YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
Thanks to eBay, a lot of people have made a healthy profit by cleaning out their basements and attics. On the other hand, collectors have gone broke submitting winning bids to own these rare items. We've found some of the most surprising sales of otherwise common items, not only on eBay but from professional auction houses, too. In some cases, a company made a one-of-a-kind item designed to fetch a high price, but most are collectibles that grew in value naturally.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYING CARDS: $1,250
The Dunes hotel and casino in Las Vegas was demolished in 1993, but some of its playing cards are still around. On Aug. 15, 2018, a set of two decks sold for $2,500 making them worth $1,250 each.
MOST VALUABLE CEREAL: $1,350
When Melissa and Emily McIntire discovered a corn flake that looked like the state of Illinois, they knew they had something special. If $1,350 sounds like a lot to pay for even the most specifically shaped corn flake, consider that it almost went for $200,000. Their initial auction was pulled by eBay for violating its food policies. By the time the pair figured out they could sell a coupon for the corn flake, it fetched "only" $1,350.
MOST VALUABLE CEREAL BOX: $2,550
When you just can't commit to one cereal for the whole week, Kellogg's and General Mills offer variety packs where you can choose a different cereal every day. What you can't find anymore is the Post Ten pack. One surviving pack from 1961 fetched $2,550 on eBay. Let's hope the buyer didn't eat it. Another sweet item satisfies two sets of collectors: Beatle maniacs and cereal collectors. The Beatles were featured on boxes of Rice Honeys cereal to promote Yellow Submarine. If you saved one of those boxes, they're going for over $1,000. In 2014, someone sold one for $1,430.50 at Heritage Auctions. The 50-year-old cereal was not included, but it did include the prize inside, a set of rub-ons. There were originally eight total, but this collector had six.
MOST VALUABLE GARBAGE PAIL KID CARD: $5,000
In the '80s, Cabbage Patch Kids were the doll craze that sold out toy stores and made retail history. Now the most valuable of those are worth a mere $995, but the trading cards that spoofed them could be worth exponentially more. Topps continued to release new series of Garbage Pail Kids cards through the 2000s, but one card sold for five grand on eBay in 2013. Not only was it the most famous image of a Garbage Pail Kid with a mushroom cloud out of his head, but it was the actual proof card from Topps.
MOST VALUABLE MATCHBOOK: $6,000
Many restaurants and bars give away free matchbooks. For those lucky enough to have a matchbook from a Charles Lindbergh celebration dinner in 1927, you could strike it rich, so to speak. One went for $6,000 in 2015, and it was almost complete. Only four matches had been used.
MOST VALUABLE DISNEY PIN: $12,000
Disney pins from recent years already fetch thousands on eBay, so if you obtained a pin from a long-past limited batch, you could be sitting on a fortune. A Hidden Mickey pin from 1971 with the iconic mouse ears emerging from the top, one of a batch of only five, sold for $12,000 on Aug. 25, 2018.
MOST VALUABLE LUNCHBOX: $13,225
This lunchbox was made in 1953 when George Reeves was Superman on TV. Fifty years later, MastroNet sold one for over $13K. It was in mint condition, so it probably did not smell like bologna sandwiches.
MOST VALUABLE VHS TAPE: $14,500
Decades after the world moved on to DVD and Blu-ray, some people still collect VHS tapes. Disney's "Black Diamond" editions of their animated films are among the most sought after, and a "Beauty and the Beast" tape sold for $14,500 on eBay on Aug. 26, 2018. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray retails for $19.95.
MOST VALUABLE DIP: $14,700
When "Rick and Morty" made a joke about McDonald's 1998 Szechuan-flavored Chicken McNugget sauce tied to the movie "Mulan," fans became obsessed with tasting it for themselves. So when a packet of sauce from 1998 (said to have been found unopened in a used car) sold on eBay, the final bid was $14,700. If the bidder had just waited, McDonald's ended up producing the sauce again after the "Rick and Morty" publicity.
