Over time, we accumulate lots of stuff – and some of it we don’t want to let go. So, we place certain objects in our attics, where they’ll likely be forgotten about. But that shouldn’t be the end of their story. You see, it turns out that some of the most common antique items are actually worth big bucks. And with that in mind, here are 40 to look for in your home.
Nowadays, you can get a smartphone that does all of the computing you need and also fits into your pocket. And that’s why you probably keep your clunker of a vintage computer in the attic. But if that device is seriously old school, it could be worth a lot of money. Indeed, appraiser Eric Silver told Popular Mechanics that a first edition Apple computer sold for a whopping $900,000 at auction.
39. Costume jewelry
You might think that only accessories crafted from valuable metals or containing genuine gemstones has any resale value. However, particular pieces of costume jewelry have raked in thousands at auction – just as much as their more precious counterparts. Top tip: look for pieces that were made by once-sought-after designers, such as Miriam Haskell or Elsa Schiaparelli.
Perhaps a sentimental parent held onto your childhood lunchbox – or even their own – and now that midday meal carrier sits in your attic. But if the container features a desirable design on its front, such as a Beatles or Jetsons motif, dust it off and sell it. You’ll be glad you did: some such collectibles have sold for upwards of $3,000, after all.
37. Cookie jars
Not just any old cookie jar will sell on today’s antique market. If you have a piece that was made in the 1940s or ’50s, though, you could be in luck, as that’s apparently what buyers are after. More specifically, a cookie container that’s fashioned in the form of a well-known character or cartoon figure could earn you hundreds of dollars.
Did someone in your family have a famous pen pal? Well, you may want to check, because a letter from a well-known name can rake in big bucks. Otherwise, vintage postcards can attract collectors, too – especially ones that were sent prior to World War I. And as you can imagine, the better condition that the cards are in, the more money they’re likely to make.
35. Yo-yo quilt
Once upon a time – in the 1930s, to be exact – quilters began cutting out circles of fabric and hand-sewing them together. And the unique resulting coverlet earned its name from a popular toy at the time: the yo-yo. Nowadays, if you have a hand-stitched colorful one of these throws in your attic, you could earn yourself close to $300.
34. Stetson cowboy hat
Did you know that the first cowboy hat came to be in the 1860s thanks to designer John Batterson Stetson? Interestingly, his design had a dual purpose: it shaded the cowboy’s face from the sun, and when flipped over, it made the perfect vessel from which he or his horse could drink, too. So, if you have an in-the-box vintage Stetson laying around, you could be able to flog it for hundreds of dollars.
33. Christmas ornaments
Something as sentimental as a Christmas decoration could be tough to part with, but you might think twice if you have one of the hand-blown glass variety lying around. Some such vintage baubles sell for nearly $2,000 a piece, in fact. And you’re in even more luck if you happen to have a pear-shaped Kugel ornament. That’s because some of these go for as much as $18,000 each.
32. Polaroid camera
Log onto Instagram, and you’ll see countless photos that have been filtered to achieve the perfect vintage look. Perhaps that trend explains why more and more people now want to buy Polaroid cameras, since they produce physical pics with the same cool effect. And so, you could sell the one that’s been sitting in your attic for upwards of $500, depending on the model and its accessories, of course.
31. Arcade games
Back in the day, you may have been lucky enough to have your own Pac-Man or Pong arcade game. And if so, the collectible could be worth a lot of money now. Whether it works or not is no issue, either; collectors love these old-school entertainment devices. That said, though, functioning games will bring in a lot more than a broken one. A working Pong, for instance, can bag you nearly $2,000.
It can be tough to tell if that dusty old painting in your attic has a high market value. So, experts suggest bringing your art to an appraiser to see if you could resell it for big bucks. After all, your hand-me-downs could have come from a family member’s friend or neighbor who just so happened to make it big later on. And consequently, your piece could be a huge moneymaker today.
29. Vintage ads
Today’s decorators love to pepper their homes with vintage ads, especially ones from companies that still exist today, such as Coca-Cola. So, rifle through your attic to see if you’ve happened to hold onto such artsy accessories. And as an added incentive, keep in mind that old Coke-inspired merch has made up to $15,000.
