Are Grandma’s Collectibles Worth Anything?

Photo (cc) by North Charleston

If your granny was a geek at heart, compiling an assortment of Star Wars action figures, Pez dispensers and first-edition comic books, you may have hit the mother lode — or grandmother lode.

What if she collected Beanie Babies instead? Remember when those were all the rage? If you have a Coral Casino edition, it could resell for $1,000. But that’s rare. Most of them go for a couple of bucks, if that.

How do you know if you should head to “Antiques Roadshow,” your local collectibles shop or simply plan a yard sale when your grandmother hands you her treasurers?

Last year Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson visited a collection of cars and memorabilia worth millions, and got advice from the men who had amassed it. Check it out, then read on.

Determining the value of collectibles

First, some general guidelines: An item could be worth something if it’s rare — meaning few were produced or few people own such things — and also if it’s in mint condition or was never removed from the original packaging. Popularity of an item will also affect its resale value.

Here are some collectibles with a promising track record:

  • Antique jewelry. WiseGEEK advises to check for a mark or signature that identifies the designer. Then research the piece as much as possible, finding out how rare it is and its potential worth. It doesn’t have to be fine jewelry. Costume pieces can also have value.
  • Books. You can check prices on Amazon or Alibris. This website, affiliated with the American Library Association, has a gamut of questions to help you determine the rarity, importance and condition of books.
  • Coins. The Coin Site offers estimated values of collectible American coins, including one that could be worth $3 million. If you have international currency, Coin Quest will help you identify the coin and appraise it for free.
  • Records. We’re not talking your run-of-the-mill Dean Martin album here. If it’s a promotional release or has a typo or replaced artwork, the price increases. The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” with the original sleeve sold for $10,000, according to “10 Highly Lucrative Collectibles,” because it had a controversial image of police brutality that was replaced with a less offensive photo of the band.
  • Pottery and porcelain. As with other collectibles, if the pottery is signed, its worth increases. Country Living magazine provides some examples.
  • Bird decoys. Certain vintage wooden decoys are fetching about $50,000. The most expensive, a 19th-century red-breasted Merganser hen, was auctioned for $856,000, says Paul Fraser Collectibles.

Another way to determine an object’s worth is to check sites like Ebay to see if similar items are for sale and what they’re going for. Some popular categories on Ebay right now are:

  • Decorative collectibles, such as music boxes, miniature houses, snow globes. Odds are you won’t luck into a Minerva Mortier 101 key organ music box with an asking price of $225,000, but that would be pretty awesome.
  • Seasonal and holiday wares — Halloween costumes, patriotic trinkets, Christmas decor. Here’s a vintage Thanksgiving candy box on sale for $449.
  • Comic books can be sold individually or in series. Of the nearly 2.4 million comics currently listed on Ebay, the largest asking price is $5 million for a Flash Comics No. 1 Ashcan Edition from 1939. But the listing is “or best offer” and it comes with free shipping.
  • Disney — anything and everything Disney, from clothing to housewares and both vintage and new. A set of rubber Seven Dwarfs from 1938 has an asking price of $500,000 and you have to pay the $49.99 for shipping.
  • Promotional glasses — Pepsi fountain glasses, Welch’s jelly jars, fast-food releases. A set of four glasses based on the “Star Trek” cartoon issued by Dr Pepper in 1976 is listed for $300.
  • Military items — medals, uniforms and helmets from all eras. Even an old parachute.

Not everyone has a million-dollar comic. (If they did, it wouldn’t be worth much.) But just because the collectibles now in your hands can’t cover the cost of a new house doesn’t mean they’re worthless. You can check a site like Kovels’ database of 900,000 prices for collectibles. But try to check more than one source.

In fact, some formerly popular collectibles have lost value, according to The Street. You might be disappointed about the price you get for some of these — depending on the year they were made and other factors:

  • Hummel figurines.
  • Thomas Kinkade prints.
  • Lladro figurines.
  • Hess toy trucks.
  • Precious Moments figurines.

With any collectible, the worth also depends on the buyer. Just because the item is not first edition, mint condition or new-in-box doesn’t mean you can’t profit.

And if the items’ only value is sentimental, so what? My grandmother was a Depression-era kid who hoarded sugar packets and Taco Bell sauce. While those objects wouldn’t be worth anything to anyone else, I kept a few when she passed away for the memories.

Have you been surprised about the worth of your collectibles? Tell us about it on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
13 Small Gadgets Under $20 That Make Life Better
13 Small Gadgets Under $20 That Make Life Better

These inexpensive electronics will make your day-to-day life a little easier — and happier.

How Much of My Social Security Can My Ex Take?
How Much of My Social Security Can My Ex Take?

A man wonders if his ex-wife will siphon away his Social Security benefit.

10 U.S. Jobs That Are Disappearing Fastest
10 U.S. Jobs That Are Disappearing Fastest

Think twice before pursuing these shrinking occupations.

7 Gadgets Under $60 That Can Boost Your Health
7 Gadgets Under $60 That Can Boost Your Health

These Amazon finds can help ease foot aches, boost energy and even protect your heart.

8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement
8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement

Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for — and adjust to — life in your golden years.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.