Get a headstart on your spring cleaning and earn some money in the process! Whether you decide to organize your attic or garage, the hunt for buried treasure could be much closer than you imagined. We’ve prepared this definitive list of sometimes surprisingly collectible items that could be in your home right now.
While you are digging through old boxes, you may find yourself asking how much an item is worth. Mearto is here to help! Our online appraisal specialists are able to estimate the current fair market value of every item on this list and more. All you have to do is submit photographs and a short description of the item through our website. We respond, typically within 48 hours or less, with a valuation. Our price per item is $19 with bulk rates available. We also offer opportunities to sell items of a certain value through our auction house partners and an online marketplace due to launch in April 2021.
Let us help you turn all of this old stuff collecting dust in your home into cash:
IN THE ATTIC
1. First Edition Books
If you have a stack of old books at home, it may be worth taking a look at the copyright pages (opposite the title pages) to see if any of them are first editions. The publisher may indicate with the words ‘first edition’ or ‘first printing,’ or you can check the sequence of numbers. If there is a ‘1’ anywhere in the sequence, or if the date on the copyright and title pages is a match, it is likely to be a first edition.
Of course, not every first edition will be very valuable. Rare and “classic” books like Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit, The Great Gatsby and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland tend to fetch the highest prices at auction. The most expensive book ever sold was Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester in 1994 for $53.5 million (adjusted for inflation).
2. Christmas Ornaments
A box of vintage Christmas ornaments in good condition could be worth hundreds of dollars. Those most valued by collectors are German “kugeln” or hand blown glass balls. These were first produced during the Biedermeier period (c.1830) of extremely thick glass, colored with lead or silver nitrate and topped with a bronze cap. Because they were so heavy, they were suspended from the ceiling, rather than being hung on the Christmas tree.
These German kugeln (singular: kugel) are quite rare and likely to turn up in your attic only if they were family heirlooms brought over from the old country. However, even more recent ornaments, for example, Hallmark Keepsake ornaments from the 1970s and 80s, can be worth a pretty penny to collectors. Unusual shapes, references to pop culture icons and, of course, the rarity and condition have a positive impact on value.
3. Ceramic Christmas Trees
Ceramic Christmas trees, big in the 1960s and 70s, were considered “kitsch” for many decades, but are now making a comeback as trendy holiday decor. These trees tend to be green or white ceramic with plastic lights, which are illuminated by a bulb inside the tree. Some rotate or even play music and are a throwback for many collectors to fond childhood memories.
Because ceramic Christmas trees are a particularly seasonal item, you’ll get the best price if you try to sell one in the weeks and months leading up to December 25th, with buyers willing to pay $100 to $300 to snag a particularly charming example of this retro holiday decoration.
4. Vintage Packaging
Whether it’s an old jar of cold cream, a cigarette carton or a cereal box, there is a demand from some collectors for vintage packaging, especially for once-popular products that are still being purchased today, or for “old-timey” messaging that strikes a humorous chord for today’s consumer.
As with furniture, appliances and other household goods, the craze for Midcentury, Mad Men-esque packaging and advertisements has yet to die down, and has been supplemented with a taste for 1980s and 90s nostalgia. Rather than taking an old pile of packages out to the curb, consider listing some of those in better condition on eBay, where you could expect to sell a collectible Kellogg’s corn flakes box for up to $800.
5. Vintage Boy Scouts Memorabilia
Your old Boy Scout gear, whether it’s a complete uniform, sash, set of patches and pins or a handbook could be worth thousands of dollars. Collectors are very interested in complete (or nearly complete) sets of patches from past decades, memorabilia from Boy Scout camps and National Jamborees, as well as personal documentation like photographs, journals and diaries. Award medals can also be quite valuable, due to their intended rarity.
6. Morton / Ozark Roadside “Tourist” Pottery
If your grandparents ever took a road trip across the American Midwest or to the Ozarks, there’s a pretty good chance that they may have this item stashed away among their treasures collected over the years.
Mass-produced and frequently purchased as souvenirs in the first half of the twentieth century, some Morton and Ozark Roadside pottery may be quite valuable today. The highest prices are fetched by unique sets of figurines, “spatterware,” which is characterized by a speckled pattern of brown, green and yellow hues, and pottery with a spiraled glaze. The more common pieces can be found on eBay and similar online marketplaces for $30 to $60, but those that are more rare often sell for hundreds of dollars.
7. Milk Glass Easter Eggs
In the Victorian era (late 1800s), blown glass Easter eggs were all the rage. These festive decorations could be purchased in many general stores and were typically hand-painted, given as gifts between ladies and passed down as family heirlooms. Many of the eggs survive today. Unfortunately, because it was common to use water-based paint, it is difficult to find them with their original illustrations intact. In good shape, one of these antique milk glass eggs may be sold for over $100.
Another variety of Easter decoration that may be found among your family’s collection of old things or stumbled upon at a garage sale is handmade papier-mâché or cardboard eggs, which were popular in Germany around the same time. If stored properly over time, these may be in better condition and more valuable than the glass eggs with chipped and faded paint.
8. Vintage Magazines
If you have a stack of old magazines collecting dust in your attic, it could be time to bring them down and see what they might be worth! Fashion magazines from bygone eras are in demand from collectors who like to see how trends have been recycled and repurposed over time. You may be able to sell a single magazine, originally purchased for $1 or less, for a significant profit, particularly if there is a well-known celebrity on the cover, or if it is a special, hard-to-find issue.
Even a magazine’s advertisements for old-timey or still popular products may be worth something on their own. These advertisements can be clipped and sold one-by-one to maximize your potential earnings from one vintage magazine, so think twice before you toss them all in the recycling bin!
9. Old Documents
Old family documents like letters, autographs and even deeds and bond certificates may have some appeal to collectors, especially if they reference an important historical figure or event. Some just like the aesthetics of yellowed paper and flourished handwriting in ink, or the nostalgia of a soldier’s wartime letter written home. You never know what kind of treasures a pile of old documents might contain.
10. Old Yearbooks
Do your parents love to tell stories about their now-famous high school or university classmate? Dig out their old yearbooks because that photograph of a young and awkward star might be worth something! If the celebrity signed the yearbook before becoming rich and famous, that’s even better. The yearbooks of certain literary and historical figures like former U.S. presidents are in high demand and may be worth hundreds of dollars to the right collector.
11. Old Photographs
While it may seem bizarre to sell your family’s photos to a total stranger, there is a market for old black and white images. Those made with older technology, like tintypes, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes may be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars at auction. The most sought-after and expensive photographs depict famous or well-known people. However, there is also an interest among collectors for portraits of soldiers and group images of children. Age is a factor in determining the value of an old photograph, but it is not the only factor taken into account. The quality and condition of the image also play a role.
As with family photographs and documents, vintage postcards sent from faraway and exotic locations by travelers hundreds of years ago have a certain amount of appeal. Though most may only be worth a few dollars, some that are particularly old or interesting and still in good condition could be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Determining the age of a postcard can be quite difficult. The postmark date can give you some idea, but the postcard may have been in production for many years before it was purchased and sent.
So-called pioneer postcards, which often feature advertisements for products and stores, and were sent from the American Old West in the mid- to late 1800s, typically sell for around $400 each. The most expensive postcard ever sold is also thought to be one of the first, posted in 1840. It went for $50,000 at the London Stamp Exchange.
While you’re unwrapping that ceramic Christmas tree or Morton pottery piece, take a quick look at the newspaper that it’s packed in — what is the date and what are the headlines? Though an item like this would be crinkled and therefore not as valuable as a pristine copy of a newsletter declaring the beginning or the end of a war, the results of a presidential election or some other major historical event, it may be worth considering its value before you toss it out.
Many people save newspapers from historic days and with prices for some being in the hundreds of dollars, you may want to consider getting into the habit, as well. A copy of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as the New York Herald from 1865 announcing the assassination of Abraham Lincoln have been sold for $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.
14. Concert / Movie Posters
If you read our page on movie posters, you’ll find some information about the various styles and how value is determined for these large glossy prints. Posters for popular, “classic” films tend to fetch the highest price at auction. Old horror movies from the 1920s and 30s seem to be a favorite among collectors.
Additionally, posters advertising well-known concerts or famous artists, particularly if they are signed by the artist(s), can be quite valuable. A poster from a 1966 Beatles concert sold for $137,500 at Heritage Auction several years ago.
15. Sporting Events Posters & Ticket Stubs
In 2020, Mearto appraised online one of the most expensive collectible items that we’ve valued to date. We estimated the value of a set of three ticket stubs for the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal basketball game at over $75,000 because the American team was led to victory by Michael Jordan, coached by Bobby Knight and consisted of several other big name players. Stubs that are in good condition and posters from historic sporting events hold a lot of appeal for collectors of sports memorabilia.
Of course, not every poster, ticket stub or autograph from a known player will earn you five-figures at auction, but it’s worth looking into your old collection and any boxes of documents that you may have received from your parents or grandparents to see if any gems like this one can be found.
AROUND THE HOUSE
16. Antique Rugs
Because of their rising popularity as a decorative item in the home, Mearto was recently interviewed for Today.com about the process of valuing and shopping for a quality antique rug. If you have previously purchased or inherited a large Oriental area rug or runner with a desirable color and origin, it could be worth quite a bit to a savvy interior decorator. Even if it’s not particularly clean or it comes from a home with pets and / or smokers, the value after professional cleaning can be significant. Such handwoven wool rugs were popular at the turn of the 20th Century and again in the 1960s.
17. Stained Glass Lamps
While most people have seen or heard of the famous Tiffany glass lamps, which were popular in the United States at the turn of the 20th Century and now sell for up to six figures at auction, many are unaware of several other contemporaneous brands that can also bring in serious sums. Lamps from manufacturers such as the Pairpoint Glass Company, Handel, Duffner & Kimberly (D&K) and Gorham are also prized as fine decorative items.
Unfortunately, because many of these companies did not “sign” or otherwise indicate their creation of these lamps, they can be difficult to identify. Look for a heavy base and observe the colors in the leaded panes of glass. Are they soft and refined, or very bold and bright? The latter would indicate a more modern (and less valuable) reproduction.
18. Hubley Door Stops
These once-popular cast iron figurines often take the form of a cat or dog and can be used to prop open a door. Particularly rare examples in good condition (most of the original paint intact) have sold for more than $500. Door stops that depict figures now considered racially insensitive, like the traditional “Mammy” character, on the other hand, typically sell for well-below average estimates.
Modern reproductions also tend to be significantly less expensive. To identify an original Hubley door stop, look for a “makers mark” on the object’s base. Reproductions will also often have a very rough, sandy appearance and may feature a Phillips head screw. Originals are either one solid piece of cast iron, or two pieces held together by a flathead screw.
19. Mid-Century Furniture
Consoles, sofas, chairs, highboards and lowboards… there is no satiating the appetite that collectors and decorators have for Mid-Century furniture, which refers to an item made sometime between the mid-1930s and 1960s and, according to the Spruce, meets the following criteria:
- Functionality is important, as form follows function
- Uncluttered and sleek lines with both organic and geometric forms
- Minimal ornamentation
- An exploration of different traditional as well as non-traditional materials
- The juxtaposition of different, and sometimes contrasting materials
While works by well-known designers tend to have the highest price tags, even those items which may have been mass-produced have a certain amount of appeal to collectors seeking to add this classic look to their home.
