Are My Childhood Collectibles Actually Worth Anything?

That depends on your definition of ‘anything’

While you wait out the coronavirus from the relative safety of your home, your amplified boredom may motivate you to rummage through some long-forgotten spaces. In the process, you could end up stumbling upon some of your ancient childhood collectibles: Beanie Babies, Furbies, baseball cards, comic books, American Girl dolls, or in my case, a gargantuan binder of Pokémon cards

Whatever you unearth, it can feel like striking gold — or at least, it may lead to you asking yourself, are my old toys worth anything? Stories abound on the internet about people making thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, by selling off their old, allegedly rare toys, especially if they were able to resist the urge to actually play with them (and muck them up) as a child. The reality, however, tends to be a lot less exciting.

“The short answer is, no, your 1980s toys aren’t worth millions,” says appraisal expert Jaime Corbacho. “I often feel bad for people who have toys still in boxes from their childhood. They were likely warned by some Scrooge McDuck of an adult that they shouldn’t play with them because they’d be valuable one day — all those Ruxpinian conversations and Jedi adventures lost forever.”

My colleague Brian VanHooker, an avid collector of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles memorabilia, agrees that most of our childhood collectibles, especially those buried at the bottom of our closets, are likely worth less than what we initially paid for them. He recalls coming to this conclusion while working one of his early jobs at a comic book and collectibles store: “I remember my boss saying, ‘Most comic books aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on,’ which is 100 percent true and goes for pretty much all of this. If you have broken, leftover and even okay-condition stuff from when you were a kid, probably next to nothing will be valuable.”

There is a collector’s market out there, VanHooker says, “but to make a lot of money off of it — like thousands — is absurd. You might have something rare, or weird, or whatever, but the chances of you having any of that is slim. The most valuable Turtles toy I know about is a couple hundred bucks. The chances of somebody having that are low, and the chances of you having more than one thing like that, unless you’ve been actively collecting and keeping up with this shit, are really tiny. So don’t think you’re going to get rich off of it. Think of it as a yard sale.”

Now, none of this is to say that all those articles are lies (although, they can certainly be sensational at times): There are rare and expensive collectibles out there. There are also a lot of collectibles that, if you put in the time and find the right buyer, could at least be worth selling, rather than trashing. “There are a lot of pieces from childhood that are valuable,” says Lori Verderame, appraisal authority and star appraiser on Auction Kings. But she clarifies that “valuable” can mean different things to different people, saying, “If you’re a billionaire like Oprah, finding a $20,000 Beanie Baby doesn’t really do much for you.” Nonetheless, she adds, “It’s not rare for someone to be surprised by the value [of their item].” 

The real trouble is figuring out the actual worth of what you have. Verderame says an old collectible needs to meet several basic criteria in order to be worth much of anything: It needs to be of good quality, made of good materials, historically impactful, and perhaps most importantly, relevant to the current market. “The market likes certain things at different [ … ]

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