MOST VALUABLE HOT WHEELS CAR: $15,000
Aside from the 1969 Pink Rear-Loading Volkswagen Beach Bomb, of which only one exists and which was sold for $70,000, the most rare mini car it's possible to find is the 1968 Beatnik Bandit in hot pink. Back in the '60s, boys didn't want to play with pink cars. Now they're so collectible, one sold for $15,000, according to Mental Floss.
MOST VALUABLE DICE: $17,925
The 20-sided die is a necessity for modern role-playing games, but this one is out of the price range of most collectors. Christie's sold it for $17,925 in 2003 for a Maryland professor whose father got it in Egypt in the '20s. It doesn't use regular numbers anyway, so those 20 symbols are probably meaningless when it comes to hit points or dexterity rolls.
MOST VALUABLE LIGHTER: $18,000
In 2008, Zippo sold one of its original 1933 lighters for 37 grand for the company's 75th anniversary. But for classic lighters you could have actually bid on, another 1933 classic went for $18K on eBay.
MOST VALUABLE LEGO BRICK: $19,793
Lego building bricks seem like they're a dime a dozen, literally. But from 1979 to 1981, Lego gave out 10 golden bricks to its partners and employees of 25 years. In 2017, the auction house Catawiki sold one for almost $20,000. Compare that to the priciest complete set of Legos, the Taj Mahal with 5,922 bricks valued at $2,900, according to Catawiki. If that's a bit over your budget, check out these popular-but-cheap Lego sets.
MOST VALUABLE KNIFE: $20,500
Historic daggers, swords, and other blades can go for millions, especially if previously wielded by historical figures. Bob Loveless was a prestigious blade maker and this classic Loveless fetched over $20,000 (although not the full $30K the seller had originally asked). This blade was made in the 1950s during Loveless' time in the Merchant Marine.
MOST VALUABLE BEANIE BABY: $22,222
Beanie Babies were the collectible toy craze of the '90s, and their specialized varieties made many collector's believe they would be wise investments. Unfortunately, most Beanie Babies don't sell for much more than you paid in the '90s today. However, one variation of one special collectible reportedly went for $22,222 in 2018. This was the Princess Diana memorial bear from 1997, but if you look on eBay, you'll see not all Princess Bears sell big. Beanie Baby aficionados are looking for the one with PVC pellet stuffing, not PE pellets. The stuffing makes all the difference.
MOST VALUABLE BARBIE DOLL: $27,450
Most kids are lucky if their Barbie dolls survive with their heads intact. A mint-condition 1959 original once sold for $27,450, according to Mental Floss. Distinctions of the first edition Barbies feature round holes with copper tubes in the feet, and eyes with white irises instead of blue, according to The Richest. Special-edition Barbies with actual diamond jewelry have sold for hundreds of thousands at charity auctions.
MOST VALUABLE CHRISTMAS CARD: $28,158
In 1843, 1,000 of these cards were sold for a shilling apiece. Now only 12 remain, and one was sold for 20,000 pounds in 2001 (or $28K U.S.). Sir Henry Cole sent this one to his grandmother. John Calcott Horsley drew the pictures of a family enjoying festive drinks and doing good deeds for the poor.
MOST VALUABLE PEZ DISPENSER: $32,205
Who doesn't love Pez, candy dispensers with heads in the shape of your favorite characters? This one may seem generic except for its history. Only two of the astronaut dispensers were made for the 1982 World's Fair making them extremely rare. One sold for over $32,000 in 2006. Now, where's the other one?
MOST VALUABLE TICKET STUB: $41,825
MOST VALUABLE VIDEO GAME: $42,077
Aside from a few games where only a single copy exists (like Gamma Attack for Atari 2600), "Stadium Events" is the rarest consumer game. The Olympic-style game lets players run and jump in place with a control pad on the ground. It was eventually discontinued when Nintendo released its own version of "World Class Track Meet" with their Power Pad. A factory-sealed "Stadium Events" set an auction record in Australia for $55,093 or $42,000 U.S. in 2017. In the documentary "Nintendo Quest," Jay Bartlett bought a used cartridge with no box for over $4,000.