20. Federal Style Mirrors
Another item of classic American style that you might have in your home and that could be worth quite a bit of money is a unique kind of convex mirror dating from the Federal Period (1776-1806), which — depending on the specific design — might be called a “Girandole” or “Bulls-Eye” mirror. These objects are typically made of hardwood, covered in gold leaf and may feature an eagle standing on a Grecian column at the top.
The mirror may have arms to hold candles or other embellishments or decorations. Because of their age and intrinsic value, many reproductions and forgeries can be found on the market. It’s best to check with an expert and gather documentation to prove the authenticity of your antique Federal Mirror to get the best price.
Everyone dreams of stumbling upon an original Jackson Pollock painting at a thrift store, or finding a rare Pablo Picasso drawing among their grandparents’ possessions. The odds are not high, but stories of such discoveries are frequently found in the news. How can you know if your work of art is the real thing? Mearto has a special team of experts dedicated to authentication research. Through a three-step process, which consists of a comparative analysis report, provenance research and scientific analysis, we have been able to help customers identify, consign and successfully sell high-value works of art at international auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
What if your artwork isn’t signed and you have no idea who the artist might be? In many cases, we are also able to help with attribution. Submit the item through our easy-to-use platform for online appraisals to get some information and an estimate of the artwork’s fair market value from a qualified specialist.
FROM THE KITCHEN
Most American kitchens would not be complete without a collection of Pyrex cookware. This versatile and hardworking brand has made it a household favorite for many decades and certain patterned pieces have become treasured and sought out by collectors. As with many of the items on this list, the value of vintage Pyrex is determined by a number of factors including, but not limited to age and rarity. It was not uncommon for the Pyrex company to release a fixed number of prototypes into the market, which can now be quite difficult to track down.
It is easy to identify Pyrex by locating the company’s logo on the item in question. However, determining age can be quite another story. While some specific patterns or colors of glass can provide clues, dating is not a straightforward process. Our specialists can determine whether your Pyrex has a collectible value of hundreds or thousands of dollars, or is just another piece of useful kitchen cookware.
23. Upside-Down Mason Jars
Another staple of the classic American kitchen (and every barn wedding that you’ve ever attended) is the Mason jar. While most are quite run-of-the-mill and can still be purchased for a few dollars each, some of the more antique examples, particularly those which are a bit rare, can have additional value.
For example, from 1900 to 1910, Ball produced an “upside down” jar, which features an inverted logo. Its intended use was as a dispenser for a coffee grinder. Because they were produced for only a very limited amount of time and can therefore be quite difficult to find, upside down Mason jars have sold for $1000 or more online.
24. Violet Mason Jars
Another variation on the Mason jar is prized for its lovely light purple color, which was originally a mistake! In the 1800s, Ball manufacturers included the element Manganese (Mn) in their compound and found that when it was exposed to sunlight, the glass became violet in color. They discontinued the use of this element for some time, but brought it back (intentionally) in 1895 due to popular demand. Today, the unique and pretty color ensures a price tag of around $400 per jar.
With its unmistakeable mint green color, it won’t be difficult to spot Jadeite cookware among your old belongings. First mass-produced in the 1940s by the glassware manufacturer Anchor Hocking, Jadeite was commonly found in homes, restaurants and church kitchens for several decades. Even now, it’s possible to buy reproductions of Anchor Hocking’s popular Fire King Jade-ite vintage kitchenware, which are easily identified by slight variations in design.
The most desirable pieces are, of course, antique. Canister jars produced by Anchor Hocking’s predecessor McKee Glass Company, which were designed in the 1930s to hold coffee, flour, sugar and other kitchen staples have sold for $200 each, or $750 for a complete set. Anchor Hocking ball jugs are also highly prized, commonly selling for $400 or more online.
26. Cast Iron Skillets
This heavy and handy cookware can be a collector’s item worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars if it was made by either Griswold or Wagner before the two companies merged in 1957. These pieces can be identified and dated by the logo found on the bottom of each item.
Certain hard-to find skillet sizes, as well as Dutch ovens, roasting pans and muffin pans from Griswold tend to be the most valuable. To get top dollar, the cookware also needs to be in good visual condition — and useable as they are desired by many amateur and professional chefs seeking a high-quality cooking surface. Make sure you give any piece you find a good season before you list it for sale.
If you had a “Tupperware Lady” in your family in the 1950s or 60s who held onto her collection, you’re in luck! While Tupperware continues to be found in nearly every kitchen in America, vintage pieces have become collectors items for those attracted to the history and nostalgia, or simply the bright midcentury color palette of these practical plastic containers.
With a few exceptions, like a set of salt and pepper shakers that debuted in the 1960s, most single items of Tupperware are not particularly valuable. However, complete sets can easily sell for hundreds of dollars. These items are also very easy to identify from the distinct “Tupperware” logo and a two-part model number stamped on the bottom of each piece
28. Cookie Jars
When you were a kid, you didn’t want to get caught with your hand in it, but nowadays, a unique antique cookie jar could net you a few hundred dollars. As with many of the other items on this list, age is less of a consideration when determining value. The most important factor is rarity. The harder an item is to find, the more desirable it may be to collectors.
Some of the more commonly seen manufacturers of collectible cookie jars are: McKee Glass Company, Louisville Pottery, Harper J. Ransburg, McCoy Pottery and American Bisque. Typical motifs include animals, cartoon characters and even certain commercial products like those custom-designed by McCoy for Coca-Cola, Harley Davidson, Quaker Oats and more.
