Turning Junk into Dollars

Treasures in Your Attic

Have you seen the hit TV shows American Pickers or Pawn Stars? I like the shows but my husband LOVES them so I have to watch a lot of the episodes. For those of you who are not familiar with either of the shows they are both reality shows that highlight antiques and collectibles.

American Pickers focuses on two “pickers” who travel the country in search of antiques and collectibles. They love finding vintage bicycles, tin signs, antique toys, and furniture.  They drive up to houses and barns of people they don’t know and ask if they have anything they’d be willing to sell. The show is really interesting because of all of the neat items they find and purchase.

Pawn Stars is similar to American Pickers, but instead of the stars going out looking for items to buy, people come to them to sell their antiques and collectibles. Pawn Stars is about a family run pawn shop in Las Vegas. People come into the shop to sell and buy a wide range of items. Most often you’ll see people selling antique guns, toys, maps, coins or sports memorabilia on the show. They call in experts in almost every episode to evaluate the items before they make an offer to the customer.

Recently my husband got a chance to go “picking” just like on the shows. We were at my in-law’s house for dinner and his parents wanted him to go through the things in his old room so they could clear it out. While looking through old clothes, yearbooks, and CD’s he found his old lunch box from when he was a kid.

He knew from watching American Pickers and Pawn Stars that some vintage lunch boxes have become highly collectible.  For a lunch box to be worth any money at all it needs to be made out of tin or vinyl, it needs to have the accompanying thermos, and the subject matter needs to be retro or old. His sported a scene from the old TV show He-Man. With a few taps of the keys and a look at Ebay we were able to find out lunch boxes like his were selling anywhere from $50-$100! We were amazed! That’s enough to pay one of our cell phone bills or cable bill next month!

Finding that vintage lunch box was so much fun that going through the rest of his old things suddenly became a lot more exciting. I know a lot of people have retro or vintage items lying around the house that they probably don’t know the value of anymore. It’s exciting to think that a tchotchke that’s just been taking up space in your house or attic over the past few decades can actually be worth some serious scratch!

I’ve put together a list of some highly collectible items you might have laying around your house or find at a local garage sale.

  • Vintage children’s toys

No matter whether it was made in the 1800’s or 1980’s vintage toys are gaining massive popularity with collectors. What matters most to collectors is condition. If a toy is in its original packaging the value skyrockets. Everything from Barbie dolls and action figures to video games will fetch a much higher price if it is still in the box. A video game made for Nintendo gaming system called World Championship sold for $41,300 back in February of 2010. Insane! The packaging itself, even without the game inside has sold for as much as $10,000. Even more insane!

Internet bidding sites like Ebay.com have increased the market for the most collectible toys. Websites like these have made it really easy for collectors to find rare pieces and for sellers to get top dollar for their unused junk.

  • Early Technology Items

This falls into the same vain as children’s toys in that having the original packaging greatly affects the price. While video games are the most collectible of technology items they are certainly not the only things that sell quickly and easily to collectors. Old computers, cell phones, video gaming systems, and Walkman’s often bring in profits that far exceed their original purchase price. If you have one of the first mobile phones like Zack Morris used to have on Saved By the Bell you can make up to $125 selling it.

As technology evolves, the earliest models become increasingly valuable. When evaluating  items like an early Apple computer or Sony Walkman find out if the item was one of the first models ever invented. The earlier the model, the better… This category of collectible items will make you the most profit.  The Apple I computer typically sells for somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000 depending upon the condition.

  • Antique Clocks

Antiques clocks are one of the most common items found at garage and estate sales, they are also one of the easier ones to resell. Determining the value of an antique clock depends largely on if it’s in working order and who made it. Check out the dial or back plate to find the maker’s mark. Once you’ve determined the clock maker a simple internet search of the name will tell you if it is rare and/or valuable. If you find a clock made by any of these makers you most certainly have a very valuable piece of hardware on your hands: Ansonia, Gilbert, Waterbury, Seth Thomas, Junghans, E.N. Welch, or Sessions Clock Co.

Be wary of antique clocks that don’t work or have all the pieces. Clock repair is very expensive and can quickly eat up all of your profit margin.

  • Beer Steins

Antique beer steins, mugs and tankards are highly prized for their unique craftsmanship and ornate handles and lids. The most collectible ones come from a maker by the name of Mettlach.  They can be identified by the white glaze that lines the inside of the stein, with a hand etched exterior. The bottom of the stein should display the makers name along with a two digit year and a roman numeral. Most Mettlach steins sell for well over $100 to collectors.

 

I could go on and on about highly collectible items and antiques. There are so many popular categories out there. When buying and selling collectibles your best tool will be a smart phone.  You can take pictures of the item you’re thinking about buying and send them to an expert. Or you can type in the name of the maker, brand, signature, or any other identifying mark into a search engine to find out if it’s a collectible at all!

The key to buying and selling collectibles is to choose items that carry a special interest for you. Look for items that catch your attention and will bring you great pleasure to display. When deciding on a price to sell or buy a collectible it’s important to do your research! Try Kovels.com to find price guides and history.

Good luck!

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson

 
 
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