As a longtime collector and reseller, I’m constantly on the lookout for “sleeper items”—ordinary household items that fetch unusual prices on the resale market.
While other voters are busy trying to find that one big unit, I like to focus on humble objects that have a quiet but rabid fan base.
Look around your own home. Does every drawer turn into a junk drawer? Your living room looks like a Storage Wars commercial. Why not splurge and make a few extra bucks in the process?
While eBay is my go-to site for online sales, Etsy works just as well. It is no longer exclusively for handmade products. For larger pieces that would be difficult to ship, consider Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Below are some amazing household items you can sell for quick cash.
1. Kirby vacuum cleaners
I always joke that there is more metal in a Kirby vacuum than most new machines. But that durable construction is why the Kirby Co. has been around for more than 100 years.
Compared to other popular vacuums, the Kirby models are a little unwieldy, and their many attachments can be intimidating. However, vintage models retain their value. A Kirby G3, G4, and G5 made in the 1990s can fetch $150 to $250 online.
If you have an old Kirby sitting in the hall closet, it might be time to pull it out and cash in.
2. Lamp finals
Terminals are the often overlooked threaded pieces that attach the lampshade to the lamp socket.
Plain metal caps are a dime a dozen, but decorative brass, glass, crystal, and porcelain caps are consistently hot sellers in my online resale business. In fact, I often buy old lamps for a dollar or two just for the finish.
If you have a few disassembled lamps stored in your basement or garage, take a look at the hardware.
Antiques usually fetch higher prices. 1930s milk glass finials can cost $30-$50 each. But there is also a demand for modern design. In 2019 I sold a pair of modern brass pineapple finials on eBay for $32.
3. Swing-A-Way Can Openers
Swing-A-Way has produced the classic can opener for decades. Although the styling hasn’t changed much, production has moved overseas.
Older models from the 1960s and 1970s have all-steel construction, have rubber-coated handles in various colors, and are clearly marked “Made in the USA.”
Buyers love vintage Swing-A-Ways because they are built like tanks and will last a lifetime. If you need to declutter your kitchen a bit, don’t overlook this icon of practical, efficient design.
Brightly colored rubber-coated grips like red, blue and green sell best. I’ve seen a Vintage Swing-A-Way with royal-blue rubber handles fetch $24.99 on eBay.
4. Ice cream scoops
An ice cream scoop is similar to an ice cream scoop, but flatter. imagine a scooper-spatula hybrid.
The best shovels are made by a company called Vernco and made from heavy gauge stainless steel with rosewood or walnut handles.
Again, the simple design and amazing craftsmanship of these tools continue to attract buyers willing to pay $15 to $20 for a shovel in excellent condition. With such sweet prices, who needs ice cream?
5. Vintage box cutters
There’s a collector’s market for everything, even vintage box cutters. And as with most collectibles, make, model and rarity are everything.
Check your workshop or garage for knives made in the USA by Stanley Tools. The 199 and 299 models are especially popular.
I have seen the 299 model with extra blades for sale on eBay for $35.99. Who knew such humble things could fetch such handsome prices?
6. Glass thermometers
The glass oral thermometers that older generations relied on have largely been replaced by digital versions. But there is still a strong, dare I say feverish, market for antique mercury glass models.
Due to their simple, battery-free operation, all brands sell well. But check your medicine cabinet for thermometers made by the three most popular brands.
- BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.)
I’ve seen one vintage BD thermometer with a protective case fetch $29.99 on eBay.
7. Antique Canning Jar
A few generations ago, canning vegetables, fruits and meats was part of everyday life. Glass canning jars made by Carey, Ball, Mason, and Putnam were practical items that helped families preserve food safely.
Today, these household staples are in high demand for their rarity and simple beauty.
Buyers prefer jars that retain their original zinc or glass lids and will pay a premium for unusual colors such as lime green, amber, purple and blue.
I have seen blue no. A half-pint 4-ball jar sold on eBay for $134.99, and a #333 Amber Jug by Putnam sold for $160. Lesson? Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that cost the most.
8. Vintage Polaroid cameras and film
Almost everyone has a box full of outdated technology. And if you’re big enough, yours might include a Polaroid camera or two.
While most models resell for a paltry $5 to $10, there are a few exceptions.
- A Polaroid SX-70 is highly collectible and can fetch $100 to $300 or more if you have the original leather travel case.
- A Polaroid SLR 680 with sonar range finding and an autofocus lens typically retails for $250-$300.
Got some unused 668 and 669 film packs? Don’t drop them. A single pack of color film can be purchased for $20 to $30 on eBay.