7 heirlooms in your attic that could be worth a fortune

Gavel on laptop computer keyboard concept for online internet auction

Lockdown has seen the popularity of online auctions soar - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lockdown, combined with the recent heavy snow keeping us indoors, means we’ve now got more time on our hands than ever before. 

To get a head start on that all-important spring cleaning, why not head up into the attic, or out into the garage to have a rummage? You could very well be sitting on a goldmine of treasures.  

Antiques expert Liza Machan, of Martlesham-based auctioneers Lockdales explains what items could be worth a fortune, and how much you could potentially make. 

“Auction results boomed throughout last year’s lockdown, with average sales consistently hitting over 97% in an unprecedented scramble for antiques and collectables during this global crisis. With lots selling above estimate, in many cases for double or more, we anticipate antiques and collectables to continue performing extremely well at online auctions this year. So, if you’re looking to sell, there’s never been a better time,” she says. 

A selection of wartime medals on a plain white background

Medals can be particularly valuable if they're sold as a set - Credit: Lockdales

Medals 


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Unsurprisingly, military medals are an especially sought-after form of memorabilia, and can fetch incredibly high prices at auction.  

“Never split a medal group up, and keep any paperwork relevant to them as this can significantly increase their value,” explains Liza. “Stories surrounding the recipients of campaign and gallantry medals adds to the significance and importance to militaria collectors. Any personal items, photographs or documents that can be supplied along with medals will help to generate interest among collectors. 

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“For example, we once sold a 1914 war medal set and death plaque for £600. It belonged to Private Benjamin Cuthbert, and included the original paperwork, army forms, a letter to his mother and a letter from the Red Cross informing his family of his death.” 

A set of three coins in a box

Coin sets known as collections can reach high prices at auction - Credit: Lockdales

Coins 

One of the most common heirlooms found stored away are coins – and whether they’re a collection or an accumulation will greatly affect how much they can earn for you. 

“The former will likely include items such as boxed Royal Mint issues, proof sets and pre-1950 coins in ‘high grade’, whereas the latter is most likely to consist of loose circulated coins of interest which have been picked out of pocket change over the years. A strong collection can make serious money, whereas an accumulation is much less likely to hold any significant value,” explains Liza.  

“Gold coins such as Sovereigns, half Sovereigns and Krugerrands will generally be worth their gold value - although some can be of particularly higher value, especially if boxed and sealed. However, don’t rush with the first good offer to come your way - your items could generate much more at a coin auction. For instance, in 2017 we saw a three-coin premium set, which featured a £2 coin, Sovereign and Half Sovereign, along with their box and issue certificate fetch an astonishing £1,800 at auction.” 

An old Rolex watch in its original box, with certificates and paperwork

Mid-century men's Rolex watches such as this one are particularly popular with collectors and buyers - Credit: Lockdales

Collectables watches 

Timepieces have recently become big money at auctions, with gents’ watches from brands such as Omega and Rolex – namely Speedmaster, Submariner and Explorer models – making their sellers a sizeable fortune.  

“We have sold many of these models, which have soared beyond the vendors’ wildest expectations, selling for tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds. For instance, a gents’ Omega Seamaster 300 from the mid-1960s housed in its original box sold for £3,200, while a 1964 stainless steel Rolex Submariner was sold for £150,000. 

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“While the ladies’ versions do not fall in the same league, they could still make a few hundred pounds, reaching into the low thousand or two. If you think you may have something special, the advice is to get in touch with a local reputable auction house where you can be certain the world’s elite collectors will be watching online and ready for a bidding war, thus forcing the price up. Old military watches and pocket watches can also fetch good prices.” 

Scrap gold including a clock on white background

Gold and silver, no matter how broken or small, is worth getting valued - Credit: Getty Images

Gold and silver 

Gold and silver have been selling at record prices, hitting an all-time high during last year’s pandemic, according to Liza. “This could possibly be due to more buyers having more time at home to bid live on the internet. Auction prices have reflected this increase hitting 98% sales success rates, with items selling way over their top estimate.  

“Remember, gold sells however old or broken, so gather up any bits of broken chains and links and even old gold fillings.” 

A selection of old Beano and Dandy annuals

Old Beano and Dandy annuals can fetch thousands of pounds - Credit: Lockdales

Toys and comics  

Don’t be so hasty to throw away those old annuals from years gone by and toys that haven’t been played with in years – they could be worth more than you think.  

“As a general rule-of-thumb, if it’s still in its original box, get it valued! Dinky and Corgi toys are hugely collectable if they are in a decent condition - the same goes for railway sets and engines, as well as tin plate and wind-up toys. Early TV characters toys and figurines such as Thunderbirds, Rupert the Bear, James Bond and Star Wars items can all fetch a fair price and are very collectable - but condition is key.  

Toys, such as James Bond cars, can be worth hundreds of pounds if in mint condition

Toys, such as James Bond cars, can be worth hundreds of pounds if in mint condition - Credit: Lockdales

“1970s comics such as Marvel, DC and pre-1960s Dandy and Beano can be real winners at auction, along with old Rupert Bear annuals. Again, condition is everything. A collection of 10 Beano and Dandy annuals from 1942 to 1950 sold for £1,100 at auction recently.” 

Technology 

A somewhat new addition to the collectors’ world, there’s an abundance of old, unwanted technology destined for little more than recycling, according to Liza. “It’s worth keeping an eye out for the following collectables - the first generation iPhone, Atari gaming consoles, Nintendo with game cartridges, Sony Walkman and the original Apple Mackintosh personal computer, to name a few. But they still need to be in working condition to fetch their top prices - if you’re unsure, get them valued.” 

A Moorcroft Clematis vase from the 1950s

A Moorcroft Clematis vase from the 1950s - Credit: Lockdales

Ceramics and glass 

Deemed unfashionable by some in the modern-day home, china tea sets, 12-piece dinnerware services kept ‘for best’ and decorative ceramics and glasses objects which once took pride of place in a display cabinet have unfortunately fallen way down the list. But some can still make you money for a rainy day, if you’re lucky. 

“The occasional Shelley tea set, and makers such as Troika, Moorcroft, Beswick, Lalique, although not as strong as they were thirty years ago, are still very collectable. A signed Moorcraft Clematis vase was recently sold for £230 at auction.” 

While auction houses are currently closed to the public due to lockdown, Lockdales can be reached at 01473 627110 for free advice and valuations.

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