The notion of symbolic derives from late Latin symbolĭcus, in turn from the Greek symbolikós. It is an adjective that is used to refer to what is linked to symbols.
A symbol is an element that allows to represent a idea or one entity through a association or by convention. What is expressed by a symbol and what something symbolizes, in this framework, is referred to as symbolic.
A drawing of a red heart, for example, is a symbolic way of representing or expressing the love. This feeling, in a conventional way, is associated with the heart, which in turn is graphically captured in a specific way. Thus, a certain stroke with a particular color becomes a symbol of love.
The symbolic value of an object, meanwhile, goes beyond the factors proper to the economy and the market. All merchandise has a exchange value (related to their equivalences in the framework of a trading system) and a use value (linked to its usefulness). It can also have a symbolic value that arises from meanings and signs, transcending the practical purpose of the product and its price.
A car made in 1960, to point out one case, today you can have a value very low market due to the age of the vehicle. However, if that car belonged to a famous artist, it has a high symbolic value.
The symbolic, on the other hand, is that which has greater allegorical or figurative importance than practical or concrete. A symbolic hug to a bankrupt club, to indicate a case, implies a manifestation of support or accompaniment to the institution, but it does not by itself modify the underlying problem.