Collecting often begins out of love. It’s exciting to acquire a new baseball card or win the bid on a rare toy. It’s also fun to organize and admire your growing collection. But oftentimes, even unconsciously, we hold onto collections because we think they might hold value that could pay off later when it’s time to sell. Sadly, that’s not the case with the items on this list.
Key factors that are missing in these surprisingly low-valued collectibles are how rare they are and their cultural significance. Keep reading to help you decide if it’s time to clean out your collection.
Model Train Sets
There are dozens of hobby websites and clubs around the world dedicated to model train sets, especially the beloved Lionel collections. What when it comes to resale value, however, train sets aren’t worth investing in. Some collectors hold onto false hope while seeing a rare item sell for a decent payout, like the Howard Gondola listed on eBay for $1,175.
But this isn’t typically the case. The market is flooded with hundreds of listings of entire vintage model train sets in good condition only selling for around $100.
Porcelain and ceramic dolls are popular among collectors, who may view them as pleasant childhood memories. Like this photo, doll collectors go so far as to designate a full room in the house to display their dolls, as they take up more room than other collectibles.
If the goal is to make money, however, that room is better used as a rental. Aside from select rare dolls, these porcelain reminders of the past aren’t worth much more than $10.
Baseball cards offer a boatload of childhood nostalgia for many of us. There’s something satisfying about being able to collect and hold a piece of America’s favorite pastime in your hands. If they hold special meaning to you, it’s best that you keep them. They won’t fatten your wallet if you choose to sell them anyway.
Even a baseball card featuring a star player, like a 1989 Ken Griffey Jr., is only worth around $100. Home run hitter Mark McGwire’s card is valued at $10, which won’t even fill your gas tank.
Some toys are worth a fortune, and others aren’t. Pez dispensers are both a toy and an accessory for candy. Kids love finding their favorite cartoon characters configured into a candy dispenser. Some people even hold onto them, collecting them into adulthood.
Unless you have a grand collection of Pez dispensers, each item only goes for a buck or two. Even the limited edition Elvis Presley Pez dispenser collection is valued at a low $9.20.
Royal Family Memorabilia
One of the most famous families on the planet, the British royal family is beloved by the people of the Commonwealth and beyond. Exciting events like royal weddings, the birth of a new royal, and jubilees are all a reason for celebration.
With the events come plenty of memorabilia; the faces of the newlyweds plastered on mugs and buttons– even custom dolls. This might be something you’d want to keep for memory’s sake, but stocking up on royal family memorabilia won’t send your kid to college. Mass-produced items like this don’t have the same allure and value as something that is rare and made in small quantities.
Vintage Band T-Shirts
When it comes to vintage band shirts, there are two categories and only one will make you money. Unfortunately, even if your Eagles t-shirt is in mint condition and from four decades ago, a buyer isn’t going to pay much for it. Even a vintage rare Queen tour shirt from 1978 is only listed at $9.49 on eBay.
The exception here is vintage band t-shirts that are extremely rare and hold significant meaning, but even then, you’ve got to find a high-paying buyer. Your average concert tour t-shirt from the ’70s will make you less than the cost of shipping.
It’s a time-honored tradition to pass along silverware and precious China from one generation to the next as a family heirloom. Silver is often presented as a housewarming gift or to a newlywed couple.
Silver that holds special meaning should be held onto. If you try to sell vintage silver on eBay or other sites you’ll be disappointed to see how many other listings there are for antique sets, driving down the value.
First appearing in the early to mid-2000s, Pandora necklaces and bracelets became a hot trend. The pieces are designed to be layered and paired with each other, featuring fun elements of sparkle and style. Once buyers saw their favorite pieces being discontinued, their value went up.
However, this is only for a few rare charms that were discontinued. Collecting all Pandora Charms as an investment isn’t worth the while.
Ty Beanie Babies are another item on this list that’s hard not to collect. Once you acquire one Beanie Baby, you’re compelled to find more. Kids enjoy the toys for what sets them apart from the rest — the ‘bean’ stuffing rather than the typical fluff you find in plush toys.
However, in 1995, adults began collecting Beanie Babies as a financial investment, seeing the potential for high resale value. That year, the toys that were quickly flipped on eBay sold for ten times the original purchase price. But once the fad died down, so did their worth.
