The Vintage Items Worth Selling This Year, According to a Pro Appraiser

We got tips from a professional appraiser on what to know about what to sell and how to price your vintage items this spring cleaning season.

Here’s the number one myth you’ve likely been told about pricing and selling your used stuff, debunked: Beanie Babies are not worth very much. 

Professional appraiser Sophia du Brul has been part of the antique world in some way for basically her entire life (her mother worked as an appraiser, so she started in it when she was just 13). Based in Chicago, du Brul does estate sales, and answers appraisal questions from people around the world at Just Answer Appraisals. In her appraisal work for individuals, she researches and prices everyday items and more remarkable ones like a ship’s gangway plank from the 1800s and a 1959 Junior Rose Bowl program signed by Jackie Robinson.

geometric patterned mid-century modern sitting room
Peter Rymwid

While you probably don’t have anything that rare sitting in the back of your closet, it’s spring cleaning time—and if you want to start fresh, you need to do some digging before deciding what’s worth selling, donating, and how to price an item. And that starts with getting realistic.

“People conflate what they originally spent on something with what it's worth now,” du Brul says. “And the hard truth is, a lot of the furniture and the things that are in people’s homes is that—it’s like buying a new car. It immediately devalues as soon as you drive it off the lot. And sometimes a car becomes a classic that goes up in value, but there are a whole bunch of cars that don’t. So what you're looking for is what became a classic car.”

Another key to getting the most money for your old stuff is knowing what’s on trend. Do your research by reading home publications (like you’re doing now!) and seeing what’s popular in big retailers like Target. According to what du Brul is seeing, here’s what’s currently trending in the appraisal world—and if you have any of these items, this is what to sell this year.

Anything and Everything Nostalgic

The ’70s are back in full swing, partially due to pop culture, but also because the generation that grew up during that time wants to bring a piece of their childhood into their lives.

“You know, you’re at the peak of your career, you’re earning good money, and now you have some disposable income to spend on these things. And people are very nostalgic about their childhoods,” du Brul says. “Probably in 10 years, the ’90s are going to become hot as that generation really comes of age and longs for their childhood.”

If you own anything related to Star Wars, Star Trek, or Lego sets from the ’70s or early ’80s, consider getting them appraised. And they don’t have to be in perfect condition—for example, if you have an original Luke Skywalker Kenner doll that’s missing a piece or not in the box anymore, you could still get a couple hundred dollars for it, du Brul says.

’70s Designs

It’s not just nostalgic toys from the ’70s that people are willing to buy, but also the clothes, furniture, and decor. Du Brul references an estate sale she took on six months ago at a house that felt like it was still in 1972—she said five years ago, she probably wouldn’t have taken it, but at this point in time it was the right move.

“We sold out these wild orange chairs, these crazy sectionals and all this weird 1970s gravel art, and were getting good prices for it,” she says. “[The trend] is really new, and the early ’80s is part of that too, because they still had that kind of ’70s look.”

Mid-Century Kitsch

Mid-century modern has been a popular interior style for years now, and it’s still having its moment. So if you have something like a mid-century chair, that’s definitely going to be worth selling. However, it does depend heavily on the quality, du Brul says.

“The very high quality mid-century pieces that are signed still have a lot of value,” she explains. “So the value is starting to go down on the second and the third tier mid-century modern.”

Mid-century kitsch is particularly popular right now, but not necessarily in the furniture category—quirky pieces like lady head vases, Pyrex, and eclectic barware sets are in high demand. If you have a decor piece or accessory from a high-end brand from that time period, now is the time to look into getting it and appraised and selling.

Cocktail Accessories

Going along with mid-century barware sets, people are especially looking for cocktail accessories in this style.

“Even though mid-century is kind of waning, people love the kind of fun accoutrement of the mid-century, and the whole cocktail bar thing just keeps going strong,” du Brul says. “I must say, I’m very grateful to millennials and Gen Z for this because I love my cocktails. Cocktail culture has become a really big thing again. And so the fun accessories for cocktails continue to be really hot—fun cocktail shakers, martini glasses and funky little stirrers.” 


It’s no secret that minimalism has run its course, and du Brul says that the maximalist designs she’s seen sell are mainly showing up in the form of knick knacks.

“The fun thing about these unique little accessories, like a fun set of hardware, something like that—it’s not a couch,” she says. “It’s not this whole really strong look that you have to live with. It’s a fun thing that you can put on a corner table or even put away. You can lean into it or pull away from it as much as you want.”

What’s Not Worth Selling

You may automatically assume that your grandmother’s china with the little pink roses or an old set of postage stamps would sell for a good price because they’re vintage, but du Brul says she’s seen those at just about every estate sale. The key is to find an accessory that’s not super common, she advises, and remember that just because something is an antique doesn’t mean it’s valuable. If it was run-of-the-mill back in the 1930s, it’s still going to be typical now. Pieces that were of high value in previous decades, like Beltre furniture, are what you can expect to get a good return of investment on. 

As another general rule, du Brul says it’s important to remember that sentimental value does not equate to monetary value (looking at you again, Beanie Baby collection). That doesn’t mean that a family heirloom or item that you loved as a kid can’t be worth anything, but it’s pretty unlikely if there are millions of the same item out there.

When looking to get your belongings appraised, du Brul says the main way you can prepare is by taking good photos (if you’re doing an online appraisal) and be ready to answer a lot of questions about them (where it’s from, how long it’s been in your family, etc.). Also, remember that if you don’t get the price you were hoping for, your appraiser’s job is simply to act as a kind of translator for whatever it is you’re selling.

“I speak for the object because the object cannot tell you what it is,” du Brul says. “So it’s up to me to tell you what the object is. And I need to be honest.”

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