27 Hidden Treasures That Could Be in Your Attic Right Now
Are you sitting on a secret gold mine?
For many people, the idea of a sudden windfall is the ultimate dream. Fortunately, there’s one surprising source of cash many people aren’t counting on: your attic. In fact, many of the items that are simply gathering dust in the recesses of your house could be an unexpected source of income, from that book collection you’ve had in boxes for years to those toys you haven’t touched since you were a kid.
Even if you think your stuff is junk, it could be a treasure to someone else: “The simplest and truest way to find a value on something is to look at auction results. With sites like LiveAuctioneers, everything is totally accessible to the public,” says Ryan Wagner, owner of Pasture Antiques in Cold Spring, New York. “If you don’t know what you have, just bring the item or photos to a reputable antiques gallery and they should be able to help out. Though most antiques dealers have their own tastes and your item may not be right for them, they should be able to give you some info and point you in the right direction.”
So, before you cheat yourself out of thousands by selling that collectable piece for a quarter at your next tag sale, make sure you know these 27 hidden treasures that could be in your attic right now.
If you want to find some fast cash in your house, look no further than your kitchen. “Today, prices have dramatically increased on things like Pyrex, which can go for well over $100 for desirable pieces or good shape nesting bowls,” says Troy Ford, owner and curator of Newburgh Vintage Emporium in Newburgh, New York.
While the record may seem like an antiquated method of listening to music to some, that doesn’t mean you should clear out your collection just yet. A first pressing of the White Album by The Beatles from Apple Records in the original cover sold for $790,000 at Julien’s Auctions in 2015.
Antique soda advertisements
That antique Coca-Cola sign that once hung in your grandmother’s kitchen could fetch you enough to pay your rent. According to Ford, antique soda signs are highly collectible, and even small pieces of antique soda memorabilia can fetch upwards of $500.
Mid-century modern décor
You may not have much use for that 60-year-old TV stand in your attic, but that doesn’t mean somebody else wouldn’t eagerly pay top dollar for it. “Mid-century modern is in high demand today, including furniture, decor, art and kitchenware,” says Ford. And don’t bank on this trend disappearing anytime soon: “Of course, with the Brady Bunch house recently selling, we will continue to see that trend rise.”
Black Forest cuckoo clocks
That cuckoo clock passed down to you from your great-great-grandparents could be your ticket to major cash. Black Forest cuckoo clocks are particularly valuable to collectors, often fetching hundreds or thousands of dollars at auction. And if you happen to have a piece from master horologist Johann Baptist Beha, you could be sitting on a small fortune: a Beha clock recently sold for $8,000 at Fairfield Auction.
Star Wars toys
Those Star Wars toys you begged your parents for when you were a kid might just have been worth the initial investment after all. In fact, a Star Wars space ship model fetched $450,000 at auction in 2015. “Old toys are always collectible,” says Ford.
Think those old video games aren’t worth the plastic used to produce them? Think again. Avid video game collectors are willing to pay huge sums for the right games and memorabilia. In 2017, a lot of Nintendo games and memorabilia commanded a price of $20,000 after being listed on eBay.
For something so small, baseball cards can earn a huge sale price. Case in point: A T206 Honus Wagner 1909-1911 card earned itself a world record when it fetched $3.12 million at auction in 2016.
Those Ikea rugs on your floor probably can’t be resold for more than a few bucks apiece, but if you have some antique pieces passed down from family members, you could be sitting on a veritable goldmine. While many of your grandparents’ old Persian or oriental rugs will likely fetch you a few hundred dollars, there are definite treasures to be had—a carpet circa 1700 sold in 2013 at Sotheby’s New York for $33.7 million. “People have to learn to appreciate quality and craftsmanship from any period,” says Wagner
While pocket watches may pale in comparison, feature-wise, to newer technologies, like the Apple Watch, they can still earn huge amounts at auction. In fact, in 2018, a pocket watch adorned with Hebrew lettering belonging to a man who died on the Titanic earned $57,500 when it was sold by Heritage Auctions.
Uncorking an old bottle of wine can be a gamble, for sure. But selling one—or a whole case—to the right buyer can make you rich, fast. In 2014, a lot of Romanée-Conti wine was auctioned off at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, with the winning bidder paying $1.6 million for the 114-bottle collection, ranging in age from 21 years old to just four. The appeal of the bottles? The prestigious vineyard in Burgundy where they were created.