New Comic Books
Purchasing a pile of new comic books is not a wise investment. These collectibles lose their value as soon as you leave the store. Even if you keep the comics in mint condition, without any special significance, no fan will seek it out and pay more money for it later.
On the other hand, comic books from the 1930s-’50s, when our favorite superheroes debuted, can pay for a mansion– Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics banked a record $2.8 million. But the average comic won’t get you far.
Collecting stamps can be tricky and misleading. Although someone might “value” your stamp collection at a decent number, as it turns out, buyers aren’t interested. Select older stamps that are in perfect condition have the potential to hold value, but it’s a needle in a haystack.
Stamps are mass-produced, with little chance of having any true value as a reason to hold onto them. This is hard news to take for older generations who were once informed to take good care of stamp collections, as they’d be worth money one day.
If you had a family member who grew up in the ’90s, it’s likely they went through a Pog phase, and there are some still hiding around the house. For many, the pieces were more fun to collect and enjoy then actually playing the Pog game (yes, there is a game associated with them).
And the same can be said about collecting them for monetary value — keep them to enjoy them, not to sell. Most collections will go for $10 if someone actually offers to buy them, and individual Pogs go for $1, which is less than the cost of shipping.
Newer Star Wars Toys
Rare Star Wars toys from the 1970s have the potential to boost your bank account. Obscure Star Wars figurines like the “Yak Face,” also known as “Joe Camel” can be worth thousands of dollars if you find the right buyer. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for modern Star Wars toys.
You could stockpile baby Yodas and see what happens. But experts have cautioned that action figures and toys from the ’90s and ’00s won’t hold value, so long as they’re mass-produced.
The Majority Of Vinyl Records
Think vinyl records are a thing of the past? Wrong. Vinyl records are still being made today during what some are calling a “vinyl revival.” In 2017, Sony Entertainment announced that it would begin pressing vinyl records again. Renewed interest in vinyl began around 2007 and has been steadily increasing since.
With so much vinyl in the marketplace, most don’t hold any true value. It’s only the rare and select vintage records that will be worth anything. It’s best to do your research instead of holding onto false hope that your crate of records is worth serious cash.
Barbie dolls first hit the market in 1959. Fifty years later, the doll is still one of the most popular toys and a cultural icon. If you happen to have your hands on a mint condition, original Barbie from 1959, you might have $25,000 to add to your bank account. If not, it’s likely your Barbie collection won’t earn you much.
With so many mass-produced Barbies, finding the one you’re looking for isn’t difficult, which lowers the value. The majority of the Barbies listed for sale on eBay sell for $10-20 in the box.
Vintage Playboy Magazines
Whether you’ve just bought Playboy magazine “for the articles” or other reasons, the iconic magazine has quite a history. First printed in 1953, Playboy has many memorable issues, including the ones with cover girls like Donna Michelle, Ursula Andress, and Darine Stern.
First editions and copies that were printed before 1970 may be worth something. Otherwise, don’t count on it. The issues were mass-produced and will do more good displayed on your bookshelf than to pad your bank account.
For years, Precious Moments figurines have been collected, gifted, and proudly displayed in homes across America. Founded in 1978, the porcelain figurines centered around an angel named Timmy.
Today there are over a dozen Precious Moments collections and though still popular, aren’t a promising investment. The collectibles are mass-produced with hundreds posted to eBay. In the case of these figurines, nostalgia and sweetness are all they have to offer.
Norman Rockwell Collector Plates
Norman Rockwell is one of the greatest painters and illustrators in American history. His work graces the covers of American classics including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. His cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post delighted readers for almost five decades.
However, collector plates featuring Norman Rockwell illustrations should be acquired for enjoyment, not for investment. Antique Trader values the collector plates at $10 each, declining from its previous estimated value of $50-75.
Created in 1998, Funko figurines were designed to be collected. Their cuteness draws in collectors, as they can find a plethora of movie characters and cartoons turned into figurines that are perfectly sized to sit on a desk or shelf.
Currently, collectors aren’t able to place an estimated value on Funko figurines, as it’s too soon to tell. Without any history or insight, it might not be wise to spend your cash on these collectibles just yet.
