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23 Types of Valuable Antiques to Look For

Kate Miller-Wilson
Woman in a flea market

Keep an eye out for these valuable antiques to look for if you're cleaning out your attic or perusing the wares at the flea market. You may be surprised what's worth a second look. Some of these items are worth thousands of dollars.

1. Novelty Barware

While many barware sets have value, it's usually in the range of $20 to $100, depending on the materials and style. However, if you have a novelty barware item, it may be worth more. Think corkscrews with women's legs, cocktail shakers in the shape of penguins, fish-shaped bottle openers, and other unique items. For example, a 1937 ruby glass cocktail shaker in the shape of a woman's leg sold for almost $1,500 on eBay.

2. Hunting Decoys

You've probably seen those wooden ducks sitting in antique shops. These are hunting decoys, which were once used to help attract game. Because they received hard use in the outdoors, it's not easy to find them in good condition. Some, made by famous decoy artists like Elmer Crowell and Joseph Lincoln, may be worth a great deal of money. In fact, decoy auction firm Guyette and Deeter lists decoys that have sold for up to $856,000.

Old duck decoy

3. Depression Glass

While collecting Depression glass is usually an affordable hobby, there are a few pieces of this glassware that are amazingly valuable. Look for colored glassware in excellent condition and in desirable patterns like Cameo or American Sweetheart. Then keep an eye out for unusual pieces or shapes that may be worth a premium. For instance, a center-handle sandwich plate in the green Cameo pattern sold for almost $4,000 at auction.

Depression glass

4. Original Paintings

There's a lot of variation in the paintings you find in attics and thrift stores, but some are extremely valuable. Skip the paint-by-number projects and look for original art with themes people enjoy. Think equestrian paintings, pictures of famous people, and beautiful scenes. Pay special attention to paintings with signatures and those in beautiful frames, since those things can add value. Some examples are worth millions, but it's common to find paintings worth hundreds or thousands of dollars if they are high quality and desirable. Paintings are among the most valuable items on Antiques Roadshow too.

Senior man showing original painting

5. Postcards

Before you toss that old postcard collection, take a quick look at what it includes. The value of old postcards depends on a number of factors, but certain designs can be highly collectible. These include cards that shows holiday themes, famous people, and unique moments in history. Also look for older cards with matte printing and those with advertising on them. Some examples sell in the range of $150.

Vintage postcard from 1908

6. Barber Chairs

You might be surprised by the value of antique barber chairs. There are several different types of antique barber chairs in existences, but the Koken brand is especially valuable. Koken barber chairs sell within the range of $500 to over $5,000. If you have one, you may have something very valuable.

Vintage Barber Chair

7. Old Clocks

Rare antique clocks can be worth $100,000 or more, but even more common clocks are worth money. Clocks that represent a specific era and decorating style, such as Art Deco or Mid-Century Modern, are very popular with decorators and antique collectors. Before you send an old clock to charity or pass one by at the flea market, take some time to learn how to identify antique clocks. You might find that timepiece is a treasure.

antique clock on a wooden table

8. Cast Iron Doorstops

Doorstops have a utilitarian purpose, but in the age of air conditioning, many have been packed away in attics and basements. If you happen to have a cast iron doorstop in a charming shape, you may be holding onto a fortune. These charming figural doorstops are worth from $50 to over $1,000. An adorable Hubley doorstop in the shape of a Pekinese dog sold for almost $2,000 at auction in 2020.

Cast iron cockerel door stop

9. Stained and Leaded Glass Windows

When an old building is torn down, people sometimes salvage the windows, stashing them away in a barn or basement. If the old windows have leaded glass detailing or pretty stained glass elements, they may be worth a lot of money. Antique stained glass windows range from ornate to simple, but many are highly valued for the historic beauty they can bring to modern construction. Special examples like this Mackintosh Rose window sell for around $2,500, but even simple designs regularly fetch hundreds of dollars.

Wooden framed stained glass windows

10. Rare Books

Some books can be extremely valuable, and it's not always the ones you think. Learn how to identify rare books, especially first editions that can sell for a lot of money. Cookbooks, in particular, can be valuable. Abe Books reports that the first edition of The Joy of Cooking regularly sells for over $4,000.

first edition of Shakespeare

11. Victorian Art Pottery

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, art pottery became a popular collectible in American homes. These pieces were handmade and unique, although they followed designs set forth by the various companies. Some special manufacturers to look for include McCoy, Frankoma, and Roseville. One Roseville Pottery piece sold for more than $38,000, but even lesser known antique art pottery has value.