29. Silver Flatware
While it was considered good taste for every housewife in the 1940s, 50s and 60s to own and maintain a set of silver flatware, many sets are unfortunately not worth more than their scrap value today, which is subject to market fluctuations. It is also important to note that the “silver” finish that you see on flatware is often a thin coat of silver over a copper or brass core, rather than pure sterling silver.
To really cash in on your collection, it’s important to note the maker and the pattern of your flatware set. Some older European brands have held their value over time with some worth thousands or even millions at international auction. Among the most sought-after sets are the Grand Baroque pattern by Wallace, Repoussé by Steiff, Francis 1st by Reed & Barton, Eloquence Sterling by Lunt and King Richard by Towle.
30. Fine China
As with flatware sets, the value of a china set depends primarily on the maker, which is fortunately easy to identify by looking at the stamp on the bottom of each china piece, and the pattern. The origin of the set may also play a role in determining its value.
The name “china” might lead you to believe that all china sets are produced in China and, in fact, the earliest porcelain was first produced during the Song Dynasty. However, “bone china,” which contains ground up ox bones, was produced in England in 1796 and later in France (Limoges) and Germany (Meissen). Today, china is produced all over the world. Submit a photo and ask our specialists if you need help identifying the origin, maker, pattern or value of your china set.
31. Original Fiestaware
Another colorful and collectible set of kitchenware that can be quite valuable is original Fiestaware. Originally released in five colors in 1936: red, cobalt blue, medium green, yellow and old ivory; turquoise was added in 1937 and this set of six colors tend to be the most desirable. Over the decades, new colors were introduced to match the palettes and taste of the day. The company stopped producing in 1976, but reintroduced a new line in partnership with Bloomingdale’s department store in 1986, so contemporary pieces can still be purchased today.
A full set from the 1930s includes 34 pieces, which is nearly impossible to find today. Collectors will pay top dollar for a full set of nesting bowls with no cracks or chips.
32. Midcentury Barware
When Mad Men first aired in 2007, it fueled a craze for Midcentury Modern everything… furniture, fashion, etc. The home cocktail bar, a feature of most modern homes in the 1950s, came back with a vengeance. Suddenly everyone wanted to sip a Manhattan in classic Don Draper style. Even though the TV show’s finale aired in 2015, there is evidence that this trend is here to stay.
If you have original barware, be it glasses, cocktail shakers and tools, or decanters with the classic 1950s and 60s vintage look, they could be worth quite a bit to the discerning Millennial collector. Particularly valued are full sets of bar glasses and any item with a desirable Art Deco pattern or motif.
33. Midcentury Appliances
Of course, while Don was enjoying his cocktail in the den, Betty Draper was expected to prepare dinner in her fashionable 1950s kitchen with all of the latest appliances. Times have changed, but the demand for Midcentury Modern appliances have brought contemporary companies like Smeg back to the forefront of design and resulted in a boom for antique appliances.
If you have an attractive old refrigerator, range or countertop appliance like a toaster or a blender which is still in good working condition, it could be worth quite a lot. It may even be worth having non-working appliances restored if they have desirable aesthetic qualities. Submit your items to our specialists to find out more.
34. Vintage Lunch Boxes
Made of metal and later vinyl, vintage lunch boxes, typically featuring beloved cartoon, television or film characters, are prized today for their nostalgic value. The very first lunch box featured Mickey Mouse and was sold in 1935. In the 1950s, it became common to include a matching Thermos with each lunchbox. One of the most sought-after lunchboxes was sold in 1954. It features Mickey Mouse on one side and his good friend Donald Duck, with his three nephews on the other side.
Lunchboxes are collected not only by enthusiasts for the item itself, but also by fans of particular characters or franchises. For example, Star Trek featured prominently on lunchboxes throughout the 1960s, which are now prized by modern-day Trekkies looking to add some unique memorabilia to their collections.
35. Vintage board games
Monopoly, Life, Risk… who didn’t have a closet filled with these old classics during their childhood?! While most of these games have been produced for decades and can still be purchased today, it’s the rare and vintage examples that have collectible value. Games that are no longer in production, like the “Be A Manager” baseball game, or “Fortune,” which was a precursor to Monopoly with a limited release in 1935, can sell for more than $1000 each if they are in good condition with no missing pieces. Even more modern (or contemporary) games that may be difficult to find can be worth several hundred dollars.
Since Barbie was “born” at the American Toy Fair in New York in 1959 with her iconic black and white striped bathing suit, she’s been a favorite plaything for many generations of young girls. Mattel recognized her collectible value early on and has released many “collector’s edition” dolls over the years. As with many vintage toys, these tend to be the most valuable when they are sold in pristine condition, still in their original box.
Some Barbie dolls can be worth thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The most expensive price paid to date was more than $300,000. According to Good Housekeeping, “Designer Stefano Canturi designed her necklace, which featured emerald-cut Australian pink diamonds, a carat a piece, surrounded by three carats of glittering white diamonds.” If you find the price shocking, don’t worry… all of the proceeds from this sale went to support breast cancer research.
37. Comic Books
Of course, when one thinks of collectibles, comic books are one of the first items that may come to mind. Fans of this colorful and entertaining media and of certain franchises may be willing to pay thousands for a hard-to-find edition in mint condition. How do you know if your comic book collection is trash or treasure? Have an expert review and grade each book to determine its value.
As with many of the items on this list, rarity is a bigger determinant of value than age. Certain comic books were produced in limited quantities and can be nearly impossible to track down. Other valuable examples include editions in which a now-famous character was first introduced. For example, the most expensive comic book ever sold (for a whopping $3.2 million) featured the first appearance of Superman.
