If you’re feeling the urge to get rid of stuff, or if you've got an estate to sort through, you're going to want to keep this list handy. You could be sitting on a treasure trove of vintage items that are actually worth some serious cash.
Collectors seeking out specific, highly coveted toys, books, and household items will pay a pretty penny for things you’ve probably forgotten you had packed away.
It’s a bit painful to think about how many Happy Meal toys people have tossed away over the years. And, chances are, some were worth much more than they paid for those boxed kids’ meals. Back in the late 1990s, McDonald’s used the Ty Beanie Baby and other toys to successfully sell more Happy Meals.
Adults and children alike braved long lines to order them, and if you still own them, collectors will enthusiastically buy them from you. Furby mini-figures and Inspector Gadget toys were also popular Happy Meal prizes that are worth some green.
Long before the days of streaming videos and DVD movies, the VHS tape was the king of household entertainment. Millions of fans purchased whole libraries of beloved Disney movies and collectors will happily pay you to take them off your hands. Most sell for between $5 and $25, but others go for much more.
Copies of Beauty and the Beast tend to have a higher value. While you probably won’t get rich selling off your Disney VHS tapes, you can still earn some cash if you’re willing to part with your favorite childhood flicks that you probably can't even play anymore.
First edition books have always been collectible, but if you’re lucky enough to have a hardcover, British version of the Harry Potter books lying around, you could earn $55,000. The American first editions sell for much less — around $6500 — but most people wouldn’t turn that down, even if the books are a major connection to their childhood.
It may seem a bit out of fashion and a waste of money to have an expensive set of dishes that only see the light of day during special occasions. The fact is, vintage china sets can sell for thousands of dollars.
Check the bottom of ceramic china dinnerware for hallmarks or monograms to find out who made it. Hard-to-find pieces from Lennox or Welmar can fetch a nice price. But it's the dinnerware and serving dishes from 17th and 18th century Europe — like those created by Meissen, Spode, Limoges, and Wedgwood — that are especially valuable.
Lots of people collect vintage Pyrex cookware and serving pieces, and some will pay a few hundred dollars to get them. The older, more coveted Pyrex dishes feature bright colors and unique designs on the sides. A matching set of stackable, rectangular-shaped “fridgies” with lids can earn you up to $100 or more on eBay. Rarer promotional or special edition pieces, like those decorated with the gold starburst pattern, carry a much higher price tag, from a few hundred dollars to more than $1000.
Having a vintage cookie jar in your possession could pay off. The most sought-after pieces feature cartoons or recognizable characters, like Popeye or Howdy Doody, and they can sell for a few hundred dollars. But you could hit the jackpot if you happen to have a rare piece, like the Abingdon Pottery Witch cookie jar. Kovels Price Guide lists it at $1600.
If you have a first-generation iPod MP3 player from 2001 sitting in a drawer, and you’re willing to part with it, you could add some dollars to your bank account. The reason they’re so valuable is that Steve Jobs himself built some of them.
While some collectors will dish out $1000 for one of these original versions, iPods in their original packaging could earn even more. Some collectors are willing to pay several thousand dollars for never-opened, first, second, or third-gen editions.
These dolls became a national phenomenon in the 1980s and can be worth quite a bit if they’re in good condition. Most sell for between $10 and $30, with some “Baldies” going for $100. The most valuable Cabbage Patch dolls are the Original Coleco CPK dolls that came out in 1983 and 1984, the Cabbage Patch Twins, the Preemies, 1983’s dark-skinned Cabbage Patch dolls, and those manufactured overseas in 1984. Dolls that are in their original box are worth much more.
The market for intricately crafted perfume bottles has been going strong for decades. Most collectors say the leading factor in their value is their rarity. Famous perfumeries sometimes release limited editions of their scents in exquisitely crafted bottles, and these are especially valuable. The better their condition or the more famous the glassmaker, the more they’re worth. Original packaging also adds to their value.
Many antique versions were created using special glass in unique colors with engravings and other embellishments, including 14K gold mounts or silver stoppers. While super-rare bottles need appraisals to determine their worth, others can earn you up to $200.
If we’ve learned anything about collectors, there’s no question that they hold a special place in their heart for toys from their childhood — they’ll pay a lot for them. The highly prized Princess Rapunzel was only available through mail order by collecting and sending in proofs of purchase along with $8.95.
