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Is this worth anything?

Maybe you’re finally cleaning out the pile of boxes in the corner of the attic – you know, the one you’ve been ignoring for years. The pile you see every time you flip open that door in the ceiling and creep up searching for something that you certainly won’t find in the attic but figure it’s worth checking anyway. You see that pile in the corner, collecting dust, filled with grown children’s old favorites, dead relatives’ old treasures and items your spouse wouldn’t let you throw away. You see this pile and you say, “Oh yeah, I’ve got that this weekend.”

Well, maybe after years of telling yourself that, it’s finally that weekend, and you’ve found some things you haven’t seen in years: toys, books, posters, decorations, knickknacks, and you wonder. Is any of this worth anything?

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Ilena Di Toro, owner of a movie poster resell platform called JustMoviePosters.com, says that the best way to find out if something has value is to take it to an appraiser. If you want to get an idea of the value, you can also check online for what the item has sold for in the past. But she makes a point to check the sale price – not the list price. 

“You can list something for any amount,” she said, “but the sale price shows you what it’s really worth.”

Di Toro got her start selling her own childhood treasures on internet auction sites in 1999. She learned that there is a market for old things and this piqued her interest in the auction and resell world. 

“I knew people liked these things,” she said, “but I didn’t know how much.”

In January 2000, she started JustMoviePosters.com. 

According to Di Toro, there are a few main characteristics that can drive up the price of an item: rarity, condition and nostalgia. If something is hard to find, the few that still exist will be worth more. Those in mint condition will be worth even more than that. But the key is that someone needs to be looking for it. 

Older items that are hard to find and in good condition won’t automatically be valuable, they must appeal to people for some other reason. 

“People always think about the good old days and feel that things were so much simpler back then. So if you have something from the good old days, it’s like a time machine. You can go back in time to when things were easier,” Di Toro said. 

However, which items will hold a sentimental value is hard to predict. For this reason, Di Toro cautions that people should not get into buying and trading for financial reasons.

“I stress that people should buy my movie posters for enjoyment, not investment purposes. These items were never meant to be investment vehicles. They were created to promote a film,” she said. 

For example, Di Toro said she tried to sell signed movie posters from John Travolta’s movie Gotti. She expected the Travolta fans to enter a bidding war for the signed posters, but because the movie Gotti is not popular among Travolta fans, it sold for just $10. 

Again, the best way to figure out if your pile in the attic is worth anything is to check with an appraiser. If you do have a $40,000 trading card or a $34,200 Star Wars VHS tape, don’t let that go to your head. Collecting, buying and trading is better kept as a hobby than a way to pay off your mortgage.

“These items can serve an artistic and business function,” Di Toro said. “They’re beautiful to look at, and they’re memories.”

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