It’s not uncommon for families to hand valuable silverware down through the generations, especially when it’s made of the real deal. As such, you could be sitting on a gold – er, silver – mine if you have a vintage set, particularly one from a well-known brand, such as Tiffany or Gorham. In fact, think $1,000 or more for your collection.
27. First-edition books
Perhaps you inherited a family member’s old book, or you bought an aged copy at a thrift store. Either way, it’s possible that you have an extremely valuable first-edition book amid your collection. The first print of a popular title or older literature from the ’30s, ’40s or ’50s can bring in $15,000 or more if you’re lucky.
26. Vinyl records
Nowadays, vintage vinyl can be worth a pretty sum, especially it’s the first pressing of a popular title. Of course, though, every record collection is different in terms of size and quality – both of the music and of the objects themselves. But sites like Reverb LP can help you gauge the market value of your tracks.
25. Record players
Since vinyl records are making a comeback, thanks to music aficionados both young and old, so are record players. And vintage equipment has a particular draw for some customers. In fact, in March 2019 eBay appraiser Jim Griffith told Country Living that even relatively less-desired models, such as the RCA Vitor Slide-O-Matic, can bring in $130.
24. Air Jordans
In the world of collectible footwear, some Air Jordans could be considered antiques. Reyne Hirsch, who’s an appraiser on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow, told Reader’s Digest, “Early Air Jordan sneakers can sell for hundreds if not thousands of dollars depending on which model and condition.”
You may have noticed that modern brands including Smeg have started selling vintage-inspired toasters in a full rainbow of pastel colors. But if you have a real old-school appliance in a similarly saccharine shade, it could be just as quick to sell as today’s version – and for a great price, too.
22. Cereal boxes
If there’s an old box of cereal in your attic, you probably don’t want to eat it. But what you can do is sell the well-preserved packet. That’s right: it turns out that there’s a whole audience of collectors ready to buy vintage cereal containers, especially those of iconic or now-defunct brands. So get searching!
21. Lamp bases
If you’re looking to sell your old lamp, you don’t even need to have the entire thing: antique bases from the right brands can rake in big money. So, go through your attic-based inventory and see if you have any pieces from brands such as Tiffany’s, Handel or Fulper. Incredibly, some such antiques have sold for as much as $25,000.
20. Baseball cards
Whether it was you or your parent who stockpiled baseball cards back in the day, you might be very happy that you’ve held onto them. Decks from the decades prior to 1950 can bring in some serious cash – depending on the demand for the players that they feature, of course. Collectors also seek cigarette cards from the turn of the 20th century, too, so see what you have stored away.
19. Deeds, yearbooks and signed documents
Who would’ve thought that a box full of extraneous documents and ledgers could be a gold mine? Well, for starters, one of your parents or grandparents could have had a famous classmate. And if so, their signature in a yearbook could go for big bucks. The same goes for old land deeds, too, so pore over such files to see if your home or property once had a well-known owner.
18. VHS Tapes
VHS tapes ruled the at-home movie market from the late 1970s until the turn of the 21st century, when DVDs swiftly took over. Some movies never got the DVD treatment, though, which makes their tapes highly coveted. The same goes for VHS versions of banned or otherwise controversial films, too. In fact, if you have one in your attic, it could make you up to $50,000.
Well-preserved musical instruments are, in general, a big moneymaker when re-sold – whether they’re antique or not. So, sift through your attic to see if you have anything you can flog. Guitars, especially, are worth looking out for. A barely used one from 60 or 70 years ago can be super valuable to a collector or music aficionado.
16. Belt buckles
Apparently, remnants of the old West bring in big money from collectors. So, analyze any cowboy-inspired gear that your family has accumulated over the years. You may just have a belt buckle made of sterling silver hidden away somewhere, in which case you have a moneymaker. Even newer ones can earn $500 at auction.
Vintage magazines don’t have to be from centuries ago to be attractive to collectors. Everything But The House co-founder Jacquie Denny told Reader’s Digest, “The value of items in this category is related to rarity, condition and the number of issues.” You’re especially in luck if you have a publication that depicts a historic event on its cover. For instance, a 1969 issue of Time magazine about Woodstock went for $113 on Denny’s website.
