember my brothers selfishness in all my dealings with him since then. (though he has done much worse things since then too).

I love the different responses, they confirm my mothers theory that there is always one family member that is the keeper of that generations memories and the ones that just see's it all as stuff.
posted by wwax at 12:18 PM on September 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


My family also possesses an irreplaceable musical instrument. My sister will almost definitely end up owning it in the future. If she felt she needed to sell it, I would not hesitate to buy it from her for the appraised value. If family inheritances are so "communal" to your sister, then money should be at least functionally communal to the point where she should be able to provide you with the money you were hoping to get from the cello. If she can't, then she just has to accept that "the family" did not have the financial means to keep the cello.

I, of course, would make the financial sacrifices necessary to keep it. Being "the sentimental one" requires certain financial obligations, and it looks like your sister will have to assume them if she wants to be that person since you are not that person.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 12:20 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does she have something of you mother's that you'd take in exchange? Maybe a piece of jewelry or a smaller treasured item? If so, trade with her. If not, then give her the right to buy and ship the cello to herself before putting it up for sale to the public.

If you're both working toward strengthening your relationship, she shouldn't jeopardize that by insisting that she's entitled to have the cello without giving you anything in exchange. Being aghast by a fair and honest arrangement doesn't sound like a balanced response.
posted by quince at 12:25 PM on September 24, 2013


"Hey, I wanted to talk to you about mom's cello. I am in a financial position where I need to sell it before I move. I can't afford to give it to you, let alone fly it to you, but I also know that you are very attached to it. What do you want to do?"
posted by feets at 12:26 PM on September 24, 2013 [29 favorites]


I'm not advocating that you lie to her

I am. If she asks, I'd tell her you gave it to a budding young cellist at a local music school in your current location when it became clear you were not playing it as much as your mother would have liked.

It's yours, singular, and despite the fact that she insists on behaving as if it yours, plural, you are not obligated to behave as if she is correct. You are also not obligated to subject yourself to discord over an object that is none of her business, and you don't "owe her the truth" just because she wants to play by a different set of rules than you do.

Caveat: I am a person who needs to very carefully manage my relationships with my sisters in order to continue having them, and I value social lubrication over honesty and sisterhood over conflict. YMMV.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:31 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Dear Sister,

I am afraid that I have make the hard decision to sell some of my posessions to be able to move. One of these is mom's old cello. I've had it appraised and it is worth $X. I know that keeping it in the family is a priority for you (and I'd like to see it remain in the family, too), so I wanted to give you the opportunity to buy it from me. The price for you would be $Y (where Y is a bit cheaper than X).

I hope you can understand how difficult this decision to sell it is. Please let me know by (date) if you would like to buy it.

Love,
Your Sibling"
posted by inturnaround at 12:44 PM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've been on the other side of this: we had been given joint toys/things as kids, and after leaving the nest, they had been split during adulthood. For me, the material split of things was always for practical/logistical reasons (we can't both hold onto the item, so it makes sense that one person has physical possession of it), but emotionally, it is still both of ours.

A couple of years ago, I found out that my sibling had given the gift away. It wasn't worth much, they had reasoned, and it was better it was used. This killed me, because it had been worth something very deep to me. But, it was also good, since I learned that they and I had different attachments to the items. Later, when their next move was coming up, I proactively asked if any of these joint items wouldn't be making the move with them. I offered to pay for shipping, and a price for the items. They now live with me, and make me happy when I see them.

With my extended family, we now have an established practice that before we sell any heirlooms, we check with each other if someone else wants to buy them. Its understood that you may need money/declutter, but that this is more respectful to the family and the heritage of the items. If no one wants to buy it, then the rest of the world gets a chance.

Don't make up some story about giving it away. Its silly, juvenile, and doesn't make anyone that happy. You'll always feel a little guilty about it, and your sister will feel slighted that you didn't think to ask her.

Unless you had an explicit, clear discussion with your sister about how the divided estate would be treated, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you are interested in the relationship with your sister, definitely give her the first right of refusal. It is ok to ask for payment for the instrument - just make sure it is fair. (As an amateur cellist myself, I can tell you there is a big variability in price, depending on maker, condition...). Your sister may prefer it to be a gift, but chances are she will vastly prefer being offered the chance to buy it over it just being sold/given away. Its ok to bring this aspect up in a gentle way.
posted by troytroy at 12:58 PM on September 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Our father died 3.5 years ago, and that's when we split up the estate. We talked about the cello at that time, and mutually decided it was mine.

If, at that time, you had said "the cello is mine and I am going to sell it," do you think that your sister would have said "sounds good to me"?

