Treasure Box Antiques: Surprising Items You Should Not Throw Out When Preparing for an Estate Auction

I have been an antiques dealer since the turn of the millennium. I have also helped out in my friend’s auction business for over ten years now. Over and over again, we see firsthand or hear stories of things people threw away because they had no idea there was any value in them. We can only shake our heads for the shame of all those lost potentials for profit.

Usually, people decide to hold an auction to get rid of estate items that no one in the family lays claim to. What is disappointing is that they often do a pre-cleaning sweep or two, before the auctioneer or auction staff has a chance to preview the estate. The same stories are heard over and over again when an auctioneer asks for particular items: “Oh, we threw all the old advertisements and calendars away.” “I didn’t know old milk bottles were worth anything!” “Oh, those Christmas ornaments were only from the 1970’s.” “We filled a dumpster yesterday with all the junky items so your job would be easier!”

My auctioneer friend and I cringe every time we hear people say these things! If you find yourself in a situation, where you must sell a loved one’s estate through an auction, keep in mind the following items that you should not throw out until the auctioneer or auction staff has had a chance to look them over:

Old photos: Even if the photos seem completely mundane to you (Uncle Joe took 30 pictures of his tractor when he purchased it in 1945) they could be a collector’s dream.
Especially favored themes among photo collectors are children, elaborate costumes, animals, Black Americana, machinery, vocational, and war related photos.

Old magazines: Especially magazines that cover hobbies or crafts and that are loaded with old photographs and advertisements. Many collectors and researchers are looking for dated, documented proof of when their favorite collectibles were first sold and how they were used.

Old correspondence: This can be a tricky area, for family privacy’s sake. However, anything that mentions a historical event or location, or mentions a way of life that is obsolete is golden. Some examples would be a detailed account of a visit to Washington D.C. during the week Lincoln was assassinated and an account of a visit to the 1937 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Old greeting cards and calendars: Think of those beautiful Victorian valentines and post cards that are all the rage now among collectors. In one hundred years, your old birthday and holiday cards will be collected in kind! Those cloth calendars from the 1970’s will be iconic!

Old craft supplies, sewing notions, beads, and other hobby items: There has always been a thriving market for antique and vintage sewing notions. Think of all those theaters and movie studios that need to produce period clothing, not to mention collectors of such items.

Old bottles: It is amazing what some old milk bottles will go for! Any early advertising bottles, especially local to your area can be gold at an auction.

Old toys, regardless of condition: There are collectors out there who need an eye for their vintage doll, a leg for their stuffed bear, or a wheel for an antique toy truck. Toy and doll collectors pay some of the highest dollar amounts to procure their treasures. You will be amazed at the prices even damaged items will command in these arenas!

Old advertising tins and boxes: Always a favorite of collectors because they document daily life of the time period they hail from. Colorful graphics and quirky labels can add incredible value to these items.

I’ve only listed above some of the more common items that people make the mistake of throwing away before an auction. When in doubt, do a quick search on EBay for the item you think should be thrown away. Oftentimes, you’ll be surprised to see a thriving market for it there!

If you don’t have time to research on EBay, ask the auctioneer you are working with before you throw anything away! His or her job is to maximize your profits so you will get a straightforward answer concerning the value of your items and whether or not they should be included in the auction. If you follow these simple steps, you will be able to dispose of estate items with no regrets!

Danielle Lapidus
Treasure Box Antiques

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