Treasure Hunting At The Estate Sale: Things To Look For

Estate liquidation sales are great places to treasure hunt. An old plate could provide the missing piece to a collector's set and sell for hundreds of dollars on an auction website; a musty book could turn out to be a valuable first edition.

While not every "treasure" will pay off, some might – and if you know what to look for, you increase your chances of making a big score.

In the Kitchen

Look for collectible plates, vintage mixing bowls and anything else that looks like it belongs in your grandmother's kitchen. These pieces can bring big bucks based on their nostalgia value alone; find something that's actually worth money on its own and the nostalgia value will only up the price.

Fine china is a big seller as well. Check the bottom of the item for a marking: Haviland-Limoges and Rosenthal are among the most expensive makers. Take your smartphone along so you can look up any unfamiliar markings and make sure the mark doesn't peel – this is an indication of a worthless fake.

In the Living Room

Look for wooden furniture, antique end tables and lamp shades as well as picture frames and candlesticks. Check out the bookshelves and snag any first editions, regardless of the title. You never know what an obscure book can be worth. (A handy guide for identifying first editions can be found here.)

Steer clear of the knick-knacks unless you're a collector yourself; even the once-treasured Hummel figurines have dropped drastically in price.

In the Bedroom

The bedroom can be a treasure trove all on its own, from vintage clothing to costume jewelry. Be sure to check the closets for hat boxes, fine linens and designer clothing from any era.

The contents of the jewelry box on the dresser can be fascinating. Remember, it doesn't have to be real to be worth something. Depending on the period, costume jewelry can be more valuable than its sparkly counterpart.

In the Garage

The place where the former occupants of the home dumped their "junk" is often the best place to find valuables. Keep an eye out for old Christmas ornaments and decorations including hand-blown glass bulbs and Christmas village pieces. Scoop up anything that says Lexmark or Department 56, as these pieces can be incredibly valuable to someone looking to complete their set.

Old records can be worth a bundle so check the boxes carefully. Specifically, you're looking for LPs by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and old jazz era musicians like Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. Make sure the cover and the record are in good condition; even light scratches could cost you as much as 75% of the "near mint condition" resale value.

Visiting an estate liquidation sale is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Make sure you've got plenty of cash to pay for your purchases, as most estate sales aren't set up to take credit cards or checks. If you're lucky, you may be able to make a profit off of the treasures you uncover there. For more help, contact a company like Windsor Galleries with your questions and comments.