8 Insanely Valuable Items You Probably Owned (and Threw Out)
Thanks to the Internet there has never been a more profitable time to be a compulsive hoarder. It turns out that loads of the junk you've refused to throw out since childhood, gathering dust in boxes in your closet and attic, might be worth a significant amount of money to some pathetic sap whose weirdly specific hobby drives them to open up their wallets. And no, we're not talking about that mint condition Batman Issue No. 1 -- we're talking about seemingly worthless junk like ...
Individual LEGO Blocks
Let's face it, no one's childhood was complete if they didn't own a LEGO set, and no one's parenthood is complete until they step on a LEGO block in the middle of the night while barefoot. There are 400 billion LEGO blocks in the world, and we're guessing that 80 percent of them got buried in sandboxes, lost under car seats, or flushed down toilets.
The Roto-Rooter people have amassed enough to build a new corporate headquarters out of them.
And sure, it makes sense that rare or older LEGO sets can fetch high prices among collectors -- hell, that shit is pretty pricey when it's new. But you may be surprised how much the loose blocks in your junk drawer might be worth, considering they're each made out of less than a penny's worth of plastic.
The Price Tag: hundreds of dollars ... for the right piece
Think about it this way: there are maniacal LEGO collectors out there, with those fancy elaborate sets they bought decades ago, who are missing just one damned piece. Maybe their nephew swallowed it and the doctor wouldn't give it back after the surgery. Well, those people are willing to pay big to make their collection whole again.
"Hang on, I think I'm missing the thermal exhaust port cover piece. Eh ... who'd ever notice?"
That's where BrickLink.com comes in. It's an online marketplace that allows hobbyists to buy and sell individual LEGO pieces. And if some of those pieces are out of production, an unusual color, or have some kind of manufacturing fault, the price skyrockets -- like this red Darth Vader helmet that Vader apparently donned during his college Marxist phase, which sells for over $400. A particular antenna -- the type of thing you probably lost in the backyard when you were 10 -- sells for over $200 in good condition, or $84 if it's a little beaten up. Boba Fett's legs are selling for around the same price. Even a regular 2x2 brick, if it's a certain color, can list for $200 new (less than a buck if used). Hell, the freaking instruction booklets can sell for up to $275 without a single brick included.
But the most expensive item on the site? A pink Duplo castle turret, which is being hocked at an astounding $1,374. Because, shit, someone out there is building a pink Duplo castle with one off-white turret, and it's keeping them awake night after night.
Old Breakfast Cereal
No. No way. There is no such thing as antique food.
Breakfast cereal turns into stale non-food within a couple of weeks of being opened, and decades-old cereal probably petrifies into some kind of mineral. There's no way people would buy your ancient cereal out of pure nostalgia, would they?
There have to be safer ways to harken back to the Reagan years.
The Price Tag: $100 for the box, $200 for the horrors inside
There was a breakfast cereal for almost every franchise in the '80s and '90s, from Donkey Kong to Steve Urkel. And, despite the fact that these were just short-lived cynical cash-grabs meant to catch our easily distracted eye at the grocery store, others see these Urkel-shaped sugar nuggets as invaluable collectors items.
At this point it's probably cheaper to just hire Jaleel White to hang out with you.
For example, in 1988 cereal company Ralston released the Nintendo Cereal System, a box that came with two ambiguously flavored breakfast cereals -- a Mario Bros.-themed cereal described as "fruity," and a Zelda-themed cereal described as "berry," because there's just no overlap there at all. These days, the Nintendo cereal is considered one of the most high-end scores for die-hard ... cereal collectors (sorry, we're still coming to terms with that being a thing). An unopened box of Nintendo cereal recently netted just over $200, while an empty box sold for half that amount. Because $100 is a small price to pay for the ability to brag that you have a box full of dried-up 1980s foodstuffs.
But that's far from an isolated case -- there are plenty of auctions on eBay at any given moment selling unopened cereal boxes for, on average, $50 apiece. Like this box of Wheaties emblazoned with the Carolina Panthers logo:
What better way to celebrate a 7-9 season?
That's still probably not enough of a cash incentive to buy a bunch of cereal and just let it rot on your shelf for decades, considering that's the kind of hobby that ruins relationships. But others clearly disagree. There is a rich cultural history of breakfast cereal that must be preserved.
The World's Worst NES Game
Video games don't exactly age like rare comic books -- once they've been out for a while, they generally wind up collecting dust in the "used" section of GameStop or live on as $5 downloads on Steam. No collector is out there offering big cash for the gently used copy of Crash Bandicoot in your closet.
And Action 52 for the NES was worthless even compared to other early-'90s bargain-bin games. It was the game you got if you had well-meaning but clueless relatives who were shocked at what a great buy it was -- the box promised 52 unique games in one cartridge! What a deal! Of course, players quickly realized there were really only two games in Action 52 -- Identical space shooters with unreasonably hideous graphics ...
Space: now available in houndstooth.
... and impossibly broken platformers with controls that barely meet the definition of the word.
With graphics like that, who needs gameplay?