38. Mechanical Banks
In the 1800s, during the Industrial Revolution, the middle class grew with speed and strength. With more disposable income than had ever been enjoyed before, parents wanted to instill in their children the value of saving money. Mechanical banks, which were typically made of cast iron, offered added incentive through a variety of fun actions that could be triggered by inserting a coin.
According to Collector’s Weekly, “The coin might be fired into a fort from a canon, placed into an animal’s mouth before being swallowed, or put in a man’s hand for him to slide into his pocket. Other mechanical-bank actions prompted human and animal figures to kick, jump, dance, and do headstands.” Most of these banks were produced between 1869 and 1930, though many more modern reproductions can be found.
39. Lionel Train Sets
Train sets are another commonly collected toy and while there are many manufacturers, Lionel was and remains the king of this category. This company lead the charge on several technological advancements, which ensured that their train sets were on Christmas wish lists for many generations. Today, the most valuable Lionel trains are those that were made before the start of WWII and can sell for thousands of dollars. However, rare later models can also be worth a pretty penny.
As with most collectibles, condition is important when it comes to valuing your Lionel train set. Some of them were well-loved and played with by their previous owners, which may have resulted in the locomotives no longer functioning or suffering from a loss of paint and may unfortunately signify a decrease in value.
40. Baseball Cards
America’s favorite past-time just wouldn’t be the same without the tradition of collectible baseball cards. You or a family member may have collected albums of such cards during childhood and could be surprised to find a few treasures among the plastic pages. Of course, rarity is the most important factor, with cards that were produced in limited quantities bringing in the highest dollar amounts.
The popularity of the player also plays a big role in determining value. The most expensive ($3.12 million) card ever sold was printed in 1909 and features Honus Wagner. Cards featuring heavy-hitters like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle are also considered home runs in the baseball card collecting industry.
41. Antique Dolls & Teddy Bears
Teddy bears and dolls are such lovely objects because of their ability to comfort and delight young children. This is something that we share with previous generations and finding your grandmother’s old porcelain doll can provide a unique connection to her childhood. Of course, these objects also have significant collectors value, particularly old and rare examples.
Dolls from the Victorian era are prized for their beautiful period clothing and delicate features. Teddy bears made by certain manufacturers, like Steiff in Austria can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars if they haven’t had too much restoration and are still in good shape after many years of snuggling their previous owners to sleep.
Dollhouses are also a fascinating collectible in the toy category, because they offer us a glimpse into what life was like at a different time — albeit in miniature! Seeing the layout and furnishings of a typical home in the Victorian era replicated in a dollhouse is like a window into the imagination of a child who lived during this time. This sense of history is what draws many collectors to dollhouses and sends them on a search to find period-appropriate accessories to complete the tiny home.
If you have a full antique dollhouse complete with furnishings and accessories, you could be looking at a small fortune. Even a shoebox full of tiny dollhouse pieces could be worth a lot more than you expect.
80s & 90s NOSTALGIA
If you have a collection of vintage t-shirts, they could be worth a lot more than what you originally paid for them to one of today’s discerning fashionista. A recent article in Vogue describes where to buy and how style and care for a vintage tee. These well-worn classics might feature characters or scenes from popular television shows or movies, or be merchandise picked up at the concert of your favorite 80s hair band.
You might be surprised to learn that collectors will pay tens of thousands of dollars for a Led Zeppelin “backstage pass” shirt from 1979, or a Run DMC Adidas shirt from 1980. What treasures could be lurking in the back corner of your closet?
Sneakerheads, as collectors of the fashion-forward footware are often called, are constantly on the lookout for rare vintage sneakers in great condition. The demand has become so great that even large international auction houses are starting to get in on the action in an effort to appeal to their younger audience.
A coveted pair of sneakers, which might be collecting dust in an old shoebox, could net you up to $50,000. Of course, they would have to be rare, like a hard-to-find pair of Air Jordans, and still in excellent condition — no grass stains or scuff marks on the soles. Several online websites cater to the sneakerhead community and are where you could expect to get the best price for your old kicks.
45. Beanie Babies
You always hoped they would be worth a bit of money some day, but it might blow your mind to know exactly how much! Sure, most of them are probably what you paid for them a few decades ago, however, some collectors are willing to pay tens and even hundreds of thousands for rare and limited edition Beanie Babies, especially those with misprinted tags.
If you have an old storage box full of these in your basement or attic, it may be worth taking a few minutes to sift through and see if there are any of value. To be considered “mint” condition, the Beanie Baby should be in good physical shape — no dirt or worn down exterior, wrinkles or tears in the “hang” tag, with the “tush” tag still intact.
This classic toy that lets you create images with colored pegs poked through a patterned black sheet, which would glow when illuminated from a light source behind, provided hours of amusement for several generations of children. Originally released in 1967, the first set is worth the most to collectors, typically selling for a few hundred dollars. However, even sets from the 70s and 80s can be considerably more valuable than their purchase price to a collector that wants to relive some of their fond childhood memories with this toy.
47. American Girl
The American Girl dolls, which were first released in 1986 and soared to popularity in the 1990s thanks to their high-quality design, endless supply of accessories and fascinating backstory written for each doll. While they got a boost in 1998 with the opening of several American Girl stores, which offered on site tea parties, a doll hospital and many other amenities to their little collectors, their popularity is waning somewhat today.
Nevertheless, girls who grew up with these dolls and avid toy collectors alike, are often willing to shell out thousands of dollars for a discontinued dolls with all of her original accessories. The highest prices are paid for the three dolls that launched the brand in 1986: Kirsten, Samantha and Molly.
48. Polly Pocket
These tiny dolls in their little compact worlds were wildly popular following their first appearance in stores in 1989. Until sales began to slip in 1998 and the company was purchased by Mattel, it was owned by the UK-based Bluebird Toys. Original sets manufactured by Bluebird Toys are the most valuable to collectors. Of course, they have to be in good shape and have all of their pieces intact — not an easy feat for such small accessories — to fetch a few hundred dollars online.
