Cleaning & Organizing
Your Guide to Which Childhood Items Might Have Value Now—and Which You Should Just Toss
That collection of Beanie Babies won’t pay the rent, but that old concert ticket stub might!
Boys will be boys and reap the rewards
In the movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Steve Carrel’s character collects Star Wars figures and displays them around his apartment as if they were works of Picasso. After falling for a woman who owns an eBay re-sell store, he realizes that if he wants the girl maybe he should keep the Star Wars quotes to himself and cash in on his childhood collection. Perhaps your own better half has been nagging you to dump your cherished collection of baseball cards, matchbox cars, or Star Wars‘ figures. Well they might change their tune when they discover what they might be worth. “There’s very little you can trash in life these days as there is a collector for everything,” explains Jacquie Denny, co-founder and chief development officer of Everything But The House (EBTH), the premiere online estate sale marketplace where all items start at $1. “Vintage baseball cards that boys traded with their friends and any items related to a movie we loved as a kid—like Star Wars—hold their value.” Denny recently sold a He-Man figurine for $170. And, sorry ladies: when it comes to childhood memorabilia, boy’s collections are more sought after and subsequently more lucrative to sell.
Don’t bank on your doll collection
It’s time to ditch that trunk filled with baby dolls or Barbies even if they conjure up fond memories from your pigtail days. Unless you are a Barbie doll history junkie, keeping a closet full of dolls is taking up precious storage space. “We have an affinity to dolls because we grew up with them, but girls today are not playing with dolls as much nor do they want to collect them,” says Denny. “With the exception of collecting Barbies from the 1950s and 1960s, it is an older generation who is buying those collections.” No need to fill a landfill with old Barbies though. If your dolls are in good condition consider donating them to a children’s charity or a preschool.
Teddy’s out on the street
If you thought the movie Ted with Mark Wahlberg was hilarious you wouldn’t be alone. But if you’re still attached to your own Fluffy, Growly, or Teddy Bear, the jokes on you. Those Teddys aren’t valuable to anyone other than your childhood self. Don’t feel obligated to give them a forever home just because they helped ward off the monsters under your bed. They are now dusty remnants of your youth gone by. Donate them if you can find a place that will accept plush toys, but many facilities won’t take them due to bed bugs (ew!) or allergic reactions that could occur if the toy is from a home with a pet. The one exception is if your favorite Great Aunt Ruth bought you a Steiff Teddy Bear—Denny says these plush bears can be highly valuable. And forget those Beanie Babies you’ve been keeping all these years. They aren’t going to put your kids through college; but they could keep a soldier overseas company. Operation Gratitude puts Beanie Babies and other varieties of small, plush toys in all their care packages they send to deployed troops. “For some, the toys provide cheery comfort, a reminder of childhood… To others, they’re tokens of friendship to be shared with children in the villages where our troops patrol… and a great number of these toys make it all the way home at the end of deployments to be given as gifts for loved ones.”
Scrapbooks might be for the scrap pile
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Do you have a scrapbook filled with mementos and tokens of your youth? From pressed prom corsages to notes passed along the hallway between classes, a scrapbook may be fun to peruse when you feel like taking a trek down memory lane, but they will be of no value to anyone else. (Here are more things to get rid of when you’re decluttering your home.) Although there are some exceptions. “Never throw away ticket stubs from sporting events and concerts, or even programs,” says Denny. “A Beatle’s concert ticket stub once sold for $1,800.” And although most scrapbook paraphernalia won’t be worth cashing in on those old rock n’ roll band posters you plastered around your teenage room might be. “I recently found a Jimi Hendrix poster from the 1960s and it was worth $700—so sometimes there is hidden value. Before you decide no one else would want pop it in an Internet search engine and you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.”
Sports equipment isn’t too sporty when it’s old
Mostovyi Sergii Igorevich/Shutterstock
You can trash those old golf clubs from your punting days gone by. There’s no value in old sports equipment because newer and better technology outdate it—unless you own an item that is no longer being made or that are collectors are seeking out like banana seat bikes with high handlebars. Before you toss that old sporting equipment consider whether it has nostalgic value or if its outdated equipment with newer, superior versions available. And don’t forget about safety considerations. Those roller skates might have been cool back in 1965, but they could mean a sprained ankle in 2017. It goes without saying that attempting to ride that classic Big Wheel as an adult is not worth a trip to the emergency room. (Here’s what emergency room staff isn’t telling you.)
Nancy Drew and Cat In The Hat are not equal
“The language and semantics of books changes with every generation,” says Denny of EBTH.com. Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Mysteries might be the same titled books you read as a child, but with tweaks to wording because the language in these books are generational. (Don’t worry, Nancy Drew will remain the strong female protagonist you remember, but updated for the millennium.) Denny recommends donating your old collection to a library. However, if you have a book that is a first edition or signed by the author think about checking its value first. “And don’t discard any Cat In the Hat books. A 1960s Cat In The Hat school reader edition was recently a hot ticket item and will probably always be worth money because we continue reading Dr. Seuss,” explains Denny.
Fifteen years is the sweet spot
When Greg took over his dad’s den on the Brady Bunch, he turned it into a hippie pad we could all dig especially those cool lava lamps. “Twenty years ago when I started in this industry I couldn’t give those lava lamps away,” Denny says. “Value comes and goes and changes. The hot thing right now is mid-century modern. Lava lamps and all that crazy stuff from the psychedelic era of the 1960s and 1970s.” But don’t hold on to an item too long or you might miss the market. There is a sweet spot. “In most cases, by holding things more than 15 years, you’re going miss that wave of interest for the second time around.”
The island of misfit toys
That rusty Peanuts lunch box that you think is one of a kind or the Barney Miller Game (yes, that was a board game in the late ’70s) that’s missing the dice, is no dice when it comes to resale value. “If it’s an old toy in good condition or a nostalgic game with all of its pieces intact, it may be worth keeping, but no one is buying anything in poor quality. Now that the largest generation is unloading their ‘stuff’ at the same time people are only buying the best of the best, because they can,” notes Denny of EBTH.com. And that’s because there’s proof that a trip down memory lane is a mood booster.
8-track tapes are not going to be your retirement fund
That Bee Gees 8-track you played over and over again may bring back memories of high school, but won’t bring much money on the resell market. However, vinyl has made a very strong comeback. Denny notes that 1940s and 1950s jazz records have high resale value. She stresses to keep the inner sleeve of the record. Keep in mind that vinyl needs to be in mostly pristine condition, so scratches are a no-no. But when collectors find an album they are seeking in good condition, they may be willing to pay big bucks. And, it’s not always the music that sells an old record—the album cover could be worth more than what’s inside due to the cover artwork, with rare (or unique!) cover designs a go-to for collectors. (Did you know that listening to music can have these incredible health benefits?)
Clothing can be tossed
You’re old swaddling blanket might be something you want to keep, but dump those baby clothes. No one wants onesies and playsuits that you wore while being pushed in the pram. And that baby hat your Aunt Edna knitted is probably not going to be worn again by your grandniece. Think about taking a photo of sentimental items instead, then store digital photos of keepsake items on the Cloud or in Dropbox. Of course some closets might be full of exceptions. “Paper Andy Warhol dresses we wore in the 1960s as teens were $1.98 back then,” says Denny. “But one that was still in the package recently sold for $800.” Or, if you were a 1980s teen, Swatch watches in good condition could be worth hundreds of dollars. “People start to recollect items in their mid-30s,” Denny explains. “When they have been in the workforce awhile and have extra spending money. They are seeking items that trigger-happy memories from their childhood—so the 1960s go-go boots you wore as a teen might be worth keeping.”