Online sales of collectibles soared during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, eBay says that sales of collectible Pokemon cards have risen by 574 percent since the start of the pandemic. Football cards, as another example, have risen in value on average by 1,586 percent! There’s no question that there has never been a better time to sell your collectibles online.
Because of quarantines and lockdowns, many people who have been collecting for years had time to go through their collections, weeding out items they didn’t want and searching for pieces to complete their collections. This increased the sheer number of items and brought a few rare gems out onto the market.
Many records have been shattered in the last two years, across a wide range of collectible categories. Sports memorabilia, comic books, sneakers and whisky have been particularly hot. Still other records in more classic collecting categories: stamps, toys and dolls and fashion could be broken by the right item. Do you have that item sitting at home right now?
Read our comprehensive list of record-breaking collectible items below, then submit your collectibles for a quick and affordable online appraisal.
Video Game Cartridges
In 2021, a record was set when someone bought a 1985 Super Mario video game cassette for $1.56 million! The previous record had been just broken weeks before when Heritage Auctions sold a copy of The Legend of Zelda for $870,000.
Sports and Trading Cards
In 2021, a 2017 NFL card autographed by Patrick Mahomescard sold at auction for 4.3 million, becoming the most expensive NFL trading card ever sold. In hockey cards, a record was set in 2021, for a 1979 Wayne Gretzky card that sold for $3.75 million. A baseball card sale in 2021 also broke records when an autographed LeBron James card went for 5.2 million.
A mint condition Black Lotus trading card from the popular game “Magic: The Gathering” sold for an amazing $511,100 on eBay in 2021. Only 1,100 cards of its kind were ever produced.
In 2022, a single page of a Spiderman comic book went for 3.36 million at Heritage Auctions. Bidding for the 1984 collectible had started at $330,000 before rising astronomically. The previous year saw the sale of the most expensive complete comic book, a 1962 Spiderman release, which also went for $3.6 million.
In numismatics, a record-breaking $18.9 million was paid for a 1933 double eagle coin in 2021. The double eagle is an uncirculated 20-dollar gold coin of which only a few have survived. Golden eagle coins were produced right after a 1933 executive order preceding the Gold Reserve Act. The act, meant to end the bank crisis at the time, prohibited the circulation of gold coins. Citizens had to turn over their gold coins for other forms of currency. The collected gold coins were melted down by the government as they were no longer legal tender.
In philatelic sales, the highest price paid to date is $18.8 million for a set of four Chinese stamps. The stamps, called the Red Revenues, were printed in 1897, near the tail end of the Qing Dynasty. They are considered especially valuable because of their rarity and detailed design. The next most expensive stamp ever sold is a British Guiana 1c magenta. It was printed in 1856 and is the only stamp missing from the the British Royal Philatelic Collection. It is believed there is only one of these left in the world.
Phillumeny, or matchbox collecting, can be a lot of fun, with myriad interesting designs and images. They also can be worth thousands if you strike upon a rarity. The most expensive matchbook ever sold to date is the Lindbergh matchbook. The matchbook, which sold in 2015 for $6,000 was specially produced for a private dinner celebration held by the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh in 1927.
Some of the most expensive collector VHS tapes are from the Black Diamond Series put out by Disney. A 1991 clamshell Beauty and the Beast VHS tape sold for an amazing $10,000 in 2021. Surpassing that sale, a 101 Dalmatians VHS went for $14,000 on eBay in 2021. The VHS case was not even in pristine condition! And the third most valuable VHS tape is a 1989 Little Mermaid edition. It went for $9,500. You may remember the controversy surrounding the cover art for the movie. If you don’t, take a look and you might notice something not quite G-rated. Whether the drawing was intentional or not, Disney banned the image soon thereafter, making this a rare collectible.
Toy collectors, you may want to look through your figurines, because a 1962 Boba Fett is now worth $157,500. This record-breaking sale took place in 2019. The Star Wars figurine is valuable because of its rarity. Manufacturers quickly stopped production over safety worries- the mini Boba held a problematic rocket-firing mechanism.
The prototype for the first GI Joe sold for $200,000 in 2013. Made in 1964, it features a hand-sewn backpack and multi-pocketed uniform, plastic helmet and detailed painting on the face and hands. The 12” tall figure also came with a miniature water flask and wore black fabric boots.
The record for most expensive Barbie sold at auction belongs to the Stefano Canturi Barbie. It sold for over $300,000 at a charity auction in 2010. The doll wears a diamond necklace made of white and pink diamonds, and a striking single diamond ring on its finger.
A 1959 original Barbie doll in mint condition sold at auction for $27,450. She is dressed in a black and white striped swimsuit and little black shoes. You can tell if your Barbie is a first edition model by checking for holes in the bottom of her feet which allowed the shoes to be clipped in; later editions had solid feet.
The award for most expensive dip sold at auction goes to the person who bought a pack of Chicken McNugget sauce. The McDonald’s Mulan Szechuan Sauce went for $14,700 in 1998; the proceeds went toward a charitable cause.
Hot Wheels Cars
A 1969 protoype rear-loading Beach Bomb Hot Wheels car went for $175,000 at auction. The car is unique because it includes surfboards that load through the rear window. Although a few additional copies in different colors managed to slip into public hands, only two pink versions are known to exist.
A rare 1968 antifreeze green over chrome finish Camaro used for advertising purposes sold for $25,000. Only 20 of its kind are known to exist.
The most expensive Pez dispenser sold at auction is the 1982 astronaut-themed World’s Fair edition. One went for $32,205 in 2006. Other highly valuable Pez dispensers include the Mary Poppins model from the 1970s, and superhero models produced before 1989.
In recent years, sneaker collecting has become a popular pastime and way to make money. 2021 saw the highest auction sale of a pair of sneakers when a buyer paid $1.8 million for a prototype pair of Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 1 design. The second highest auction sale was $560,000, paid for a worn pair of Air Jordans previously worn by Michaeal Jordan himself.
Vintage handbags are also popular auction items of late. The most expensive bag sold at auction to date is one by Mouawad, a Swiss Emirati company. Their “1001 Nights Diamond Purse” sold for $3.8 Million. The runners up were both Hermes Birkin bags. The Hermes Kelly Rose Gold was sold for $2 Million. It is one of a limited edition of 12. A diamond and platinum Hermes Birkin bag By Japanese designer Gin Tanaka sold for $1.4 Million.
Wine and Liquor
In 2018, two bottles of 1945 Romanee-Conti red wine were sold for $558,000. Only 600 of its kind were ever produced. The second most expensive vintage wine sold to date is a bottle of 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon which went for $500,000 in 2000.
A Fabergé and Craft Irish Whiskey Co. collaboration bottle sold for $2 million, fittingly, on St. Patrick’s Day in 2021. A 60-year-old bottle of Macallan Whiskey was auctioned for $1.9 million in 2021 at Sotheby’s. A set of six aged whiskies, also by Macallan, went for $975,756 in 2020.
In 2011, the pleated white dress famously worn by Marilyn Monroe during a 1955 photoshoot was auctioned off for $5.5 million. The sheer evening dress she wore while singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy in 1962 sold for $4.8 million in 2016 and was most recently worn by Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala in 2022.
A single bejeweled glove worn by Michael Jackson sold for over $350,000 in 2009. Jackson donned the glove at the 1983 Motown 25 television special, where he premiered his signature moonwalk dance move. A 1931 Dracula movie poster sold for $525,800 in 2017. The poster is one of only two of its kind known to exist.