Are you one of these people who has been holding on to items or collections from your children’s childhood or your own because you believe that one day they will be worth something? If so, you are not alone. As collectors, we tend to buy and save everything under that pretext. No doubt your home, like mine, has bins stashed away in closets and in the attic taking up space, waiting for the day when the market rewards our diligence and foresight.
When we read about a Topps baseball card or first edition superhero comic book selling in the millions, or a mint-in-box Boba Fett Star Wars figurine or vintage Barbie going for hundreds of thousands of dollars, we can’t help but feel hopeful and vindicated in our efforts to preserve items from our past. Could there be a Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps trading card ($2.8 million) in that box on the top shelf of your closet? Or a 1939 Superman No. 1 issue among your stack of childhood comics ($5.3 million)? I certainly hope so but the reality is that most mass-produced collectibles fall far short in value than the select few that capture our attention. The rest have mostly sentimental value.
Time for a garage sale?
Here are 12 popular collectibles from our past that might not be worth holding on to:
Beanie Babies: Ty Beanie Babies are an item on this list that’s hard not to collect. Once you acquire one Beanie Baby, you’re compelled to find more. And for years, TY made that easy by putting out limited editions and anniversary offerings; however, in 1995, adults began collecting Beanie Babies as a financial investment, seeing the potential for high resale value. That year, the toys that were quickly flipped on eBay sold for ten times the original purchase price. But once the fad died down, so did their worth. A little research can help you identify which ones to look out for but, for the most part, say goodbye and pass them on. They are still cherished toys.
Vinyl Records: Once the hottest of collectibles for music lovers who proudly carted around their collections, vinyl took a hit when CDs and other portable forms of music hit the road. Now, vinyl is back as are record stores of decades past, in what is being called a “vinyl revival.” With so much vinyl in the marketplace, most don’t hold any true value. It’s only the rare and select vintage records that are and will continue to be worth anything. It’s best to do your research instead of holding onto false hope that your crate of records can one day be turned into serious cash.
Norman Rockwell Collector Plates: Collector plate series from a number of different makers were popular investments for many Americans in the 1960s. Many were sold as monthly subscriptions that came with a serial number and Certificate of Authenticity. Collector plates featuring Norman Rockwell illustrations should be acquired for enjoyment, not for investment. Antique Trader values the collector plates at $10 each, declining from its previous estimated value of $50-75.
Star Wars Toys: Although some older, limited-release, mint-in-box Star Wars collectibles have brought in big money at recent Star Wars auctions, the same can’t be said for the majority of mass-produced franchised and more recent Star Wars toys. Following Star Wars auctions online are a fun and great way to study market interest and value but experts caution that the majority of mass-produced items from the ‘90s and ‘00s will never realize the value of a select few.
Royal Family Memorabilia: Nothing like a royal wedding, anniversary, or birth to flood the market with royal memorabilia in all its collectible forms; however, stocking up on commemorative plates, tea cups, and coins won’t send your kid to college. Mass-produced items like these are meant as keepsakes. Only something that is rare and made in small quantities will have any investment value.
Comic Books: Comic books are enjoying a renaissance among readers and collectors, especially as word of million dollar auction sales becomes big news. The real money in the comic book market comes from issues from the 1930s-’50s. And for a seven-figure payout on a $.10 comic, it has to be in mint condition, protected and never opened, and the debut issue of an iconic superhero. Unfortunately, most kids did not think about long-term value when reading through and sharing their comics. We now know better: buy one to read and one to save, just in case. But for the most part, unless the comic book is an issue of special significance and in mint condition, no fan will seek it out and pay more money for it later.
Stamps: Always a fun and interesting hobby, few stamps and complete stamp sets are worth even their face value. Select older stamps that are in perfect condition have some potential value but it’s a needle in a haystack. This is hard news to take for older generations who were once informed to take good care of stamp collections, as they’d be worth money one day. Consider bringing the stamp books in your drawer to a local philatelist club for an appraisal, and donating what you don’t want to save or sell individually to their members.
Model Train Sets: There are dozens of hobby websites and clubs around the world dedicated to model train sets, especially the beloved Lionel collections. But when it comes to resale value, train sets aren’t worth investing in, although some rare and in excellent condition trains have been known to make their owner money. The market is flooded with hundreds of listings of entire vintage model train sets in good condition only selling for around $100.
Barbie Dolls: Barbie dolls first hit the market in 1959. Fifty years later, the doll is still one of the most popular toys and a cultural icon. If you happen to have your hands on a mint condition, original Barbie from 1959, you might have $25,000 to add to your bank account. If not, it’s likely your Barbie collection won’t earn you much more than a smile from its next owner.
Vintage Playboy Magazines: Whether you bought Playboy magazine “for the articles” or other reasons, the iconic magazine has quite a history. First printed in 1953, Playboy has many memorable issues, including the ones with cover girls like Donna Michelle, Ursula Andress, and Darine Stern. First editions, anniversary issues, and copies that were printed before 1970 may be worth something but issues mass-produced after that is paper taking up space.
Precious Moments Figurines: For years, Precious Moments figurines have been collected, gifted, and proudly displayed in homes across America. Founded in 1978, the porcelain figurines centered around an angel named Timmy. Today, there are over a dozen Precious Moments collections and though still popular, aren’t a promising investment. The collectibles are mass-produced with hundreds posted to eBay. In the case of these figurines, nostalgia and sweetness are all they have to offer.
Pez Dispensers: Some toys are worth a fortune, and others aren’t. Pez dispensers are both a toy and an accessory for candy. Kids love finding their favorite cartoon characters configured into a candy dispenser. Some people even hold onto them, collecting them into adulthood. Unless you have a grand collection of Pez dispensers, each item only goes for a buck or two. Even the limited edition Elvis Presley Pez dispenser collection is valued at a low $9.20.
So, what’s taking up space in your house?