15 Easy-To-Find Collectible Items That Are Worth a Small Fortune (#7 Is Often in Yard Sales!)

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If you have time and a discerning eye, you can find diamonds in the rough.
Updated Aug. 25, 2023
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One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. That's why some of us are happy to cart loads of items to Goodwill that become beloved thrift store finds that thrill their new owners.

As those of us who haunt garage sales, flea markets, estate sales, and online auctions know, sometimes you can find something worth a small fortune.

Here are some items to look for that might help you pick up a little cash on the side.

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Artwork

JackF/Adobe woman fixing nail to hang frame

Artwork is one of the most potentially valuable categories. A forgotten painting on a dusty wall might just turn out to be a masterpiece worth thousands or even millions of dollars.

Case in point: A California woman once picked up what was believed to be an original Jackson Pollock painting at a thrift store.

Antique furniture

JackF/Adobe antique furniture for sale in store

Don't underestimate the potential of antique furniture. Those weathered chairs and vintage tables could be more than just aesthetic pieces: They could be investments just waiting for the right buyer.

Quality pieces from specific periods or by renowned designers can fetch hefty sums at auctions and antique markets. Hold off on any restoration projects until you get something appraised, lest you paint over antique details.

Antique German Christmas ornaments

arinahabich/Adobe christmas ornament on wooden table

Look out for antique German Christmas ornaments called kugels. These delicate, hand-blown decorations can hold significant value for collectors.

They come in various shapes, notably small balls and in food and fruit forms. Pink, purple, and orange ornaments will likely get you the most money due to their rarity. If you’re really lucky, you’ll score an intact collection worth thousands.

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Baseball cards

Raegan/Adobe baseball and sports cards scattered around

If you're a sports fan, you probably know the potential value baseball cards can hold. These small pieces of cardboard can pack a financial punch if you discover a special edition or a card featuring a legendary player.

In rare cases, some can be worth millions. As with any collectible, condition matters. So, make sure to handle these cards with care.

Collectable sneakers

Lazy_Bear/Adobe trendy levitating sport shoes for display

Sneakerheads, rejoice! Collectible sneakers have surged in popularity in recent years, becoming a lucrative investment.

Limited-edition releases, collaborations with famous designers, and iconic sneaker models can command great prices in the shoe market.

Some Air Jordans have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. So, checking out the online sneaker marketplace is worth a shot if you have a knack for it.

Comic books

Kristina/Adobe teenage girl holding comics book

Comic books are another beloved category for collectors, but they're certainly not just for kids. First editions featuring famous characters (such as Superman) or significant storylines can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Extremely rare comics can fetch millions.

Look for well-preserved editions with minimal wear and tear, and remember that rarity often drives value in this market.

Custom jewelry

dimj/Adobe embellished gold rings on white cloth

Jewelry is a common item that often graces the tables of yard sales. Don't overlook those boxes of tangled necklaces and mismatched earrings — hidden within might be a gem. Precious metals and rare gemstones can make vintage jewelry a valuable find.

In some cases, people have mistaken rare custom pieces worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for costume jewelry. That fact offers a good reason to have your collection appraised.

Flatware

Shirley/Adobe silver cutlery besides white plate

Flatware — which millennials often malign — might not be the first thing that comes to mind at a yard sale. However, antique and custom sets can be highly valuable.

Intricate patterns, rare materials, and silverware from certain periods can fetch a pretty penny in some markets. In particular, sterling silver has been known to be in demand on eBay.

Musical instruments

Africa Studio/Adobe musical instruments with note holder

Keep an ear out for musical instruments. A few vintage guitars, stringed instruments, brass and woodwinds, and synths can be more valuable than they look propped up in a dusty corner or sitting on a folding table.

Look for brands with a reputation for quality and any craftsmanship that could indicate an instrument with good resale value. In this case, the condition is almost always paramount.

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Old certificates

larryhw/Adobe united states treasury savings bonds stack

Old certificates might seem like forgotten relics, but they can be worth money.

Stocks, bonds, and other certificates from defunct companies or historical periods are items worth the hunt. Look for certificates with interesting designs or watermarks.

Pottery

Nattapol_Sritongcom/Adobe colorful ceramic pots on wooden table

Pyrex pieces are one thing, but if you're fortunate enough to stumble upon antique pottery, you are in for a pleasant surprise. And yes, this can happen at yard sales.

In 2007, a buyer had no idea they had picked up a 1,000-year-old bowl from the Northern Song Dynasty in China for a mere $3. It sold for more than $2.2 million at an auction after they had it appraised.

Persian rugs

F Armstrong Photo/Adobe colorful persian rugs on floor

Persian rugs might unroll more than just comfort and warmth: They could be worth a significant chunk of change.

Antique or hand-woven rugs with specific patterns and colors can fetch substantial prices in the secondhand market.

Persian rugs from the 16th and 17th centuries are especially valuable, commanding millions at auctions. Once again, the better the condition, the higher the price tag.

Antique tools

Daniel Thornberg/Adobe antique toolbox with tools on floor

Vintage specialty tools can hold appeal for antique collectors and craftspeople. Look for tools with unique designs, well-preserved handles, and markings indicating the manufacturer or origin. The right find can make you tens of thousands of dollars richer.

Regular tools can also be a good yard sale find if you work with your hands, although they are unlikely to sell for $10,000 at an auction.

Vinyl records

tomertu/Adobe vintage records on wooden table

Vinyl records are perennially popular, and their collectible value is music to the ears of yard sale enthusiasts. Rare pressings, limited editions, and albums from specific artists can be worth a lot of money.

In 2006, a record with early versions of songs from the first album of the Velvet Underground sold for more than $25,000 at auction to a collector. So, if you see a pile of vinyl, dive in.

Watches

TRITOOTH/Adobe men's wrist watches

Watches are a classic collectible, and vintage timepieces from reputable brands can appreciate in value as years go by. That is especially true if they're well-preserved and feature unique designs.

Some collectors are willing to shell out big bucks for prized finds. Spending a few bucks on pocket watches and other timepieces at yard sales might just pay off.

Bottom line

Ralf Broskvar/Adobe second hand furniture at flea market

Yard sales, flea markets, estate sales, and secondhand shops can sometimes reward treasure hunters with valuable finds. If you plan to sell something that appears valuable, have it appraised first. 

You might find out that you’re already sitting on an even bigger treasure than you imagined — maybe even one that will allow you to cash in and retire comfortably.

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Author Details

Cat Lafuente Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.

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