49. Action Figure: He-man, Power Rangers, Transformers and GI Joe
Of course, everyone knows that action figures related to certain franchises: Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. can bring in big bucks from avid collectors. However, you may not be aware that other action figures like He-Man, Power Rangers, Transformers and GI Joe have significant collectible value.
The most expensive action figure ever sold was a prototype GI Joe made in 1963, which sold in 2009 for $200,000. A Wun-dar He-man action figure that came with the purchase of a loaf of Wonder Bread in 1990 might net you a few hundred bucks and an Optimus Prime in his original packaging could fetch up to $1000 at online auction.
50. Pokemon Cards
Gotta catch ’em all! This franchise was imported to the United States from Japan in the mid-1990s and quickly became popular through television, video games and related merchandise. However, one of the biggest collectible items to come out of the Pokemon craze was the decks of cards which feature individual Pokemon creatures and their strengths and can be used to “battle” other players.
While most of the cards are not worth much (some not much more than the paper that they’re printed on) certain rare or limited edition cards can sell for six figures. The “Holy Grail” of Pokemon cards is the Pikachu Illustrator card. According to Mental Floss, “One of the earliest cards to come out of the Pokemon franchise was this promotional card of Pikachu that was given out to winners of an illustration contest in 1998. An estimated 20 to 39 copies were issued.”
Whether you find them creepy or cute, there is a demand for these vintage creatures among collectors who value 90s nostalgia. Designed as a robot that could be “trained” to speak English, it was the season’s hottest Christmas toy in 1999 with more than 14 million sold. Urban legends about these furry robots were rampant, which only seemed to add to their appeal.
Furby has changed with the times and can now interact with an app on your iPhone or iPad and while the mania for contemporary models hasn’t quite matched the Furby takeover of the late 1990s, collectors still seek out early models and are willing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for those in original packaging and excellent condition.
52. My Little Pony
Another popular children’s toy that has gotten an updated look and enjoys a following today is My Little Pony. Brightly colored unicorn and winged horses with names like Twilight, Princess Sparkle and Applejack have cute identifying motifs on their rumps. Vintage models had a “real” mane and tail that could be brushed and braided.
Through a series of films and television shows released in the 1980s, the My Little Pony franchise sought to teach their little fans the importance of building good friendships. Rare and international models of this toy frequently sell for hundreds of dollars.
53. Vintage Crayola Crayons
When you were a kid, was anything better than a fresh new box of Crayola crayons at the start of a new school year? The company, which started as Binny & Smith Company in 1903, has been producing brightly colored wax sticks for children and artists for more than a century. While older sets of crayons certainly have collectible appeal, you may be surprised to learn that even colors released in the early and mid-2000s can be quite valuable due to their rarity.
VHS tapes are becoming more and more rare. It’s tempting to toss them, because who needs tapes when we have the internet? However, with rarity comes collectibility. So, be sure to look into the value of those VHS tapes before you make any decisions.
Collectors of VHS tapes look for different kinds and for different reasons. Some are interested in old tapes for sentimental reasons. Others collect tapes that are rare, such as misprints or editions with particular, perhaps discontinued, cover art. Others search for cult classics. Most VHS tapes are sold for under $50, but in rare cases, they may be worth hundreds or even a few thousand dollars.
If you find a trove of VHS tapes, keep them away from sunlight and humidity. Also, be sure to store them far away from speakers or appliances with magnets inside, as this can degrade tape quality.
You can think of the Sony Walkman as the predecessor to today’s iPod. Created in 1979, they revolutionized music listening; you could actually listen to a tape away from your home or car! Nowadays, cassette culture is making a comeback and buyers are interested not only in vintage cassette tapes, but equipment for playing them.
Sony no longer makes Walkmans today, and collectors want them. Walkmans carry different values based on the model, color, and condition. Some are selling for hundreds of dollars and occasionally even more. As time passes, their value will probably go up, since fewer and fewer intact models will be available.
56. Game Consoles
The video game industry is massive, generating $134.9 billion worldwide each year. This means there is huge demand for vintage video games and equipment. Many older games are valued for nostalgic reasons or for rarity. Unsurprisingly, they may only be playable on systems manufactured during the right period and by a specific manufacturer.
Video game consoles date all the way back to 1972 with the Magnavox Odyssey. Atari, Coleco, and Fairchild dominated the market throughout the 70s. In the next decade, Mattel, Commodore and IBM entered the scene. Probably the most well-known video game brand, Nintendo, first entered the market in 1977, but really made a splash in 1985.
When valuing your antique video game console, look at its condition and rarity. If you have a few games to go along with it, this may raise the value as well. Prices for antique video game consoles vary, ranging from as low as $20 to hundreds of dollars in rare cases.
57. Old Computers
While an old computer may seem at first glance like an obsolete relic, the collector’s market for antique computers is growing stronger each year. In fact, there are even museums dedicated to their history. If you have an old computer, it’s worth looking into whether it may be worth any money.
Antique computers are valued based on their rarity, condition, maker, and model. Apple computers are one of the most collectible brands. In fact, the most expensive computer ever sold at auction was an Apple 1 built in 1976. It went for $905,000 at Bonham’s in 2014. IBM is another collectible brand, especially models from the 70s and 80s. A few other manufacturers to look for are Sinclair, Compaq, Heathkit, Texas Instruments, Kaypro, Amiga, Franklin, Xerox, Digital Equipment, Silicon Graphics and Atari. It’s also important to keep any accessories that go with your computer, like mouses or cords.
