Check your house for this stuff — it's worth big money
If being stuck at home for a year made you realize you have far too much stuff, it may be time to toss it — or sell it for thousands.
Over 70% of Americans have gone on a cleaning spree since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a recent survey by Cinch Home Services, and 62% are committed to keeping their home tidy.
With so much decluttering going on, just make sure you don't throw out any hidden treasure. Check your attic, closets and kitchen drawers, because you might find forgotten toys or junk mail you can sell online for more than you’d ever imagine.
1. Boy Scouts memorabilia
The Boy Scouts of America have been teaching kids about citizenship and adventure for more than a century.
The Scouts have awarded millions of merit badges and medals — even a merit badge for "personal management" that teaches about saving, investing and credit cards.
Those who’ve held onto their patches and medallions have found those items can become very valuable. Large collections are worth the most.
Depending on age and condition, some patches could get bids of around $50 or more, while full merit sashes can go for hundreds of dollars.
2. Irregular 2005 Kansas quarters
For 10 years starting in 1999, the U.S. Mint rolled out a series of special quarters celebrating each of the 50 states with iconic images. The reverse of the Florida quarter features a space shuttle and palm trees, New York's has the Statue of Liberty and so on.
Nearly all the quarters are worth only face value — 25 cents — except for one coin with a significant goof. The 2005 Kansas quarter reads "In God We Rust," instead of the U.S. motto, "In God We Trust."
This may have occurred due to lubricant grease clogging up the “T”, says DIY site The Spruce Crafts.
These mishap coins can be worth considerably more than a quarter. A 2005 Kansas quarter in mint condition recently fetched $65 on eBay.
3. Old Pokémon cards
Younger kids may have discovered Pokemon through the Pokemon Go fad of 2016, but older pop culture connoisseurs remember the original Game Boy titles, TV series and long-running trading card game well.
Even after 25 years, the card game is still going strong, with stores regularly selling out of in-demand products. Certain old cards in excellent condition can be worth a fortune, though one in particular is a legendary treasure.
A 1999 first-edition holographic Charizard card would be the gem of anyone’s collection. YouTube star Logan Paul bought one for $150,000 in 2020 and wore it on a chain for his exhibition boxing match against Floyd Mayweather.
4. AOL CDs
If you survived the 1990s, you probably remember finding a promotional CD from America Online almost every time you went to your mailbox.
The original giant internet service provider spent an estimated $300 million to send out millions of trial discs in hopes of achieving home internet dominance. At one time, half of all CDs produced were for AOL, Smithsonian.com reports.
These throwaway items are now worth some cash to collectors, who want to get their hands on every color and design. Large AOL CD collections have reportedly sold for hundreds of dollars — enough to invest in that other kind of CDs (certificates of deposit).
Campaign memorabilia can be highly collectible. Tokens from the 44th president of the U.S., who made history as the first president of color, are still hot in demand.
Barack Obama's pins, coffee mugs, lawn signs and bumper stickers have become very valuable — and not only the ones from 2008 or 2012, when he ran for the highest office in the land.
Items from his earlier political career are even more popular with collectors.
On eBay, a 2008 campaign poster sold for $50, while a “Vote Early” Michigan campaign poster went for nearly $300 in March 2021.
6. American Girl 'Samantha' doll
If your kids collected dolls over the past 20 years, you might have an American Girl or two in storage. They're still popular and they're not cheap.
New American Girl dolls can retail for more than $100, and older ones can be worth quite a bit more, particularly if they had a limited production run or were discontinued.
The "Samantha doll" first came out in 1986, then was retired in 2008 — until a 2014 re-release. If you have one of the pre-2008 Samanthas, you might get hundreds of dollars for it. A Pleasant Company model (from before Barbie-maker Mattel bought the company in 1998) sold on eBay in March 2021 for over $1,000.
7. Ancient cellphones
Most people don't hold on to their old cell phones but instead turn them into cash or trade them in for a smartphone upgrade.
While a used, recent iPhone or other popular phone can quickly turn into hundreds of dollars when sold online, a phone from 10 years ago (remember the Blackberry era?) likely won't get you more than a few bucks.
But stretch back to the birth of cellphones, and you'll find lots of treasures. A "brick" style mobile phone from the 1980s could bring several hundred dollars on eBay.
8. Rare Magic: The Gathering cards
The first modern trading card game, Magic: The Gathering, was introduced in 1993 as a way to help people kill time at gaming conventions. It immediately exploded in popularity and spawned an entirely new genre of its own.
The early releases of the first set — nicknamed Alpha, Beta, Unlimited and Revised — had an extremely limited print run. Plus, with the game’s design in its infancy, some cards ended up being far, far more powerful than others.
Rarity plus power equals incredible demand from players and collectors alike. A single “Scrubland” from Alpha sold for $9,498 on eBay in March 2021. And a Beta version of the iconic “Black Lotus” sold for a staggering $48,850 the same month.
9. Antique Apple computers
Technology moves fast, so computers from just a couple decades ago can be considered valuable antiques. Even models from the 1990s can be worth a couple thousand dollars.
Functional computers with their original parts are worth the most, and any accessories or packaging will only boost the selling price. In 2002, Wired reported that an empty Macintosh box from 1984 sold for more than $500 on eBay — that's enough money to invest in real estate.
An original Apple-1 computer from the 1970s restored to working condition sold at auction in 2018 for $375,000. Only 200 Apple-1 units were produced in total, says CNET.
10. Retro video games
Long before the Playstation 5, there was the Atari 2600, the TurboGrafx-16 and dozens of other gaming devices. Though many have been forgotten by pop culture, some consoles are beloved as retro classics — and even the duds are bound to hold nostalgia value for some grownups.