MOST VALUABLE STAR WARS ACTION FIGURE: $44,994.40
It can be difficult to assess the record for a Star Wars collectible, since they're often lumped in with actual movie props. This Aug. 2, 2018 eBay auction has to be up there, nearly $45K for a Darth Vader figure, still in the original box from Kenner's toy line one year after the film became a sensation. A Vinyl Cape Jawa was once listed for $53,000, but didn't sell for that price, although one did sell for 21,000 pounds ($27,244 U.S.) in 2017, according to BBC News.
MOST VALUABLE POSTCARD: $45,370.60
Okay, so the postcards you pick up in gas stations on the road probably won't be worth much. This was reportedly the first postcard ever sent, and Theodore Hook mailed it to himself in 1840. In 2002, Eugene Gomberg bought it at the London Stock Exchange auction for 31,758.75 pounds ($45,370.60) setting a Guinness Record for the postcard sale.
MOST VALUABLE POKEMON CARD: $54,970
If you want to catch 'em all, this one will cost more than many people's annual salary. While each Pokemon card has different values and attributes, this rarity was the prize of a 1998 CoroCoro Comic Illustration Contest. Less than 40 exist, and only 10 are in top condition. This one sold at Heritage Auctions in 2016.
MOST VALUABLE BOBBLEHEAD: $59,750
Bobbleheads are fairly common tchotchkes in the likenesses of celebrities. Sports bobbleheads even more so, as many are given away as promotions to ticket holders. In 2014, a 1961 Yankee bobble sold for almost $60,000 at Heritage Auctions. It wasn't even a famous player, just a general Yankee. They were bigger then, standing 14 inches tall.
MOST VALUABLE JEANS: $60,000
Most people wear their jeans until the holes in the knees rip all the way up to the thighs. Randy Knight landed a pair of the very first 501 jeans, found in an abandoned silver mine in the Mojave Desert. Still wearable, a collector in Japan won the eBay bidding for $60K. Let's hope he doesn't cut them into jean shorts.
MOST VALUABLE CORKSCREW: $62,790
In 2014, a corkscrew sold for 40,000 pounds in an Essex auction, which amounts to nearly $62K U.S. The corkscrew certainly qualifies as vintage. The London Bridge was demolished in 1832, and a piece of it was used to make the corkscrew. Since the bridge was built in 1209, that is a truly antique bar utensil.
MOST VALUABLE 'MAGIC: THE GATHERING' CARD: $87,672
Pokemon's got nothing on Magic: The Gathering. The Black Lotus came from the very first 1993 printing of Magic: The Gathering. Only 1,100 were released. In 2018, someone paid 87 grand to "add 3 mana of any single color of your choice to your mana pool." Maybe it was more for sentimental value.
MOST VALUABLE TEDDY BEAR: $171,600
Aside from a Louis Vuitton bear designed to be expensive (sold for $2.1 million at a charity auction), the record for a teddy bear auction still stands from 1994. Prolific teddy bear manufacturer Steiff made the Teddy Girl in 1904. Robert Henderson was the owner from the day he was born and kept it with him as a colonel in World War II, according to Just Collecting. After he passed away in 1990, Yoshihiro Sekiguchi bought it at Christie's for 110,000 pounds ($171,600 U.S.) and placed in a Tokyo toy museum.
MOST VALUABLE ACTION FIGURE: $200,000
The G.I. Joes you played with in your backyard probably wouldn't qualify, but the very first G.I. Joe ever made sold for $200,000 in a private deal after a Heritage Comics auction in 2003. Creator Don Levine himself sold the G.I. Joe prototype after keeping it for decades.
MOST VALUABLE MOTORCYCLE: $929,000
Vehicles are always expensive purchases but what makes a motorcycle worth almost a million dollars? Well, in 1951, only 31 Vincent Black Lightnings were ever made. A mint-condition bike with its original paint was always going to be worth six figures. This one was owned by Jack Ehret and it's the one he used to break the land speed record in 1953 (141.509 mph). That kind of history is priceless.