One of these golden-haired, pink ponies with pale blue eyes sold for $1500 on eBay. Others sell for between $25 and $50, except for rarer versions like Yum Yum Pegasus Pony, Moon Jumper, and Princess Pristina, which sell for around $500.
It may be surprising that a vintage box of crayons can sell for up to $500. Of the 400 colors released by Crayola since 1903, the rarest is the C-Rex, an orange/red color developed in 2003 specifically as a giveaway in boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Other rare colors include Light Blue, created in 1910, and the Mustard Yellow crayon added to the box between 1941 and 1945.
If you don't have any old ones, take heart. The company regularly retires colors and replaces them, boosting the retired colors to collector status, so your current box could be worth something someday.
Valuable vintage editions may be hiding within those stacks of magazines sitting around your grandparents’ house. Copies published before the 1950s are especially collectible and could be worth a few hundred dollars if they’re in great condition.
The first edition of Playboy, which featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover, was estimated with a value of $635,000. Magazines that cross over with other collections could be more valuable, such as sci-fi magazines featuring first-appearance interviews with respected, fan-favorite authors like Frank Herbert and Phillip K. Dick.
Not all, but some, Ty Beanie Babies are super collectible. These cute little stuffed toys were all the rage in the 1990s. Parents and toy collectors alike snatched them up, hoping they’d one day be worth tons of money. And the rarer versions were, until 1999 when the market crashed.
Yet, there’s still a market for these cuddly stuffies, some of which sell for a few hundred dollars. The top three most sought-after Beanie Babies are Valentina, the fuchsia-colored bear, Whisper, the fawn, and Patti, the magenta platypus.
The first licensed character that appeared on a lunchbox was, unsurprisingly, Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie in 1935 and valued at around $2000 in recent years. The Superman lunch box released in 1954 has been one of the most coveted, earning more than $10,000 for an owner who sold one.
Lunch boxes featuring the Beatles, the Jetsons, Star Trek, and the Lone Ranger have been sold for $1000 or more.
The American Girl dolls may not be cheap, but they’re super popular. If you’re lucky enough to have any of the original versions released in 1986, you could cash in. A Samantha doll can go for as much as $7000, yet one autographed by her creator, Pleasant Rowland, sold for $12,000 at an auction. Pristine Molly dolls are worth up to $5000 and Kirstens can go as high as $2000.
A vintage Polaroid camera can earn you between $100 and $500. If you have its original carrying case and film, you’re more likely to fetch a price in that upper range. The rarest version is the Polaroid 185 Land Camera, for which some collectors will pay up to $1000 if it’s in mint condition.
The returning popularity of vinyl records has also brought attention to vintage turntables, and people are willing to dish out some serious green for them. In the 1970s, premium turntables became a status symbol for music aficionados around the world.
In recent years, the sound of a vinyl record on a quality turntable has once again attracted discophiles and casual music listeners alike. If you have a vintage turntable at your disposal, you could make a couple of hundred bucks or more.
Furbys were the first domestically-aimed robots to be sold to the public. They not only reacted to touch but could also learn, translating words from their own language into English. If you happen to have one of the early versions of the toy or a limited edition in its original packaging, such as the Kid Cuisine Furby, the Pink Crystal Furby Baby, or the Rusty Dots Furby, collectors might be willing to pay up to $300 to take it off your hands.
Mattel hit the jackpot when they came up with the idea for this range of tiny companion dolls and their accessories. You can cash in, too, if you have specific Polly Pocket sets. Fairy Light Wonderland sets have sold for $450 on eBay, while a birthday-themed set went for just under $300.
Even compact playsets have a fan base who will pay between $20 and $60 just to add them to their collections.
For decades, fans have been buying vintage band t-shirts and proudly wearing them to show off their support for their favorite musical groups. Some, however, packed them away to keep them safe and in mint condition, and people will pay thousands of dollars to get their hands on a few of these.
Limited run promotional t-shirts are a premium find, along with those illustrating a specific historic tour. A Nirvana shirt from their 1993 Utero Tour sold for $7000, while a 1980s Run DMC sold for $13,000.
Star Wars action figures in their original packaging are the lottery tickets of the collectibles world. An original vintage Kenner Star Wars action figure set goes for as much as $30,000 in online auctions, and a single unopened Luke Skywalker has been listed for as much as $25,000.
While you're probably not going to find one of these gems for $2 at a garage sale anytime soon, there are still some great deals out there. Familiarize yourself with the universe of Star Wars action figures, know the difference between the Kenner figures and the ones made later in China, and keep your eyes open for some amazingly collectible bits of nostalgic fun.
