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As a longtime collector and reseller, I am constantly on the lookout for "sleeping items" – common household goods that bring unusual prices on the resale market.
While other pickers are busy finding those one big score, I like to focus on the humble items that have a quiet but fanatical fan base.
Take a look around your own home. Does every drawer turn into a garbage drawer? Does your guest room look like a “Storage Wars” commercial? Why not disappoint and earn a few extra dollars in the process?
Although eBay is my personal website for selling online, Etsy works just as well. It is no longer exclusively for handcrafted goods. For larger pieces that would be difficult to ship, consider the Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Below are some surprising household items that you can sell for quick buck.
1. Lamp terminations
Finials are the often ignored threaded parts that attach the lampshade to the lamp harp.
Simple metal caps are a dozen, but decorative brass, glass, crystal, and porcelain end caps are consistently a hot seller at my online resale store. In fact, I often buy old lamps for a dollar or two just for the finale.
If you have some disused lamps in your basement or garage, take a look at the hardware.
Antique tails usually fetch higher prices. Frosted glass finials from the 1930s cost $ 30 to $ 50 each. But there is also demand for contemporary design. In 2019, I sold a pair of modern brass pineapple tails on eBay for $ 32.
2. Swing-A-Way can opener
Swing-A-Way has been producing the classic manual can opener for decades. Although the style hasn't changed much, manufacturing has shifted overseas.
Older models from the 1960s and 1970s are made of steel, have rubber-coated handles in different colors and are clearly marked “Made in USA”.
Shoppers love older Swing-A-Ways because they're built like tanks and will last a lifetime. Whenever you need to clean up a bit of kitchen clutter, don't overlook this practical, effective design icon.
Rubber-coated handles in bright colors like red, blue, and green sell best. I saw a vintage swing-a-way with royal blue rubber grips fetch $ 24.99 on eBay.
3. Ice spade
An ice cream spatula is similar to an ice cream scoop, but is shallower – imagine a scooper-spatula hybrid.
The best spades were made by a company called Vernco and made from thick stainless steel with rosewood or walnut handles.
The simple design and amazing craftsmanship of these utensils continue to attract buyers willing to pay $ 15-20 for a spade in great condition. Who needs ice cream at such sweet prices?
4. Vintage box cutter
There's a collectors' market for everything – even vintage box cutters. And as with most other collectibles, make, model, and rarity are everything.
Check your workshop or garage for utility knives that Stanley Tools made in the United States. The 199 and 299 models are particularly popular.
I saw a Model 299 with additional blades that sold on eBay for $ 35.99. Who would have thought that such modest items could bring such beautiful prices?
5. Glass thermometer
The oral glass thermometers that older generations relied on have largely been replaced by digital versions. But there's still a strong – dare I say "feverish" – market for old-fashioned mercury-in-glass models.
With their simple, battery-free operation, all brands sell well. Look in your medicine cabinet for thermometers from three of the most popular brands:
- BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.)
I saw a single BD thermometer with a protective cover fetch $ 29.99 on eBay.
6. Antique mason jars
A few generations ago, canning vegetables, fruit and meat was part of everyday life. Glass jars from Kerr, Ball, Mason, and Putnam were handy tools that families could use to keep food safe.
Today, these household clips are in great demand because of their rarity and simple beauty.
Buyers prefer jars that keep their original zinc or glass lids and pay a premium for unusual colors like lime green, amber, purple, and blue.
I saw a blue No. 4 half pint ball glass sell on eBay for $ 134.99 and a Putnam No. 333 amber glass for $ 160. The lesson? Sometimes the simplest items are the most valuable.
7. Vintage Polaroid cameras and film
Almost everyone has a box of outdated technology. And if you're old enough, you can use a Polaroid camera or two.
Although most models resell for a meager $ 5 to 10, there are a few exceptions:
- A wild collector's item, the Polaroid SX-70 can fetch $ 100 to $ 300 – or more if you have the original leather travel bag.
- The Polaroid SLR 680 with sonar rangefinder and autofocus lens typically costs $ 250 to $ 300.
Do you have a few unused 668 and 669 movie packs? Don't throw them away! A single pack of color film is $ 20 to $ 30 on eBay.
8. Kirby vacuum cleaner
I always joke that there is more metal in a Kirby vacuum than in most new cars. But this durable construction is part of the reason The Kirby Co. has been around for more than 100 years.
When compared to other popular vacuum cleaners, Kirby models are a little unwieldy and their multiple attachments can be daunting. Still, vintage models hold their value. The Kirby G3, G4, and G5 – manufactured in the 1990s – can fetch $ 150 to $ 250 online.
If you've hidden an old Kirby in the hallway cabinet, it may be time to pull it out and start making some money.
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