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15 Collectables Southerners Own That Are Secretly Valuable

May 20, 2023

There may be a surprise cash cow in your curiosity cabinet.

Hallie Milstein is an Editorial Fellow for Southern Living covering food and culture. She has been published in Modern Luxury magazines, Our State Magazine, and Hudson Valley Magazine.

With a love for keepsakes and heirlooms, it's no secret that Southerners are the sentimental sort. We cherish the trinkets left to us by grandparents and rejoice in a good vintage find from the antique store. Because we hold on so tightly to second hand goodies, we may have unknowingly amassed collections that aren't only valuable to our nostalgic sensibilities, but monetarily too.

We’ve always known that Grandma's china, crystal, and silver are precious, but other mementoes might surprise you with their sneaky value. It may be in your interest to appraise some of the unsuspecting hand-me-downs you hold dear that second-hand shoppers are secretly vying for. In some cases, they’re willing to pay a pretty penny, too. Now, we’re not saying that you should start selling family heirlooms and well-loved novelties willy-nilly. Still, it's nice to know that you have hot commodities in your possession.

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If you have any of these Southern-loved vintage goods in your collection, we’re happy to tell you that you might be sitting on a small gold mine. The exact value of your collectibles will depend on the individual piece's age, materials, and origins, but we reached out to some Southern antique purveyors to give us an idea of how much we're talking. Some honorable, though not as pricy, mentions include vintage brooches, pyrex, snow babies, depression glass, milk glass, and Junior League cookbooks.

If you find some of Mama's old candlesticks in the attic, well then aren't you lucky. According to Debbie Matthews, owner of a design firm and antique showroom in Nashville, Tennessee, the value of a brass candlestick can be determined by the hallmarks on the bottom which will indicate its time period and maker. She's even seen a pair of candlesticks go for up to $100,000.

If you do decide to sell an antique set of coupe glasses collecting dust in your cabinets, then the first bottle of Champagne to celebrate is definitely on you. A complete vintage set in good condition could win you sums in the thousands, like those listed on 1stDibs. Other types of stemmed glassware could be worth a good bit, too. Cheers to that.

A second sipper worth a decent sum, are vintage mint julep cups. We’d bet the lot that a whole set of cups from derbies past—whether silver, copper, or brass—would be a winner. The weight of the metal, their origin, and whether you have a whole polished set or just one unkept cup will determine their value.

Don't count an old baby rattle out from your collection of good silver. Take good care of this silver chochke and you've got something of real value on your hands. When it comes to silver, Mathews says that the value depends on the item's weight to determine how much silver there is. So, while modern silver baby rattles are more of a memento, older ones that have been used may not have their value affected by ware and tare if their weight remains the same. Use these listings to get an idea of how much yours might be worth.

Full of holiday spirit, vintage ceramic trees are another golden egg. "There's a huge resurgence in ceramic trees, especially mid century, like 1950s 1960s, ceramic trees. Those have become highly collectible," says Mathews.

These vintage ceramic trees on Chairish run for a wide range of prices, with the most expensive at well above $3,000. More antique holiday decor—not just from Christmas either—like ornaments and Easter egg trees might hold surprising value, as well.

Cashing in on a neglected cast iron skillet will certainly bulk up your rainy day fund. Cast iron skillets just keep getting better with age and use, so it's no wonder that an old one is so desirable. Other cast iron kitchen ware and decor like tea pots and sculptures might be worth its weight too, says Mathews.

If you've ever been caught with your hand in Mama's vintage cookie jar, you're not alone. Many antique shoppers, like Mathews, want in on the cookie jar action, too. "Some of those sell for $200 probably on up to $500 based on how old they are and the condition they're in," she says.

Southern grandmothers can't seem to get enough of all things angels. Years later, their grandchildren will be thanking the heavens for it. These little figurines, like those by Precious Moments, once priced at $15, may now sell for hundreds of dollars. Currently on eBay, these figurines are being listed for as little as $10 and as much as $430.

Coastal dwellers in particular are well acquainted with this old school platter style. Nowadays, vintage ornate dishes with indents for oysters on the half shell don't run cheap. Hannah McCollough with Half Shell Antiques says that her antique oyster plates from the 1800s and early 1900s usually sell for $100 to $400, but some even surpass $1000.

The fun thing about these vintage pieces is that you can see your own reaction when you realize the value they could hold. Intricately framed antique mirrors can be worth a fortune.

Mathews says that one particular style, Louis Philippe mirrors are particularly desirable, especially when they have the original glass, with mercury speckles and all. A 4ft x 2ft Philippe can go for $1800 to $2500, Mathews says.

Vintage beaded handbags might be worth more money than they can carry—embroidered ones too. Your great aunt's extremely detailed little purse that she toted to church every Sunday is certainly worth a second glance. Some of the antique beaded purses sold by on Etsy are worth hundreds of dollars.

Just in case you needed a reminder to show your good chinoiserie some appreciation. Southerners cherish these things, so you know that someone out there would be willing to lay down the big bucks for a nice blue and white piece. In reference to 1stDibs' listings, a set of vases may multiply their value.

These boxes come in all shapes and sizes and somehow we love them all. If you were to bear to part with one, we promise you’d be paid handsomely. On 1stDibs, your antique box could be worth several hundred, or even thousands of dollars—whether it's decorated with an elegant motif or a kitschy one. Just make sure there's no misplaced miniature heirlooms tucked away in there first.

Vintage dolls are highly desirable in second hand circles. If you have any of these baby-faced beauties, or a vintage barbie or two, sitting at the bottom of a storage bin, you might be flushing a fair bit of funds right down the drain! According to TX Antique Mall, these dolls can be worth between $100 and $500, with limited editions selling for up to $20,000.

You may have forgotten about those Herends hiding in your home, but luckily we're here to remind you. We wouldn't want Mama's whimsical investment to go unappreciated. Listings for hundreds and thousands of dollars should do the trick.