Most of us will never find treasure like the sweater that once belonged to legendary soccer coach Vince Lombardi and that a couple from Knoxville, Tennessee bought at Goodwill for 58 cents and resold for $ 43,000.
But chin up. There is still a lot of profit to be had from the humble items that surround us every day – even what people might call trash.
After three decades of thrift shopping, garbage dipping, and reselling, I’ve found and sold some real curiosities. Here are some surprising things that you can sell for extra cash.
Yes, you read that right. At a yard sale in 2019, my brother bought a set of used false teeth for $ 1. He immediately flipped it over on eBay for $ 75.
Buyers for this item fall into two categories: curio collectors and people who simply can’t or won’t pay $ 900 to $ 1,200 for a new set of Chompers.
2. Vintage road maps
Road maps are popular with artisans and collectors of oil and gas memorabilia. Older cards with bold graphics sell particularly well, as do cards from defunct companies like Conoco and Skelly.
3. Ugly Christmas sweaters
Mark your calendar. Every November, online sales of ugly Christmas sweaters start to spike.
Companies like Tipsy Elves capitalize on Americans’ love of silly clothes and create new, purposely ugly sweaters. But don’t worry, used sweaters sell great too and thrift stores are full of them.
In this category, stickier is better. Christmas sweaters with sequins, ornaments, ruffles and garlands are very expensive. Every Christmas season, I sell 10-15 ugly sweaters on eBay for around $ 30 each.
4. Sea glass
If you live on a coast, go to the beach. Surf-Tumbled Sea Glass is a hot commodity among jewelry makers and artisans.
Red, orange and amber sea glass are particularly valued. I saw 11 pieces of red and orange sea glass that sold for $ 170 on eBay.
5. License plates
That pile of old metal license plates in your garage is worth money. On a summer cleaning frenzy, I liquidated 25 plates for $ 30 on Craigslist.
Buyers use license plates to decorate human caves, create art, and build cool birdhouses.
Although there is a market for all metal plates, serious collectors pay a premium for older pieces, in good condition, and from unrelated states (Alaska and Hawaii).
6. Antique glasses
Your great grandmother’s wire-framed glasses are likely filled with gold, valued at $ 20 to $ 40. Look for the abbreviation “GF” (gold-filled), which is preceded by a carat rating.
Gold or not, vintage cat-eye glasses from the 1950s also sell well. Retro fashionistas pay $ 30-50 for artful examples.
7. Vintage hotel key chain
Readers of a certain age will remember the diamond-shaped plastic hotel key fobs (also known as key fobs or key fobs) from the 1960s and 1970s. Today they are a cheesy collector’s item.
While collectors pay the highest price for key rings from famous destinations like The Dunes in Las Vegas, don’t discount roadside dives. Expect each keychain to sell for $ 5-15 on eBay or Etsy.
Large pieces of driftwood are used for landscaping, furniture making, terrarium design, and taxidermy projects. Simple forms fetch $ 10-15, while larger, more interesting forms can fetch $ 30 and up.
A word of caution: before collecting driftwood on public land, check with local authorities. Many areas prohibit the removal of natural materials.
9. Antique keys
Usually made of iron or brass, antique keys are in vogue. Designers use these rustic gemstones to make jewelry, artisans turn them into wind chimes, and collectors frame and display them.
I sold several antique keys on a yard sale for $ 3 each last summer. Online shoppers pay $ 10-15 for a single, unique key.
10. Large pine cones
Correction mom and dad: money does grow on trees.
I have five large pine trees in my yard and I will occasionally collect and sell the largest pine cones that have fallen to the ground.
Decorators use pine cones as structural accent pieces. Holiday enthusiasts use them to make wreaths and decorate tables. I’ve seen jumbo tenons (9 inches or larger) sell for nearly $ 9 each on Etsy.
11. Discontinued products
When my old favorite moisturizer, Complex 15, was discontinued, I reached out to eBay frantically hoarding every last drop of the material. To my dismay, tubes of my former moisturizer sold for $ 8.99 for nearly $ 100 each!
The lesson? Some products have a wild fan base. Before throwing anything away, check prices online.
12. Old coffee cups
Do you have a closet full of coffee mugs? Check the values before debugging.
Certain Fire-King mugs are hot for collectors. Pay special attention to pieces of frosted glass (a type of opaque white glass) with characters from the Peanuts comic. Depending on their rarity and condition, some of these mugs fetch hundreds of dollars on eBay and Etsy.
Fire-King also made cups from jadeite, an opaque green glass. Heavier pieces of jadite from the Fire-King’s Restaurant ware line are particularly valuable. A single jadeite mug can sell for $ 35 to $ 40.
13. Modern paper currency
Yes, your money is worth money. Modern invoices with fancy serial numbers can be sold for more than face value.
Check your wallet for bills with:
- Fixed serial numbers: All digits are the same (44444444)
- Repeater serial numbers: digits in the first half of the number are repeated in the second half (40014001)
- Ladder Serial Numbers: Each digit is one number higher or lower than the last (23456789)
- Serial numbers that are very low (00000110) or very high (99999979)
14. Old yearbooks
Yearbooks address three target groups:
- Celebrity memorabilia collectors search old yearbooks for famous names and signatures.
- Graduates from a particular school buy yearbooks to reconnect with their history.
- Artists of all kinds use yearbooks to source vintage photos and advertising.
The values vary depending on the year and school. I once sold a collection of four not-so-spectacular yearbooks for $ 18, and I saw a 1953 high school yearbook in which Sandy Koufax’s senior photo sold for $ 230 on eBay.
15. Rotary telephones
Though your grandchildren likely have no idea how to use it, the phone stowed in the attic is worth money with a twist.
Collectors pay a premium for working phones in bold colors like orange, pink, mint green, and blue. I once saw a dark blue desk phone sell for $ 180 on eBay.
16. Vintage photos and postcards
Is there a shoebox full of old snaps and postcards hiding under your bed? It could be worth a few dollars.
Vintage images are used as accent pieces for home decor and incorporated into works of art. Postcard collectors (yes, that’s one thing) pay top dollars for antique cards with iconic moments in history, famous ocean liners, or Halloween images. I saw a 1911 Halloween postcard sell for $ 189 on eBay.
17. Typewriter keys
Ready to throw that old Smith Corona? Save the keys first! Antique manual typewriter keys are being re-used by jewelry makers, mosaic artists, and scrapbookers.
A few years ago I removed 55 keys from two badly damaged 1940s typewriters. I sold the lot on Etsy for $ 35.
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