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Don't toss that 'junk' out, it may be valuable

Photo: Margarita Marushevska/UnSplash

StatePoint - From baseball cards and sports equipment to postcards and photographs, is that “junk” in your attic or basement dusty treasure or just dusty? We’ve all heard of families getting rich from the sale of rare memorabilia they found when spring cleaning.

A little time spent determining if items are valuable and where to sell them can pay off in the long run.

“The sale of older sports cards, postcards and photographs can yield thousands of dollars, even tens of thousands or more for the right ones,” says Al Crisafulli, Auction Director at Love of the Game Auctions, an internet sports auction house that helps families identify and sell valuable sports cards and memorabilia.

Crisafulli has assisted people in selling tens of millions of dollars of baseball card collections, autographs, sports equipment and more. Such sales can be life changing. In one instance, he researched a family’s old baseball bat and proved it was game used by Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig. His Love of the Game Auctions sold it for almost half a million dollars, a figure which would top a million dollars today.

Here are some of his tips to determine if your sports collectibles are valuable:

The Older, the Better with Cards

Vintage sports cards from the early periods of sports are collectible, especially Hall of Famers. Do you have stars from the 1960s, 1950s or earlier? Look for names like Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner or Ty Cobb. Even non-star cards can be valuable, especially in nice condition with sharp corners and no creases.

Really early cards from the 1880s through the 1930s are particularly desirable, such as those by tobacco, gum and candy brands, such as Old Judge, Piedmont, Sweet Caporal, American Caramel, Goudey or Diamond Stars.

When determining where to sell cards and memorabilia, focus on a specialty auction house, such as Love of the Game, which employs trained experts in researching sports ephemera, and maintains bidder lists of sports collectors. More information is available at loveofthegameauctions.com.

Don’t Overlook Memorabilia and Equipment

Cards aren’t the only potentially valuable things. Look for older promotional and advertising ephemera spotlighting sports stars, especially items that promote sporting goods, food or tobacco brands. Ads from magazines aren’t valuable, but store displays, signs and premiums can be pricey.

Old sporting goods and equipment, such as balls, bats, gloves and uniforms, can also be valuable, especially if you had a family member who played minor or major league sports. Note that items from before the 1960s are highly collected. Also look for equipment endorsed by star players. Condition matters, but game-used equipment from professionals can be valuable in almost any condition.

Save Postcards and Photographs

If you have old photographs, cabinet cards or postcards of sports stars or ballparks, they should be evaluated. Those from pre-1960 can be expensive. Look for early “real photo” postcards from the 1900s through the 1940s, which are photographs printed on postcard backs.

Popular stars are key, meaning original images like Babe Ruth or early ballparks can be valuable, as opposed to images of your family members playing sports or of popular vacation destinations. When examining photographs, look for markings on the back, such as photographer, publication and date stamps. Also set aside cabinet cards, which are photographs from the 1880s through the 1930s adhered to cardboard stock.

“A good rule of thumb is that the older a sports item is, the more valuable it might be, especially from before the 1950s going back to the 1880s,” says Crisafulli.

This spring cleaning season, don’t rush to haul “junk” to the curb. Examine it first.


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