It’s hard to part with mementos from your childhood, which is why your old baseball cards, comic books, and action figures are all collecting dust in your attic. And while you’ve likely been hoarding your junk for nostalgic purposes, there’s a better reason to dig them out: they might make you some easy money.
The stuff you grew up playing with is more valuable than you think—even if it’s been used. As serious collectors know, almost anything retro could potentially explode with interest and value, which is why you’re bound to have a hot commodity hidden in a cardboard box upstairs.
1985 Nintendo NES Systems (Boxed) and GamesIf you still have your old NES system or games, you could be sitting on a small fortune. Videogame collector Pat Contri, who runs the popular website ThePunkEffect.com, says that a “Test Market” original of the console with all pieces intact in its original box will sell for $250-$500, while the “Action Set,” which you probably got for Christmas in 1986 and featured Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt cartridges, goes for $100-$250.
Contri was once offered $35,000 for pair of super-rare Nintendo cartridges, but didn't take the bait. Why? Just this month, GameInformer.com reported that an auction on eBay for the gray version of the cartridge alone—an inferior copy to Contri’s—reached a final bid of $99,902. Woah.
Resale Options: Given the astronomical prices that Contri turned down for his two cartridges, there’s a market for almost anything NES-related these days, let alone the big stuff. eBay has an extremely active secondary market for NES stuff, but if your item doesn’t sell, you could find yourself in the middle of a major, private bidding war, too.
Double-Struck Quarters (Any Year)As of 2012, mints like the ones in Denver and Philadelphia have produced 9.1 billion units, including many defective coins. One in particular could turn your average change jar into a fancy dinner out—or maybe more.
Double-struck quarters—created when the “dye striker,” which forms a single side of a coin, comes down on that same side twice—could net you anywhere from $25 to $350 a pop depending on their scarcity, says Dennis Nye, owner of the Vault, a coin and collectibles store in upstate New York. Dimes, nickels, and pennies are in the realm of the quarter in terms of desirability among coin collectors.
Resale Options: The rarer the type of coin, the higher the price if it’s double-struck, Nye says. Most quarters go for $25 on average, but be ready to sell them for half of that if they aren’t of the scarce variety. eBay has a pretty active marketplace for coin collectors, but you can find countless coin dealers and private collectors on Google. At the very least, you’ll make a sizable profit on the original $0.25 value.
1984 Generation 1 Transformers Megatron (Loose/Complete or Mint in Box)In 1984, Hasbro launched its brand-new “G1” Transformers line, featuring alien robots like Optimus Prime and Megatron. “It showed up and became very popular, very fast,” says pop-culture appraiser Simeon Lipman, a regular on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. “That early stuff is really hard to find.”
Let’s say you find a complete Megatron in your parents’ basement. Right now on eBay, you can pick up one loose for $150-$200. If it’s still in the box, you’re looking at anywhere from $250-$800. And if you were to have a boxed version professionally graded, you could anticipate something in the thousands, if not more.
Resale Options: Shoot for a middle-ground on eBay or Craigslist, not a highball number like most guys do when they go on Pawn Stars. The best-case scenario is that you just doubled or tripled what the item originally cost.
1984 Zartan (version one): Mint in Box or Loose with ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘corrected’ file cardIn 1984, G.I. Joe figures were also a huge business for Hasbro. The third series of the action figure line came out that year, including version-one of evil “master of disguise” Zartan. Though that version featured a short-lived card that called Zartan “schizophrenic,” the corrected figure is actually less common since it was on market for less time, say Kevin Watts and Brian Kaufman, longtime G.I. Joe collectors. Regardless, either version will garner a nice payday.
“The packaged G.I. Joe stuff from the ’80s has escalated in value tremendously,” says Lipman. “It wasn’t like Star Wars, where there were people holding onto the packages; I don’t think [G.I. Joe fans] were thinking that far ahead.” Hence, their incredible rarity. Mint-in-box versions of Zartan, Lipman says, will easily fetch “several hundred dollars.” Kauffman quotes a high-grade/sealed version price at as much as $1,500-$2,000 (with the “schizo” card) and $2,000-$3,000 (with the “corrected” card). Damn.
Resale Options: The market for the version-one Zartan is always competitive on eBay or wherever there are G.I. Joe collectors buying and selling items.
1988 ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ No. 300The Amazing Spider-Man’s anniversary issue No. 300 may be one of the most iconic covers in comics history— a black background caked with a wall of red 300s, split by a latticework of white-on-grey webbing, with Spider-Man swinging through the center in his new black-and-white suit. The issue’s story is no less awesome than its cover design, in that it’s the first full appearance of über-popular Spider-Man archenemy, Venom.
Vincent Zurzolo, COO of Metropolis Comics and Collectibles in Manhattan, says that a raw, ungraded copy of No. 300 should sell for about $165. A solid near-mint copy could earn you $225, says Zurzolo. Right now, there’s an almost-perfect copy sitting on eBay, going for just shy of $3,000. Get the picture?
Resale Options: Like any staple-bound periodical, comic books start wearing down as soon as you buy and handle them, so you should wrap up No. 300 immediately. eBay and Craigslist have a decent secondary market for comics, but make sure to have it professionally graded first. If you take your raw copy to a comic-book store, get ready to sell it for 40-60 percent less than the $165 value quoted above.
