One of my favorite episodes of “Pawn Stars” features a soon-to-be dad trying to sell his massive collection of Transformers memorabilia. Even though the guy ultimately didn’t sell, he was able to find out what the collection was worth — thousands of dollars, in this case. While I wouldn’t hang your hopes on getting filthy rich from your old Happy Meal toys, there are ways to make money with others’ warm and fuzzy memories. Here are just a few ways to get started:
Start With What You Know
There are far too many toys and collectibles from our childhood to become an expert in them all, so why not start with the ones that YOU personally love to reminisce about? My three favorite toys offered lots to learn in my search for their current value: A Speak and Spell, Pre-Computer 2000, and Fun Around Faces could all be found for sale somewhere online. After about 2 weeks of closely examining the conditions and final selling prices of many auctions and direct buy outlets, I am pretty confident that I could accurately judge the value of a used one in most any condition.
Get Down to Details
Not all nostalgic toys or collectibles are alike. Think the original Speak and Spells were the same? It turns out that the models with the raised buttons (like I had as a child) are more difficult to find in good condition and therefore, fetch a higher price than the later models that feature flat buttons. Before you make a decision to seek out the toys from your youth — either for fun or profit — understand how the models may have changed over time, and how the details of each can differ.
Look Where Others Won’t
Estate sales, pawn shops, and retailers are the obvious choices for buying these kinds of items, but be prepared to pay a premium. Most memorabilia dealers have revealed that many of their best finds have come from the junky shelves at their local Salvation Army or Goodwill shop. To get an even better deal on something rare or collectible, be creative in your searches at these stores. Stories of seeing a vintage Coleco handheld underneath a pile of broken printers or a priceless original He-Man tossed next to a quesadilla maker are not as uncommon as you think. Don’t forget garage sale finds; the dustier and more disorganized the yard sale, the better your chances of stumbling upon something truly exceptional!
If you’re willing to hold off and search for months (and maybe even years) for the perfect product from your childhood, you can likely get the exact model you want, at a price you can afford. Many dealers know what their personal “holy grail” in collectibles will look like, and they know that finding one in great condition is worth the wait. Don’t settle for something overpriced or in poor condition just for the sentimental value.
Sell For What It’s Worth to You
Sometimes, in your search for nostalgic items to resell, you may come across an item that you really can’t stand to part with. In this instance, you should take into consideration the personal value it may have. Sure, you could get rid of that box of G.I. Joes for $200, but perhaps it’s worth more to be able to share them with your own children and relive the fun you had as a kid with those whom you love the most. There is no wrong way to sell a collectible (provided it’s legal, of course), only a wrong price to sell it at.
As the children of the 80’s and 90’s become more affluent, the nostalgia market will grow and provide even more opportunity. Whether you choose to get into this business for the love, or the money, it can be a fun (and legitimate) way to regularly stroll down memory lane!
David’s Note: This post brings back a lot of memories. All the stories of my dad telling me how I ruined a bunch of trains he collected when I was a baby, all the toys we threw away when we moved to Canada, and of course, all the toys that I really wanted but didn’t get!
If you are going to get into the collectible business, just be sure to take the time to learn what makes something valuable. You could make a fortune or you can lose your shirt really easily!
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