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The Top Antique & Collectible Finds in 2014

Updated on October 11, 2014

The current trends in collectibles vary from brass to action figures.

Sales for collectibles are rising by 15% in the last year on eBay, rising to $2.7 billion according to whatsellsbest.com. This site monitors millions of auction items worldwide. As more baby boomers are cleaning out their parents' house more treasures from the 40s, 50s and 60s are being uncovered. Even though the 80s and 90s don't seem too distant there are things that top the treasure hunter's list.

  1. Action Figures: Who thought a $3 action figure bought in 1985 would sell for thousands today. A 1985 Kenner Boba Fett, from a Star Wars Droids television show that lasted only one season. It sold for $10,200 on eBay. While these sales are rare values for action figures have soared in the past eight months according to Brian Semling, owner of Brian's Toys, an online Star Wars toys and collectibles store. Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm last fall and fan anticipation of a new release of Star Wars movies.
  2. While china dinnerware is common and a set of China sells for $100 - $150, there are some patterns that are highly collectible. For example, Villeroy & Boch's French Garden. introduced in 1997, a single plate sells for about $46. It has been the best seller since 2000.
  3. Barbershop items are trending from shaving mugs from the 1920s, bringing up to $150, to neck dusters, bringing around $150. Vintage straight razors are still plentiful and the celluloid handle razors sell for up to $65 each.
  4. Vintage fishing gear is bringing big bucks. Many 1940s lures can be found now as estates are being disposed of due to death and downsizing. A fishing lure in perfect condition with brilliant colors can be sold for up to $300.
  5. Low cost vintage collectibles from the 50s, 60s, and 70s include mass produced composer busts. Cigarette trading cards from the late 19th century are now highly collectible. Makers printed these with a series of illustrations to entice people to collect them. These can be had for as little as $1 each. Look for brass items such as brass bookends and candlesticks. Another popular brass collectible is brass identification tags popular before electronic key cards and bar codes. These tags were coupled with hotel keys or attached to lockers. These can be bought at flea markets for $6-$8 each.
  6. Yellowware bowls were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, known for their durability and loved for their charm. Potteries throughout the US produced pressed, molded, or thrown mixing bowls. These bowls are glazed to emphasize their natural pale yellow or mustard color. Most Yellowware is unmarked. A 10" diameter bowl from the early 20th century is valued at about $110.
  7. Vintage flower pins from the 30s to the 60s are making a comeback. A tulip stone pin circa 1935 is worth around $200. A vintage Chanel flower pin from 1930 is valued at $375. The Tremblant flower pin from the 1940s is valued at $125.

Top categories in vintage, collectibles, and antiques

Terapeak is the leader in ecommerce market analytics, dedicated to helping online businesses grow and become more profitable. Plus, they provide customers with market insights that can be used to find emerging opportunities.

Terapeak analyzes 2.4 billion transactions per year and over $68 billion online consumer spending worldwide. So what are the top five categories trending now according to Terapeak when searching vintage goods? Women's dresses, wristwatches, erotic photographs, radio controlled cars, trucks, motorcycles and women's handbags and purses. By generalizing the following list makes up to 80% of vintage goods searches.

  1. Women's vintage clothing, jewelry, and accessories (40% of all listings)
  2. Vintage erotica (18% of all listings)
  3. Vintage wristwatches (16% of all listings)
  4. Vintage men's clothing (5% of all listings)

The top categories for the "collectible" keyword on eBay:

  1. Collectible contemporary knives, swords, and blades (25% of all listings)
  2. Collectible pre-1930s clocks of all kinds (25% of all listings)
  3. Collectible Mexican pottery and folk art (15% of all listings)

By a significant margin, the top areas of interest for the "antiques" keyword is in primitive-folk style or country style tools and household items. Pocket watches, and doll clothes and accessories round out the top three categories, each we'll ahead, in numbers of any remaining categories on the list.

What's in store for fall and winter?

Based on Terapeak's numbers right, some strong targets are over the next few months:

  • Seasonal vintage women's clothing items, particularly with a casual sexy, 1950s inspired rockabilly or pinup feel to them.
  • Genuine farm or country-origin home and hearth décor, tools, utensils, and housewares, particularly with wooden or metal construction or accents.
  • Pre-1930s clocks and vintage mechanical (automatic or windup, rather than battery operated.
  • Unique Mexican pottery and folk art suitable for home décor use.
  • Relevant items in collectible knives and blades, as well as vintage erotic photographs and magazines.

Retro Recycle

When it comes to vintage modern trends, Heywood-Wakefield or Danish modern and Herman Miller mid-century modern pieces bring top dollar for dealers and retailers. Even reproductions are popular. Ikea, West Elm, and Urban Outfitters all primarily sell furniture inspired by the mid-century era. It's the style right now just like country living was and primitives and antiques were promoted by the designers, but now mid-century modern is trending with designers.

However, antiques have a fan base, such as primitive antiques and industrial upcycling, or French or Italian Provincial, reproductions from the 17th and 18th centuries. Mid-century pieces attract a certain age group, typically the 30 something's. The 20 something's are more fond of the ornate French or Italian Provincials, while the 40 and 50 age groups are attracted to the primitive antiques. Of course, not all old items you find is stylish or worth much. A variety of factors determine value including scarcity, rarity, and quality.

Most recently, the trend of upcycling, or infusing an old antiques with new function and style, coupled with social media sharing has fueled the buying of vintage furniture. With the internet and social media sharing such as Pintrest, there has been a resurgence of what once was considered trash. Some items that are being transformed are old iron gates, barn doors, or lawn decorations. Repurposing vintage items especially the industrial type is very popular. These are metal, iron, or wooden pieces once used in a factory setting.

Technology can also dictate what's trending. Mid-century modern furniture is smaller and sleeker and requires less space. Also apartment or loft living among the young professionals or boomers make mid-century modern furniture very popular.

Don't Throw Away the Old Computer in the Attic

There's a vibrant market for computer systems and vintage console games and even magazines. An original 1976 Apple I computer sold at auction in May last year in Colgone Germany for a record $671,400 - more than double the price of similar auctions just three years ago. The computer's original price was $666.66.

Of course not all old computers are valuable. Collecting vintage computers is complicated and the value can depend on it's contribution to computer history to its position in the production run. The most variant in collecting computers is rarity. Also pay attention to the serial number. The earlier the serial number the better.

Early computer games from the 1970s and 1980s can sell for more than a thousand dollars when it is in the original packaging with an unbroken seal. The software without the packaging or manual has almost no value.

A top computer collectible must have something you can't see: a compelling story. A Kenbak-I personal computer was built in 1971, in fact only 40 were built making them older and rarer than the Apple I. Even though it is older than the Apple I the Kenbak-I estimated worth is only $20,000 because it was a blip in history.

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