58. Old Cell Phones
Early models of cellphones may be worth more than you may think. Remember “brick phones” from the 80s? The quintessential brick phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, can now fetch hundreds of dollars at auction. Even flip phones from the 90s may be worth some money.
If you have an old cellphone, it’s worth looking into the brand and model to find out its rarity and historical significance. Collectors look for phones in good condition and for rare models. Some may search for specific phones in order to recreate eras for films or theater productions. It’s always worth finding out if your phone has value before you recycle it. Make sure to keep the phone in good condition and don’t throw away accessories like cords or charger.
Typewriters have been around since the 1800s and have nostalgic and historical value. You may have one in your home or discover one in a relative’s attic. Depending on the year it was manufactured and the brand, it could be a collectible.
The most expensive typewriter sold at auction was a Hansen Writing Ball. This early typewriter, shaped like a half globe, went for $123,000. Later models of typewriters were much more box-like. The first popular typewriter model was patented in 1868 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The manufacturer, Sholes and Glidden, also invented the QWERTY keyboard layout that we still use today.
Your typewriter is likely to be a more recent model. Look for brands such as Underwood, Remington, IBM, Adler, Olivetti, Imperial, Oliver, Godrej, and Royal. The value of your typewriter will be higher if it is a rare model and is in good condition.
Boomboxes are more rare today, since we can find most music online. However, they were once ubiquitous. Combining an AM/FM radio and one or two cassette slots (and sometimes a CD player), they were easy to carry with a top handle and came in all shapes and sizes. With a speaker on each side, a boombox could make a lot of sound come out of a small device, whether indoors or outside.
To find out if your boombox is worth any money, look at the brand and model as well as its condition. Be sure that the antenna (if there is one) is intact, and cords or battery compartments are in good condition. You should also test whether it still will play a cassette or CD.
Some collectible brands to look out for include Aiwa, Conion, Akai, Hamisonic, JVC, Helix, National, Pioneer, Sanyo, Sharp, and Turbo. Most antique boomboxes sell for between $50 and $100, but there are definitely outliers, like a PIONEER SK-909L that went for $1,775.76, a JVC RC-M90 that sold for $4,494.33, and a HAMISONIC MA-1065 GhettoBlaster Vela Breakdancer DiscoLite Dynasty that went for $1,744.05.
61. RCA Victor Radios
RCA, founded in 1919, was a major player in the radio industry in the early 20th century and a leading manufacturer of radios. Their Victor tube radios were some of the first radios, and a centerpiece of many living rooms. They may be powered by battery or AC cables.
The RCA Victor was bigger than radios today. They sat on the table or the floor. Tabletop models were about the size of a toaster. Floor models could be as large as a piece of carry-on luggage. They often were made from a combination of wood, plastic, and metal. Prices for RCA Victor radios vary. Some sell for less than $100, while other fetch prices as high as $1000 at auction.
62. Vintage Signs
Antique signage made from porcelain or tin is generally considered to be valuable if in good condition and advertising a well-known brand like Coca-Cola, Good Year, Mobile, etc. To be considered “good” condition, the sign should show no signs of rust, peeling or chipping paint, bullet holes or any other discernible damage. The best items in this category will show some telltale signs of aging, but still have their original sheen or luster.
It is important to note that some porcelain or metal signs that appear to be antique may, in fact, be more recent reproductions. While age is not the exclusive factor in determining value, the most expensive signs tend to be original and unique. A simple test that you can do at home is to hold a magnet up to the sign. If the magnet sticks, it was likely produced before 1950, when aluminum was not included in the composition of metal signs.
63. Duck Decoys
Duck decoys are used by hunters to deceive and attract real ducks. Hunters today continue to use them. Modern decoys are often made of plastic but traditionally these items were handmade from wood or cork.
They can be very valuable depending on their material, design and the era they are from. In fact, many duck decoys are shown in museums as examples of ‘outsider’ or folk art. Artisans who created decoys were not classically trained artists, yet some of their painting and woodcarving skills are unique, visually interesting and prized by collectors. Duck decoys were made and used mostly in the eastern United States. It is possible that a valuable and unique duck decoy is hiding in your garage!
64. Old Manual (Hand) Tools
Although they may appear to be worthless, hiding amidst ordinary or contemporary tools, antique hand tools can be valuable collectibles. How can you tell if an old hand tool is valuable? One way is to look at its complexity. Hand tools from the past did not use electricity as many do today. In order to function for a particular task, they sometimes had elaborate mechanical structures. Antique woodworking tools, like planers or bevelers, can be especially valuable.
Your antique tool collection may also hold pieces that are beautiful and detailed. Remember, these are not the machines and mass-produced tools at your local home improvement outlet! Before modern manufacturing, these pieces had to be made individually and sometimes craftsmen embellished them with designs that make them attractive to collectors today.
65. Car Parts
What may initially look like a useless or throwaway car part can sometimes turn out to be a treasure! In the world of automobilia collecting, car parts may be highly valued. Standalone items like hubcaps or hood ornaments are examples of automobilia that are worth examining more closely. However, car parts that seem to be worthless on their own can turn out to be missing pieces to someone else’s puzzle.
Car collectors and restorers often seek out car parts that may be used to retrofit automobiles. If your car part comes from a classic automobile, and is in good shape, it might fetch a high price at auction.
66. Fishing Gear
Fishing is a popular sport today and in the past, and the fishing gear you may find in the back of your garage could be worth a lot at auction.
If you look inside an old fishing tackle box, you may discover a varied collection of fishing lures. These are small objects that are designed to look like bait and come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be handmade and some are highly collectible. Antique fishing lures may be carved and painted to look like small fish and depending on their quality, era, and maker, may draw a high price at auction. Old fishing reels may also be worth some money, especially if they are made of wood and are in good condition.