14. Pedal cars
Step aside, Fisher-Price cars; your predecessor carries some serious weight at an antiques auction. When it comes to pedal cars, collectors look for older models as well as those that remain in good condition. For example, a Lincoln car from 1930 is valued at around $1,000.
When it comes to making money on pens, we’re not talking about the miscellaneous Biros that you keep in the kitchen drawer. A vintage fountain pen or a writing implement with a notable history – say, a politician once used it to sign something important – will do well when placed for sale or auction. Otherwise, you can add it to the junk collection.
There are plenty of newly made tees around that are meant to look vintage, but that’s not where the money’s at. Real retro pieces featuring advertisements, old-school concerts, beloved brands or eye-catching art, on the other hand, will inspire vintage shoppers to spend big. In fact, single tees have sold for upwards of $300. A garment with musical artist Prince on the front, for example, went for $380 on Poshmark, according to Reader’s Digest.
11. Halloween costumes
Believe it or not, vintage costume-and-mask sets can make you money, although they likely won’t bring in as much money as some of the other items on this list. If they feature a character from a famous movie, though – think: Star Wars – you could be in luck. Plus, your old-school Halloween decorations might interest a buyer, too, so long as you’re willing to part with something so nostalgic.
Tap, tap, tap. We all love the sound that a vintage typewriter makes. But you might also love the sound of the gavel dropping when you bring yours to auction. Insider tip: collectors are willing to spend big on more colorful pieces, since black typewriters are so easy to find. Plus, the fewer scratches or dents on the device, the better your sale price will be, too.
9. Depression glass
During the Great Depression, food manufacturers would slip pieces of glassware into their boxes as an incentive for customers to buy their products. And as such, families across the U.S. and Canada filled their cabinets with these colorful items that are now known as Depression glass. Price-wise, your hand-me-downs should sell for between $30 to $75 per piece. That’s not bad if you have more than one kicking around!
8. Piggy banks
Do you think you could fill your vintage piggy bank with $2,500? That’s how much the one that’s sitting in your attic could be worth. Of course, it depends on a few things: generally, old piggy banks with mechanical features tend to rake in higher amounts of cash. In fact, there’s an entire organization – called the Mechanical Bank Collectors of America – that has sought to purchase such wares since the late 1950s.
7. Luggage sets
There’s something so romantic about an old piece of luggage, even if you’d rather wheel around a rolling bag than carry an old-school suitcase with you. And that’s why collectors seek such vintage luggage sets, especially ones with fun finishes that remain in great condition. A single piece of luggage probably won’t bring in much cash, though.
6. Perfume bottles
Perfume is one category of antiques where brand doesn’t matter too much. Apparently, you see, collectors care more about the bottle itself, especially the glassmaker and the type of glass they used. In fact, there’s such a large market for these dainty containers that you could sell yours at an auction exclusively for perfume bottles.
Barbies have long been a favorite plaything for little ones, but collectors care most about the doll who started it all: the first-edition Barbie. If you have one in your attic, you could be in for a huge payday, especially if she’s still in her original box with all of her accessories. Indeed, some such toys have gone for $10,000.
4. Auto parts
When it comes to vintage cars, antique collectors aren’t looking for the entire thing. Instead, you might entice them to buy the little parts, such as old-school hubcaps or hood ornaments, that you’ve somehow managed to save over the years. If you do happen to have bigger pieces like headlamps lying around, you could sell those, too. Interestingly, industrial design enthusiasts often repurpose them into home decor.
Paintings tend to get all of the attention, but prints can also do well at antiques auctions. And so, if you have some old-looking prints in your attic, check to see if they have a penciled-on signature from the artist. That means that you probably have a limited-edition numbered print, which will be worth more than the average.
Whether they’re in the attic, garage, basement or shed, it’s worth digging up your vintage tools to see if they’re worth big bucks. Items such as saws or hand drills, however simple or beat-up they look, can actually be extremely valuable to collectors. How does $3,000 for that rusty tool sound?
Remarkably, that ancient box of firecrackers you have in the attic could be worth something at auction. It turns out there’s a whole network of collectors who look for these sparklers, specifically the ones that are still in their original packaging. The colorful logos and designs are what they want they want to collect, if you have them.