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Old toys and baseball cards are soaring in value

Some pandemic price increases are good
Barbie dolls.JPG
Posted at 12:58 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 20:10:20-04

Do you have any old toys or dolls in your basement or closets that you haven't checked in years?

You may want to dust them off, because the toys of our youth are becoming super collectibles during this COVID-19 pandemic.

It's not just houses, lumber, used cars and groceries taking a big jump this year.

Margie Schultz with the Beautiful Doll Club said she and fellow doll lovers can't believe what they've been seeing since the pandemic forced people to stay home.

"In the last year, prices have been going crazy," Schultz said. "I think those that still have jobs are buying like crazy."

Sherry Smiley agrees. She has a wall of Barbies in her shop, O'Smileys Dolls and Collectibles, and said moms and daughters come in daily to search for bargains, which are fewer and fewer every week.

"As far as girls, you are seeing a lot of interest in the '80s Barbies, you are seeing an increase in early Cabbage Patch Kids," Smiley said.

Where in years past, vintage toys from the 1950s and '60s were the most sought after, Smiley said that has changed lately, as people who grew up with those toys are now beyond their peak purchasing years.

"We come to an age where we start to reflect what the best times of our life were. Those are the toys we go after," Smiley explained.

It is no longer Baby Boomers, but Gen Xers who are setting the market and sending prices up, she said, especially on toys from the late 1970s through the '80s.

"Our highest toy values now are the toys that were played with from 1975 and 1985," she said.

Dolls to look for

Our first five collectibles rising in price this year include:

  • 1970 - 1985 Barbies in original boxes: some are now worth several hundred dollars (though the original 1959 and 1960 Barbies remain most valuable).
  • Pre-1990 Cabbage Patch dolls: if in prime condition, they can range from $100 to $400.
  • Pre-1998 American Girl dolls, before the company was sold.
  • Early 1970s Chrissy and Dawn dolls.
  • African American Christie Barbie dolls.

The African American Christie Barbie from the 1970s is more valuable than standard Barbies due to rarity, with some selling for close to $1,000. African American dolls in general are seeing a huge increase in value, according to USA Today, including Cabbage Patch and American Girl dolls.

Barbie dolls.JPG
Sherry O'Smiley's Barbie collection

Toys for boys
What did you do with your G.I. Joe? Tear it apart, like I did when I was 10? Bad idea.

Smiley said He-Man and G.I. Joe figures from the 1970s are "the hottest thing right now," and are collectibles No. 6 and 7 on the list.

"He-Man and G.I. Joe right now sell more than the Star Wars," she said.

Many collectors now say Star Wars values have leveled off the past couple of years after soaring to the stratosphere over the past two decades, with some 1977 and 1978 figurines selling for thousands of dollars.

Smiley said she has noticed their values flattening, possibly due to Star Wars overkill.

"Not everyone loves Star Wars these days," she said.

Hot Wheels from the 1970s are are also moving up in value the past couple of years, and are hot collectible No. 8.

If you saved it in the original packaging (as no pre-teen boy ever did), you may be sitting on a gold mine.

"This one is a 1970 Camaro, for $89," Smiley said of a nice Hot Wheels car on her shelf. "But if this was on the original card from 1970 (unopened), it would probably sell for about $500."

Cards, cards and cards
Remember those baseball and Pokemon cards you used to play with, and then stuck in the spokes of your Schwinn banana bike?

Had you kept the cards (and Schwinn bike) in pristine condition, you could be sitting on thousands of dollars.
Vintage cards are hot collectible item No. 9.

Dean Hanley owns one of the largest baseball card online retailers in the nation, Dean's Cards.

He said he has never seen vintage baseball card values go up as fast as they have the past year, with Mickey Mantle rookie cards in perfect condition (known as PSA 10) now selling for over a million dollars.

"This year it has taken off. Some of these high-end cards, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Pete Rose rookies, they are five and 10 times what they were a year ago," Hanley said.

One of his favorites in his shop is a 1963 rookie card featuring Pete Rose, among others.

"A card like this, in pristine condition like this one, is worth thousands of dollars," Hanley said.

Unfortunately, most cards that we have tucked away in a shoebox are worth just $10 or less, Hanley says, since so many were produced, especially during the 1980s and 90s.

If baseball cards weren't your thing, maybe Pokemon cards were.

Original cards from 1997 to 1999 featuring Pikachu, Charizard and Rayquaza now sell for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars if they are pristine, PSA 9 or 10 condition cards.

Rarity and condition are key
But the key to getting big money is that a doll, toy or card must be rare and in excellent condition.

According to eBay's collectibility guide, there are four things to look for when it comes to a toy that will appreciate in value:

  • Age
  • Authenticity
  • Rarity
  • Condition

If the item was produced in the millions, it may be worth just $5, no matter how good the condition.
Smiley said some of the most over-produced items in recent years include Funko Pop figurines (some early ones are very valuable), newer Barbies, post-1993 Cabbage Patch dolls, and Star Wars figures from the 1990s and 2000s.

If you have any of those, enjoy them, but know there are too many out there to be worth a fortune.
Finally, for a future collectible, consider buying (and not opening) some current pandemic collectibles, such as Mattel #ThankYouHeroes or Little People Community Champions.

They sell for just a few bucks now, but when your children grow up, who knows? Toys that honor the front-line workers of 2020 could someday be worth thousands of dollars.

As always, don't waste your money.


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