I agree with everyone that you should at LEAST tell her first before selling it. If she is able to buy it from you, what's the harm? And if she isn't, well, it's not like you could take the secret of having sold the cello to your grave; she will find out eventually, pay her the respect of not hiding this from her.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:59 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you mutually decided that the cello is yours, it's yours, and when things are yours you can do what you want with them.

That doesn't mean your sister won't be upset, because emotional reactions to things associated with the profound grief of losing a parent don't tend to be rational. She is entitled to feel however she feels, no matter how crazy-making it is for you.

I think you need to decide what you value more--continuing to improve your relationship with your sister, or your ability to do as you choose with the cello. You may not be able to have both things go your way, which is every bit as unfair and annoying as it feels.
posted by jesourie at 1:03 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think your position is reasonable, and you have gotten some great tips on how to have this conversation with your sister. The only thing I'd add is that this line stuck out at me, because I was a musician and I also have experience mediating family disputes:

I also want the money it's worth, because the cello is mine.

How much is it worth? You should know the answer to this question before having the conversation with your sister. Emotion-charged discussions tend to get complicated because each person is having a slightly different conversation: you're talking about "one thousand dollars," your sister is talking about "Mom's cello," etc. By nailing down specifics, you can better understand the levels of conversation that are happening. That makes it easier to avoid pitfalls and escalation.

Depending what the answer is, that may change what conversation happens. Maybe it's harder for your sister to justify "Can I have it?" if the cello represents a year's tuition at your kid's parochial school. Or maybe your perspective on the conversation changes if the cello's value is half your weekly paycheck. Either way, it's helpful to know the facts.
posted by cribcage at 1:07 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


That doesn't mean your sister won't be upset, because emotional reactions to things associated with the profound grief of losing a parent don't tend to be rational. She is entitled to feel however she feels, no matter how crazy-making it is for you.

I'd add that it is also not rational to ignore things that you absolutely KNOW are going to happen, just because you think they ought not to happen. Selling it and thinking "she shouldn't get upset about this" would be an irrational way to deal with the near-certainty of her getting upset.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:08 PM on September 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


If a sibling had a treasured family item and planned to sell it, KNEW my emotional attachment to the item and purposefully made sure I was not aware of the selling because they just didn't want to deal with me and my emotions, well, the whole building a new relationship thing would be firmly thrown out the window.

I think you can gain some high ground by offering to sell it to her if she wants it, and dealing with the fallout if she demands you gift it to her, but sneakily selling it off on the side isn't going to win you any brownie points. The whole "forgiveness is easier to get then permission" mantra is the slogan of jerks.

Someone in my family sold off an item for chump change and other members are still frothing mad they weren't given the chance to buy it from them DECADES later. It had some monetary value, but nothing compared to the family story and history (it was sewn into the hem of a dress to prevent soldiers from stealing it during a war and smuggled into a new country.) Clearly that meant dick-all to the person to sold it, but more then a handful of cash to others.
posted by Dynex at 1:18 PM on September 24, 2013 [27 favorites]


FWIW, I decided to sell my dad's saxophones to a reputable restorer/dealer in the field, and donate half the money to a music education charity and split the remaining half between my brother and myself. My brother had no sentimental attachment, so he was fine with this. I'm also planning to get a professional photograph made of the saxophones so I could look at it and remember my father playing them when we were children. I have no reason to keep them because neither myself nor anyone I know can play them.
posted by matildaben at 1:18 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think part of this depends on how much the cello is worth and whether you need the money. Someone said above that the cello's main value is sentimental not financial, but that may not be true. If it is worth a significant sum then your sister may not be able to afford to buy it from you and/or she may feel entitled to half the money.
posted by plonkee at 1:22 PM on September 24, 2013


My mother is still hurt by this sort of loss which occurred in 1977. It still brings tears to her eyes when she sees something that reminds her of the lost object which was, actually, a pram — not something she would ever use. (Her children left their pram days in 1971.)

I don't particularly like my sister, and she is the least sentimental member of my family, but I'd still never do this to her. The "what's mine is mine" argument seems unrealistic given the nature of families, emotional attachment, and the simple fact that two people cannot simultaneously possess one item.

