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“There are hidden gems in almost every category of antiques,” says Brian Graves, co-founder of the Cincy-based startup Everything But the House. This includes everything from grandma’s hand-me-down china to your childhood toys. / Image courtesy of EBTH // Published: 1.4.17

How To Spot The Hidden Gems In Your Home

It’s officially 2018, and if you’re anything like me, you’re walking around your house figuring out what to get rid of in order to make room for all your awesome new stuff. And thanks to a few tips from the good folks at Everything But the House, it’s even possible for me (and now you) to make a little money off of what doesn’t make the cut.

“There are hidden gems in almost every category of antiques,” says Brian Graves, co-founder of the Cincy-based startup. This includes everything from grandma’s hand-me-down china to your childhood toys. Below, Graves shares six tips on how to spot the value items, and what to do when you uncover dynamite.

To Start, Take Stock

“First and foremost, you should keep things that have a place in your home or your heart,” Graves advises. “If you’ve got a place in your home for it, then it makes sense to keep it. But if your plan is to take it to the garage or storage unit, it’s important to understand there is a market for it, rather than just having it sit around collecting dust.”

Now, that market may merely be the donation bin at the Salvation Army, but Graves says once you’ve gathered your items, it’s time to get a little Marie Kondo. “Understand your objective with the object,” he advises. “Are you going to sell it or keep it as an heirloom?” If it's the former, thank the object for its service, and then…

Consider Condition

The condition of whatever it is you’re trying to sell is key. “Ideally, either it’s been really well maintained, or it’s still in the box,” Graves says. Still, all is not lost if that isn't the case with your item. A small knick or dent may lower value, but it doesn’t mean it’s completely unsellable. A sizable crack or missing piece on the other hand just means you’ve gotta start taking better care of your stuff.

Look at the Market

Once you’ve finalized your items to sell, hop onto a site like EBTH or eBay and search for your item to see what objects in a similar condition to yours are selling for. “It’s important to look at actual sales, but that’s just to give you an idea,” Graves says. “Every item’s market value is not always realistic due to uncontrollable factors like condition and demand at the time.”

Contact a Professional

Unless you were an appraiser in a former life, chances are, you won’t know how truly valuable an item is (or isn't) without the help of an experienced seller. This is especially true if you have a handful of items to sell.

“It’s important to connect with someone,” Graves emphasizes. “Don’t throw things away before you talk to someone, and don’t assume something you have is worth money. That’s what the experts are for. For example, I’ve connected with families who had boxes of costume jewelry they assumed were worthless because it’s costume jewelry; but if you have the right piece, you could easily be talking thousands of dollars. A professional will know the nuances of the market and who to market it to.”

How to Find “The One”

And just how do you find this professional? Ask around, or head to good old Google to search for estate sales and antique companies near you, Graves explains. Then, it’s important to understand how this person goes about selling an item: How will he or she market your item? What is his or her market reach? And perhaps, most important, how quickly will you get paid?

“Ask about their approach, and ask them to connect you with a few people they previously worked with who sold items similar to yours,” Graves advises. “Reach out to several professionals and compare what they suggest. Let them prove to you why they are the person to sell it.”

So, What’s Hot Now?

“What we’re seeing now is an attraction to an approachable lifestyle,” Graves says. “Customers today want things to be original, but also functional and usable.” That means industrial era items like a cobbler’s bench that a buyer converts into a coffee table or a railroad car with steel wheels that gets transformed into a bar cart.

Less trendy but still hot? Nostalgia items, Graves says. For example, while holiday shopping this year, I noticed myriad toys from my youth on shelves: OG Strawberry Shortcakes, Rainbow Brites, and even a re-issue of the Fisher-Price See ‘N Say Farmer Says toy (and yes, I’m aware I’m dating myself here). So I asked Graves: Does this mean my collection of ‘80s-era Strawberry Shortcake dolls (which eerily still maintain their fruity smell) is worthless now?

“Not at all,” he says. “People tend to collect from a nostalgia perspective, so sometimes when something comes back out, it creates interest in finding the original.” As an example, he points to a Boba Fett figure from the first generation of Star Wars toys that recently sold on EBTH for around $2,800.

“That’s a lot for a toy that was probably only $1.29 to buy 30 years ago,” he says.

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Ready to pay off some holiday bills? Get inspired to do your own cleanout by clicking through the gallery above to see some items discussed here that are currently being sold on