Collectibles from ’50s and ’60s can hold surprising cash value

(Graphic by Molly Quinn)

Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Albert King played a series of concerts at San Francisco’s storied Fillmore and Winterland music venues in February 1968; the poster advertising the shows featured a bloodshot eyeball flying through a ring of fire.

“It was totally cool and badass and your-mother-would-shriek-if-she-saw-it kind of thing,” said Ben Marks, a collector of vintage rock posters.

If you were lucky enough to be there, you have the memories. If you nabbed a poster, you may have much more.

A first printing of the poster in mint condition might sell for $10,000, said Marks, senior editor at Collectors Weekly, a San Francisco-based website that’s part auction, part social media and part news site.

It’s just one example, albeit an extreme one, of the market for boomer collectibles. Toys, music, furniture, sporting goods, politics – many of the things that the baby boom generation cherished as children and young adults now have monetary value.

Recently, for example, these items sold on eBay, according to Collectors Weekly:

• 1969 Hot Wheels Redline gold custom T-Bird, $502

• 1966 Color Magic Barbie doll in box, with accessories, $710

• 1959 Sony transistor radio, in box, $256

• 1958/60 “Youth for Kennedy” campaign button, $265

• April 1954 Silver Screen magazine with Marilyn Monroe cover in mint condition - $660.

The common thread among these items is condition – they’re in original boxes or are in like-new or lightly used shape. That’s usually the linchpin of any collectible, dealers say.

Take that Jimi Hendrix poster.

Marks said: “I definitely remember that poster on people’s walls… (but) they were putting it on their walls with tape or thumb tacks and that kind of thing completely devalues those pieces.”

He said any collectibles market usually will resemble a pyramid: a handful of items at the very top are worth a boatload of money, then there’s everything else.

Still, even items with lots of wear can sell. A Color Magic Barbie with almost no hair sold on eBay for $211. A third printing of the Hendrix “flying eyeball” poster with condition issues sold for $99.

It’s all supply and demand, said Penny Simonson, a longtime Spokane-based dealer.

Generally, items from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s are hot now, she said.

“The buyer’s market is the younger generation, and that’s what they find kitschy and fun, that’s what they remember in their grandmother’s house,” she said.

High-end antiques are out of favor among younger collectors, Simonson said. Something she called “fascinating junk” is in.

Watch reporter Rebecca Nappi discuss this story on KHQ.com

Dianna Chelf, of Spokane’s Two Women Vintage Goods, said colored Pyrex mixing bowls are an example. Nested sets of these bowls, which typically came in primary colors, can sell for $50 or even $100.

“Whoever would have thought as we were putting them in the dishwasher – ruining them – that someday they’d be worth something?” she said.

Another hot trend is what Chelf called the “vintage trailer look.” Besides the trailers themselves, anything that might be used in or around them is very collectible, like metal ice chests and metal lawn chairs.

An old Igloo cooler might fetch $45 to $65 in her shop, Chelf said. A bonus – “it’s still quite usable.”

Joshua Scott specializes in vintage toys at Spokane’s Time Bomb store. He said toys based on Hanna-Barbera cartoons sell well, such as “The Flintstones,” “Yogi Bear” and “The Jetsons.” Toys based on 1960s TV series, “The Addams Family” and “The Munsters” are so popular, “that stuff is getting harder and harder to find,” he said.

Will that be the case in 10 years? Probably not, dealers say.

Simonson, who’s been in the business with her husband since 1994, said the market for collectibles is ever-changing. As an example, she said she recently came across a calendar featuring the Dionne Quintuplets that she would have pounced on 15 years ago.

“Nobody wants them now,” she said. “The time has passed.”

Marks, at Collectors Weekly, said his fellow music poster collectors wonder whether that market will hold up as baby boomers age.

“There’s a lot of this stuff in peoples’ garages, closets and attics, and it’s only a matter of time before all this stuff starts getting released,” he said.

But maybe it doesn’t matter, he said.

“That’s the thing that’s cool about stuff,” Marks said. “It’d be nice to get the extra $50 because you find something in your garage, but to me what’s really interesting is what these things tell us about what we are and where we came from.”

Collectors Weekly

The website CollectorsWeekly.com includes more than 1,500 category pages of things people collect. Part of the site contains live eBay auctions, filtered to include only items that have attracted bids. Another part of the site is a sort of social media for collectors, where they can show and tell or help others identify their finds. The site also includes original reporting about collectibles and the people who collect them.


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