And that's not counting the dozen or so games that crash the console the moment you select them from the menu screen. But if you managed to hold on to your copy instead of, say, taking it out to the yard and shooting it with a BB gun ...
The Price Tag: up to $500
You know how Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space, considered by many to be the worst movie in history, gained a huge cult following? Action 52 is more or less the video game equivalent. Combined with its rarity, anyone with a working copy (if any copy can be said to "work") can fetch top dollar from collectors who just want to be able to say they were a part of shitty video game history.
We're not sure this is the kind of legacy we'd want, but to each their own.
The story of Action 52 has entered into video game legend, with NES enthusiasts digging deep to research just how this thing came about. As Adam Erickson from Nintendo Age magazine discovered, the game was the brainchild of Vince Perri, owner of the very-short-lived game company Active Entertainment, whose inspiration came from pirated Taiwanese cartridge compilations he picked up on the black market. He ordered his team to have all 52 games completed in three months (just under two days' effort for each game -- and it shows!). His reward is that, more than two decades later, copies with the box still intact sell for as much as $400, unopened copies sell for as high as $500. All because people apparently have to see this unplayable shit heap with their own eyes.
Speaking of which ...
Related: The 20 Worst NES Games of All-Time
Old VHS Copies of Awful Movies
Audio/visual formats go out of style so fast that DVD now seems quaint, and we sort of skipped Blu-ray entirely. But, where hipsters get nostalgic for vinyl records, there is no equivalent retro appreciation for VHS. The first home video format seemed like a miracle in its day, but the tapes quickly wore out, as did the players (raise your hand if you're old enough to remember having to adjust the "tracking" on your movie rental). From the horrible quality to the cheap cardboard sleeve packaging, your stack of old VHS is something you can be sure even the most desperate thieves will leave behind. Yet ...
The Price Tag: $700 (or more)
Collectors pay impressive amounts of money for old tapes, especially if they're rare, and especially if they're bad. For some, the grainy, deteriorating look of old VHS film is closer to a B-movie director's original vision, and because a significant amount of this direct-to-video crap will never see a DVD release, the race is on to collect and treasure our questionable film heritage.
The world is a richer place knowing that Robot Holocaust will still be there for our grandchildren.
For example, in 2011 a seller on eBay managed to snatch nearly $700 for a VHS copy of a movie called Tales From the Quadead Zone, a 1987 horror movie that was released direct to VHS and apparently has something to do with a zombie clown from hell. The tape is considered the holy grail of VHS aficionados due to its rarity and terrible, nonsensical plot. Dan Kinem, director of a documentary about VHS collectors, thinks that it could fetch as much as $2,000 today, which is probably about 1,000 times more money than the actual movie ever made when it was new.
Making six copies worth more than the entire production budget.
Then there's Hack-O-Lantern, a clumsy 1988 slasher movie most notable for being the last movie role for the guy who played the bartender in Blade Runner, who is apparently a big deal among a select group of film nuts. That one grabbed just over $200 on eBay, which is impressive considering bids started at under $10. So, if you're a fan of schlock whose VHS collection has been rotting in your attic ever since you saved up for a DVD player, you might unwittingly be sitting on a treasure trove. There are people out there crazier than you, and they're apparently really rich?
Cheap Knock-Off Bootleg Toys
So, you're at the Dollar Store, or at the depressing neglected toy shelf at a gas station, and you see some action figures that are truly the bottom of the barrel. These are malformed knock-offs that sort of maybe look like the name brand, only this Iron Man is green and the box says "Iron Max."
Protector of the crime-infested streets of Dertroit.
A lack of copyright laws in Asian countries such as China and Taiwan has caused a flood of these knock-offs, complete with Engrish logos and suspiciously cheap prices. Designs and even official molds are sometimes stolen from the manufacturing plants of legitimate businesses in China to create these "just different enough" copies.
You might assume that this muddies the waters for serious collectors, who want to own the full set of official toys but aren't as interested in owning a mint condition Super Bat, Spader-Man, or Space Wars action figure. But you'd assume wrong.
Anyone who tells you they don't want their own Superheroic Man is a filthy liar.
The Price Tag: up to $300
Here's something you need to know about the economy in the 21st century: people are willing to pay a lot of money for irony.
These people, specifically.
While bootlegs are mostly peddled in small, back-alley stores and markets, they are quickly becoming popular among collectors as amusing novelties. Toys that were once considered valueless are now highly sought after for the very reason that made them worthless in the first place -- they are cheap and often hilarious imitations.
For instance, we have 1980s Masters of the Universe knock-off Speclatron. Closely resembling the trademark musclebound aesthetic of the traditional Masters, the series contained two distinct factions -- one of humanoid monsters and the other a gang of steroid-enhanced meat-heads. Tragically, only their heads were made from different molds; all their other body parts are exactly the same, simply colored differently to help tell them apart.
Meaning they all have those weird hips.
In what can only be the product of cocaine-inspired insanity, the action figures' torsos are made from clear plastic and filled with glitter and water (he has "dynamic glitter power [...] surging through [his] chest," according to the suggestive text on the cardback).