Roseville Pottery

12. Old Cameras and Lenses

For many years, digital photography has outstripped film cameras in terms of popularity, and many old film cameras have languished on shelves in storage units and attics. However, a resurgence in interest in film photography has pushed values up again. Certain antique cameras and lenses are worth hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Lenses made of brass are often worth a lot of money, with many very good examples selling for close to $2,000.

Vintage cameras

13. Chandeliers and Light Fixtures

Antique chandeliers are another example of salvaged architectural features that can be worth a great deal. When old houses are torn down or renovated to match a different style, the light fixtures sometimes survive. As tastes change and people want to add historical charm to their homes, the light fixtures become valuable again. A pair of huge alabaster light fixtures sold for $12,000, but even smaller and simpler vintage chandeliers are worth money.

An old-fashioned chandelier

14. Sterling Silver Flatware

If you have your grandmother's silver, you may have a valuable antique. Antique sterling silver flatware can be extremely valuable, but silverplate isn't worth as much. Look for sterling silver hallmarks on the backs of the pieces to determine whether your silver is sterling. Then look at pictures of antique flatware patterns to see what pattern you have. This will help you find the value of your sterling. Some patterns, like those made by Tiffany, are worth thousands.

antique silverware place setting

15. Old Tools and Toolboxes

Do you have some antique hand tools in your garage? If so, you may have some money on your hands. Look for tools in good shape with patina but no real damage and check the brand. Brands like Stanley can be especially hot with collectors. Toolboxes are also valuable with old wooden models selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay.

Work tools on table

16. Rare Coins

Old coin collections sometimes offer up some valuable prizes too. If you're sorting through some coins, keep a list of old coins that could be valuable. Some, like the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, can be worth millions of dollars.

1913 Eliasberg Liberty Head Nickel

17. China Sets

Nearly everyone has a set of china inherited from an older relative, and many aren't worth much. However, some china sets are actually extremely valuable. Look for china by Spode, Wedgewood, and other important names. Then check condition. One full set of Wedgwood china in a turquoise Florentine pattern sold for more than $3,200.

Wedgwood china

18. Vintage Typewriters

Even though few people use typewriters to write anymore, they have held their value as antique decorative items. Learn about the best vintage typewriter brands and their values. You might have an Underwood worth $1,000, and even an ordinary Remington can sell for $150.

Underwood No 5 Typewriter

19. Musical Instruments

Antique musical instruments are among the most valuable items you can find in your attic or at a thrift shop. Look for instruments in good, playable condition. Pianos can be valuable, as can violins. Antique violin values can range into the millions, but it's common to find them in the hundreds.

Vintage grand piano

20. Perfume Bottles

Antique perfume bottles came in many different styles and materials. You'll see gorgeous glass and crystal examples, as well as bottles made from stone. Many sell for $100 or more, and some very fine examples like a Victorian glass and sterling silver bottle sell for over $1,500.

Antique perfume sprayer

21. Fountain Pens

Fountain pens are functional today, and some people specialize in collecting vintage models. If you have one from an older relative or see one at a shop, it might be worth checking out. The most valuable are crafted from high-end materials like sterling silver, tortoiseshell, ebony, and gold. A Victorian Tiffany Studios fountain pen sold for almost $1,000, but it's common to find them in the $100-$200 range.

Antique fountain pen

22. Antique Furniture

Antique furniture is another high-value item with many pieces ranging from $200 to $2000. Learn how to identify antique furniture and assess its value. Look for pieces in very good condition made of solid wood.

Antique rolltop desk

23. Jewelry

Don't forget to sort through old jewelry. Even antique costume jewelry can be valuable, and fine jewelry is always worth money. Look for valuable gems, precious metals, and other special touches. Brush up on understanding markings on jewelry so you can determine what the jewelry is made of and who the manufacturer may be. It's common for fine jewelry pieces to be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but the exact value is extremely variable.

Antique jewelry box

Get an Appraisal to Know for Sure

If you suspect you may have a valuable antique, it's always a good idea to double check with an appraisal. You can get antiques appraised online or visit a local professional for help. Either way, you'll know for sure whether you've found a treasure.

23 Types of Valuable Antiques to Look For