The golden age of postcards ran from about 1890 to roughly 1915. During this time, bright, colorful cards flew through the mail of every country in the world, showing cheery beach scenes, bustling cityscapes, and quite a lot of bawdy comics.
Finding these in an old curio shop is one of the pleasures of junk hunting in your spare time, and when you get them home, they're easy to store and preserve. These have been collectors' items for over 100 years, and they're probably going to keep on in private collections far into the future, which means the demand for them is likely to stay high.
Before video games there were board games, and when the three TV stations your family got on the Magnavox weren't showing anything good, it was routine for somebody to suggest Monopoly/Yahtzee/Trivial Pursuit. Vintage board games from the '60s and '70s were the best when they were the current thing, and now that they're vintage, they're worth even more.
Collectors from all over the world scour old record stores, gift shops, garage sales, and online auction sites for those spongy old cardboard sets, wrinkled and half-torn game pieces, and dice that never rolled quite right. Almost any vintage board game is considered a collectible, though some are better than others. Your best bet for long-term value is with a mix of big-name games everybody has played, like Sorry!; on the flip side, watch for extremely obscure ones nobody has heard of, like Feeley Meeley.
Vinyl records were humanity's first great audio recording technology, if you don't count wax cylinders from the 1890s, and some people still swear they're the best way to listen to high-quality music. There's something about the analog grooves-inside-of-grooves technology that makes purist audiophiles weak in the knees, and they pay well to get the right records.
Collecting vintage records and record players has another upside. For more obscure recordings, vinyl might be your only chance to pick up a copy. Plenty of rare pressings never got transferred onto CD in the '90s, and they haven't been digitized since, so it's vinyl or nothing. Don't be tricked into overpaying for an Enrico Caruso RCA Victor you find in a record store. It is old, and it looks valuable, but RCA used to give these records away for free with a Victrola purchase, so there are literally millions of them in circulation.
Advertising signs are a window into people's hopes and dreams, expressed via colorful product placement. Find an old Coca-Cola sign, hang it in your carport, and you've instantly got a lived-in look that about doubles the character of a space. Vintage signs for soda pop, patent medicines, and Ladies' Pennyroyal Tablets in the Red and Gold Box are classics of the type, and they help create a homey, welcoming feel wherever you hang them.
Better than that, original vintage signs can be worth quite a bit. If you're collecting as an investment, look out for authentic Art Deco and Art Nouveau pieces since they aren't making any more of these; some have an amazing backstory, such as the Federal Art Project's 1930s PSA campaign to try to get American motorists to not hit deer with their cars.
Before the modern smartphone, and way before everybody went around with small surveillance devices in their pockets, showing up someplace with a camera was a sign you were taking the occasion seriously. People in the past would sink small fortunes into getting the most rugged, accurate, and all-around beautiful camera equipment that could be found.
Today, you're most likely to find real vintage camera gear in an antique shop, but deals are here and there. Look for original model Brownies, especially the geometric-patterned Art Deco models, and some of the earliest Japanese models from the '50s, which revolutionized the camera industry.
Retro, in relation to video games, can mean anything prior to PS3. In practice, it usually means something from the '70s or the '80s, with a nod to the Sega Genesis and classics like Sonic and Mortal Kombat. It is both a blessing and a curse that so many old game consoles are still around.
On the one hand, it's not hard to find an original NES from 1986. On the other hand, availability doesn't help the resale value, so the rule is the easier it is to get a console, the less you can resell it for later.
Christmas is always a special time, but the Victorians made a really big deal out of it. Christmas tree ornaments from this period tend to be light and airy, colorful pieces of fragile glass. Because of this, not a lot have survived the 20th century. Finding one of these, or, better yet, a whole set of them in a box, is a stroke of incredible luck.
Mid-century furniture has made a roaring comeback, and if you're sitting on a set of authentic club chairs, you're all set. Look for occasional and coffee tables, overstuffed modern-style sofas, and maybe pick up a weird wall-mounted art piece with lots of odd angles and polished walnut for your collection.
Costume jewelry was a brilliant compromise for people who wanted the great, gaudy diamonds, sapphires, and rubies of wealthy Victorians but who barely had the budget for polished glass. These amazing pieces are still floating around out there, though you might want to avoid anything too green. Costume emeralds tended to get their color from uranium back in the day.