Franklin Mint Collectibles
Some dolls end up being worth a small fortune– take for instance the Lorraine Schwartz Barbie from 2010 that sold at an auction for $7,500. Knowing this, some collectors are tricked into thinking that most dolls are valuable. But this isn’t true.
Franklin Mint advertised their dolls to consumers as an investment that would pay off down the line if they held onto them and kept them in good condition. Some impatient sellers have already listed their dolls for sale, priced around $200. However, the actual value of these dolls is an estimated $20-50.
While most people either use digital cameras or just their phone to capture moments, one might assume that older film cameras may be of value for nostalgic purposes. However, Daniel Kalter of Lincoln Square Pawnbrokers says otherwise.
He claims that people come in with film cameras that are from the ’70s and ’80s that are worth basically nothing. He explains that he has trays full of cameras collecting dust with people that usually buy them are just looking for the parts. He also acknowledges that the film is usually more expensive than the camera.
VHS And DVD Collections
Much like film cameras, the disappearance of such technology might make them appear to be valuable. Yet, once again, that isn’t the case. Not only do people keep outdated pieces of technology, but more likely than not, people held on to their own VHS and DVD collections.
The only collections that might be worth anything are those that are incredibly specific to a niche collector. Even then, you probably wouldn’t make very much money off of them.
Hummel figurines gained popularity during World War II, with American GI’s stationed in West Germany sending them home. Eventually, they became a popular souvenir, with their price increasing drastically in the 1970s. Yet, not today.
According to Mike Rivkin, the owner of Antique Galleries of Palm Springs, “Traditional collectibles like Hummel sites are virtually unsellable today. We direct people looking to sell such items to nearby thrift shops. There’s simply no market.” So, better leave that Hummel laying around on your shelf.
Morgan dollars were worth a lot of money in the late 19th century and again in the 1920s and was considered to be a very popular silver dollar of the time, almost too popular. Even though these are older coins, there were so many of them made that it resulted in their value being extremely limited.
Supposedly, they’re one of the most common silver dollars that someone can own. Although they’re worth more than a dollar, it’s not worth more than the silver they’re made out of.
Indian Head Pennies
Indian Head pennies or cents were one-cent coins produced by the United States Bureau of the mint between 1859 and 1909. They were designed by James Barton Longacre, the Chief Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint. During the postwar period, these coins became increasingly popular.
Unfortunately, over time, the coin decreased greatly in value because there were over 100 million produced by 1907. The image of the penny was then changed from the Indian Head cent to the Lincoln cent designed by Victor D. Brenner in 1901.
Happy Meal Toys
McDonald’s has been giving out toys with their purchase of a Happy Meal since the 1970s. While some have been known to sell for hundreds of dollars, it’s unlikely that most people haven’t collected something like all “101 Dalmatians.”
Furthermore, for these toys to be worth anything, they’re usually required to be in mint condition, inside the packing, and most likely with the Happy Meal box. Good luck having one of the most desired after toys with all three of these!
“Brown” Furniture is used to describe antique pieces of furniture that are usually dark-stained and sturdy pieces of furniture such as cabinets, bed frames, dining room tables, etc.
While furniture with historical value such as George Washington’s death might be worth a great deal of money, ordinary items from the 19th and 20th centuries won’t earn you much. Today, the antique pieces of furniture that are of value are art deco and midcentury modern, and brown furniture has majorly lost its value.
Although some parents are willing to pay a little extra to pay for a book that reminds them of their own childhood to read to their own, chances are that most of these books are easy to find.
On top of that, the only way you’re likely to make money on a children’s book is if you have an incredibly rare copy such as a first edition which is highly unlikely for most people. Furthermore, most children’s books can be found just about anywhere these days.
Cabbage Patch Kids
Back in the day, a lot of parents were fighting each other in the store for Cabbage Patch Kids dolls when they were first released in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, these were incredibly popular and usually went for around $30 retail.
Yet, today, most of these aren’t worth anything because it’s most likely that the toy was played with by a child throughout the years and is nowhere near in good enough condition to sell for a considerable profit.
