For 21 years now, the PBS series Antiques Roadshow has tantalized Americans with the same question: Is there something in my attic that’s worth a fortune? Recently, a Tiffany lamp purchased in the 1960s for $125 was estimated on the show to be worth up to $300,000. Makes you want to investigate some dusty boxes, doesn’t it?
Don’t expect a windfall, says pop-culture appraiser Simeon Lipman, a regular on the show. “The problem is,” Lipman says, “things like vinyl records, Hummel mugs, 1980s baseball cards, Christmas plates and [most] Beanie Babies were made by the millions — and a lot of people held onto them.”
We asked experts, including John Brigandi of Brigandi Coins & Collectibles in Manhattan, about what’s hot now and what’s not. As California financial planner Lynn Ballou says, “Collect what you love and love what you collect. As long as you don’t spend more than you can afford buying the stuff, and don’t count on making any money selling it, it is a terrific hobby.”
Coins and Currency
Coins from the 19th century or earlier have seen steadily climbing prices, as has paper money from 1928 and earlier.
Aside from items linked to big names such as Gen. George S. Patton, few relics from World War I or II draw much interest.
Space Program Collectibles
Memorabilia from the Apollo missions is hot, and surprisingly available, as astronauts signed lots of stuff prior to risky missions as a form of life insurance for their families.
Bobbleheads from the 1960s and earlier that depict athletes, actors or members of the Beatles show steady price increases.
Cardboard Advertising Signs
One large-format cardboard Chesterfield cigarette ad is worth about $10,000, for example, but a metal version of the same thing is essentially worthless. The exception: metal Coca-Cola signs.
Anything signed by legends like Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe has tremendous upside.
Originals by famous artists are fetching ever bigger dollars. Signed lithographs and works by unknown artists? Not so much.
Vintage playthings like Barbies, GI Joes and old metal cars have enduring appeal, especially if they’re in their original packaging.
Posters from before 1990 — especially for Beatles movies, James Bond movies, The Wizard of Oz or Star Wars — will likely grow in value.
Original documents linked to a president — especially Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy — and pre-1960s campaign buttons have lasting value.
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