10 Collectibles That Were All Flash & No Cash

Some collectibles are extremely valuable. Just not these.

Published August 14, 2023
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Every generation has their Beanie Babies. You know, those things people hoard because they’ve been promised they’re going to be worth something someday. While there are countless valuable collectibles you can turn a profit with, these iconic pieces of the past don’t come close.

Royal Coronation & Wedding Souvenirs

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Recently, Britain had its first royal coronation in over 50 years, and there was no shortage of souvenirs to commemorate the event. But these souvenirs represent a long line of royal coronation and wedding memorabilia that, despite a lack of market interest, people still buy in droves today.

Of course, anything that’s made for a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event will draw attention and claims of appreciating value. But these souvenirs aren’t high-quality, unique pieces, and they’re mass-produced. Couple that with a declining interest in anything related to the royal family, and you’ve got mugs, plates, saucers, banners, and the like that are best left to the yard sale.

McDonald's Glassware

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It’s hard for young adults and teens today to really understand the elevated place fast food restaurants had in culture when they first came out. We didn’t have decades of cheap food, cheap toys, and over-saturated interior designs to color our opinions of places like McDonald's. Today, they’re a parody of a restaurant, whereas they were the place to go in the 1970s.

So, when McDonald's debuted their own glassware line, people went nuts. It was new and felt of the future. Plus, if we know anything, it’s that McDonald’s is great at convincing you that you need something. While a few rare glasses will sell for $50-$100, the majority of them aren’t worth more than the beverages you pour in them.

Bicentennial Memorabilia

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It’s 1976 and society might be on fire, but you’ve still got America’s birthday to look forward to. The Bicentennial was a literal once-in-100-years event that companies went bonkers over. You could get scratch and sniff bicentennial books in your bread sleeves and flags to hang in your yard.

There’s an expectation that anything that seems rare is going to be worth money. While the Bicentennial itself is rare, the memorabilia made commemorating it definitely isn’t. There’s just so much stuff that people kept and so little demand for it that it’ll never be worth the kinds of price points people once thought it all would.

Bradford Exchange Plates

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The Bradford Exchange is a collectibles seller that started out creating specialty plates in the early 1970s. From Disney to Marilyn Monroe to nature scenes ornithologists would be envious of, Bradford Exchange collectible plates were super popular. Gift a parent one of these at the time, and you’d be wracking up some good child points.

Unlike delicate china and porcelain, these plates were mass-produced and weren’t that hard to make. The fact they came with a certificate of authenticity and a stand to set them on further sold this idea that they were something expensive to cherish. But these dated paintings on plates don’t connect with Gen Z like mom jeans and Motorola razors do. Look up any plate you own, and you’ll see it regularly selling for under $30.

Beanie Babies

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We couldn’t talk about worthless collectibles without mentioning the honorary leader of the bunch—Beanie Babies. Beanie Babies were built on manipulation, hype, and the illusion of value. But, like every bubble, the Beanie Bubble was bound to burst, and people who spent thousands on their collection in the 90s are realizing just how commonplace they really are.

Although, don’t give up hope just yet. There are a handful of Beanie Babies that are unique enough for people to spend more than their pocket change on them.

Pandora Charms

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If you were alive in the 2000s, then you remember how every aunt, grandmother, and upper-middle-class suburbanite thought Pandora was the new Tiffany. Of course, they were wrong, but nothing you said could’ve convinced them of that. Pandora did everything right in marketing their customizable charm bracelets as an expensive luxury, akin to brands like Cartier and Tiffany.

And people paid a lot of money for these charms. What they didn’t consider was that these charms don’t have inherent value in the jewelry space. They can’t be worn alone, and they’re not made out of precious materials. So, these $50-$100 charms are worth pennies on the dollar today.

NASCAR Collectibles

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In the 1980s and 1990s, NASCAR was at its height of popularity. The sport benefitted from having old stalwarts like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt on the track racing against new fan favorites like Jeff Gordon. Like every sports enterprise before them, NASCAR capitalized on this attention and made commemorative everything: shirts, model cars, cups, trading cards, etc.

When you’re in the middle of a frenzy, you can’t help but buy into the hype that they’re going to be worth money. But NASCAR doesn’t have the fanbase like football or soccer, so there’s no one willing to pay big for these recent collectibles.

Elections Memorabilia

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Before candidates battled with each other through elaborate online ad campaigns, they were printing pins, buttons, sashes, and banners for people to show their support. Since you never knew which candidate would win and which ones would fade into obscurity, people collected this political memorabilia, hoping it’d be worth something in the future.

For the most part, election memorabilia isn’t worth diddly squat. The occasion presidential campaign button will entice collectors and sell for thousands, but your old Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter merch won’t pay for more than a pack of gum.

Vintage Vinyl Records

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Here’s where things get a little complicated. Vintage vinyl is one of those collectibles that has one foot in the worthless camp and one in the extremely valuable camp. This usually boils down to one vinyl, like a rare Beatles album, in a stack of hundreds, making the entire stack worth buying.

But niche and well-kept vintage vinyl is usually not worth more than the $20-$30 bucks you can buy brand new copies of the same album for. So, with vinyl, you’re probably only going to find one or two valuable albums in your whole collection.

Pogs

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As people love to say, history repeats itself and Milk Caps—a Depression era game—came back with a vengeance during its 90s rebrand as Pogs. Like so many of the collectibles on this list, Pogs fit that particular criteria that can make something spark a conversation around their collectability. It’s like with stamps or coins; they’re the same basic premise with the designs being the only thing that sets them a part.

If you were a kid collecting Pogs, you absolutely thought some of your rare, limited-edition pieces were going to be worth a ton when you grew up. Unfortunately, dreams don’t always come true, and they’re worth pennies today.

Money Isn't Everything

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Whether it’s because of marketing or methodical manipulation, it’s all-too easy to jump on a new collectible bandwagon. But the collectibles that burn bright often flame out quickly and are always the ones whose values don’t hold up over time. Thankfully, we don’t only collect stuff because it’s worth something. Sometimes, we just think it looks cool.

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10 Collectibles That Were All Flash & No Cash