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It wasn’t that long ago that vintage collectibles weren’t taken very seriously at all in the collectibles marketplace. In the last 5 years items in the 20 to 40 year old range, retro collectibles, have exploded in value and demand. It’s a good thing too because the business is in much need of new blood. There’s a lot of whispers in circles that ‘you just don’t see enough young people interested in antiques anymore’, so anything that draws new recruits into the fold is a good thing. Vintage collectibles are fun, quirky and like just the thing to attract newbies, at the same time, getting some of the stuffed shirts to take things in a lighter manner.
As a veteran seller it’s been interesting to watch things rise from the bottom of the totem pole to the tops of the pops in prices and demand. Here’s my take on a few of the revered collectibles of today that were dogs 25 plus years ago when I broke into the business.
I remember this being the butt of many jokes at auctions in the 1980s. Back then you would want to get the phone # of the ‘sucker’ who was foolish enough to purchase a box of this junk for $5.00 or $10.00. After all, if they purchased this fake wood product, you could probably sell them anything, yup, this would be a good person to try to dump that crate of left handed pencils you got stuck with at the last auction. No one’s laughing at Syrocco Wood any more, at least not me. Last month on eBay, I got $331.00 for a Franciscan Monk made from this vintage material. Now where is that phone number?
If you hunt the fleas, yard sales and country auctions, you can find Syrocco in the form of ashtrays, thermometers, wall plaques, covered boxes and many other common household items. It’s not all that rare, but it’s rare to find anyone laughing at it or pricing it at giveaway prices.
Orange Carnival Glass and Indiana Glass:
These would go right into box lots with Avon bottles and those dime-a-dozen white milk glass vases you got free from the florist. If it wasn’t old Carnival glass, no one wanted it. These were considered a horrible reproductions back in the day. The most common pattern among Indian glass was the grape pattern. In fact Gus William, who’s auction I pushed for in Westmoreland NH used to call it ‘that damned grape pattern’. It was useless, no, actually back then it was worse than useless because if you had a box full if it, you couldn’t get anything for it, but you still had to get rid of the box! The Orange carnival glass was the barely a little better. If you had 10-12 pieces, you might get a $5.00 bill for it,… make sure to get that phone#! Now I see these things bringing what the older pieces like Northwood and Fenton used to bring back then. If your lucky you can get between $15 -$35 on eBay now for the right piece, which is about what an average old Northwood dark purple carnival bowl would bring in the mid 1980s.
Good clean Pyrex was always salable in the old country auction houses, but 20 years ago it was a good seller because people wanted it to use in the kitchen, it wasn’t collectible by any means. The primary colors sets would always sell, but at about $1.00 per bowl and not much more. The clear Pyrex would bring almost as much as the colored, it was all about function. I have a dealer friend who has a wonderful large collection of Pyrex in her personal collection. She’s got tons of colors, every serving and mixing piece you could imagine in Pyrex, but she mixed her cake batter in Tupperware, she’d NEVER use her good Pyrex for something like that. Early 80s price for a set of Pyrex matching colored bowls. $5 to $10. Today, I’ve gotten from $35 to $65 a set at my live auctions.
Old Photo Albums:
If you were an auction runner with an old family photo album in your hands, standing in the auction block line, the pusher or auctioneer might scold you telling you to ‘put that down and get something good, it’s too early in the evening to be selling the junk!’ Old photos were only salable if they had an unusual subject or theme, IE: A train conductor, a ship, an Indian. Parades were good and scenes of General Store as well, but if the subject were just your average American Family on vacation, forget it. Now people are very interested in these old albums and will pick them up at the right price, especially if it includes a soldiers photo journal of WWII. Unless there are some interesting and unusual photos, they won’t hit the stratosphere, but will get you a steady $25 to $50 each on eBay. Back in the day, $2-$5 each, if you could even sell them at all.
Ah, the good old days. Of course there are a lot more examples of items that not so long ago were worthless and now sell well. Perhaps a better question is ‘what’s selling for low prices now that will be worth a small fortune tomorrow?’ Now where are those phone numbers?
write by castillo