New York - While we're all aware that 'hoarding' is probably not the best practice when it comes to most things in life, there are of course exceptions to the rule. Often, simply retaining bits and pieces from the past is way of remembering something pleasant from another time. While an item may have outlived its current usefulness, or is no longer representative of a fashionable trend, it may still have a sentimental value to its owner.
For those who hold emotional attachments to things collected long ago, the attic is often the final resting place for many of these items. However, before you decide to permanently lock the door to your mansard room, or cart your dusty old stash of attic boxes off to the nearest Goodwill, you might want to take note of some surprisingly valuable items that can often be found lurking just out of reach in the shadows above your head. While most of these top-floor items likely won't rise to the level of "national-treasure," you might just be surprised at how valuable some attic finds have become.
While not quite on everyone's collectible-radar just yet, tech from the 1980's has recently become popular with not only baby-boomers, but young millennials as well. Video game consoles from the eighties are commanding big bucks, especially when they include original packaging or have not been used. Rare editions will also add value. A Nintendo PlayStation prototype shown here sold at auction in March 2020 for an astounding $360K. While not all video games will draw such sums, you can usually expect a wide range of pricing from between $50 to $5,000.
Among the top contenders for items in the attic are paper collectibles such as books, letters and posters. Baby-boomers have a penchant for hanging onto their musically inspired youth and adolescent bedroom wall-art with a vengeance. Concert posters from the 60's and 70's can draw large sums for the right bands. Of course condition is king, and having the poster properly mounted or framed will add considerably to the value. A 1966 Shea Stadium Beatles concert poster similar to the one pictured here recently sold for $137,000 earlier in the year. Bigger named bands will also get you a bigger paycheck should you decide to sell. Values on average can range from $25 to $1,500, and possibly higher if put up at the right auction. Newer bands, and album promotion posters from music shops and vendors can also bring in substantial sums. An original 1991 vintage poster featuring Nirvana's iconic "Nevermind" album was recently listed for over $200 by an online seller.
Another common item you're likely to find in many peoples attics (at least for those of a certain age), are board games. Even though Risk was first introduced in 1957, an anniversary edition that was released in 1999 now has an asking price well over $350 on eBay. Similarly dated games from around the turn of the century, such as the Star Wars, Queen's Gambit game are now valued upwards of a $1,000. As with most collectibles of this kind, unopened examples will take the highest price. Top titles are the most popular with prices ranging on average from $45 to $1,200. Other more commonly available examples like Milton-Bradley's, Fireball Island game, which dates back to 1986 is also highly collected due to the nature of the pieces involved - marbles that can be thrown at an opposing player's pieces! Finding one with all the bits intact can be worth well over $400 to the right buyer.
The rise of small wall and desk clocks probably hit its peak during the Art Deco and early Mid-Century period. The style of these time pieces reflected the architecture and design cues of the day. Geometric shapes, metal banding and rounding curves were all part of the aesthetic. There are many examples out there, but if it's been sitting in the attic for a considerable amount of time, make sure the cord or plug hasn't become frayed and brittle. Top dollars go to those that not only work, but still keep accurate time. Expect prices in the range of $35 to over a $1,200 for exceptionally good examples of commonly produced models like those from Westclox. Prices for high-end French Art Deco models can easily top $10,000, with Mid-century examples now reaching into the four-figures as well.
While we may have already beaten this collectible with a proverbial stick in the past (pun fully intended), it's almost a top-to-bottom dollar bet that you're going to find a few of these lying around in many of today's attics. Generally speaking, most won't be worth a fortune, but the older cards will often carry some value. In this instance, condition, player, and year will be paramount. If you stumble across something boxed and sealed, don't take a chance - have them professionally appraised. Values can range from almost worthless into the millions of dollars. Also, be advised that what you think may be "mint" condition, may only only be "excellent" in the eyes of the buyer. The difference between mint and excellent can be almost half the value of the card.
Another fan-favorite when it comes to incredible attic-finds are comic books. As with baseball cards, comics are going to be almost as ubiquitous in a homes upper floors as attic dust. Similarly, condition is key here, as is rarity and limited and early editions. Marvel Films, which are based on many of these original comic book franchises have been hugely successful and are pushing up the value of even modest condition examples. Rare copies can generate sums in the millions, but even more pedestrian comic books can run into the hundreds to thousands of dollars. Marvel's recent release of the film Eternals, also drove the price of an untouched first-edition from this franchise to over a $1,000, so keep an eye-out for upcoming new films that might be a match for what's in your attic stash.
It's not just Mid-century modern furniture that's gone loco over the last ten years, but also any kitchen related items associated with the era. Fifties style cocktail sets and barware lead the pack, and can often be readily found in many of the attics of ranch style homes and bungalows representative of the period. Selection is generally still abundant, but certain styles from better known producers of the time such as Culver, Libbey, Tura and Hazel-Atlas are all being snapped up at ever-increasing prices. Glasses and barware are items often saved by people in case of "additional" need. Prices are across the board and can range from $10 to over $1,500 for popular examples. If you're unsure whether or not your attic barware meets the mid-century criteria, try some some searches online to match patterns and shapes.
Of course no "Best-of" attic list would be complete without the granddaddy of upper-floor finds... books. For most of us, boxes of books are simply part of the attic aesthetic - it's simply where they go once they've been read and retired from the bookshelves. However, what many in the digital age may not realize is there's still a very strong market for certain types of books. One of the most popular and critically acclaimed books of the last two decades, Yann Martel's, Booker Prize winning, The Life of Pi, is also one of the most highly collectible (providing you've got the right edition). The Canadian Alfred A. Knopf editions are the copies most valued, and can sell for over $2,000. Of course condition, author, and subject can all play into value, so you really need to know whether the edition you have is worth anything (hint: check with your local book seller first). However, with the value of some titles, such as Julia Child's first 1961 cookbook selling for over $2,000 recently, it would certainly behoove anyone with a fully stocked attic library to do a self-check of their publication titles and of course any first editions.
As with any rummaging expedition, attic finds can also produce some duds along the way. Sometimes an old plate is just an old plate. However, people often take great care to store things up high-and-dry, and out of harms way, because deep down there's a belief that what they have might be valuable in some way - whether sentimental or otherwise. So, if you haven't headed-up to the top floor in a while, it may just be time to break out the flashlight and listen to your gut once again.
- A.I.A. Staff Writers
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