Due to their almost brazen resemblance to an iconic '80s toy line, their below-average production quality, and bizarre gimmicks, Speclatron figures are so sought after by collectors that even used and damaged figures without their packaging can command a high value on eBay. A dried-up, used Speclatron Kandar figure recently sold on eBay for over $300, an incredible return for a trashy He-Man knock-off that originally cost one or two bucks.
Still, these are somehow not the bottom rung of the ladder when it comes to inexplicably valuable low-quality toys. It just doesn't get much lower than ...
Happy Meal Toys
The Happy Meal was a stroke of marketing genius for McDonald's -- the toys that come in the box probably cost about a penny each to make and import from a Chinese sweat shop, but if you make a set of six and distribute them randomly, kids will buy 10 Happy Meals a week in an effort to collect them all. Apparently, the compulsion to collect these trinkets doesn't end at childhood, though it does get more expensive.
Remember how we said people will pay a lot of money for irony (we hope so, because it was like 20 seconds ago)? Well, guess what people will pay for nostalgia.
Hint: way more.
The Price Tag: potentially hundreds
Yes, whole Internet communities exist solely to buy, sell, and trade Happy Meal toys from McDonald's outlets around the world. Auctioneers hocking their collections of Happy Meal toys have fetched $500 for their boxes of random items, whether the buyers are just looking to complete their collections or hunting for that rare gold-plated Pikachu.
Collecting and hoarding are separated by a mighty thin line.
A full set of old Disney-themed toys snatched almost $200 for a seller who promised no children had ever had their grubby jam-stained fingers anywhere near them. But your collection doesn't have to be old or large to earn big bucks -- a complete set of 19 figurines of the Minions from Despicable Me 2 sold for $360. A set of 20 toys based on How to Train Your Dragon 2 went for $170. A single fucking Pikachu from a Japanese Happy Meal went for $100. For real. It doesn't actually shoot lightning bolts or anything.
Do you remember the first time you found out your slightly out-of-date PC had exactly zero value on the resale market, and that basically not even Goodwill wanted the machine you paid $2,000 for just four years ago?
"Alienware? No thanks, but we could probably find a new home for your couch."
That's because personal electronics advance so quickly that new gadgets spoil faster than ripe bananas, and there's no better example than cellphones. Those objects are even more ubiquitous and even more frequently replaced than computers (hell, your cellphone carrier will give you a new one for free every two years) to the point that they're becoming an environmental pollution problem. That's right -- not even the garbage man wants your old phone.
Or so you thought ...
The Price Tag: up to $500
Yep, for those in the know in the antiques industry, old cellphones -- really old ones -- are the hot new collectible. A 1983 Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, one of the first wireless phones ever produced, recently sold at auction for $550. Even though the seller made it clear that they don't know if it will charge or even turn on. And this wasn't a freak sale to a confused, old, rich person; similar phones have sold for around the same price.
The buyer was listed as MP Gosselaar.
So, while you might not get much of anything from your beat-up Nokia 3310, hold on to that thing for another 20 years or so. There might just be an empty shelf at the Cellphone Museum and a curator looking to pay top dollar for it. Shit, we're starting to wonder why landfills are even a thing -- it seems like every damned piece of junk in your attic is somebody's Holy Grail.
We all know that toy collectors take their hobby pretty damn seriously, especially when it comes to packaging. A limited edition toy in its original packaging can net thousands, but try to sell the same toy to the same collector after it's been taken out of the box, and he might just strangle you with his neck beard.
"Fuck that. I'm keeping this baby in mint condition."
But if you're the kind of perfectly sane person who opted to remove the toy from its packaging to use it for, you know, the purpose you bought it for, don't worry too much -- as long as you kept the garbage it was wrapped in.
The Price Tag: $100-$200 (we reiterate: this is for an empty box)
See, to serious collectors who have a useless, unpackaged toy, what they need most is a package to stick it back into. So why not take advantage of their crippling obsession? The empty box for a 1985 Kenner A-Wing Fighter sold on eBay recently for just over $100. More impressive still was the sale of a Tatooine Skiff from Return of the Jedi that sold for $220. And no, this isn't that classic eBay scam where they advertise an item and then send you just the box filled with gravel and used condoms. It's perfectly clear that they're selling the empty package, because they know there's a market.
Even the backing cards of early action figures are worth considerably more than what they originally sold for back when they had an actual toy attached. Cards printed in other languages are the most sought after by collectors, such as those from Italian company Harbert, which was responsible for distributing Star Wars toys in Italy during the '80s. A backing card from a Harbert Yoda toy recently sold for an incredible $1,136.
Get a better hobby, you must.
So there you go -- tell your parents to go dig your old shit out of the garage. You're about to be rich, baby!
Drew thinks he is a wizard and should not be fed by hand.
For more trash that was worth a bath in gold coins, check out 5 Pieces of Junk That Turned Out to be Invaluable Artifacts and 13 Things That Changed the World (by Getting Thrown Away).
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