Which household items can you sell for the most cash?

Created date

February 26th, 2013

If you re looking for a little extra cash during retirement to take that special vacation or treat a grandchild to a big-ticket birthday gift you may not need to look any farther than your own home. Some of the stuff collecting dust in your attic or basement could be worth big bucks.

Hidden treasures

For instance, the couch you and your spouse bought as newlyweds may be an eyesore to you, but many young couples are clamoring to get their hands on vintage and mid-century furniture. New York appraiser Helaine Fendelman (helainefendelman.com) says a small 1940s upholstered camel back sofa with fine lines and down upholstery in silk 19th century style and in very good condition may sell for as much as $1,000. Other items that usually have good resale value are vintage clothing and purses, especially labels like Halston, Chanel, Givenchy, and Bottega Veneta, Fendelman says. And, while you may cherish your diamonds, Fendelman says vintage costume jewelry, especially pieces from big names like Miriam Haskell, could be worth a pretty penny. If it s been decades since you shined the silver you received as a wedding gift, it may be lucrative to sell it. Jason Roske, owner of Kansas City s KC Auction Company (kcauctioncompany.com), says each piece of flatware could be worth up to $30 just for the silver content. Collectors may pay a premium for high-end sets by George Jensen or Tiffany, Roske says. And, don t assume your stainless-steel flatware is worthless. Roske says some patterns by designers like Dasnk and Chistofle sell for up to $20 per piece.

What s it worth?

Before you attempt to sell an item, you should get an idea of what it s worth. Fendelman says the most reliable estimates come from a professional appraiser. But, she says, you can do your own homework by asking questions at antiques shows and flea markets and by reading books and auction catalogues. New Mexico professional organizer Hazel Thornton (org4life.com) helps clients downsize and declutter. She says you can get an idea of going rates by scouring eBay to find out how much similar items sold for. She also recommends ValueMyStuff.com, a website where you upload photos of items and receive expert valuations for a small fee. Another useful site is WhatSellsBest.com. Spokesman James Massey says his site tracks thousands of the highest-bid items on eBay in nearly 200 categories, giving users a broad view of what the market is willing to pay for antiques, collectibles, and other items.

Diamond in the rough or dud?

Of course, not every box in your attic will yield a profit. Fendelman reminds sellers: Just because something is old does not make it valuable. She says religious paintings and sets of dinnerware rarely command high resale value. Thornton says, in most cases, you can hang on to your first-edition books and record albums because neither will yield much cash. Roske s list of low-worth items includes collector plates, organs, treadle sewing machines, and French provincial furniture. meghan.streit@erickson.com