What’s old isn’t always new again, but your treasures from years past might make you wealthier.
To find out which items in your attic are worth a pretty penny, INSIDER scoured the internet and consulted two antiques and collectible experts: Marsha Dixey, Consignment Director at Heritage Auctions, and Adam Zimmerman of Syl-Lee Antiques.
From books and vinyl records to silverware and porcelain vases, here are 16 things that have probably been lying around your home accumulating dust that could turn a serious profit. Not every item will make you a millionaire, but an extra thousand bucks (or 10) never hurt anyone.
Vintage Apple computers
Old computers may be bulky and obsolete, but don’t toss them to the curb just yet – especially if you have an original Apple. An Apple 1, circa 1976, is one of the most valuable computers sought by collectors. That particular model sold for $US355,000 at Christie’s last year.
It’s all down hill from there, financially speaking. Later models, such as the Apple II and III, are priced in the $US1,000-$US2,500 range, according to tech site TurboFuture.
Vinyl fanatics, rejoice: your prized albums might be worth a whole lotta dough. Some of the most collectible records include The Beatles’ “Yesterday and Today,” which has gone for as much as $US15,300 on eBay, and Bob Dylan’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” which has sold for up to $US35,000.
Vintage cereal boxes
Dixey says that the cereal box craze began about 20 years ago with Wheaties, when the General Mills brand launched sports-themed collectible boxes. “I’ve seen things all the way back to the 1910s, Kellogg’s early boxes,” she added.
On eBay, a set of three Dallas Cowboys Wheaties boxes are going for $US119. Those who prefer Kellogg’s products can buy a large Frosted Flakes box from the ’50s for $US350, complete with the original Tony the Tiger illustration.
First editions of classic novels like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Wizard of Oz” could be worth between $US900,000 and $US1 million, respectively, according to a 2013 Buzzfeed roundup of rare first editions. But those aren’t the rarest finds – that honour goes to a 16th-century first edition of Nostradamus’ “Prophecies,” which was listed for a mind-blowing $US21,000,000.
Vintage musical instruments
According to a 2011 list from Vintage Guitar magazine, one of the rarest instruments is the Space Age chic 1958-59 Gibson Explorer, valued at $US250,000 to $US310,000. A 1936-42 Martin D-45 is an even greater find: this steel-stringed acoustic model could be worth between $US250,000 and $US400,000.
The market for comic books remains strong, bolstered by the popularity of movie adaptions of superhero stories. The most valuable comics are those from the “Golden Age” of American comics, which spans from the late 1930s to 1950. For instance, the New York Daily News reported that the 1939 issue of D.C.’s “Detective Comics” that introduces Batman is now worth a whopping $US1.38 million.
Prices, however, can vary greatly. Comics Price Guide can help you figure out what your editions are worth.
If you lived through the ’90s, you probably have a cache of Ty Beanie Babies somewhere in your home (unless you’ve already cashed in on the plush toys). According to an eBay buying guide, some of the most profitable plushes include Peanut the Royal Blue Elephant ($US1,500-$US5,000), the Victorian-style Old Face Teddy Bear ($US2,000), and Chef Robuchon ($US7,353.51), a bear dressed like the Michelin-starred French chef Joël Robuchon.
That said, most Beanie Babies aren’t actually worth much.
All things ’80s are also a hit on the collectibles market. Action figures and playsets from the series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” are among the most valuable. The Eternia playset circa 1986 currently goes for just under $US10,000 on eBay.
“Boys are always going to be interested in [baseball] cards,” Dixey said, because they remind people of happy memories, like the first baseball game they attended with their dad.
At Heritage Auctions, a rare Mickey Mantle card from 1952 went for over $US400,000.
In the jewellery market, designer pieces are more likely to be lucrative than costume fare. Zimmerman described, for instance, how a vintage bracelet from the French luxury brand Van Cleef & Arpels, with the company’s “VCA” maker’s mark intact, could be worth between $US100,000 and $US110,000. Depending on their size and precious metal composition, these bracelets retail for as little as $US1,300 for the “Sweet Alhambra butterfly bracelet” (made of yellow gold and mother-of-pearl) and upwards of $US360,000 for the “Perlée cuff bracelets with diamonds, medium model,” which is comprised of white gold and diamonds.
If you’re not lucky enough to find antique pennies worth a million dollars, you can still cash in some pocket change. According to Zimmerman, quarters, dimes, half-dollars, and silver dollars minted before 1964 are 90% silver. Depending on denomination and year issued, your coin could be worth between $US0.93 and $US82.20 in melted silver. On average, a silver dime is worth just over $US1, while a silver quarter will get you about $US3.
Chinese decorative works
In recent years, the market for Asian decorative works, like Chinese vases made of porcelain or jade, has boomed, says Zimmerman. Collectors are less interested in 19th-century European antiques because they tend to be bulkier.
“With Chinese antiques, you want it to be at least 100 years old,” Zimmerman said. “1920, 1915 is really the cut-off. If you have something that more often than not is from 50, 60 years ago and it’s Chinese, it’s probably not worth much.”
Silverware can be hit-or-miss, but a haul from a famous designer like Tiffany or Georg Jensen could be worth your while, especially if it’s older and you have a complete set. A 24-piece Tiffany set from 1909 is listed at $US1,100 on eBay, while a silver flatware service (297 ounces of weighable silver) produced by the company in 1927 sold at Christie’s for the larger sum of $US17,500 in 2011.
As the first American manufacturer to make products with British-grade (92%) silver – which would later become the U.S. sterling standard – Tiffany has remained a strong seller on the antiques market.
Sports memorabilia, like specific players’ jerseys, are likely to turn a large profit. A jersey that Jackie Robinson wore in 1947 during his rookie season on the Brooklyn Dodgers sold at Heritage Auctions for over $US2 million dollars.
Mid-century modern furniture
Furniture from the mid-century design period, which spans roughly from 1933 to 1965, continues to trend.
“I do see a rise in contemporary furniture,” Dixey said. “It’s IKEA-like, but at the same time it’s slightly better made and does carry value, especially by the famous contemporary makers.”
Pieces by well-known designers such as George Nakashima and Ib Kofod-Larsen are in demand: on eBay, a pair of Kofod-Larsen lounge chairs is going for $US9,000.
Not just any old pair will bring home the bucks. The rare, auto-lacing Nike Mag sneakers – aka the sleek sneaks made famous in the “Back to the Future” trilogy – have gone for $US30,000 to $US60,000 on eBay according to Sole Collector. In 2016, sneaker enthusiasts had to enter a charity raffle sponsored by the Michael J. Fox foundation for a chance to snag these futuristic shoes.
You could also make a profit on Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars (if you have some from the ’50s or ’60s, that is). On eBay, the OG gym shoes are priced at about $US100 to $US1000.
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