Can You Really Sell Childhood Toys for Thousands?

Anyone who has ever owned a “Star Wars” action figure or a Lego set has surely heard tales of people selling their childhood toy collections for six or even seven figures. With stories like that, it’s hard not to wonder whether an uncashed lottery ticket is hiding in your own attic.

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There was the G.I. Joe that sold for $200,000 — and who could forget the Starship Enterprise model that fetched $576,000 at auction?

The thing is: The G.I. Joe was the original 1963 prototype and the Enterprise model was used in the pilot episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

It’s easy to see how obvious collector’s items like that could be worth a fortune, but what about the garden variety stuff that your mom bought at Toys “R” Us when you were a kid 10, 20 or 30 years ago? Can regular people who hung onto their toys ever expect to get any real money by putting their beloved collections on the block?

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Depending on what they’re sitting on, yes, they just might.

Most of It Comes Down to Rarity, Desirability and Condition

As with all collectibles, a toy’s value depends largely on the answers to three questions:

  • How many of them are there?
  • How many people want one?
  • What kind of shape is it in?

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“When it comes to vintage toys, the most important aspect is rarity,” said collector Aviad Faruz, CEO of the jewelry ecommerce store Faruzo New York. “If you have a toy that is one of only 500 copies made, then you’ve hit the jackpot. Toys that are easy to come by do not bring in much money. Similarly, the older a toy gets, the rarer it gets, so if you have a very old toy that is in a respectable condition, it’ll probably sell for top dollar.”

“Respectable condition” might include being in the original packaging, so don’t assume that your toy is mint just because it doesn’t have any obvious blemishes — although blemishes can sometimes add value.

“Unique, even defective versions of old toys sell for a lot of money, so pay attention to details,” Faruz said.

But never try to fabricate a defect or anything else.

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“Toy collectors like me can immediately tell the difference between a genuine and a fake article,” Faruz said.

Special or limited-edition toys are always promising, but only if they have all three attributes. Rare toys that no one wants won’t get you far; neither will a toy that’s in high demand but that your dog chewed to pieces.

“The fewer pieces of a toy (that) exist, the higher it will sell,” said Brandon Walsh, founder of Dads Agree. “But not always. Some toys might only number in the tens worldwide, but they never enjoyed the same hype as other rare toys, so their value won’t be as high.”

In Most Cases, Your Research Will Determine Your Windfall

So, how do you know if you have something in your basement that’s rare, desirable and in saleable condition all at once? Unless you’re an experienced collector or appraiser, don’t waste time trying to identify the features that might make your toys more valuable. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll probably miss it.

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A better way to come up with an asking price is to take inventory of what you have and research some comps on a piece-by-piece or category-by-category basis.

“You can find the value of each toy by researching the items on eBay,” said parent and family coach Sheri Poyant. “Not only what they are priced at currently, but you can also search for what the toys have sold for in the past and how many have sold. Doing your homework will help to get you the best price.”

Sell Well To Get Top Dollar

Several of the experts who spoke with GOBankingRates cited the same vintage toys as potential gems: Pokemon cards, special-edition Legos, classic Barbies and limited-edition board games, to name a few.

So, what should you do to maximize your profits if you find something you think could bring in big bucks? When it comes time to sell your toys, follow the best practices for selling anything.

“To improve your chances of selling your products, be honest in your description,” Poyant said. “Make sure your prices are competitive. Take good pictures. Ship your products fast and package them nicely. All of this will be taken into consideration when your customers are reviewing your online store.”

If you think you have something really good, join a group dedicated to vintage toys and ask for the opinions of the group’s members — or pay for a valuation from a qualified professional.

“You should inquire about the value of your collection from online forums centered on collectibles,” Walsh said. “If you’ve got a few vintage toys stored from your childhood, now is the best time to get them out and have their value appraised.”

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.

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