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If you’ve been flipping or collecting antiques for any length of time you’ve probably realized that just about everyone knows about the same few things.
Every time I walk into an estate sale I find that people flock around the jewelry or the antique coins while totally ignoring other things that are way more valuable (and usually a better price).
So, to that end, let’s let the cat out of the bag. After collecting antiques and selling them (both in person and on eBay) for almost 10 years I’ve decided to make a list of some of the most valuable antiques I know of.
Now, this won’t just be a list of super valuable antiques that you’ll never find. In fact, I guess they won’t even be the most valuable antiques. However, they will all be worth money and easy to find at your average thrift store, yard sale, estate sale, or even your grandpa’s house.
So whether you’re looking to start a collection, decorate with antiques, or make some extra cash, let’s talk about some of the best antiques worth money that you can start finding today!
Oh, and we’ll also include a recently sold example of each category so you’ll know what kind of returns to expect.
Table of Contents
If you have a bit of extra storage space, flipping antique furniture can be a great way to make money.
There are tons of antique furniture brands (and styles from unbranded pieces) that people will pay handsomely for. What’s even better is if you have some level of expertise and can add value in some way by refinishing or at least thoroughly cleaning the pieces that you find.
What To Look For
Nearly every type of antique furniture can be valuable and it will come down to your ability to evaluate each piece of its own merits.
Antique chairs, tables, armoires, dressers, and other furniture pieces can be worth a lot of money if they are in good condition. When sourcing, I look for features like intricate carvings on woodwork, detailed upholstery work, or metal accents that could indicate the piece was made before 1900.
When evaluating antique furniture look closely at any marks or imperfections as these can affect its value significantly. Unless you can repair them you’ll also want to check for signs of wear such as scratches or dents and inspect joints to ensure they are secure and not loose.
Furniture can be quite difficult to sell online as people are often leery of spending a bunch of money on something they might not like. What’s more, you’re left to ship it (which is difficult and expensive) and take the risk that it may be damaged.
While it’s not impossible to ship very large packages on eBay or other sites, it does make things less profitable.
What we typically do when we find valuable antique furniture is to clean it as best we can (without spending too much time) and, if it’s wood, giving it a quick polish. We find that that level of work gives us the best return on investment and we can move on to the next thing.
We typically list our furniture items locally on FB Marketplace or Craiglist (and offer delivery) to get the best prices.
When it comes to antiques worth money everyone knows that art can be incredibly valuable…but everyone is also intimidated and feels like they don’t know about art so they avoid trying to collect or resell it.
It’s really not that complicated.
What To Look For
When looking for valuable artwork, there are several types that have value. We’ve sold oil paintings, watercolors, prints, sculptures, photographs, sculptures, and just about everything in between.
Oil paintings tend to be the most sought-after type of art and we’ve sold many that have good content (meaning people actually want to look at them) even if they aren’t signed.
While it isn’t a sure rule, the most helpful thing to learn when getting started is that you can often recognize decent (meaning valuable) art just by the look.
We always go through a mental checklist before looking a piece up:
- Is it an antique?
- Is the subject matter interesting or attractive?
- Is the frame an antique?
If the answer to any of those is a “yes” then we do our best to look it up and find comparable ones that have sold on eBay.
If you’re looking to resell your find, the best place to find quality artwork would be at antique stores, auctions, estate sales, and flea markets where you will likely find rarer items at reasonable prices compared to high-end galleries who know what they have.
3. Silverware and Jewelry
Silverware and jewelry are two of the most popular items for antique collectors looking to make money. This means that you’ll have to be quick and knowledgeable if you want to compete in this space.
Knowing what makes certain pieces valuable, how to identify quality items, and where you can find them is key to maximizing your profits.
What To Look For
When it comes to silverware, look for hallmarks or stamps that indicate its origin. For example, sterling silver made in England will have a lion passant hallmark while those from France will have a boar’s head stamp.
Another method if you’re being quick is to check the weight of the item – heavier metals tend to be higher quality – as well as any imperfections on the surface that may indicate damage or wear-and-tear over time.
Pro Tip – If possible take a magnifying glass with you so you can get an up-close look at any markings or engravings that could help determine its authenticity and value. Just be aware that people will probably think that you’re crazy…
4. Coins and Currency
If you live in an area where there are many estate sales then finding old coins/currency or even foreign money that is valuable is an entirely common occurrence.
Old types of money can be valuable for many reasons ranging from their rarity to historical significance to metal content.
However, most are really only worth their face value so you’ll have to have a good idea of what’s valuable to avoid looking up every single item.
What To Look For
There are so many types of coins that even seasoned collecters end up looking most things up.
If you invest in coins regularly you’ll want to invest in a price book (or app) so that you can easily look up specific coins.
However, there are a few things I look for when trying to save time:
- Age. While older isn’t always better, older coins have, on balance, more potential to be valuable.
- Care. If the coins are presented as collectibles you can bet I’ll be looking them up. Watch for coins in cases, coin sleeves, folders, etc.
- Sets. One of my most common finds is mint sets from people’s birth years. They normally go for very little at yard sales and are a great flip on eBay.
If you keep your eyes open you can find quality coins and currency at antique stores, flea markets, coin shows held regularly across major cities around the world, as well as through private collectors who specialize in this area of collecting. Remember, the key isn’t to find valuable things, it’s to find underpriced things.
5. Glassware and Pottery
Antique glassware of all types is one of my wife’s favorite things to collect and one of my least favorite things to sell on eBay.
It just makes me so anxious to pack up a 100+-year-old piece of handmade china that someone paid $300 for, knowing that it could get broken along the way, effectively snuffing out that piece of history.
However…I still do it because old glassware is one of the most lucrative niches of antiques around.
And, because there are so many types of glass, just about anyone can find something they’re into. We’ve sold mugs, whiskey jugs, fine china sets, mason jars, depression glass, lamps, blown glass duck statues, and just about everything in between.
What To Look For
When it comes to selling antique glassware there are three things that typically create value: age, rarity, and design.
The intersection of those three (a rare antique piece that is beautiful or “trendy”) would be the most lucrative option.
Beyond looking up every piece you find (which is not a bad thing to do) your best bet is to learn how to recognize antique glass, memorize a few brands, and look up everything else.
Prioritize unusual items such as large sets (just be aware that you may have to ship them) and items in unique colors (such as pink depression glass).
If you need a bit more to go on, familiarize yourself with the following styles/brands and you’ll be head and shoulders above the competition:
- Milk Glass
- Carnival Glass
- Depression Glass
- Uranium Glass
6. Books and Manuscripts
It seems like everyone and their dog is trying to get in on Amazon FBA bookselling these days. People go down the aisles of every thrift store scanning books like maniacs and sending it whatever will be profitable.
There’s a better way.
Instead of scanning literally thousands of books and hoping for a dollar in profit apiece, you can learn to recognize valuable antique books.
I’ll admit that we’ve sold thousands of books on Amazon (at about $4 in profit apiece) but it’s far more gratifying to sell a rare book to someone who has been searching for it (and we’ve sold books for up to $800).
What To Look For
Fortunately, identifying antique books isn’t difficult as they really stand out in the sea of mass-market paperbacks you find at most thrift stores.
If you spot an old book with a title you recognize it will almost always be worth picking up.
When I’m specifically looking for antique books and manuscripts to sell these are some of the things that tip me off to an item (possibly) being valuable:
- It’s a first edition. Antique first editions are some of the most valuable books out there and some have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It doesn’t have to be a first edition either as even second or third printings are old enough to garner interest from collectors.
- It’s a special edition. Early author’s editions, illustrated releases, or limited printings are more likely to be rare and therefore more valuable than the average book.
- It’s really old. I’ve seen books at thrift stores that are over 300 years old. More often than not they were unwittingly donated by someone’s kids after they passed and can be had for pennies on the dollar of their actual value.
- It’s specially bound. I always check out old-looking books with leather binding string bindings, etc. Anything old and unusual is worth looking up.
7. Musical Instruments
Unlike many other things on here, the majority of well-cared for instruments actually get more valuable with age. For others, valuable antique versions are the exception but it’s normal for a musical instrument to be worth much more as an antique.
While you probably won’t be flipping antique pianos anytime soon, antique instruments can be found at flea markets, yard sales, and (probably most commonly) estate sales.
Just be aware that musical instruments can be extremely difficult to ship. Last year I sold an antique trombone for over $1,200 and it was returned to me with the bell smashed in. Apparently, the delivery guy just threw it out of the truck and the double boxing, bubble wrap, and hard case just weren’t enough. I had it repaired and relisted it for $800 but it was still a giant headache.
What To Look For
Valuable musical instruments can range from antique pianos, violins, and guitars to vintage synthesizers and drum kits. Brass and woodwind instruments, such as saxophones and clarinets, can also fetch a good price, especially if they are from well-known manufacturers. Look out for instruments made by makers that everyone has heard of such as Stradivarius, Fender, Gibson, Steinway & Sons, and Moog.
The majority of instruments have a model name, serial number, or edition on them somewhere which makes them one of the easiest things to look up and put a value on. Just be aware that it’s also easy for thrift store employees to do the same so most instruments at thrift stores will be significantly overpriced.
Instead of thrift stores, focus on sourcing at estate sales, auctions, and specialized music stores. For pricing, online platforms like eBay or Reverb can be helpful but always remember to authenticate before buying!
You’ve probably seen articles titled things like, “Toys From Your Childhood That Are Worth A Fortune Now!”. I hate to tell you but they’re almost entirely not true. The valuable ones are just the way rarer versions of what you had.
However, you still have a chance to make a bunch of money in toys if you start looking for and flipping antiques.
What To Look For
For the best possible return on your investment look for toys that are in good condition, with original paintwork and minimal wear and tear. Having the original packaging can also significantly increase value.
Look out for antique dolls, mechanical toys, train sets, and action figures. Early board games, model cars, and even vintage video game consoles can also be of great value. Key manufacturers to look for include Lionel, Madame Alexander, and early LEGO sets.
9. Medical Devices
Antique medical devices hold a particular fascination for many collectors, reflecting the history of science and medicine.
When I visited on of my professor in college his office was full to the brim with antique medical and science equipment. When I asked him where he got it all his response was just, “eBay.”
The real bonus of selling antique medical equipment is that, unlike modern equipment, you didn’t need a prescription to buy it and so it can be resold on eBay without any issues (unlike things such as CPAP machines).
What To Look For
Look for antique stethoscopes, microscopes, surgical tools, and apothecary equipment. Vintage eyeglasses, dental instruments, and early pharmaceutical bottles can also be valuable. While older is typically better, your best bet is to be on the lookout for pieces from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Since most collectors will be buying pieces to display, the best pieces will be free of rust/damage and have clear markings, engravings, etc. For glass items, ensure they are free from cracks and chips.
10. Decorations & Home Goods
Antique decorations and home goods are a broad category that encompasses a wide range of items. I had to include it here near the end because there are so many types of antiques worth money that we haven’t hit on yet.
These types of antiques have absolutely sky-rocketed in value lately as they seem to be the only historical types of items that current generations are interested in. My wife is always showing me the way some social media influencer has decorated their home with vintage or antique items and it just makes me feel like I need to find more of them to sell!
This category can include anything from antique mirrors, lamps, and picture frames to vintage kitchenware, crockery, and tableware. Decorative items such as vintage signs, antique clocks, rugs, and curtains can also be valuable. Look for items from well-known manufacturers or those that are characteristic of particular style periods, such as Art Deco or Victorian.
What To Look For
Since these items will typically be going into someone’s home, look for items that are appealing and in good condition.
Look for items with unusual content or signs of being handmade (such as stitching). If it’s it an off-beat color (such as the purple antique mason jars my wife just found) then so much the better.
You can find these items in antique stores, estate sales, flea markets, and online auction sites like eBay. Always remember to do your due diligence and verify the item’s authenticity and condition before purchasing.
Antique decorations and home goods can add a touch of nostalgia and elegance to any space, and with the right knowledge, they can also be a profitable investment. Whether you’re a seasoned antique dealer or just starting out, there’s always something new to learn in the exciting world of antiques.
11. Knives & Tools
Antique knives and tools can be extremely valuable to people who want to display them (and to old men who think everything used to be of higher quality…).
Valuable knives can span a wide range of categories including pocket knives, hunting knives, kitchen knives, and ceremonial or collectible knives. Tools can be just as varied, with carpentry tools, blacksmith tools, and even certain types of garden tools being sought after. Notable brands to look out for are Buck, Case, Puma, Gerber, and for tools, Stanley, Disston, and Lie Nielsen.
What To Look For
In terms of tools (and knives to some extent), you’ll want to focus on things that are actually antique. New tools are valuable, antique tools are valuable, but in the middle, there’s a dead spot of out-of-date-but-not-antique tools and knives that aren’t worth much.
As with most things, the more specialized the tools or knife is the more likely it is to be valuable (typically because it will be more rare).
Antique shops, flea markets, and online auction platforms such as eBay are common places to find vintage knives and tools. Estate sales and yard sales are also excellent places to find these items as they are often overlooked and can be picked up at a bargain price.
FAQs in Relation to Valuable Antiques
How do I know if my antiques are worth money?
If you plan on making any money by selling antiques then the most valuable skill you can have is learning to value what you find. Knowing how much you can pay for something (or how you need to charge for something) while still maintaining a profit is critical.
First of all, let go of your nostalgia and perception that all antiquest are valuable. Things are only worth what someone will pay for them.
Now, the best way to determine the value of antiques is to research them. I always start by researching similar items online (typically on eBay) where you can see what items have sold and for how much.
If you’re lucky, eBay will provide you with enough information that you can figure out a price for your own goods.
If you come up dry you can either try pricing your item high and lower it when it doesn’t sell or consult an appraiser or expert who specializes in antiques if you need a more accurate assessment of its worth.
Finally, you might consider how much you are willing to pay for it yourself as this will help you decide what price to set when selling it online or elsewhere.
Remember, you’re not trying to find valuable items, you’re trying to find underpriced items.
What items are worth a lot of money?
The antiques that are worth the most money tend to fall into one of three categories:
- Exceptionally rare items. Items that are iconic or represent a specific time or achievement tend to be the most limited and command the highest prices on the market.
- Large or inherently expensive items. Large items such as antique furniture pieces typically have the most functional value and can be sold for consistently high prices.
- Items with innate value. Items that have value apart from being antique (such as gold jewelry) often just have their value amplified as they get older. Art typically falls into this category as well.
Where should I sell my antiques?
Where you sell your antiques really depends on what you have, how much of it you have, and whether you’re going to be buying items specifically to resell (which means that you’ll need to get a license, file taxes, etc.)
In general, I advise people to sell in two places: eBay and locally. For anything small or very valuable, putting it on eBay will give you access to the largest possible audience. For larger items (or if you only have a few things) then Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace are good options.
It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that there are literally hundreds of types of antiquest worth money.
The only way to know for sure whether an antique is valuable is to look up it. Flipping antiques might be intimidating at first (which is why most people never get started) but it gets easier with time and can be very profitable.
While we sell everything we can get our hands on, antiques remain a large part of our eBay inventory and we make several thousand dollars per month just selling other people’s “old crap” that they didn’t care about.
And there’s more money out there for anyone who can figure out the game! Good luck!