10 Estate Sale Finds That Are Real Treasures

From books to mirrors, keep this list handy so you know what to buy at estate sales.

Published August 22, 2023


We love a good estate sale, and we're betting you do too. Where else can you buy a box of random books for a few dollars or score an incredible deal on an antique chair? It's hard to choose what the best estate sale finds are (so many great options), but you can't go wrong if you keep an eye out for these high-potential items.

Vintage and Antique Rugs


Rugs can be super valuable estate sale finds, especially if they're good quality vintage or antique pieces that are still in good condition. However, not everyone realizes how much they're worth (even a new, mass-produced rug will set you back hundreds, but a quality vintage one tends to be worth even more).

If you're at an estate sale and see a rug you like, give it a closer look. Can you tell if it's made of wool or natural fibers? Does it seem to be in good shape? If so, snap that puppy up.

Antique Mirrors


There's one piece of wall art that goes with absolutely every room, and that's a mirror. Estate sales are a great place to find them, especially if you're watching for valuable antique ones. Antique mirrors come in all different styles, from simple wood frames to ornate gilt statement-making pieces.

If you see one that fits your personal style, take a minute to check it out. Look for frames made of wood or plaster (no plastic) and backs made of wood. Cloudy or splotchy glass can detract from the monetary value, but it still might be perfect for decorating.

Beautiful Art


The great thing about estate sales is that they aren't really curated. You might find something super valuable, like a great painting or photograph tucked away with old prints or posters. You just have to dig through all the art to see what you find.

Look for art that stands out for its beauty that isn't a reproduction or print (original photos or paintings are always worth more than copies of the same art). Even if it turns out to be a great amateur piece, it's still something lovely. If you like it, buy it and do some digging about the artist when you get home.

Quick Tip

What if your estate sale find is an unsigned painting or photograph? Although signatures help a lot when it comes to value, some super valuable pieces can be unsigned too.

Antique Sterling Silver


Sometimes, people don't know how to tell the difference between silverplate and sterling silver, so you can find some incredible deals on these pieces at estate sales. Even if the seller knows how to read hallmarks about the silver content, they might not know which antique patterns are most valuable. Snap up sterling silver if you see it for a good price.

Pay special attention to antique patterns. Certain pieces, especially from the 1800s, can be incredibly valuable, sometimes worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Vintage Lamps and Light Fixtures


If you're wondering what to look for estate sales, let us shine a little light on the subject (sorry — we couldn't resist). Really, though, lamps and light fixtures are some of the best estate sale finds out there. We're not talking all lamps, though. That gross mirrored 90s one your grandma had isn't worth much, but a lot of vintage lamps really are.

Look for something people would love to use now. If you hate it or think it's too weird, skip it. Then look at the materials and workmanship. Does it have hand-painted details, crystal, or special touches? If so, there's a good chance it's a valuable find.

Quick Tip

Any time you buy a vintage or antique lamp or light fixture, keep in mind that you may need to have it rewired. Although prices can vary quite a bit depending on the complexity, set aside at least $25 to $50 of your budget for that.

Old Books


A lot of old books aren't super valuable, but a few are. And the thing about estate sales is that you can find old books for super cheap prices. Even if the book is only worth $30 or $40, you may well get it for $2 at the sale. That's a super great find.

Watch for leather or cloth-bound books in good condition, as well as first editions and books by authors everyone loves (like Louisa May Alcott or Charlotte Bronte).

Vintage Clothing


If you're cool with sorting through some very outdated outfits, an estate sale is one of the best places to find good deals on valuable vintage clothing. This is a similar situation to the books — that vintage dress might not be worth enough to retire, but it's almost definitely worth more than you're going to pay at an estate sale.

As you're digging through the clothing racks, pay special attention to condition. Avoid anything with stains, tears you can't fix, or bad smells. Watch for details like covered buttons, hand embroidery, pretty lace, or quality fabrics.

Antique Dining Chairs


A single chair can be surprisingly useful in a hallway or bedroom, especially if it's super pretty. What to look for at estate sales, though, is a set of matched chairs from a bygone era. These can be worth a lot.

Look for at least four to six chairs, all very sturdy and in good condition. If they have cosmetic issues or need new cane seats or refinishing, they may still be worth picking up. Chances are, you can get them for a great deal.

Patio and Garden Furniture


Cast iron cafe sets and wicker settees can be super valuable, and they aren't always what sell at estate sales (especially in the off season). This means you can get a really good deal on something that has a lot of value.

Look for furniture that's sturdy and rust-free. Skip wicker that has a ton of damage and will need professional repair, but something that just needs some paint might be totally okay.

Coin Collections


Coins have a face value and a collectible value, and it's common to find old coins that are worth a little (or a lot) more than the number stamped on them. From a jar of old pennies to a coin collection in books, take some time to grab a magnifying glass and consider putting in an offer.

Look for anything a little off, such as a slight mistake in minting the coin or a slight color variation. Also check for older coins in super good condition and proof sets of totally uncirculated coins.

Buy Estate Sale Finds You Love


The best estate sale finds are things you know you'll love, even if they aren't valuable. But let's be honest — everyone loves getting a great deal on something worth a lot. Start by choosing what speaks to you and then look for the valuable items on this list. Chances are, there's a ton of overlap, and you'll buy exactly the right things.

10 Estate Sale Finds That Are Real Treasures