3 Hot Vintage Valuables That Might Be Hiding in Your Home

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retro items in house
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With 30 years of reselling under my belt, I’m the go-to guy when friends need a quick appraisal. And over the years I’ve noticed a recurring phenomenon: The vintage items most people consider valuable usually aren’t, and the things they want to toss are often hot collectibles.

Here’s why: Many of us get our idea of what’s valuable from our parents. But markets change, and new collectors have different tastes.

What disregarded treasures are hiding in your home right now? The answers might surprise you. In this series, we’ll explore hot collectibles you might already own.

1. Towels and washcloths from the 1970s

Vintage fancy washcloths
Kentin Waits / Money Talks News

Baby boomers, remember your parents’ fancy towels that were used only when company came? Well, they’re the latest hot commodity in the resale market.

Now, I’m not talking about just any old bathroom accessories. I mean towels and washcloths that scream 1970s — the ones in saturated hot pinks, canary yellows, sapphire blues, and black. Typically, the terry cloth on one side is “brushed” to give a softer velour-like texture. The weaving detail features elaborate “scrollwork” designs or bold OpArt patterns.

Though nearly every textile mill in the nation embraced the trend, top makers included:

  • Cannon Mills, Royal Family and Monticello lines
  • Mohawk, Tastemaker line
  • Milliken, Callaway line
  • Wamsutta
  • Utica, Fine Arts line

Check the deep recesses of your linen closet; you just may own a slice of midcentury textile history. On eBay, this single Cannon bath towel recently sold for $99 and this four-piece towel and washcloth set sold for $58.

2. Vintage disco shirts

man in disco attire
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Crank up the 8-track and channel those sweet disco-era dates of yore. Chances are, you or your date were wearing a shiny, synthetic shirt with wing collars.

Those old shirts are so out of style, they’ve entered the realm of high style. Usually made of polyester, nylon, rayon or acetate, these shirts came in a range of psychedelic designs. Images of prisms, fields of flowers, clouds and wild animals turned every top into a mesmerizing mini-mural.

The most common (but still Travolta-worthy) brands included:

  • Nik-Nik
  • Kennington
  • Campus
  • John Blair
  • Alfie

On eBay, this garden-themed shirt by Nik-Nik recently sold for $94.95. And on Etsy, this dance-themed shirt by a company appropriately called Disco is listed for a feverish $250.

3. Florentine-ware

Vintage Florentine-ware
Kentin Waits / Money Talks News

“Florentine-ware” refers to a range of decorative objects made of inexpensive wood, pressboard and sometimes papier-mache. Typically, the Hollywood Regency-inspired trays, boxes, picture frames and accent tables would be painted in jewel-tones and finished in faux gold leaf.

Though there’s very little information on the origins of Florentine-ware, My Italian Décor offers a wide selection of new pieces for sale. In my opinion, vintage pieces (roughly from the 1930s-’60s) offer more detail, more elaborate color schemes and higher quality construction.

There was no single maker of Florentine-ware, and most pieces are marked with only a “Made in Italy” stamp. I wonder if some of that mystery adds to its popularity (and price). This set of small nesting tables recently sold for $179.99 on eBay, and this large serving tray sold for $149.

Gorgeous or garish?

Older couple at thrift store estate sale secondhand store
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This article is all about over-the-top aesthetics that marked the last few years of midcentury design. These styles fell into disfavor because — ever so gradually — gorgeous became garish. Before long, the 1980s would quickly lull us into muted tones of seafoam green and dusty peach.

But fashion is cyclical. Now, these objects seem less tacky and more … well, wildly optimistic. And hey, who couldn’t use a big dose of optimism right about now?

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