In 2010, a North Carolina mom listed a Nintendo Entertainment System console and five cartridges on eBay for $9.99 — and ended up selling them for $13,105, says gaming site Kotaku. The hidden jewel in her collection was Stadium Events, a super-rare game that was only released in a northern U.S. test market in 1987.
Rare games like Atari’s Air Raid and Super Copa on the SNES can also sell for hundreds or thousands. One rare 1990 Nintendo World Championships game recently sold on eBay for $1,838. With that much extra money in the bank, you can really get your finances in order.
11. Original Polly Pocket stuff
Teeny-tiny Polly Pocket toys are easily lost, but the brand itself has never disappeared.
The newest iteration made its debut in 2018. To the delight of long-time fans, the relaunched toys bear a strong resemblance to the pastel compacts that were a staple among North American girls in the 1990s.
After Mattel acquired Bluebird Toys in 1998, Polly Pockets transformed into slender plastic dolls with removable outfits. Those still have their fans — one Groove Par-tay Bus from 2004 sold for $270 in March 2021 — but the little clamshell homes by Bluebird typically sell for more.
12. Vintage comic books
Whether you’re a fan of Marvel, DC or another legacy brand, you’re in luck if you religiously preserved your old comics.
Collectors will pay dearly for mint or near-mint comics from various periods during the 1900s. For example, a copy of Tales of Suspense No. 39 sold for $375,000 back in 2012 — enough to buy a house in many areas of the country.
The Tales of Suspense series was produced by Marvel Comics during the Silver Age of Comic Books — roughly 1956 to 1970. Issue No. 39 marked the debut of the snarky billionaire arms manufacturer Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man.
The most valuable comic book of all time remains Action Comics No. 1, which introduced Superman and the superhero genre as a whole in 1938. A near-mint copy sold for more than $3 million in 2014.
13. Classic Star Wars merchandise
While a steady stream of Star Wars merch is always pouring onto store shelves, it turns into a torrent whenever a new movie or show releases.
The recent film trilogy and The Mandalorian series on Disney+ have spawned endless Lego sets and Baby Yoda plushies.
And while some of these new items can be incredibly pricey — a Lego Millenium Falcon sells for $800 on the store site — long-retired memorabilia can be worth much more. In 2019, a rare Boba Fett figure from 1979 sold for $185,850 at auction.
14. Fine china
Not every ceramic plate or tea set gathering dust in your cabinets will earn you wads of cash, but it’s certainly worth a try to pawn off some of your hand-me-down china.
Home design site Hunker says it all depends on how old the piece is, where it’s from and what type of clay it's made out of. You can look for identifying stamps, do the research and compare prices online — or take it to an antique appraiser to figure out its value.
Antique dishes can sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay. One Birks Sterling Silver George IV tea set and tray made $1,800 recently.
15. Vintage typewriters
While no one’s going to swap their shiny Macbook for a machine that literally just types — without even a backspace function — collectors will spend a comparable amount to pick up these vintage items.
The site Typewriters 101 says some of the factors that help determine the item’s worth include its condition, font, maker and whether it’s a desktop device or portable. If you’re selling a dusty, damaged thing that requires some major refurbishing, you probably won’t get as much for it.
Plenty of buyers have bid hundreds for Hermes portables on eBay; one 1960s seafoam green variety paired with its case garnered $1,200.
16. He-Man, G.I. Joe and Transformers toys from the ’80s
These toys were hugely popular at the time of their release in the 1980s and they’re even more desirable today. If you’ve kept any in their sealed, original packaging, you’ve got riches in disguise.
The original Transformers action figure line was released by Hasbro and Japanese toy company Takara Tomy in 1984. Many new product lines have followed, but for some collectors, only the first generation will do. In February 2021, a Jetfire figure in its original box sold for $24,800. Imagine selling a toy to demolish your student loan debt.
One Masters of the Universe He-Man figure was recently listed on eBay for $5,000, and some sealed G.I. Joe toys also go for thousands.
17. Collectible metal lunch boxes
You won’t make money out of just any old lunch box — but if you were that kid who proudly repped your favorite films and bands on the playground, your parents may have unknowingly gifted you your first profitable investment.
Before plastic boxes and vinyl bags, it was colorful metal lunch boxes that dominated the mid to late 1900s. They were eventually phased out for cost or safety concerns: Collector Dee Adams told auctions and antiques resource Collectors Weekly that she believes the last metal box produced in the era was a 1985 steel Rambo design.
Collectors may pay more for vintage lunch boxes that still have their matching thermoses. On eBay, metal lunch boxes featuring classic shows like Scooby Doo and Star Trek have sold for hundreds of dollars. A 1965 The Munsters thermos sold for $394 alone.
18. Baseball cards
Typically older sports cards are worth more, but last year a one-of-a-kind Mike Trout baseball card from 2009 fetched a record $3.93 million. In second place: $3.25 million paid for a Honus Wagner card, released between 1909 and 1911.
You might not score anywhere near that high, but if you have a substantial collection of old baseball cards or a couple exceedingly rare ones, you could be entitled to a small fortune.
They don’t even need to be that old: a 2011 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Rookie in mint condition recently sold for $20,000 on eBay.
19. Vintage Barbie dolls
Mattel’s blond, blue-eyed Barbie has been around since 1959. She’s led hundreds of “careers” — from pop star to pilot — starred in dozens of films, TV shows and games and gets sold in 150 countries across the world.
Limited editions and older versions of the iconic doll are quite valuable to collectors, so if you’ve got any lying around in their original packaging from birthdays long past, it’s time to dig them out.
A 1993 Special Edition Happy Holidays Barbie recently sold for $4,700 on eBay, while a furnished Barbie Dreamhouse from 1978 went for $1,500 — a tidy sum for anyone looking to pay down debt.