We've all stashed items away because, of course, we may need them someday. And instead of ever using them again, they sit in a box somewhere and gather dust. This habit might actually pay off though, when you turn those boxes of retro stuff you couldn't bear to part with into cash.
You'd be surprised at how often people overlook the vintage knick-knacks and household items that are worth a small fortune. No time like the present to rifle through your junk drawers and see what hidden gems lie inside.
Vintage Knitting Caddies
Before mass manufacturing completely changed the fashion industry, people often made their own clothes from scratch. Knitting and crocheting were two fiber arts that were incredibly common throughout the 20th century. But, if you've ever tried to knit or crochet with a ball of yarn and nowhere to put it, you know it's like wrangling with a flopping fish out of water. That's where knitting caddies came in.
Knitting caddies were fabric bags built onto simple wooden (and later metal) frames. These foldable frames let you pick your projects up and take them wherever you wanted. They came in a huge variety of prints and fabrics. At around $50-$100 apiece, the most valuable ones today show very little wear and tear and are made from luxury woods. This mid-century wooden knitting caddy fit the bill and recently sold for $48 online.
1950s Metal Desk Fans
It's surprising that something so innocuous could be so valuable. Yet, vintage metal desk fans with their whirring parts and icy blasts do incredibly well at auction. Unmarked ones are only worth about $50, but if you can get your hands on an Emerson or Westinghouse, you're looking at a good payday. At their most expensive, these vintage caged fans will sell for $200-$300. Naturally, they only reach this high when they've been cleaned and are fully functioning, like this working Emerson fan from the 1950s. It sold on eBay for $135.
1960s-1970s Peacock Chairs
Peacock chairs were all the rage in the 1960s and 1970s. These wicker chairs are immediately recognizable for the drum-like seat and towering, plumage-like seat-back. These chairs will sell faster than most mid-century furniture when they come up to market, and they usually go for around $500- $1,000, like this pristine example that sold for around a grand. The finer and thinner the woven designs are, the more valuable they are.
Vintage Malm Fireplaces
Malm fireplaces fit right in to the retro futurism of the 1950s. With tall smokestacks and wide openings, these fireplaces are worth a fortune today. Malm fireplaces that are fully cleaned and have a thick coat of their original paint are worth the most at around $2,000-$5,000 each. While there were other manufacturers making similar wood-burning fireplaces at the time, genuine Malms are where the money's at. For example, this 1970s freestanding fireplace built in the Malm style only sold for $380 online, and didn't break into the thousands like genuine Malms do.
Mid-Century Floor Screens
There's always a sultry scene in an old Hollywood movie where the main love interest walks behind a foldable screen to change into something better to wear. These screens weren't just movie props, but common features of early and mid-20th century homes. Given that vintage furniture comes with a huge price tag, you're in luck if you can find one of these lying around.
The more panels to your floor screen, the more valuable it is. Even cheap floor screens can bring in a few hundred bucks like this simple wicker 3-panel screen that sold for around $500 on eBay, while luxury imported screens sell in the thousands.
Vintage Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 Pencils
The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company is an old pencil (and later art supplies) manufacturer that created one of the most used pencils of the 1930s-1950s. Known as Blackwing 602, these pencils wrapped in black boasted 12" of length and a unique ferrule that held a clamped eraser inside which could be swapped out at a moment's notice.
Today, a different company has reproduced the iconic Blackwing, but the original Eberhard Fabers are worth over $100 apiece (that's per pencil!). And if you can find one that's unused, you're really in luck, like the person who had a whole dozen box of unused Blackwings. It sold in 2023 for $1,554.30.
1960s-1970s Daisy Chain Crochet Blankets
The quickest way to transform your living room into a 70s paradise is to pick up a daisy chain crocheted blanket for your couch. If you've ever crocheted, then you know just how many hours these bed-sized blankets can take to make. And they bring such a soft whimsy to any room they're in that people kept theirs safe for decades.
Today, these simple craft blankets are worth big time, at around $100-$200 a pop. Of course, the larger the blanket and the better condition it's in, the more it's worth. For example, this classic white and yellow daisy chain recently sold on Etsy for $115.
1960s-1970s Lava Lamps
Lava lamps do surprisingly well on the resell market, with the original lamps from the 1960s selling for the highest prices. With any electronic, being in working order is a must. And, when you're looking at your granddad's old floor lava lamp, check for unusual designs. Things like rocket ships and built-in plant stands are much harder to find, and so they're worth more money. Take this working vintage Mathmos lunar lava lamp, for example. It sold for just over $1,000 on eBay.
Spend the Day Doing an At-Home Treasure Hunt
Who needs a scavenger hunt when all the mysteries you could ever want to uncover are hidden in the nooks and crannies of your own house? Discovering a random, valuable collectible in your overflowing junk drawers creates that same kind of "look what I just found in my cereal box" excitement you felt as a kid. Keep the love of your house alive by looking for hidden treasure around every corner.