MOST VALUABLE BOTTLE OF WINE: $558,000
Wine collecting is a costly hobby as evidenced by the current record holder for most expensive bottle of wine sold at auction. On Oct. 13, 2018, a 1945 bottle of Romanee-Conti, of which only 600 were made, sold for $558,000. A second bottle went for $496,000. Who's got the other 598 bottles? At those prices, let's hope they didn't drink the money away!
MOST VALUABLE MOVIE POSTER: $690,000
Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" was a landmark science fiction film, conveying a dystopian future in silent format. An international version of the 1927 film's poster, without German text, made it more valuable. You'd have to be a movie star yourself to afford this, and Leonardo DiCaprio was rumored to be the proud owner. But hey, you can still get an "Inception" poster for under 20 bucks.
MOST VALUABLE VINYL RECORD: $790,000
Collecting vinyl has made a comeback since true audiophiles prefer the physical media to CDs or digital. While first pressings of classic albums can be worth a lot, you really can't beat the very first record of The Beatles' White Album owned by Ringo Starr himself. (A copy of Wu-Tang Clan's "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin" sold for $2 million, but there are no other copies of that album.)
MOST VALUABLE WHISKEY: $1.1 MILLION
Now that's a stiff drink. Macallan only made 12 bottles of this scotch in 1926. When they released it in 1986, Peter Blake designed the label. Blake had previously worked on the Beatles' iconic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band album cover. When Bonhams put bottle No. 8 up for auction this year, one wealthy bidder paid $7,962,500 Hong Kong for it, which translates to $1,0167,907 U.S.
MOST VALUABLE STAMP: $9.5 MILLION
Stamp collecting is a popular hobby, the value of such items determined by their scarcity and history. So you don't get much rarer than this. In 1856, a postmaster in British Guiana (now Guyana) ran out of stamps. A local newspaper printed some emergency stamps and this is the only known surviving 1-Cent Magenta today. Add to that its history changing hands in the ensuing century and a half, and the anonymous Sotheby's buyer sure ended up with a $9.5 million treasure.
MOST VALUABLE BASEBALL: $3,054,000
In 1998, baseball fans were watching every St. Louis Cardinals game to see if Mark McGwire could break the record for most home runs in a season. One of those was "Spawn" creator Todd McFarlane. Lucky for him, he had the $3 million to win the ball and enough to also snag Sammy Sosa's second place record ball.
MOST VALUABLE BASEBALL CARDS: $3.1 MILLION AND $2.88 MILLION
Mickey Mantle - $2.88
The oversized Wagner card still holds the record at $3.1 million, but Mantle's 1952 card is closing in. In April of 2018, Heritage Auctions sold a Mint 9 grade card for former Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Evan Mathis. There are apparently three Mint 10 grade Mantles out there.
MOST VALUABLE COMIC BOOK: $3.2 MILLION
The debut appearance of Superman was truly a landmark for the comic book industry. In 2014, a copy of this historic issue sold on eBay for over $3 million, topping the previous sale of another copy for $2.1 million. Both were graded a 9.0 out of 10 by the Certified Guaranty Co., which is as close to mint condition as a 1938 comic book is likely to be in nearly a century later.
MOST VALUABLE COIN: $10 MILLION
Inflation is a killer, ain't it? We know the dollar isn't worth what it used to be, especially when the very first U.S. dollar sold for $10 million. This was the very first dollar coin minted by the Federal Mint, and it was 90 percent silver. Probably not millions of dollars worth of silver though.
MOST VALUABLE BOOK: $10.27 MILLION
While true rarities like Da Vinci's "Codex Leicester," the actual Magna Carta, the first Gutenberg Bible and others are one-of-a-kinds that sell for more, perhaps the most valuable mass-produced book was James Audubon's "Birds of America." First published between 1827 and 1838, Audubon drew over 400 pictures of over 1,000 birds.
MOST VALUABLE LICENSE PLATE: $14.3 MILLION
In 2008, businessman Saeed Abdul Ghafour Khouri paid 52.2 dirham ($14.3 million U.S.) for a license plate, just so he could have the number 1. Now, did anyone save the U.S. license plate number 1?