I agree that you should offer the cello to your sister, and work out an agreeable financial and practical solution which may not result in you getting 100% of what you'd get on the open market, but which should be more than zero and a lot of headache.
posted by Capri at 1:22 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am a sentimental person. When my grandmother passed away, I was offered her piano, which I would have to come get (a few hundred miles away). I have fond memories of the piano, and it was old and nifty, I wanted my kids to be able to play it, it was a piece of family history, and so on. Then I looked into the logistics of moving it, and the possibilities of it being damaged during the move, and I decided against moving it. I let it go. My sentimental heart thinks you should offer your sister the option of taking it, but it is possible that she will consider the cost and trouble of coming to get it (plane trip, and so on) and decide against it all on her own, and then you can sell it with a clear conscience. You can tell her that she needs to come get it by X date or needs to be sold. I think that is reasonable.
posted by molasses at 1:47 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


You need to be upfront and honest with your sister, and give her the same info you've given us. Script:

I'm moving and hate to do this, but I have to sell the cello. I've lovingly taken care of it for all these years, but the time has come to let it go. I think Mom would have wanted it to be with someone who will play it and love it as much as we do, and I really need the money. I've determined a value of $X and researched shipping options that will cost another $X. I know you have an emotional attachment to it, so I'm offering to sell it to you for this total amount. I need to move on this soon, but I want you to think about it for the next few days. I need your decision by (specific date at least three days from now). Again, I believe Mom would have wanted it to be played and we would be honoring her memory by letting it go to a new home where that will happen.
posted by raisingsand at 1:48 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sister, For various reasons, I'm selling Mom's cello. I knew you'd want to know. love, missmary
Get an idea of its value 1st. If she wants it, it's only fair that she trade an item of equal value, or pay for it, along with what would likely be appalling shipping charges. Be as accommodating as possible.
posted by theora55 at 1:48 PM on September 24, 2013


dude, if you sell this cello knowing that she is likely attached to it, it will fuck up the relationship you are trying to build/rebuild with her.

do you need the money from this cello? if not, give her the cello (if she does indeed want it). she gets to figure out how it gets to her, but don't not give her the cello out of some kind of spite.

if you really need the money from the sale of this cello, then tell her that. if she really wants it, she will buy it, but this will still offer a blow to the relationship you're trying to build.

if it turns out for whatever reason she doesn't want it, then you're golden!

people get crazy over sentimental family stuff.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:38 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I 100% disagree with the idea that because a family item was loaned to you and you ended up keeping it, that makes it yours such that you're entitled to sell it and pocket the money when you know your sibling would like to have the item. But that's not the point. Because this isn't about who is right or wrong about the ownership of an object. It's about feelings: yours and hers.

Your sister wants this item, which was important to your mother, to stay in the family. If you don't want it anymore, she wants to have it. Whether you think she should want it is irrelevant; you believe that she does want it, and you're intentionally choosing money over her feelings. If I were your sister, I'd find this very, very hard to forgive. If our relationship were rocky to begin with, this might end it. I'm actually getting sort of emotional and shaky right now just thinking about the idea of my sister selling some of my dead mother's prized possessions without asking me.

If you are going to do this, you have to own the fact that you are intentionally doing something that you know will hurt her, and that you're doing it for money. And you have to own the fact that the amount of money in question was more important to you than her feelings, and more important to you than preserving your new, better relationship. That is the choice you are making. You can't simply say, "your feelings are wrong, and so I'm entitled to choose money over your feelings," and expect her to get over it. Human relationships don't work that way. You are very likely going to kill this relationship if you pursue this path, and you need to think very hard about whether that's worth it to you.
posted by decathecting at 2:42 PM on September 24, 2013 [21 favorites]


In my family the rule regarding selling family heirlooms is the right of first refusal. Any famiy member has the right to buy anything you want to sell for the fair market value or whatever counteroffer you can get. I think that's fair.

Of course for this to work out everyone needs to be adults about it and not lay on guilt to give it to them for free or at a discount.
posted by whoaali at 2:51 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


How much money are we talking about here? A couple hundred dollars, or a couple grand?

I'm a cellist, and it's almost certainly thousands rather than hundreds if the OP's mother was at all serious.

Definitely don't sell it without telling her. But presenting it as a decision you've made is probably the best way to get to the actual desired result (no cello, minimum of hassle, some money).

She can handle shipping, she can pay something (some portion of full market value).
posted by Sebmojo at 3:32 PM on September 24, 2013


Ask her if she wants it. If she does, she has to arrange and pay for shipping.

I cannot imagine asking a sibling to pay me for an item belonging to a deceased parent, especially if the item wasn't specifically left to me by the parent, but just happened to be in my care when they passed. What's more important, the money or the relationship? Because I don't think you can have both, and I don't think it's fair to put your sister in that position either. You didn't spend the money to buy the cello to begin with, and you're not out any real money from your pocket if you give it to her.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 3:55 PM on September 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


i think there is a difference between a family heirloom such as this cello and just some random material object that you own. family heirlooms or keepsakes usually stay in the family because they have personal meaning to the owners. so, i think it is understandable that your sister would want to know before you sell the cello. this cello is about your shared family history. we have things like that in my family and if i or my sister sold them without offering them to each other--and we don't have a great relationship--it would not be cool. personally, i think the generous thing to do would be to give the cello to your sister. you say you are trying to rebuild a relationship with her, and that would actually be a great way to make a start. if you give it to her i think it's fine to ask her to pay for the shipping of it. please don't sacrifice your relationship with your sister over money. on preview it looks like i'm largely agreeing with lulu's comment just above mine.
posted by wildflower at 4:12 PM on September 24, 2013


If this was something less sentimental, I'd agree that your sister has no room to complain. But a musical instrument is a terribly personal thing.