While you might not earn much on eBay for that Gideon Bible you swiped from your hotel room, some antique religious texts, from Bibles to psalters, can earn you huge sums. On November 26, 2013, Sotheby’s New York auctioned off the Bay Psalms Book—the first book published in the United States—for $14.2 million.
Royal family memorabilia
The right piece of royal family memorabilia, from Diamond Jubilee plates to newspapers announcing Charles and Diana’s wedding, can create quite a windfall for its owners. While less-than-appealing to some, a slice of fruit cake served at Queen Elizabeth II’s 1947 wedding was auctioned at Christie’s in London in September, 2013, finding a buyer who paid $2,275.99 for it.
Postage stamps may still cost less than a dollar, but that doesn’t mean you won’t earn a huge amount for the right one. In fact, a single postcard bearing a two-penny “Post Paid” stamp from 1849 was sold at auction and fetched $99,100.
Those pretty pink, blue, and green glass dishes passed down to you by your grandparents could be worth a surprising amount of money. If they’re true Depression glass and in mint condition, you could easily earn upwards of $100 per item.
While there are countless replica pieces on the market, finding the right piece of Chinese porcelain in your attic could help you pay off your mortgage in one fell swoop. From turquoise-glazed pieces to Kangxi vases, these fragile beauties often sell for thousands a piece. Just make sure you have an eagle eye for recognizing production marks: many replica pieces bear names of earlier dynasties, indicating that they’re a nod to work from an earlier period.
Vintage Louis Vuitton trunks
Though they’re hardly as convenient as your spinner suitcase, those Louis Vuitton trunks your grandparents schlepped with them on vacations could be the source of some unexpected income. Authentic Louis Vuitton trunks can sell for tens of thousands of dollars apiece—and fortunately, unlike the vaunted fashion house’s popular handbags, there are fewer fakes on the market.
While not every first-edition book is worth lots of cash, one by a famous author might be. In fact, the right first-edition book might just offer the biggest ROI of any collector’s item. For instance, a first-edition copy of J.K Rowling’s The Tales of Beetle the Bard fetched $3.9 million at auction.
Finding the right poster or piece of set souvenir in your attic could bump you up a tax bracket before you know it. In addition to the countless people who collect movie posters, paying hundreds to thousands per item, something actually used in a famous movie could make you rich: a bullwhip from the Indiana Jones movies earned $204,000 at auction benefitting London’s Institute of Archaeology.
Vintage Pendleton blankets
Those scratchy patterned blankets hanging out in your hope chest are good for more than making your room look like it’s been professionally decorated. If they’re in good condition, the right Pendleton piece can command hundreds of dollars.
You may not find that collection of dead, stuffed animals hanging out in your house particularly charming, but that doesn’t mean no one will. In fact, a 2013 auction at Christie’s London saw the sale of a 228-year-old taxidermied ostrich for $33,150.
Even if those jade pieces passed down to you over generations aren’t exactly your style, you could still earn a huge amount of money for them. Don’t believe that those jade items could really earn you a sizable sum? Keep in mind that, in 2016, a lot of historic jade auctioned at Bonhams in Hong Kong nabbed $23 million.
Though the concept of selling money for more money may seem silly, that doesn’t mean you should discount that coin collection in your attic. In 2013, a flowing hair silver dollar, minted in 1794 or 1795, fetched $10 million when auctioned off at Stack’s Bowers Galleries in New York.
Your parents’ wedding china may earn you enough to have a celebration of your own someday. More durable than porcelain, these elegant place settings can sell for upwards of $100 per piece, meaning that if you have an entire set of dishes and cups, you could easily sell it for thousands.
While not all of those flutes and French horns you played in high school are worth the metal used to make them, the right instrument—particularly older, handmade pieces—could still earn you big bucks. The owners of a Stradivarius viola being auctioned in 2014 asked only for bids of $45 million and more, while a violin rumored to be among the last instruments to play on the Titanic sold for $1.7 million.
Your teachers may have told you that reading comic books was little more than a waste of time, but you’ll be the one laughing all the way to the bank if you have the right one in your collection. In 2014, an eBay auction of Action Comics No. 1—the first comic in which Superman appeared—earned $3,207,852. Its original price? A dime.
Those beloved playthings of yours could delight you again in adulthood—albeit for a different reason. Doll collectors are still willing to hand over major money for the right item: You can earn more than $400 for certain American Girl dolls—like original Samanthas and Mollys—on eBay, while a 1959 original Barbie sold for $27,450 at auction.