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October 20, 2017

Some Surprisingly Valuable Household Junk


There is gold in your drawers that you may not be aware of.

Don’t feel bad. We Americans are accumulators. Consumerism drives our economy; when we see something we need (or want) we pull out the plastic and buy it. Over time, our possessions go out of style or lose their appeal, and we opt for new “things” The old “things” move from a drawer to a box and then to a closet, a garage, a shed, or a storage unit. Most of us hate to give up our possessions so we hang on to them. Eventually we forget what’s in those boxes; out of sight, out of mind.

You might be shocked to learn how many of those unused items are worth serious money. Even when the money involved is modest, it is often more than we paid for the items initially.

Below I’ve listed a few items that I commonly find when I appraise estates. These items are what most folks consider to be run-of-the-mill, ordinary “stuff.” Chances are good that you have at least one of these items in a box somewhere.

Pens and Pencils
In many homes, pens and pencils accumulate like dust bunnies. Gift sets, advertising promotions, school supplies, and “professional” writing instruments are everywhere. I’ve seen estates where every horizontal surface has a jar filled with pens and pencils, and desk drawers are filled with them.

Most people don’t give these items a second thought; indeed, sometimes they are thrown in the trash during estate clean-outs. Would you be surprised to learn, then, that a mixed bunch of 21 Parker 51 fountain pens recently sold for $1,175 on eBay, with 87 bidders participating? Or that a vintage yellow gold Cross pen and pencil set sold for $2,250?

Yes, it’s true that these are desirable pens, but that isn’t always the case: a mixed lot of nondescript pens labelled as an “attic find, lifetime collection of pens” sold for $70 (plus $54 shipping).

Had someone not had the presence of mind to offer them on eBay, these would have certainly gone into the trash. Be advised: pens and pencils are very collectible. You, too, may have valuable items in a drawer.

Not Available in Stores
Decades of television viewers are familiar with these products: Veg-O-Matic, Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone and Showtime Rotisserie. These products were offered by Ron Popiel’s Ronco, Inc., and sold primarily via his television commercials. The commercials proudly proclaimed the catchphrase “not available in stores!” (despite this claim, some products were, in fact, sold in stores).

Ronco held patents on more than a dozen popular products, and over its 45-year history sold millions of units. They were popular gifts for weddings, birthdays, and Christmas. Chances are good that you own one (or know someone who does). Like fondue pots and pet rocks, most Ronco products sit on a shelf collecting dust. If you have one of them, take it down and sell it. Though similar products are now available for low prices at Wal-Mart, collectors like the panache of owning the “real thing.” Here are a few prices from recent eBay sales of Ronco products:

• Popiel Pocket Fisherman: $55.96 (originally $19.95);
• Ronco Showtime 6000 Pro Rotisserie and BBQ oven: $251;
• Popiel Pasta Maker, complete with dies: $59. (individual dies sell for $5-$8; with a total of 24 dies, the seller would have actually made more money selling the dies separately);
• Ronco 30-knife wooden storage block sold for $39. (without any knives!).

Owner’s manuals
Every appliance, vehicle, computer, or electronic device that you’ve ever bought came with an owner’s manual. What did you do with them? I filed mine in a folder called “owner’s manuals” (my wife is very organized). In a recent move I looked through the file and found several dozen manuals for appliances that we no longer have. That’s the way it works, isn’t it? When we replace the appliance no thought is given to the owner’s manual, so they accumulate. Worse, the orphaned appliance is separated from the manual.

When the item is purchased at a thrift store or yard sale, the new buyer is left without detailed use instructions. They may buy a pdf of the manual on a website like Manuals Online, but often an online search will direct an owner to eBay, where thousands of owner’s manuals are sold (59,013 listed as of this writing).

Most of them are modestly priced, selling for $10 or less. But, if you have a couple dozen manuals to sell $10 each isn’t bad.

If you happen to own a vintage car manual, the price goes up accordingly. A 1975 Porsche 911 owner’s manual recently sold on eBay for $7,500. A 2006 Ford GT manual sold for $499. A Singer sewing machine manual sold for $15, and a Kenmore washer manual sold for $25. You get the picture, I’m sure: owner’s manuals are worth some money. And, best of all, they can be shipped cheaply using USPS Media Mail.

The key to achieving the most value for your items is to reduce selling expenses. If you’re selling on eBay, wait for a “free to list” promotion so you can avoid some fees. Don’t hire someone to hold a sale for you; their commissions will be too high on these small items. The best way to profit is to sort through your items yourself. Not only will doing so net you more money, it will be a pleasurable trip down memory lane.

This article was previously published on WorthPoint.com

Originally posted 2016-09-16 11:49:03.

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About Wayne Jordan

Wayne Jordan is a Virginia-licensed Auctioneer (#3481), as well as an AIA and CAGA Certified Personal Property Appraiser.

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