On my travels through the highways and byways of antique collecting, I noticed an auction selling “industrial antiques.” My interest was piqued. What could they be? I wondered. Rusty farm machinery? Nineteen-fifties’ filing cabinets? Miners’ helmets from long-defunct collieries? Well, actually, yes. All the above and more.
Ask anyone to name a famous clock and most people will say Big Ben. Big Ben is, in fact, the nickname of the great bell that chimes inside the Elizabeth Tower at the Palace of Westminster, London. It’s an iconic landmark much loved by tourists taking selfies. Big Ben first rang out in 1859. It’s the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. Fortunately, you can find much smaller (but equally decorative) clocks to add an infusion of history to your home…and the chance to profit from appreciation of a collector’s item that will never go out of fashion.
As a British antiques dealer, I like to keep an eye on what’s going on in the U.K.’s auction rooms. For the past few years, I’ve noticed a huge upsurge in what is unflatteringly called “brown furniture.”
When I was about 12, I liked to sneak a cheeky peek at a British comic called Girl. I asked my father if I could subscribe, mostly because I wanted something to drop through the mailbox every Wednesday that was addressed solely to me.
Somewhere near the end of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, you can hear the jingle of a little bell. Jimmy Stewart’s daughter gazes up at him and says: “Look, Daddy! Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” The bell is hanging, among other baubles, on a tall and sparkly Christmas tree. Considering that movie was made in 1946, the tree’s ornaments—if they still exist—could be worth a fortune. Fortunately, you don’t need to have been on the set of a 1940s classic to pick up a collectible bauble.
A small piece of paperboard with a picture of Major League Pittsburgh Pirates player Honus Wagner on the front fetched $2.8 million at auction in 2007—the mother lode of all tobacco cards.
A home without books is a home without soul. How fortunate are those of us who grew up with books—tales that transported us beyond our own four walls? Books educate us, hold precious memories…and possibly could bring us money.
I had a nutty uncle (didn’t you?) who never threw anything away. Among the mess and mayhem were piles of old newspapers and magazines. When he finally moved out, his mother trashed them all. But I do wonder if any of them would have been worth something today. Collecting magazines is sentimental and nostalgic. Techno-freak doom-mongers predict that magazines will die out altogether in the internet age. I, for one, hope not. Few things can beat the pleasure of leafing through a glossy magazine over a hot cup of coffee.
Parents attempting to clean their kids’ bedrooms know all too well the temptation to throw old toys out with the trash. I’m here to tell you to resist that impulse. That piece of junk that cost a few pennies back in the 80s could go for $2,500 or more today, even without the packaging. Moms: Check before you chuck! The market for collectible toys is booming, with old examples selling for many times the price you bought them for way back when.
Being taken to your first big baseball or football game as a kid is an experience you never forget: the thronging crowds, the festive atmosphere…and, of course, the thrill of seeing your heroes in action. Maybe you took home a souvenir that day: a baseball card, a jersey, a ticket, or a game-day program. Or maybe you were one of the lucky few who got an autograph after the game. If so, you could have a lot more than memories to show for your day out many years ago. Now is the time to dig that souvenir out of the closet. The market for sports memorabilia is booming. And that souvenir from yesteryear, gathering dust in the closet, could also have been accruing a lot of value over the same time-span.