7 Odd Collectibles From the Past (Strange and Valuable Finds)

Raise your hand if your attic or basement has untouched boxes full of family hand-me-downs or heirlooms. Did you raise yours? If yes, and you have never gone through them, now is the time to grab a box cutter. People are finding rare antiques and collectibles in their storage spaces, from Tiffany lamps and Fabergé Eggs to long-lost paintings worth millions of dollars. Some people have also found bizarre and curious relics, including an original copy of the US Declaration of Independence and the skull of French monarch Henry IV.


Unusual Collectibles You Can Sell

Your house could be hiding a valuable collectible in plain sight, too. The next time you declutter your space – go through those boxes! You might come across an eclectic antique or vintage piece from the past, which may sell for a fortune. Specifically, dust bunnies and cobwebs aside, be on the lookout for the following unconventional collectibles:


1. Old Cast-Iron Doorstops by Hubley Manufacturing Co.

In 1894, animated film director and producer John Hubley founded the Hubley Manufacturing Co. in Lancaster, Los Angeles. The company manufactured wooden toys until 1909, when they shifted to cast iron and added decorative objects like penny banks, door knockers, and doorstops.

In particular, Hubley cast-iron doorstops, despite their practical purpose, have a fascinating and somewhat eerie charm. Although many Hubley-original doorstops feature animals and flowers, the company’s human-like figurines with old-fashioned and nostalgic allure have grown more popular among collectors. The undeniable attention to detail in each figure’s expressions, attire, and overall design creates an enigmatic aura that people find intriguing and sometimes bordering on the uncanny. For example, the design, worn patina, and signs of age on this Creepy Clown, Civil War Soldier, and Humpty Dumpty enhance their appeal, conjuring a sense of history and mystery.


2. Bull’s Eye Mirrors (Federal Style)

These gilt-framed bull’s eye mirrors feature an eagle spreading its wings – a popular patriotic design when America was a newly independent country. The 13 ball-shaped accents around the frame are equally significant, representing the country’s 13 original colonies.

Historical aspects aside, some say the mirror’s old-fashioned style and intense, unyielding gaze emit a spooky, haunted aura. The round mirror and its surrounding concentric rings can create a perturbing visual effect, giving the impression of multiple watchful eyes.

Antique mirrors from the Federal period, dating between 1790 and 1830, command top dollar in the market. As for mirrors made in the 19th or early 20th century, they typically sell for less.


3. Poison Rings

Originating in ancient India and the Far East, poison rings eventually found their way to Europe. These deceptively elegant and stylish accessories served a dark purpose, allowing their wearers to conceal and deliver poisonous substances with lethal intent. One example is Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519), an Italian noblewoman and the daughter of Pope Alexander VI. She allegedly used these vessels to dispose of her political rivals.

Peculiar and dangerous, antique or vintage poison rings made from precious metals and gems are worth anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.


4. Mourning Jewelry

In the Victorian era (1837-1901), grieving a loved one’s death took on an elaborate and symbolic form. One of their unconventional mourning etiquettes involved wearing jewelry that contained a loved one’s cremation ashes, lock of hair, or blood. These pieces, typically in the form of intricate lockets, served as a tangible reminder of the deceased. They were often made from materials like black enamel, onyx, or jet (a form of lignite brown coal), which were appropriate for mourning due to their somber appearance.

Although mourning jewelry’s origins date as far back as the 1600s, it gained immense popularity in the 1800s, when Queen Victoria mourned the untimely death of her beloved Prince Albert.


5. Wooden Duck Decoys

Strange as it may seem, duck decoys (and their vacant, unblinking eyes) were a hot commodity during the mid-20th century. In the early 1980s, these decoys were selling for $20,000 and up. In 2000, Guyette & Deeter even sold a decoy for a whopping $684,000.

Although prices can vary depending on the decoy species, maker, condition, and other factors, if you were lucky to inherit one from your grandparents or parents, you could earn a hefty sum at auctions. Some collectors also appreciate antique decoys with unsettling charms.


6. Musical Instruments From the Dead

From pianos to cellos and all in between, instruments once owned by now-deceased individuals have a haunting pull on collectors and museum curators. These poignant keepsakes of the past hold unique tales, echoing the music and energy of bygone musicians. For instance, Mozart’s harpsichords, violas, and violins are treasured relics housed at the Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg – a museum dedicated to preserving Mozart’s persona and contributions to the world. One of the most prized musical instruments in the collection is the “Klotz violin,” which has an insurance value “somewhere in the seven figures,” reveals Ulrich Leisinger, director of the research department at the museum.

Whether it’s a harmonica that touched the lips of a distinguished virtuoso or a piano owned by a legendary composer, these instruments connect the present with the past, bridging the gap between generations through music.


7. American Girl Vintage Dolls

“American Girl” is a line of 18-inch (46 cm) dolls launched on May 5, 1986, by Pleasant Company. The dolls portray young girls aged eight to fourteen, representing diverse ethnicities, faiths, and social classes throughout history. However, due to horror films like Child’s Play and Annabelle, some view doll collecting as an eerie hobby. With their lifelike appearance and soulful eyes, dolls, in general, have evoked mixed emotions among onlookers. Regardless, the American Girl line has amassed a dedicated following who love the peculiar and haunting charm each doll exudes.

For some collectors, the creepy factor adds a touch of mystery and intrigue to their collections. So, if you have one in good condition, complete with its original clothes and accessories, it can go for thousands of dollars. In fact, an American Girl Samantha doll from 1986 sold for $3,000 in February 2023.


Value Your Odd Collectibles and Curiosities

These artifacts from the past may not be for everyone, but they hold historical and cultural appeal for those with a fascination for the strange, eerie, and cryptic. If you come across any of them in your storage spaces, it may be worth checking how much you can sell them for. Click here to request an online appraisal.