Make hundreds to thousands for old VHS tapes, cell phones and more

Photo credit: Delaney Van/Unsplash

If you’re a Baby Boomer, Generation Xer or Older Millennial, you know how quickly a screaming match could break out if someone recorded over your favorite shows on VHS tape. Once you popped that tab, it was an unwritten rule that that meant, “What’s on this tape is permanent until otherwise instructed.” Putting tape on the square hole meant you were ready to record again. We laugh about it now, but it was serious business at the time. And apparently the value on these kinds of tapes has become serious business, too.

While very few would consider buying a CD, never mind a VHS tape in today’s electronics stores, there is a collector’s market that wants some of those electronics you probably threw in a trash can by now. Imagine finding out that that VHS tape you discarded or buried in your storage closet is now worth $2,000. And while a sizeable consumer audience camps outside for whatever the latest iPhone addition is, there’s a customer who wants your old 1983 Motorola DynaTAC 8000x for $500 instead. Even Garbage Pail Kids trading cards and Levi’s Jeans can make your bank account balance a little longer.

Unsavvy neighborhood pawn shop owners may roll their eyes at you for trying to sell this stuff, but there are online dealers who know what’s up. Before you start digging up all of your childhood collectible items (or your parents’ or grandparents’ stuff), do some research to see what the value for these items are online. E-commerce sites like eBay Collectibles and Amazon have their own sections for consumers to peruse, but sites like Heritage Auctions (self-identified as the “world’s largest collectibles auctioneer”) have more than 1K collectibles to buy now and 35K up for auction.

There’s a little bit of everything on these auction sites, too. Even outside of the seven collectibles above, pay attention to hot-ticket items when something or someone gets a boost in popularity (celebrity products, celebrity death anniversaries, awareness months). Although sold now, an 8 x 12.5 sheet of paper filled with the “Revolutionary War: African-American Troop Payroll” was sold for $8,962.50. (Themed items like these may get a boost in searches during Black History Month.) The 1984-85 Air Jordans have a current bid of $17K (buyer’s premium, or BP, is $20.4K), and there’s no telling what the prices were when Netflix’s “The Last Dance” aired. Other sports items like the 1970 Muhammad Ali original painting by LeRoy Neiman has a current bid of $5.5K (BP is $6.6K).

Even if there are items that haven’t been bid on yet, you can also see who is interested in your own yet-to-be-discovered items. For example, one user published a poster of an Aaliyah / Run-D.M.C. / Outkast / 2 Live Crew 1997 Jacksonville event. Of course there’s nothing stopping users from posting their memorabilia on Craigslist or Freecycle for cheaper rates, but a collectible audience is already looking for the kinds of items they cannot find in the average online marketplace. That’s more than likely where you’ll need to make yourself visible, too, for that particular e-commerce crowd.

What’s garbage to you may end up being a goldmine, and e-commerce sites have expanded users’ reach past a neighborhood yard sale. Shop around. Do some research. See where your audience is most likely to shop, and post your collectibles and share on social media. Even if online consumers have never heard of the website where your items are sold, posting a shareable link will make it that much easier for them to find you. A casual Twitter feed or Facebook browse may put a few extra dollars in your pocket while you’re going down memory lane.

What do you think?


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