Attic treasures are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Many of us are living more efficiently with less clutter around the house and barely any room for additional storage anyway. I’ve never even opened the hatch to the attic in my house — mostly because that horror-movie-waiting-to-happen can stay locked away for eternity for all I care.
Yet while younger generations don’t have a need or desire to take advantage of attic space — if they even have it — our parents and grandparents were basically functioning hoarders who stuffed the rafters to the gills will potential treasures. What sort of bounty is tucked away up there? Take a look at these 11 items in your attic that might be worth big bucks
1. Sterling Silver and Enameled Metal Pieces
While silver and gold fluctuate in price on the markets, they’ll always be valuable. And since sterling was relatively cheap back in the day, it’s feasible that your family could have a few pieces that demand a pretty penny.
“For pieces that retain their value over time, look to precious metal antiques including sterling silver flatware, tea sets, and also enameled metal pieces like Cloisonné and Champleve,” advises Michael de Bondt, an antique buyer and estate sales dealer in Sarasota, Florida. “Because of the workmanship and level of quality in these items, they can be worth money for decades or longer and remain more stable than trending antiques and collectibles.”
2. Far East Antiques
De Bondt adds that Far East antiques also hold their value for a long time.
“The hottest items now that people might have lurking in attics from grandma’s parlor are Asian pieces,” he says. “We especially like Chinese snuff bottles, antique urns, and bronze pieces.”
3. Musical Instruments
“Any musical instrument can have huge value, but especially guitars,” explains David Kalt, founder and CEO of Reverb.com, an online marketplace for guitars and gear.
4. Obsolete Electronics
As reported by Mashable, even the most outdated electronic devices are sought after, like the Imagination Machine that pulled in $900 on eBay.
But even if you don’t have little-known vintage electronics, you can still cop a decent amount of green with your old Nintendo items, like a 20-year-old Super Nintendo game that sold for $81; dusty and totally defunct Betamaxes; and Apple products, like the Apple II+, which commanded $102 at eBay auction.
5. Childhood Toys and Games
Kevin Bernhard, owner of Rust-and-Shine vintage and handmade market in Baltimore, reveals that sales for vintage toys and game boxes are especially healthy.
“Most people think they are trash, but people buy them to reunite a toy with its original packaging, or just use it as art,” he says.
Another decent moneymaker is the fast food and cartoon character collector glassware from the 1980s.
“With ’80s kids now having disposable income, they are being bought up like crazy. There’s just something fun about drinking an adult beverage out of a glass that you used to sip apple juice out of,” says Bernhard. “Another favorite is stuffed animals from the ’80s and early ’90s. Alf, Teddy Ruxpin and My Buddy dolls fly off the shelves.”
Most coins will always be worth their face value even if that has diminished over the years thanks to inflation. But some coins, especially rare ones in excellent condition, far exceed their original value. The same goes for paper money, too, which isn’t uncommon to find in attics previously owned by War-era families and veterans.
There are several options on where to sell your coins and cash like to a coin shop, physical auction, and an online auction or marketplace – but first, you should have the value appraised by a reputable source.
7. Vintage Magazines and Newspapers
On eBay, a lot of 11 vintage Seventeen magazines from 1961 and ’62 sold for nearly $50, while a single issue of Vogue magazine from April 15, 1968, was up to $36.99 from nine bids on eBay four days before its auction expiration.
8. Costume & Designer Jewelry
“Signed pieces of designer jewelry are often a great place to find value: Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Raymond Yard, David Webb — all of these brands have been around for decades, and in some cases over a century,” says Anup Jogani, founder and CEO of Jogani Beverly Hills, a dealer in antique and vintage gems and jewelry. “Finding a piece with one of these iconic signatures means a good payday coming your way.”
Let’s not forget about costume jewelry, either. I’ve seen costume jewelry sell rapidly and for a decent fee — $100 per small box — at a yard sale that I co-hosted with a neighbor. It was part of his mother’s collection, which wasn’t particularly worth much in terms of quality or craftsmanship, but the pieces were nice enough to catch one buyer’s attention, and that’s really all you need.
9. Comic Books
A quick look on eBay revealed a few heavy hitters, like a lot of 1,712 Gold, Silver and Bronze Age Avengers #1 comic books approaching $7,200 with one day left on bidding; The Amazing Spider-Man #6 from November 1963 bid at $163.50; and a The Brave and the Bold title from 1955 at $128.50 with five days to go.
Reader’s Digest suggests consulting Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide to establish your bearings in the vintage and antique furniture world while paying particular attention to Stickley Mission Oak, Arts and Crafts, and Heywood-Wakefield brands. Items that might seem like a boon but are really a bust include 1920s and ’30s dining sets that are reproductions of 16th- and 17th-century pieces.
“They look like they came out of a castle,” dealer J. Michael Flanigan tells Reader’s Digest, “but they were produced by the tens of thousands out of places like Grand Rapids.”
11. Sports Trading Cards
Considering the amount of time that’s passed and the number of sports trading cards that may be hidden away in the attic, you could have a nice chunk of change coming your way. Upper Deck has a beginners’ guide on how to start sorting through your cards before you approach a shop on the actual retail value.
Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. He spends his time writing from the beach with his dog Jaxon. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyrox.