Valuable antiques are a relic from the past; knowing that you have a pile or pieces of valuable antiques worth money in your basement leaves a sweet taste in your mouth. These items were bought at low prices back in the day and have now become valuable gems.
The average antique cost between $50-$100, however, some rare pieces can go as high as $30 million depending on the market value, age, rarity, and other important factors.
If you have a couple of antiques in your arsenal and don’t know what to do with them or you’re looking to become an antique collector, this guide is your one stop to discovering the antiques that will fetch you a hefty sum. Here, you’d get to know how to spot valuable ones and distinguish authentic from reproductions.
1. Porcelain Dishes
Porcelain dishes are one of the most expensive antique pieces in the world and unarguably the most common.
The Ru Guanyo washbowl from the Northern Song Dynasty, about 900 years old and measuring about 5.125 inches wide is one of the rarest and most expensive porcelain dishes in the world.
The Northern Song Dynasty was ruled by nine successive emperors for 167 years between 4 February 960- 20 March 1127. Rulers of the dynasty valued education and scholarship, much more than military power, which explains their numerous successful art projects.
The hue, pattern, and production technique made this bowl sell for $37.68 million at a Sotheby’s auction. It is rare and highly sought after.
2. Old Baseball Cards
With only nine existing pieces, Honus Wagner baseball cards sit on top of the list as the most valuable baseball card of all time. Honus Wagner is popularly referred to as the “Flying Dutchman” and widely regarded as one of the most talented baseball players of his time.
One of the nine pieces sold for $3.12 million in 2016, a record-breaking world price for any baseball card owned by an individual. However, reproductions have flooded the market, making it even harder to spot legit ones.
3. Windsor-Style Armchair
Unique Rod Back Windsor chairs emerged from New England province in the 1820s. They are built with a wooden seat, and the chair back & legs are inserted into already drilled holes. The chairs are carved to be shallow or saddle-like for comfort.
Windsor Chairs have passed the test of time and remained a central theme in modern American furniture. Different twists have been introduced over the years.
A small comb-back Philadelphia model, which retained its initial green paint, went up for a whopping $68,750 in 2006. Check your basement, you never know, you might have a Windsor-style armchair down there, they’re worth a fortune now.
4. Antique Stamps
Only one surviving copy of this stamp is known to exist, and that is the British Guiana 1C magenta which sold for 9.48 million dollars. This is an emergency stop gap stamp which replaced the lost shipment of the initial 1C magenta stamp procured by the British Guiana post office in 1856.
The stop gap stamps had boats drawn on them for easy identification and soon the 1C stamp attained a significant position after the lone copy was discovered by a boy in 1873 after which collectors tagged it as rare and very valuable.
Before this big sale, the stamp had broken three previous world records and has been passed down from generation to generation with the current owner being Stuart Weizman.
5. Old Vinyl Records
Who would have thought that these large vinyls would hold so much value. An impressive number of artists made limited copies of their vinyl and the surviving copies have become highly sought after. You can also blame this on introducing streaming platforms and compact discs.
The most expensive vinyl ever sold is the Wu-Tang Clan- Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, which went up for $2 million and is the only copy to ever be released by the group.
That old painting lying lazily in your basement can run into millions of dollars at auctions if it’s an original model with all the requirements needed to make the cut or appeals to a certain “SET” of the world’s population that have the insatiable flair for collecting paintings.
The scream painting by Edvard Munch is currently the most expensive painting in the world at $119.9 million, replacing Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, which sold for $106.5 million two years ago at a Christie’s auction.
7. Antique Sculptures
Sculptures are a great form of art expression and were famous among the elite, nobles and royals back in the day. These giant old molds are now worth millions in today’s market due to their provenance, history and timeless quality.
Sculptures usually range between $100-$5000 dollars and can run into millions of dollars. The most expensive sculpture ever sold is the L’Homme au doigt which means “pointing man’ -A bronze figure sculpted by Alberto Giacometti in 1947 and the only sculpture which the artist painted by hand.
It sold for $141,285,000 at a Christie’s auction to a private buyer in 2015 to clinch this title.
8. Antique Dolls
Playthings of the past, like rubber, wooden, metal, and porcelain dolls, are highly prized in today’s market. These dolls cost thousands of dollars depending on their rarity, maker, condition, and many other factors.
A French doll created by Antoine Edmund Rochard sold for $333,500 in 2018 by Theriault’s Auction House. The doll symbolizes the golden age of French dolls with a strong appeal to French culture and history. You’d find microphotographs with historic scenes located in areas of France inside the necklace at the breastplate of the doll.
9. Vintage Comic Books
You may have a rare old comic book lying aimlessly around the house and even be on your way to throwing them in the dump. It’s smart to take a few steps back and check for details (if it’s a first edition, signed copy, or limited edition). Confirming this status will help you make an important decision.
One of the most expensive books ever sold is the 1962 comic book with the superman character which sold for $3.6 million at a Heritage auction.
10. Sterling Silverware
Sterling Silverware dishes and plates are one of the most valuable antique dishes ever produced. Due to their material and ability to stand the test of time without fading, cracking, or losing form, they’ve easily transitioned into the modern world as collectibles.
A Germain soup tureen belonging to King Louis XV of France sold for a whopping $10 million at Sotheby’s, putting first in line as the most expensive silverware ever sold in the history of the auction in general.
11. First Edition Books
This one is for the bookworms who cherish reading and gaining knowledge all day. First editions of books are usually rare and pricey, so if you have one, head out to the store and auction it off.
The first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s book of poems, which he wrote in 1872, went up for $662,500 at a Christie’s auction to set a new world record.
12. Antique Clocks
Antique clocks are valuable due to their history, provenance, and materials. They usually represent a particular era and a style in history, such as the Art Deco period or Victorian era. You’ll find them with most collectors and interior decorators.
If you consult an appraiser before selling them off, they can tell you if your clock is rare and highly collectible, like this Chinese Ormolu clock that sold for $4 million at an auction.
The clock was produced between 1736 & 1795 and featured moving birds, leaping fish, music, a red curtain that lifts to reveal flowers, and a handrail. The clock is culled from gilded copper and engraved ormolu.
13. Old Camera and Lenses
Before the modernization of cameras and photography, these old cameras were the cynosure of all eyes and produced some of the oldest pictures in the world. Old camera lenses are worth a lot of money, like this Leica O-Series, which sold for $2.79 million at the 32nd WestLicht camera auction, placing it as the most expensive camera in the world.
Ernest Leitz produced 25 test cameras in 1923, and only three have remained in mint condition, making them highly prized and rare.
14. Old Coins
Coins are our little gems and a trading medium for the longest time before the invention of mint notes. During production, some antique coins have omitted errors, some get recalled, and others go into circulation.
These error coins have now carved a niche for themselves and have become some of the world’s most valuable and rare coins. Some coins whose production has been suspended but still have a few pieces in circulation, making them rare and highly sought after, also make the cut for some of the world’s most valuable antique items.
An example of a valuable old coin worth money nowadays is the 1822 Half Eagle, with only 3 of it in existence. These coins were minted in 1822, and they sold at an auction for $8.4 million
15. Perfume Bottles
Vintage perfume bottles are as expensive as their content. These old containers can run up to $200 in your local antique store, but some have auctioned for thousands of dollars, too, like the rare Thomas Webb Cameo glass perfume, which is still housed in its case.
The 5-inch long 1880 perfume bottle is shaped like a fish with a bold white and silver tail sold for $15,600 at an auction. This is your cue to go through your family member’s box of old perfume bottles today and make some money.
16. Vintage Toys
Vintage Toys bring a sense of strong nostalgia. From Star Wars action figures which debuted in 1979 and sold for $185,850 at a Hake’s auction in 2019, to the G.I Joe action figure that sold for $200,000, these toys made the best of our childhood. Go through your old pile of childhood toys, and luck may smile on you today.
17. Madame Alexander Dolls
Madame Alexander dolls belong to their own category when talking about antique collectibles. These special dolls embody everything from famous TV stars, American personalities, past presidents, and royalties.
They had luxurious dresses, hair, and even original costumes. The ‘fashion of the Century doll’ was made in 1951, auctioned off for $25,000, and was produced for a mid-century doll exhibition in 1950.
18. Old Furniture
Households actively used tables, chairs, shelves, and cabinets in the early centuries, and leftovers from those years are selling for incredible prices.
A Medici Badminton Cabinet currently on display in Lichtenstein Museum containing a clock adorned with precious stones, which had 30 craftsmen make it in Florence, Italy, sold for $36 million as against its initial sale of $16.6 million in 1990.
You’re probably curious about the value of the big chandelier in your grandparent’s house. We’re here to tell you they’re worth serious cash and have also passed the test of time as the ultimate historical object.
Antique Chandeliers are made from crystal, diamonds, and several other gems, which has made their value skyrocket in today’s market among collectors, homeowners, and jewelers. Both big and small chandeliers have impressive market value.
A Givenchy Royal Hanover German silver eight-light chandelier crafted in 1736 by William Kent went home with a buyer at a Christie’s auction for $9 million in 2011
20. Antique Golf Clubs
Antique Golf Clubs are prized possession among collectors and very pricey too. Artisans made the earliest models from wood, copper, or a mixture of both, and with each passing day, they get fewer due to the discovery of stronger metals.
If you had grandparents who loved golf, you might find old golf clubs in their pantry waiting to be discovered and sold for a few hundred dollars. This Andrew Dickson Long Nosed Putter sold for $180,000 on Sotheby’s from the Jeffery B. Ellis Antique Golf Club Collection.
21. Antique Fly Rods
Lovers of fishing will love this one. Antique fly rods have maintained their position as one of the most valuable collectibles of all time, especially bamboo and cast iron. On average, you can get them for less than $20, but this 1860’s Norris antique rod sold for $17,920 in 2007 at a Lang’s auction, making it one of the most expensive fishing rods ever sold.
22. Vintage Postcards
Postcards are worth money, especially holiday-themed ones and commemorative pieces with famous people on them or those that depict special occasions at specific times in history.
Go to that library today and search for an old postcard, usually with matte printing and those advertising companies as they sell for the most money.
This Picasso postcard from his blue period and his private collection in Barcelona with Picasso’s signature were auctioned for $95,000.
23. Antique Jewelry
Jewelry pieces like necklaces, brooches, hair pins, earrings, and rings belong to the most valuable antique of the world category. They’re made with the most precious and rare stones, making them highly prized among collectors.
This jewelry was worn by the high and mighty back in the day. The 16th-century La Peregrina Pearl, purchased by Richard Burton for the delectable actress Elizabeth Taylor in 1969, is one of the world’s most coveted necklaces.
The pearl jewel sold for $11,842,500 at a Christie’s auction, setting records simultaneously. It was made by Cartier, who’s famous for making tasteful jewelry.
24. Old Musical Instruments
Violins, Pianos, Drums, and Harps are some of the world’s most expensive musical instruments. Music is as old as humanity, and so many instruments have come and gone. This antique guitar from 1707 was dubbed ‘The Hammer‘ and owned by a 19th-century collector from Sweden, Christian Hammer, who put it up for auction after collecting it from violinist Kyoko Takezawa.
The historical violin went up for $3.5 million at a Christie’s auction to an unknown buyer. Head to your attic and pick up that old guitar or violin; even with their worn-out strings, they may be worth an impressive amount of money.
25. Vintage Christmas Ornaments
The magic of Christmas extends to the beautiful ornaments used to decorate the trees. The ornaments involved in this decoration have now become one of the most collectible items in recent times. Who knows, Grandpa’s antique Turkish or German ornament box might be worth a few hundred on the market now.
A vintage reflector drop ornament made from hand blown glass and manufactured in 1994 by Christopher Radko company sold for $450 on eBay recently.
26. License Plates
Old license plates are worth a million bucks too, in case you’re wondering how, we’ll show you. The 1921 Alaska is worth a whopping $60,000 and is the most valuable license plate in America and very historic too.
The plate is the first issued license plate in the territory of Alaska before it became a known state in the USA, prior to that time, traveling by car to Alaska was almost impossible because the roads weren’t motorable.
27. Wooden Chest
Your great uncle’s wooden chest, where he stored his prized collectibles or his expensive tuxedos, is also worth money in today’s market. Wondering why? The woods used in making these chests, their size, rarity, and most importantly, provenance increase their market value.
A rare and tiny 14th-century wooden chest took us by surprise and sold for £1.5 million, making it one of the most expensive wooden chests to have been sold in history. The chest has been passed down from generation to generation after the demolition of its original home, the Auchmedden Castle on the Buchan Coast, in the late 1800s.
28. Vending & Arcade Machines
Vending machines are as heavy as they’re also pricey. This 1940 Ruffler and Walker vending/arcade machine went up for $13,200 at a morphy’s auction and is one of the few models from the company and in that year to still exist.
29. Hooked Rugs
Handmade hooked rugs were made from rags and attached to a burlap backing with a sailor’s hook. It was a common act in the 1900s and a more affordable alternative to similar-looking rugs made from leftover fabrics from an earlier period in history.
Due to the time since their use, they’re now highly collectible and very prized amongst antique collectors. They range from $5- $750. An antique hooked rug from the 19th century currently lists for $567.50 on eBay
30. Old Rugs
The most expensive rug ever sold in the history of antiques is the incredibly rare Persian vase carpet, also famously called the Clark Sickle Leaf Carpet. It was designed in the early 17th century and was copped for a whopping $33.8 million. The unique rug is one of the 25 middle eastern and Asian carpets from Sotheby’s collection to have sold in June 2013.
31. Loving Cups
Loving cups were usually engraved to mark weddings, coronations, and special occasions. It’s passed around for people to drink from it. The cup comes with two handles and is usually made of silver.
They’re also presented as trophies to winners of games and competitions and are an integral part of numerous European cultures like the Celtic quaich and the French.
A sterling loving cup presented by Titanic Survivor Molly Brown to Carpathia, a rescue ship captain, went up for $200,000 at a UK auction specially organized for selling Titanic relics.
There’s a chance your grandparents won one or more of this at a tourney or game back in the day. They’re worth an impressive sum of money now.
32. Antique Sewing Machine
Sewing is one of humankind’s earliest professions. This field has produced the most amazing outfits worn by royalties and powerful figures for centuries. We can’t give all these accolades without referencing the tools that made it possible.
A rare machine made to look like the famous Wheeler and Wilson English machine for a German family in 1865 sold for $41,000 at a London auction, making it one, if not the most expensive antique sewing machine ever.
33. Antique Football Memorabilia
Do you know when a soccer player signs your shirt or gives you their already worn shirt, you could have just earned your way to a few tens or hundreds of thousand dollars. The best part is this is not restricted to soccer jerseys alone, it could be the ball or even their boots.
The shirt worn by Maradona, popularly known as the “The Hand of God” when he infamously handed the ball into England’s net at the 1986 world cup quarter-final, is currently the most expensive sports memorabilia sold for £7.14m at an auction.
34. Antique Barber Chairs
Oh yes! Barber chairs are worth lots of money due to their brand, material, age, and type. The Koken barber chair from the Koken company is one of the most expensive barber chairs.
Check around the house today and see if you have a Koken barber chair in your basement; the real money maker is right there. This Theo-A-Kochs Barber chair made in 1922 sold for $1,550.
35. Hunting Decoys
Hunters used hunting decoys to attract animals back in the day. You’ve likely seen them in your grandmother’s attic or parent’s basement- if they’re in very good condition while you see them, they’re worth a lot of money.
A red-breasted Merganser Hen Carving By Lothrop Holmes went up for $856,000. Holmes grew up as a ship carpenter and ventured into making decoys as a pastime hobby.
36. Novelty Barware
Barware is not as expensive as the other valuable antiques on this list as they range between $30-$70. They come in unique shapes like animals, flowers, and even with significant human parts, i.e., a corkscrew with women’s lips.
They were made by famous glassware companies like federal Glass, Libbey, Culver, and Hazel Atlas Glass and range from $25 to $1,500.
37. Board Games
Think monopoly, snake, ladder, or even the good old chess. These gems helped us unwind a year ago and have become one of the world’s most collectible antique items. The pioneer monopoly board handmade by Charles Darrow in 1993 made from oilcloth is the most valuable board game and sold for $146,500.
Head to the basement, and you may find later editions of these board games that can sell for thousands of dollars.
38. Vintage Cereal Boxes
Vintage cereal boxes are top on the list of antique collectors; special editions of these boxes from well-known brands of the early 40s to 80s are the most valuable, especially if they’ve never been opened before
We bet you have no idea that there are 50-year-old cereal boxes like this 1951 Wheaties complete box with an image of ted Williams right in front of it, which sold for $2,500
39. Old Magazines
Old newspapers, sports magazines, fashion, and lifestyle magazines on pop culture icons our grandparents read back in the day, are now very valuable. They had facts and histories about the early centuries that are now useful in today’s world.
The pages of these magazines carried golden tips about etiquette, Politics, and all there’s to read. Old magazines cost between $20-$50 when you sell them at thrift stores or antique shops around town.
The Beeton’s Christmas Annual 1887 issue, which introduced Sherlock Holmes and Watson, sold for $156,000 at a Sotheby’s auction
40. Movie Posters
Those posters heralding the release of the next blockbuster movie back in the day are currently worth a lot on the antique market.
Heinz Schulz-Neudamm’s 1927 design for Metropolis was purchased for $1.2 million in 2012 at an auction by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles, and they’re only four surviving copies of this movie poster in the world.
The 1931 Dracula poster also sold for $525,800. Other notable sales include Casablanca, The Mummy, and London After Midnight.
41. Antique Coffee Grinder
Whether small, wall placed, or handheld, antique coffee grinders are valuable and still very functional in modern homes (if they’re well maintained anyways). They range between $50 to $200. A Hobart Antique pedestal coffee grinder sold for $4,500 on eBay
42. Antique Lunch Boxes
School kids’ old lunch boxes used back in the day are worth a lot of money now. Apart from their catch colors, their durability, provenance, and rarity also set them apart. Special edition boxes also sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
The most expensive lunch box yet is the Superman 1954 box produced by Universal, which features the man of steel and goes up for $17,000.
43. Old Apple Computers
Your original vintage apple computer, also called the Apple I, is one of the most collectible computers in the world, about 200 units were made, and 61 pieces are known to exist as of 2021, with only six up and running.
A working apple I sold for $905,000 at a bonhams auction in 2014, making it the heaviest anyone has ever paid for any apple computer to date.
44. Antique Decanters
Decanters used to hold whiskeys that came in unique designs and colors are very sought after in the market by collectors and whiskey lovers. They range between $100-$300 on average, but some have sold for more, like the rare 1964 First National bank bottle, which has the names of each board member and lists for $3,200; only 117 bottles are in circulation.
45. Antique Vases
Vases were popular, valuable, and almost worshiped items in the earliest Chinese dynasties. The beautifully painted vessels housed water and flowers and adorn the courts of the high and mighty with their radiant patterns and historical colors.
A Qing Dynasty porcelain vase made in 1644 is the most expensive vase ever sold at an impressive $84 million.
46. Old Lamps
Antique lamps helped illuminate our homes way before the great discovery of electricity and have now become valuable collectibles among all and sundry. Antique oil or kerosene lamps can pay your bills for the next six months if they are valuable.
To confirm the status of your lamp, take it to an appraiser. The Pink Lotus Lamp with leaded glass made by Tiffany around 1895 fetched $2.8 million at a Christie’s auction.
47. Vintage Typewriter
Although vintage typewriters have become an ancient means of writing owing to the invention of the computer, collectors still run after rare pieces and are ready to drop a coin to buy them. The highest price paid for any typewriter is $254,500.
The light blue, lettera 32 Olivetti typewriter was sold at auction, and it belonged to author Cormac McCarthy who authored best-seller books like The Road, All The Pretty Horses, and No Country for Old Men. McCarthy purchased the machine for $50 in 1963.
48. Antique Teacups
The art of drinking tea from a special cup is aged, very respected, and expensive as royals and nobles practiced them. No wonder this Qing Dynasty Chicken Cup sold for $36 million at
Mr. Liu Yiqian purchased the teacup and proceeded to drink tea from the expensive antique right at the venue. Artisans made the cup during the tenure of the Chenghua Emperor, who stayed in power from 1464 to 1487.
49. Antique Notebooks
Antique notebooks used by ancient scientists, astrologers, and historians to take notes about research, expeditions, experiments, and even their thoughts and theories are very valuable. These notes are passed down from generation to generation and sometimes made into useful textbooks.
The Codec Leicester used by Leonardo da Vinci to take notes on astrology and astronomy in the 16th century was purchased by Bill Gates for $30.8 million in 1994 to add to his collection of rare books, which he loaned to popular museums for display.
The notebook is a 72-page manuscript containing facts about the planet, earth, sun, moon, and sketches related to dams, tides, and eddies. So, if you have a notebook on never-before-seen theories written by your grandfather, this is a sign that you should give it a thought.
50. Old Pocket Watches
Antique pocket watches are also very valuable. They were highly functional back in the day for their accurate telling time and fancied for their small size, which made them easy to carry around for day-to-day activities by the elite class.
A jade bell pocket watch made in 1750 with fragile repousse metal work and a special jade bell inside it made by Thomas Swet for a Japanese market (the time indicators were written boldly in Japanese numerals) sold for $32,500 at a Christie’s auction in 2010.
Here’s a video on valuable antiques.
If you’ve been looking for a sign to declutter the pile stored up decades ago in your attic or basement, this article is it. Luck may smile on you and come across a few buzz-worthy items. While doing that, keep these in mind.
- Condition is important. This will help you extend the shelf life of your antique items.
- All items, whether antique or new, are subject to forces of demand and supply. Your item selling low does not mean that it is not original; it simply means that market forces are at play.
- Don’t confuse reproduced pieces with legit pieces.