9 Vintage Items That May be Worth Money

From albums to toys, some of your old objects may be worth something. Check out this list of what's hot and what's not in your attic.

By Amy Maclin from Reader's Digest | November 2009
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    ANTIQUE JEWELRY
    The guide: Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, or Warman's Jewelry, by Christie Romero.

    What's hot: Any type of signed designer piece (Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels) or pieces that have a recognizable vintage style, like Art Deco, says Richard Brodney, owner of Brodney Antiques and Jewelry in Boston.

    What's not: 'It's always something somebody's grandmother had,' says Brodney. 'The grandmother, God bless her, she's 85 and tells the granddaughter, I'm leaving you this ring. It's worth a lot of money. And a couple hundred dollars is a lot of money.'

    ALBUMS
    The guide: Rockin' Records, by Jerry Osborne, or Goldmine's Price Guide to Collectible Record Albums, by Neal Umphred.

    What's hot: Mint-condition promotional recordings from well-known artists on acetate, says Scott Neuman of Forever Vinyl in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

    What's not: Big hodgepodge collections like the one Grandpa has, with a little Sinatra, a little Elvis, and a lot of classical and opera. 'You're lucky if you get ten cents on the dollar,' Neuman says.

    The grail: The Beatles' so-called Butcher Block album, which features the Fab Four holding beheaded baby dolls (above), an image so controversial, the album was withdrawn and reissued is now a coveted rarity that can be worth almost $39,000.

    Not: A real album from The Monkees, an arguably knockoff group (after all, Davy is no Ringo,) is worth decidedly less: about $19.

    BOOKS
    The guide: There's no definitive price reference, says Fred Bass, co-owner of Strand Book Store in New York: 'The field is too vast. You couldn't lift it.' He recommends checking sites such as amazon.com, alibris.com, and abebooks.com but cautions, 'Just because somebody lists a book for $800 doesn't mean someone will buy it for $800.'

    What's hot: Good-condition photography, art, and history books. Collectible first editions from classic authors, such as Faulkner and Dickens, and a few modern scribes, such as Stephen King. (A rare leather-bound copy of The Regulators, written by King under the pen name Richard Bachman, sold at abebooks.com for $8,000.) A first edition in excellent condition of Ulysses by James Joyce, a 20th-century hot shot, can sell for as much as $450,000.

    What's not: First editions of recently published books. Recent bestsellers may bring big bucks for authors, but readers trying to offload a copy get less-even for first editions.

    COINS
    The guide: The Blue Book Handbook of U.S. Coins, by R. S. Yeoman, updated annually, is a rough guide to the prices you can expect a dealer to pay for your coins. The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins, also by Yeoman, contains more detail about each coin, plus the retail price, which is what your dealer will try to get when he resells it.

    What's hot: Anything very rare, anything gold. However, it's not silver. It's not gold. But a fairly rare copper cent (above) can typically go for $425 to $2,000.

    What's not: 'Old silver dollars are where sellers are mostly disappointed,' says Bob Walter, co-owner of Sam Sloat Coins in Westport, Connecticut. 'It's not the age of the coin,' he says. 'It's the number of them that were made and the condition.' A silver dollar minted in large quantities can be worth only its weight in metal: about $13.

    Tip: Don't clean your coins. 'Anything you do will disturb the original surface and affect the value,' Walter says.

    COMIC BOOKS
    The guide: The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, by Robert M. Overstreet.

    What's hot: Any first appearances of characters from the 1930s to the 1960s, says Vincent Zurzolo of Metropolis Collectibles in New York. Superheroes rule the world of comic books. Superman's 1938?debut comic (above) brought $317,200 at auction.

    What's not: Any comics from the past 20 years. Also, DC's oversize Famous First Edition comic books, reprints of first-appearance comics that are often mistaken by sellers for originals.

    FURNITURE
    The guide: This is such a broad category that it's difficult to name one definitive guide, according to the experts, but Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide is a good place to start.

    What's hot: Stickley mission oak, Arts and Crafts, Heywood-Wakefield, says auctioneer Walt Kolenda.

    What's not: 1920s and 1930s dining sets that are reproductions of pieces from the 16th and 17th centuries, says dealer J. Michael Flanigan. 'They look like they came out of a castle,' he says, 'but they were produced by the tens of thousands out of places like Grand Rapids.'

    POTTERY AND PORCELAIN
    The guide: There's no real definitive guide, says dealer Nick Dawes. A good starting point is the Kovels' guide or Antique Trader Pottery & Porcelain Ceramics Price Guide, by Kyle Husfloen.

    What's hot: Collectible European figurines from the 18th century and anything that looks as if it represents the age in which it was made (like figures in period costumes), through the '60s and '70s.

    What's not: Just about everything else. 'At Antiques Roadshow, I've sat at the pottery and porcelain table since the first season, and the typical value of what we see is under $10,' Dawes says. 'Lots of porcelain services that people inherited half a century ago have little or no value today. A lot of places don't want to handle it because it's labor-intensive; a service for 12 might have 100 or 200 pieces.'

    SPORTS TRADING CARDS
    The guide: The Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide and other Beckett guides.

    What's hot: Vintage cards in good condition from the turn of the 20th century through the '60s. The famous T206 Honus Wagner card from 1909 (above) last changed hands for $2.8 million.

    What's not: Anything from the oversaturation era of the 1990s. People are certain that their unopened boxes from the 1990s are going to cover college tuition for their kids, says Tracy Hackler of Beckett.

    Tip: A key card of a player on the biggest stages (the Olympics, the Super Bowl) can appreciate significantly. After Michael Phelps's performance in Beijing, one of his autographed cards went from $60 to $800 in the span of a week.

    TOYS
    The guide: Whatever your type of toy, it probably has its own special book. In the past 20 years, there's been a 'really big boom' of price guides for every type of collectible toy-Star Wars, Disney, Barbies, says Alex Winter of Hake's.

    What's hot: Merchandise tied to the first Star Wars film-as long as it's still in the blister pack and 'never made it into a kid's hands,' Winter says. Star Wars items were produced in huge quantities, he adds, so the premium value is on original packaging. For older, more rare toys-Disneyana from the 1930s, for instance-it's less important to have the box.

    What's not: Loose Lukes whose tiny plastic lightsabers were swallowed long ago; a missing package and accessories can reduce a figure's value from $100 to $15 or less.

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