The solution should be something more like: she can have the thing if she wants, but then SHE can't ever sell it either. If she does decide to sell it, she has to split the money with you. In the meantime, use this opportunity to haggle back something you want in exchange.

It also depends on what the original deal was regarding the estate and the cello. Was it included in the value of the estate that you split up? Or was its value not really discussed? If it was included in the value of the estate and split evenly, (meaning, you got $40,000 + a $10,000 cello and she got $50,000), she has less ground to stand on. If she wants it, she should compensate you somehow.

However, if the value of the instrument wasn't included in the split and she just let you keep it because you already had it, momentum, etc., then she has plenty of right to complain. In that case, you owe her half a cello.

In the end, as I write this, it does kind of seem that if she wants the cello, she owes you somewhere between half and the full price of a cello, and you owe her a cello.
posted by gjc at 4:28 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why would you do that? Don't do that. Give it to your sister. Unless it's something really valuable I can't imagine you'd get more than $100 for a 15+ year old cello. Some things are more important than money.
posted by yarly at 6:18 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you really care about building a new, better relationship with your sister, do NOT sell the cello without giving her first refusal. Seriously. I am an only child with a distant (although amicable) relationship to most of my family and not a lot of sentimental attachment to things, and still, if a family member did something like this it would be very, very hard to forgive.
posted by Lexica at 6:46 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


We just downsized my father and divvied up the last of the sentimental family stuff. In my family (have sister & brother), the cello would be up for grabs, and whover wants it would pay for shipping. If nobody wants and it's to be sold, then we'd split the money evenly 3 ways. It's family stuff, them's our rules.
posted by parki at 6:53 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why would you do that? Don't do that. Give it to your sister. Unless it's something really valuable I can't imagine you'd get more than $100 for a 15+ year old cello. Some things are more important than money.

This is completely wrong. Good musical instruments get more valuable over time, not less. $1200 will get you a decent student cello - an orchestral musician is probably playing on one worth more like $8-10k.

If it's a cheap Chinese knockoff, sure, but if the OP's mother was a serious or professional musician it could be very valuable.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:16 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I found out that a sibling had sold something as personal and important as this cello appears to be, without discussing it with me honestly and giving me the option to take it, I'd never forget it.

You need to tell her and give her the chance to ask for it. She would pay the shipping, but I wouldn't charge her for it.
posted by winna at 4:48 AM on September 25, 2013


Unless the cello was specifically willed to me, I'd consider it family property. Shoot, even if it was specifically willed to me, I'd *still* consider it family property. My mother passed last year and I can't imagine selling any of her belongings without discussing it with my sister. And if she did agree to sell it, I'd give her half the $.
posted by jraz at 5:41 AM on September 25, 2013


I agree with those who said that you should offer your sister the first right of refusal at a fair price plus shipping. You KNOW that she values it, and it holds sentimental value for her, and she'd probably want it. It seems kind of a dick move to just sell it to someone else because you can't be bothered to even try working out a solution with her.
posted by ethidda at 8:26 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're willing to part with it, then it's not yours to sell.
posted by The World Famous at 8:46 AM on September 25, 2013


Response by poster: Thank you for your incredible replies; I value them very highly. I called my sister and we had a huge heart to heart about it (At a level of mutual respect and honesty I think not possible even a year ago). At first, she immediately wanted it, but as our conversation continued, we both talked a lot about what it is, what it can do, and how we are not the people to continue its purpose. Many people owned the cello before our mother, and we feel the greatest gift we can give - both to her, and the music making world - is to put it back in the stream, and nudge it towards its new owner. We are splitting proceeds equally. I feel closer to both my mother and my sister. Thanks, Metafilter.
posted by missmary6 at 11:32 AM on September 25, 2013 [41 favorites]


That's awesome. My heart is officially warmed, seriously.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:34 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm so glad! That's the gift of the Cello. It's enriched the life of you three and the musician who will use it next!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:35 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, that's wonderful. Thanks for updating us.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on September 25, 2013


Awesome outcome!
posted by The World Famous at 11:41 AM on September 25, 2013


Sweet.
posted by parki at 12:17 PM on September 25, 2013


<3 :D
posted by cairdeas at 12:22 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm terribly happy about that. Well done Miss Mary :)
posted by Sebmojo at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2013


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