Vintage College Pennants
While some people might think that their grandparent’s college pennant from prestigious schools such as Harvard or Yale may be worth a fortune, they’re sadly mistaken. Items such as college pennants only really hold value for the owner themselves and are usually nothing more than sentimental to one person.
Few people want to own someone else’s personal college pennant, especially if they didn’t attend the school or it was before the year that they attended.
Although these miniature die-cast cars from Mattel have kept children entertained since the late ’60s, they’re essentially worthless today. This is because of the sheer quantity of the model of each of the cars produced, and the fact that most were used greatly decreases their value.
Although some of these specialty cars in mint condition have made their seller a fair amount of money, many of some of the earliest cars can still be purchased for a few dollars.
Autographed Sports Memorabilia
Although some autographed sports memorabilia can be worth quite a chunk of change, over the years, the process of obtaining a piece of memorabilia has become not only expensive and time-consuming.
People claiming to have a baseball signed by Babe Ruth or something similar have a hard time finding buyers, who are usually doubtful when purchasing such items. Furthermore, in recent years, there have been mass-produced items with player’s signatures on them, making them not nearly as special as they once were.
Although Andy Warhol was a collector of cookie jars, with his collection selling for around a quarter of a million dollars in the late 1980s, this is unlikely for the common individual.
For the most part, this is an incredibly niche product with few collectors and even fewer people that care to use their space a bunch of tin jars laying around their house. Most cookie jars, no matter how old, can usually be purchased for around a few dollars and maybe up to fifty.
At one point in time, it was popular for people to collect porcelain or metal bells for places or events that they attended. Many people brought them back from their travels to add to their collection, yet they would eventually only collect dust.
Today, you can browse the Internet and find some of these bells for just a few dollars, however, it’s unlikely that you’ll get anything more than that. Who do you know that still collects these?
Salt And Pepper Shakers
Much like bells, a lot of people might have picked up a pair of salt and pepper shakers to collect or to represent places that they have been.
While some may be proud of their collections, it’s unlikely that anyone would pay much for them, especially if they have been used. Recently, a grouping of unique salt and pepper shakers sold on eBay for no more than $40, far less than what they were most likely purchased for.
Although a lot of people like to keep their playbills as a way of remembering a particular play they went to or their first experience at the Broadway Theater, that’s about all they’re really worth.
Since the advent of the Internet, these small packets of paper have drastically decreased in worth. Supposedly, a 1964 playbill for “Funny Girl” with Barbara Streisand would have once gone for upwards of $350, but today is most likely worth no more than $10.
Thomas Kinkade Collectibles
When many famous artists die, the worth of their work usually skyrockets in value. Unfortunately, for Thomas Kinkade, otherwise referred to as the “Painter of Life,” this was far from the truth. The vast number of paintings that he produced during his career made many of his paintings essentially worthless.
After his death in 2012, The Guardian reported that his work could be found in one in twenty U.S. homes and that many of his paintings can be found for under $20.
Like most toys given to children during the 1960s, they were most likely thoroughly played with, broken, and/or lost. However, if you have the first Hess truck from 1964 in pristine condition, according to Antiques Almanac, it could be worth up to $2,500.
However, that’s unlikely the case, and the old toy truck that you still might have will sell for well under $40. Although there are a lot of Hess collectors, it’s unlikely yours is worth any money.
Some collectors enjoy finding license plates from different states, especially ones that have a story, or a background that has since been discontinued. However, if you’re collecting them for something other than pleasure, you’re out of luck.
Generally speaking, a collection of license plates isn’t worth much and has similar value as the average stamp collection. Just like stamps, license plates are easy to collect, sending their value down. You might be surprised to find that even collections featuring all 50 states aren’t hard to come by. The average value of a vintage license plate is $30, according to Autoweek.
With so much variety, vintage pins are fun to collect. These collectibles can be more fun than others to sift through, nothing to the significance of each pin, or even look at for a laugh.
While pins offer rich nostalgia, they aren’t worth much. Even special anniversary pins from sports teams, military, and vintage products aren’t worth more than $5-$12 online. It’s only the select, super rare pins that are worth anything. For example, an ultra-rare Disney pin could be worth $4,000. Overall, they aren’t worth collecting to sell.