10 Old Knick-Knacks You Can Flip for Easy Cash


In August, I wrote about some of the easiest items to flip for cash. But one category of flippable finds deserves special mention: The knick-knack. If you're a thrift store shopper or estate sale hound like me, you see so many dust-catchers that it's tempting to lump them all together in the "worthless clutter" category. Not so fast. If you know what you're looking for, that wonderful kitsch can be worth cold, hard cash. Here are 10 knick-knacks that you can flip for easy money.

1. Bathroom Wall Art

If you're "of a certain age," your parents or grandparents probably decorated their bathroom walls with little art sets of fish, seahorses, or mermaids. Well, those little sea creatures are hot items these days. In July, a pair of vintage chalkware mermaids sold for $131 online. So keep an eye out for brightly-colored sets made of chalkware (a type of molded plaster), ceramic, or Lucite.

2. Murano Glass

Murano glass is glass made by select factories on the Venetian island of Murano — a glass-making hub since the 11th century. Pieces from the 1950s and '60s are still easy to find in the U.S. and can be fairly valuable. Identifying Murano glass is tricky; collectors rely on paper labels, inscribed signatures of well-known makers, and stylistic qualities to determine authenticity. Earlier this month, an eight-inch Murano peacock sold for $190 on eBay.

3. Tiki Totems and Accessories

Tiki-inspired items decorate the basement bars of hipsters across the country. Look for drinking glasses, serving trays, ashtrays, and art — anything that captures the vintage Polynesian vibe.

4. Vintage Taxidermy

Few things scream kitsch like vintage taxidermy items. Depending on the subject matter and skill of the taxidermist, some pieces can go for hundreds of dollars. If you're selling online, it helps to stick to smaller pieces that can be packed and shipped easily.

5. TV Lamps

Like the name suggests, these lamps used to grace the tops of TVs in the middle part of the last century. By providing a bit of ambient lighting, they helped dispel early fears about potential eyesight damage from watching television in a completely dark room. Usually made of pottery and molded in the shape of animals (think panthers, horses, and birds) these little lights can bring $75-$125 online.

6. Concrete Garden Gnomes

Blame it on all those Travelocity commercials — America's affection for garden gnomes knows no bounds. Don't worry about missing paint or thick layers of moss. As long as the little creatures aren't cracked or broken, they sell well. In fact, a 20-inch vintage elf recently sold for $124.99 on eBay (plus shipping, of course!).

7. Mid-Century Fiber Optic Lamps

Funky fiber optic lamps from the 1960s and '70s are feeding collectors' hunger for all things mid-century. Look for lamps that work well and feature chrome bases (an indicator of age). Depending on size, models from companies like Fantasia Products or Cuda can bring $100-$400.

8. Trophies

Vintage trophies — particularly those from the 1920s-1950s — are highly prized by sports enthusiasts and decorators alike. Classic forms crafted of bronze, copper, pewter, or silver with bases made of stone or Bakelite (an early type of plastic) sell best.

9. Head Vases

Figural ceramic vases shaped like heads (almost always glamorous females) were all the rage in the '40s and '50s. Today, finely detailed examples by companies like Inarco, Enesco, or Lefton can rake in $100-$200.

10. Cat and Owl Figurines

In the wild world of knick-knack selling, you learn one truth early on: People absolutely love figurines of cats and owls. Chances are, if you stumble across an interesting figurine of either creature — regardless of the maker — you can flip it quickly for a respectable profit.

Two cases in point: A not-so-special six-inch porcelain cat figurine with no maker's mark sold on eBay earlier this month for $33. And a seven-inch ceramic owl that I wouldn't have looked at twice brought $59. Trust me — the profit from cat and owl figurines alone could fund a modest retirement plan.

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jacob wallace

Thanks for all of these amazing resources!