10 Hidden Treasures That Could Be in Your Garage Right Now
Don't let these valuable items collect dust in your garage anymore. Clean out your space and see if you own any of these rare collectibles.
The most valuable treasures in your garage are going to be the ones in the best and closest to the original condition as possible. Sebastian Clarke, a furnishing and decorative arts appraisal specialist and the director of estate services at Rago Arts, a U.S. auction house, said to look inside drawers to check the hardware. If there are extra holes around the bolts, that may mean the original hardware has been replaced, which is not a good thing. He said three or four digit numbers painted or printed on a label in the top drawer or back panel signifies a 20th-century piece that was mass produced, and commercial products like that aren’t always the most valuable. But right now, modern designs, like furniture designed by Eero Saarinen, are a collector’s best friend.
If collectible toys were a cupcake, having the original box would be the icing on top. Without the box, the toys aren’t a cupcake—more like a plain muffin. “Toys were meant to be played with, and while this isn’t the rule of thumb unless it’s still in the original box, it’s likely there’s not a great deal of value,” said Clarke. He said that because toys were so massed produced, an early G.I. Joe figure isn’t worth much, but an early G.I. Joe in mint condition and in the box can be valuable. The same goes for train sets and Barbie dolls. Take a look at this guide to childhood toys that still hold value to see if you have anything on the list.
Similar to diamonds, coins can be certified and professionally graded because of the silver or gold value they might hold. If you find a tin full of 19th- century American coins, the first thing that Clarke says you should check is the weight. If the coin is heavy, it’s probably silver-plated and there is another metal underneath it. Silver-plated coins have limited value because they were mass-produced and the layer of silver is often so thin that the minute you clean it, the coating comes off, which removes the value. Another sign that your coins are just silver-plated is if you see an “EPNS” stamp. EPNS stands for electro-plated nickel silver, which means nickel silver or stainless steel is the base metal. Clarke says the base price for true silver can start at $15 per ounce.
The chest in your garage or basement filled with porcelain dolls from your childhood might not actually be the hidden treasure you hoped it would be. Besides the fact that these locations are not the best environments for preserving good conditions of dolls’ hair and clothing, it seems that collectors of porcelain dolls have greatly diminished. The market for these dolls has taken a “substantial nose dive,” according to Clarke. However, these 11 of your favorite childhood toys are actually worth thousands of dollars.
One thing that Clarke says almost everyone has hidden away somewhere in their house is a piece of Limoges porcelain. This type of porcelain was often used to mass-produce teacups, saucers, and coffee sets. Though many people have these types of items, Clarke suggests using the Internet to find out who the maker of the items is by searching for the marking on the item. Knowing the maker will help you determine if what you have is rare, valuable, or just something else that everyone else has. For example, Meissen plates or dinnerware that have the signature cobalt blue swords crossing in the shape of an X marked on them can run a few hundred dollars.
First edition books and novels from famous authors and best sellers can be extremely valuable—that is, if you haven’t read them. If a book has been read multiple times, has pages folded, or has stains on it, you might not be able to receive the full value of it. Check if a book is a first edition by looking at the first few pages for the copyright and publish date. If they are the same, you’ve found a hidden treasure in your garage. Look to see if you still have the original dust jacket, too; that’ll bring you extra bucks. If your collection doesn’t end up being that valuable, check out these 15 brilliant ways to repurpose your old books.
New Marvel and DC movie adaptations are made so often you might have forgotten that they’re actually based on comic books. These first edition comics with clean covers and no creases can be extremely valuable. “Early issues and those introducing major characters, like Amazing Fantasy #15 (Spiderman), are in high demand in great condition,” says Leila Dunbar, a pop culture memorabilia appraisal specialist and the president of Leila Dunbar Appraisals. Other comic books that collectors want to add to their playground are Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, X-Men and Iron Man.
Baseball cards date back to the 19th century and can be even more valuable if they are signed. According to Dunbar, any autographs signed before the start of the 1980s will be even more of a hidden treasure for you. Dig through your collection of sports items and keep an eye out for names such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, and Jackie Robinson. Rookie cards of Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bobby Orr, Wilt Chamberlain, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Johnny Unitas, and Pete Rose from the 1950s to the 1970s can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, says Dunbar. Take a look at these vintage baseball photos die-hard fans will appreciate and see if anything in your collection resembles them.
Have you ever wondered if that old, sort of random, painting you bought at the flea market was actually made by someone famous or is worth more money than you paid for it? Well, Chris Barber, an American furniture and decorative arts specialist at Skinner auction house, says that it can be difficult to automatically know if a painting has value and that you should always call an auction house if you have any feeling that your painting might be something special. “The difference between an interesting folk art painting and what’s interesting to the public is hard to describe,” he said. “People who collect folk art and even professionals sometimes have a difficult time knowing what a particular buyer might want to see or not.” To get started on researching a piece of art you might have, check if there’s a signature and turn to the Internet to see if you can identify the artist. Also, don’t worry if there’s no original frame, there’s a surprisingly limited market for frames.
Not all jewelry is created equal. Sometimes gemstones have been retouched and sometimes they can be outright fakes. But Barber says to remember how you ended up getting the piece. If your grandfather or great-great aunt has told everyone in the family to take great care of a certain piece, and it’s been handed down through generations, you might have something worthy of getting appraised. Check for brand names like Bulgari, Cartier, Rolex, and Tiffany & Company. Just as they are expensive jewelry makers now, their pieces can be even more valuable if they are true vintage pieces. Pocket watches, however, might not rake in that much money because they were often gold-plated, meaning there’s little gold value to collectors. Next, check out these vintage Christmas decorations that are extremely valuable right now.