1988 Kenner Starting Lineup Utah Jazz Figures (Loose or Mint in Box)Kenner released 24-figure “all star” athlete cases nationally in 1988, as well as 12-figure regional ones. One of the regional-only issues was the Utah Jazz, not the most popular NBA team at the time. The Jazz set included four players: Karl Malone (four per case), John Stockton (three), Thurl Bailey (three), and Mark Eaton (two). These four figures are the creme de la creme of the basketball series.
According to Joe Curcio, the Starting Lineup expert at KennerCollector.com, any loose figure from the set will nab you about $50. The figure’s boxes at the time also included a special Starting Lineup basketball card. If you happen to have the loose figure plus the card, add $25-35 to the total. Mint-in-box copies sell for $200-$300 each—and if you get, say, the Stockton or Malone graded at the industry standard AFA 85, it’ll net you $300-$500 apiece. The “Mailman” just keeps on delivering.
Resale Options: Try selling your loose figures on eBay for $50. If you kept the card, you can net even more money. Your best options for resale would be on eBay, to a private collector in the Utah market or a Jazz fan.
1989 Fleer Bill Ripken Whiteout/White ScribbleIn 1989, Fleer Company put out its annual baseball release, including one forgettable player’s card that made the set infamous.
Card No. 616 features Orioles rookie Bill Ripken, the brother of superstar Cal Jr. Everything looks normal about the card, except for what’s written on Ripken’s bat knob: “F#$k Face.” Despite Fleer quickly producing “corrected” versions, the card started a feeding frenzy.
If you were to find the error card today, it’s worth $25, according to Beckett Sports Card Monthly. But Ripken-error expert Jon Pederson— who runs the most exhaustive catalog of the card on the web, BillRipken.com— says that the real money is in the two most scarce corrected versions, commonly referred to as the “Whiteout” (the obscenity is completely blocked by a white oval) and “White Scribble” (the obscenity is mostly obscured by a white airbrushing technique).
Resale Options: If you find either version, carefully put the card into a sleeve (thin plastic) and top-loaded (thicker plastic). No promises here, but every single copy on eBay seems to sell immediately, so you’ll be in the money in no time.
1990 Pro Set Football Final Update Dexter Manley ‘Substance Abuse’ CardModern collectors know this popular set for its horrendous copy editing—it’s rife with spelling errors and image flubs—but one ultra-rare variation actually wasn’t the editor’s fault.
On Washington Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley’s card, the bio lists he was reinstated after “violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.” (Pro Set quickly deleted the sentence in later versions of the card.) According to Brian Cataquet, proprietor of BCB Auctions, there are maybe 60 copies of the card in existence, and mint ones go for about $500 each. That card might be the best thing the Redskins have done in years.
Resale Options: Given the hot card’s extreme scarcity—greatly increased by the overproduction of the 1990 Pro Set series and the fact that it wasn’t available in traditional packs— you can easily sell a raw or graded version on eBay. The ending bid might actually be way more than $500.
1996 December edition of Sports Illustrated for KidsMany kids who grew up in the 1990s were first exposed to sports journalism in Sports Illustrated for Kids. Though this issue features the New York Knicks’ Larry Johnson on the cover, it’s the sheet of cards inside the magazine that counts: Dead-center on the nine-card “plate” page is young golfing sensation Tiger Woods. It would be his first-ever sports card—acknowledged by many collectors as his true rookie card.
Scott Smith, who sells autographed magazines, bought 10 original copies for 25 cents apiece and flipped them to a private collector for $20,000 during the peak of Woods’ popularity. Not a bad return-on-investment.
Resale Options: Of course, if you try to sell one of these SI for Kids issues on eBay for $20,000, “you’re smoking crack,” Smith says. Chalk that up to the softening of the initial Woods hysteria. But you can likely sell the magazine as is on eBay for $500-$1,500, or you can talk to a collectibles expert about removing the cards. There's certainly a market for mint versions of the Woods on eBay.
1985 Garbage Pail Kids Complete Series 1 Set and SinglesIn 1985, Topps produced a card line poking fun at the mega-popular Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. The Garbage Pail Kids featured pictures of children vomiting, getting zapped by lightning, and drinking booze. (For obvious reasons, some parents weren’t too keen on the set.)
If you have the 82-card version of the Series 1 set, whose backs all have a “matte” or untouched finish, you’re looking at a $450-$500 price tag. If you happen to have a set of cards with a glossy finish on the back (a printing error), make that $750-$1,000 for a full set.
Resale Options: Just 5 to 6 years ago, you could buy a full matte set for $100, says Matt Oldweiler, who runs Garbage Pail Kid hub GeePeeKay.com. So it’s increased in value by nearly five times in a relatively short period of time. Plus, Topps just released a reboot of Series 1 last week, so the buzz will help. But non-sports cards are definitely a niche area of interest in the collectibles world, so you’d probably have the best chance of selling to a private collector—Oldweiler isn’t the only GPK-obsessed guy on the web—or via eBay.