With 30 years of reselling under my belt, I’m the go-to guy when friends need a quick appraisal. And over the years I’ve noticed a recurring phenomenon: The vintage items most people consider valuable usually aren’t, and the things they want to toss are often hot collectibles.
Here’s why: Many of us get our idea of what’s valuable from our parents. But markets change, and new collectors have different tastes.
What disregarded treasures are hiding in your home right now? The answers might surprise you. In this series, we’ll explore hot collectibles you might already own.
1. Midcentury ‘swung’ vases
Produced in a wide variety of funky gem-like colors, swung vases were part of the 1960s aesthetic. By “swinging” vases upside down while the glass was molten, glassmakers were able to form incredibly tall, narrow-necked pieces with organic-shaped rims.
Today, collectors pay top dollar for vases made by Viking, L.E. Smith and Fenton. And though all colors sell well, examples in tangerine orange, green and marine blue are especially prized. Pay special attention to size, too. Floor vases (typically at least 40 inches tall) fetch the highest prices.
On eBay, this 41.5-inch L.E. Smith vase recently sold for $1,025, and this pair of 12.5-inch Fenton vases sold for $291. Prices are swinging high on Etsy, too. This 23-inch blue vase by Viking is listed for $440.
2. Artwork by Virgil Thrasher
If you grew up in the 1980s, you’re probably familiar with Virgil Thrasher’s artwork even if you don’t recognize the name. His moody silhouettes of trees, mountains and sunsets graced the walls of countless suburban homes (my own included).
Most of Thrasher’s work was presented in a “shadow-box” format: The subject was screen-printed in black on the back of a glass panel and a richly colored background would be inserted behind the glass to create a three-dimensional effect. On most pieces, the printed “Thrasher” mark appears in the lower right-hand corner of the glass.
3. Vintage kitchen tools by Rosti
When is a spatula not just a spatula? When it’s manufactured by Danish company Rosti.
Made from a type of dense plastic called melamine, Rosti’s kitchen utensils, bowls and pitchers are deceptively simple in design. But look more closely and you’ll find small details that make them special — rubber gaskets on the underside of mixing bowls and pitchers prevent slipping, spouts designed so perfectly that drips and spills are rare, bold and bright color palettes that work perfectly together.
You’ll find the Rosti mark on the underside of bowls and pitchers and the handle of utensils. Look for “Rosti, Made in Denmark” followed by a three-digit product number.
So what’s the big takeaway?
The collectibles market never stops changing. Sometimes, items that have faded into the background of our homes (or the back shelf of the closet) can be surprisingly valuable.
Before you declutter or downsize, take a moment to see if you can cash in on your castoffs. Research specific items online or take a look at my deep dives into valuable vintage items.