If you’re an adult reading this post, then chances are you have accumulated at least a few items of value, either that you purchased yourself at one point or obtained through inheritance or as a gift. Older adults may have received wedding gifts that are now considered vintage and possibly collectible. You may have an idea of what’s worth keeping or selling, but frequently people are surprised to learn what’s actually valuable and what you can’t give away.
Step 1: Consider your target market
A good first step in determining desirability is to consider how many other folks have what you have. Then think about how many people might want them. Many families have hung onto things like old typewriters and movie cameras, but there is little use for them now. This makes their desirability low, even if the item still looks and works great. Exceptions do exist for items in popular or unexpected colors (red or orange vintage typewriters, a blue rotary phone, etc.), so doing your homework is key.
When it comes to furniture, virtually everyone has a bed and dresser, but how many people ever get rid of theirs? Once again, there is far more supply than demand for all but the most unique pieces. Your pristine Danish sideboard may fly off the market, but a colonial bedroom set will only appeal to a very select group.
Then there are the items that everyone seems to collect. How many of you reading this have a few Kennedy half dollars put away? Probably most of you. They’re cool to look at, considering they aren’t made anymore, but no one wants another one for their collection. With so many in the market, they are usually only worth their weight in scrap.
Step 2: Focus on the rare and unusual
Fortunately, you likely also have other items that you never realized anyone else would want, let alone pay good money for, and this is where you want to focus your energy.
How do you know what fits in this category? These are typically uncommon or unusual items that others are less likely to have and might enjoy owning as a curiosity. While sewing machines and typewriters aren’t worth much, other old tools of the trade can be desirable. Old drawers from printers’ cabinets are consistently popular at flea markets, for example.
Perhaps you have things from your ancestors such as old medical instruments, firefighter or police items, machinist tools, artists’ easels or other such things that are less common. While old dressers don’t sell, unique occasional furniture is always in demand. Look for telephone tables, curio cabinets, vanities and the like. Medical supplies from bygone eras are popular items with buyers, especially around Halloween. And speaking of Halloween, things like vintage paper trick or treat bags or paper machè jack o’lanterns can fetch a surprisingly high price. Why? They were made to be thrown out after use, and most people did just that. Fewer nostalgic items in the marketplace means higher asking prices.
Step 3: Think small and collectible
People can always make room for small furniture pieces. Instead of 20th-century coins that everyone has, look for old jewelry, military items and weapons, old political items, pottery and art glass. Many people will also have interesting old photos, sports equipment, souvenirs and kitchen and garden items, or artwork from days gone by. All of these things are of interest to today’s buyers. Mid-century modern items (especially things from the 1950s through 70s) are also in high demand by younger collectors. Look beyond the obvious and you may be surprised at what hidden treasures your basement or attic yields.
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