67. Sports Gear
If you own a home, you probably have some sort of unused sporting equipment in the corner of your garage or basement. Maybe someone in the family took up a sport for a brief time and lost interest. Or perhaps the equipment became antiquated. Regardless, your old sporting gear may be a hidden treasure.
Today’s sports gear is usually made of plastic or metal, but in the past, balls, bats, and racquets were often handcrafted from wood or leather. Was it once used by a well-known athlete? Your item may have a special provenance (past ownership) or signature on it. You might also come across an old uniform or pennant (a small triangular flag bearing a team’s name). Depending on the team, rarity and era, these may be very valuable as well.
Many of us have attempted to play guitar at some point. Guitars are one of the most common instruments to have and often end up unused and wildly out of tune in a closet or attic. Yet, some are very valuable and if you have a guitar, you should always check whether it is a collectible.
Musicians and collectors look for guitars that are rare, in good condition and made by well-known manufacturers. Often, you can find a maker’s name on the head of the guitar and you may find even more information, like date of manufacture, if you peer into the soundhole. Even if your guitar is missing a few strings and covered in dust, it may be a real treasure.
69. Stetson Hats
Stetson is a famous American hat company that has been making lots of styles of hats for generations. Yet, they are most widely known for their cowboy hats. In fact, the word “Stetson” is basically synonymous with cowboy hats. The company began making hats in 1865 out of felt, straw, or fabric. The height of the hat, width of the brim, and band all vary by model.
If your hat is authentic, you can find the name “Stetson” on the inside of the hat. They also often state the size or have information about the style of your particular hat. It is important that your hat is in good condition to get a high price at auction. Felt hats can easily become damaged from environmental conditions, or misshapen if not kept properly, like in a hat box.
70. Antique Weapons
Antique weaponry is highly collectible. First of all, please be careful when handling it! That caveat aside, go ahead and explore what kind of antique weaponry you’ve discovered. There are many different categories of weapons, but the most common are firearms, knives and swords.
Collectible weaponry is often prized for superior craftsmanship. Firearms from past centuries, for example, feature handmade components. Often, artists decorated weapons with inlaid or carved motifs or small scenes. Look for the use of different materials, like mother of pearl, rare metals, or ivory. Rarity and age are important. It is also important to know where the weapon was made and whether it has any special history, like having been used in a historical conflict or by a well-known figure.
Quilting has been, and continues to be, a beloved craft for many reasons. Traditional quilters used leftover fabric from dressmaking to create patterned tapestries or blankets. These pieces often became family heirlooms, passed down through generations, displayed on walls or used as coverlets.
You can determine the age of a quilt using several methods. First, there are many well-established patterns used in quilt-making. Certain styles and designs were more popular in the 1850s for example, then in the 1920s. Secondly, you can look at the fabric itself. Pre-industrial fabric was handwoven and used different dyes than modern cloth. Fabric patterns, like small flowers or plaid motifs, are another key to learning about the place and time your quilt was made. Keep your quilt in a safe place, free from mold or moths, and be sure to find out if your quilt is valuable before performing any repairs or alterations.
72. Vintage Designer Fashion
Fashion trends come and go, and you may have been very tempted to throw out your disco era bell bottoms in the 1980s, only to kick yourself for it when the 90s rolled around. Style is cyclical, and designer fashion will retain its value throughout the years if it is cared for. Clothing that is kept clean and free from environmental damage can be very valuable and collectible.
Designer fashion often has tags that will tell you the brand and model number of the piece. Fashion items may be valued for their rarity or the era in which they were made. Many antique stores and vintage clothing boutiques look for designer fashion pieces of all kinds. Theater and film designers also search out clothes that fit the era they are seeking to portray.
73. Nail Polish
Just like any kind of fashion item, nail polish styles change through time and can be highly collectible. Even though there are endless colors available today, collectors look for era-specific hues. Nail polish bottles may be valuable for the paint within or the bottle itself.
Different chemicals have been used to make nailpolish throughout history. Three thousand years ago, the Chinese used beeswax and gelatin; today we use various petrochemicals. We can probably assume that your nailpolish is not from ancient China. Yet, ingredients have changed throughout recent decades, and some older polishes may still be usable. So, even though you may have been told, “Always throw out your polish after 2 years!” it may be smart to keep them around after all.
Another reason your old nail polish bottles may be valuable is for their bottle design. 1950s bottles have a particular style to them, as do polishes from the 1920s. Collectors look for rarity, specific brands and year of manufacture. So, before you toss them away, find out if your nail polish bottles might be valuable collector’s items!
Finding antique jewelry is a treat, and your item may be worth a lot more than you think. One way that jewelry is valued is by its materials. If a piece looks like it is made from a precious metal, check for tiny markings. For example, a silver brooch may have a “925” mark; a gold ring may have a “24K” stamp. It’s important to get a professional opinion on fine jewelry, though, because many pieces are just gold or silver plated. Precious jewels should also be evaluated for authenticity and the quality of the stone.
However, style can matter as much as material, and costume jewelry of different kinds, made of plastic, glass or wood, can also fetch high prices at auction. It all depends on the buyer and the style and taste of the day.
75. Perfume Bottles
Perfume bottles are often arranged as the centerpiece of a vanity or bedroom table. Most commonly made of glass, their design has evolved through time and some bottles are highly collectible.
The value of a perfume bottle may be determined by brand, era, or design. Many bottles are valuable because of their aesthetic vale. Perfume bottles made before the 20th century are especially valuable. They may be made of blown glass or even crystal and intricately embellished or beautifully shaped. Some antique perfume bottles have identifying labels, or different features like special stoppers that fit into the necks or tasseled atomizers (cloth-covered pumps).