There are items laying around your home that are worth a lot more money than you think. There are also items you’ve been holding onto for years that are worth a lot less money than you think. At American Jewelry & Loan, every day customers come in with the following items expecting to leave with fistfuls of cash. And every day, we have to turn 95 percent of them away. You probably own some of the following items, but we hope you’re holding onto them for their sentimental value, because memories are all they’ll ever make you rich in.
1. Beanie Babies
Remember TY Beanie Babies? Beanie Babies first came out in 1993, and soon, Beanie Baby Mania had swept the nation. Everyone, including grown men and women, was scrambling to get their hands on one (or twenty!) each time a new Beanie Baby was released.
Characters were created in limited runs, and shortly after they were released they were “retired," creating the idea that Beanie Babies were rare and had a very limited supply. Collectors scooped them up by the handful, assuming these "rare” collectibles would skyrocket in value over time because they were available in such limited numbers. The rise and fall of Beanie Babies is detailed further in “The Great Beanie Baby Bubble,” by Zac Bissonnette, which is actually a rather fascinating read.
Though there are several Beanie Babies that are legitimately rare and have sold for hundreds of dollars, like Beanie Babies with misprints and errors on the hang tag, an eBay search proves the majority of them are just cute plush toys that can fetch between $1.00 and $12.00.
2. Sports cards newer than 20 years old
Customers often bring in stacks of sports cards to sell at the store, thinking they're about to strike it rich, and every day almost all of them are disappointed. While some sports cards are valuable, most are not. As a rule, we tell people who call about the value of their cards not to even bother bringing them in unless they are from 1970 or before. That's because sports cards that are truly valuable are rare. If they were just produced in 2002, it's likely that there are a great number of that exact card still in circulation, no matter whose rookie card it is. Valuable sports cards often feature Hall of Famers, and most sports have strict rules for entry to their Hall of Fame. No matter how phenomenal a professional sport’s athletic abilities may be, if they’re still actively playing — or in most cases, still alive — they are ineligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
3. Autographs and memorabilia without COA
When customers come into our store with autographs to sell, the first thing we ask is if the signature has a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). Sure — your baseball, album cover, or jersey has SOMEONE’S signature on it. Anyone can sign anyone’s name on anything! For an autograph to truly have value, it must be verified to be authentic by a reliable source.
Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is widely regarded as the world's foremost authority on signatures and memorabilia. PSA’s experts have a wide range of expertise and are able to authenticate autographs from sports stars, entertainers and historical figures. For a fee, you can send in autographs for PSA to analyze. PSA will take an in-depth look at your autograph and issue a report of their expert opinion on its authenticity, citing specific features of the signature that indicate it belongs to the celebrity or public figure in question. So if your grandfather met Gordie Howe years and years ago, and got his Red Wings jersey signed after a game, send it in to PSA. Getting the signature certified will greatly increase its value. We love to buy autographs and memorabilia, but almost never take them without proof that they're authentic.
4. China and crystal
Certain crystal, china and porcelain pieces are undoubtedly beautiful works of art. But most crystal and china is mass-produced and readily available. As with all collectibles, to have something special, you must have something rare, high-end or truly unique.
To determine if your china and crystal pieces are valuable, do a little research. Look for hallmarks from high-end, well-known names like Tiffany, Waterford and Swarovski, or any stamp that indicates that your piece was made in a certain country or region. Can you identify the style or a pattern on your crystal or china? Some specific designs, such as Blue Willow china, may be worth a little more to a collector. Finally, keep the original box and any paperwork that your piece came with — having these items with your piece of china and crystal can only increase its value.
5. Barbie dolls
Barbie, first launched in 1959, is probably the most recognizable fashion doll of all time. Many entertainment stars and fictional characters have been immortalized as Barbie dolls. Barbies are extremely collectible, but as with most collectibles, the only valuable Barbies are the rare ones with all original parts and accessories.
The very first 1959 Barbie, in mint condition with unopened packaging, once sold for $27,450.00 at auction. However, in our own research we found the exact same Barbie, without packaging and dressed in a different outfit than her original black and white bathing suit, sold for $2,750.00 on eBay. This still sounds like a lot of money, but think about this: The minute she was removed from her packaging, Barbie lost 9/10 of her value.
Our eCommerce team at American Jewelry and Loan sold an Ethel Mertz (from I Love Lucy) Christmas Edition Barbie doll for $800.00. The other three characters in the collection (Lucy, Ricky, and Fred) fetched about $75.00 each. Only Ethel was rare. Again, the more difficult something is to get your hands on, the more it is worth. It’s not hard to find Barbies newer than 30 years old. In fact, the majority of Barbie dolls are mass produced and easy to find. So there’s no reason to hold onto that bin of Barbies your daughter outgrew years ago (unless it’s a bin of unopened vintage Barbies with mint condition packaging.)
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