10 Things probably think are valuable, that aren’t.

Herb Alpert is not valuable


We all have things in our homes or office that we have convinced ourselves are worth a fortune, but some of us are simply fooling ourselves. I wrote previously about my 4 laws of auction and how reality works in auction pricing. This time I want to talk specifically about 10 things that are most likely not a valuable as you think they are.

  1. Cruise Ship Art:

    Don’t get me wrong, I love cruise ships, and cruising, but if you are looking for investment on a cruise ship, you might as well hit the casino as the art auction. Either way you are gambling. The problems with buying art at sea are well documented and real, and have been covered by news outlets like the New York Times. Art auctioned on board a cruise ships is seldom original in the true since of the word. Normally it is either a Giclée (a print made with a very expensive ink jet type printer, which looks like a painting) or a lithograph. Giclée prints can be produced in unlimited amounts and are by definition, not rare. Lithographs have similar problems, and often have a small mark on them to make them “original”. Most cruise ships now offer Internet access, but doing research on the high seas is beyond the ability of the average individual on a cruise ship, particularly since most art auctions on cruises come with free champagne and limited time to know what is going to be in the auction beforehand.

  2. Old Furniture:

    A couch or sofa will top this list, but it also includes almost all upholstered chairs and anything stuffed and not covered by leather. Most dining rooms and any number of furniture pieces that have were recently dubbed by the Wall Street Journal and news organizations as “brown furniture” are now very hard to sell. The market has plummeted for both antiques furniture, and is virtually non existent for non-antique non-modern furniture. You can thank IKEA for most of this. Younger buyers are not interested in your furniture, they are however , very interested in almost anything from IKEA. Back when people purchased their dining room furniture it was normally one of the biggest purchases they made, after their home, and their car, it was the thing they spent the most on. Now younger people typically do not even have a dining room, they have converted this space into a entertainment/game/LAN party room where they place a big screen TV, and play games with their friends. If they buy any part of the dining room set at all, they buy the buffet so they can set a TV on it.

  3. Pianos:

    Most pianos have almost no value, there are exceptions to this rule (high end grand pianos like Bösendorfer, and Steinway) but for the most part a piano (or an organ) will not sell for much, if at all, and if it is in the basement or up some stairs, forget about it.

  4. Old Newspapers:

    Just because it is old, doesn’t make it rare. I have seen so many copies of newspapers of JFK’s death that I think I have it memorized, everybody kept it. Same thing for the Moon landings, and Mark McGwire’s home run records. They sell by the big pile, if at all. I have actually sold the newspaper covering Lincoln’s assassination twice, and Washington’s farewell address once. 

  5. China, and Clear Glass:

    Much like the reason dining room furniture is no longer in demand, formal china and clear formal stemware are not worth much any more. When you don’t have a dining room, you don’t need formal china or stemware.

  6. Modern Comic Books and Reprints:

    The market for vintage comic books is red hot now but, the market for modern comic books (with a few rare exceptions, like the first appearance of Spider-man in a black suit) is not. Reprints of famous comics (like Action #1) have almost no value at all.

  7. Things designed to be collectible:

    Danbury Mint anything, QVC items, Precious Moments, Hummels, the list goes on and on, if it was produced as a collectible, and sold as a collectible, it isn’t collectible. It is just that simple.

  8. Records:

    I have a friend that sold Ringo’s personal copy of the Beatles White album for $600,000, but most records are worth almost nothing. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked through a home where the homeowner told me that he has the whipped cream cover Herb Alpert album, and it is very valuable. No, no it is not valuable, not even a little bit. Most albums sell by the stack, if they sell at all. If you have a master recording of a famous rock album, in great shape, you might be looking at a couple of hundred dollars. If you have some rare jazz albums from New Orleans that all the other copies were destroyed by Katrina you might, might be looking at a couple bucks, other than that, nine times out of ten, you are looking at a whole lot of nothing.

  9. Encyclopedias:

    No matter what you payed for them the Internet made them worthless.

  10. Dolls:

    Most dolls were designed to be collectible, and therefore aren’t. If you have a rare old doll from Europe, it may have some value, but the odds are that your dolls will sell by the stack. With Internet bidding you might get $500 for a doll someone paid $1,500 for, and that would be a fantastic result. If you sold that same doll at a local auction without Internet bidding, you might get $75 on a very good day.

I conducted a survey of 3,639 auction professionals about what they have sold that people think is valuable, but isn’t. If you would like a copy of the list they came up with contact me at:


Rob Weiman is a record setting auctioneer with over 600 World Record Prices for highest price achieved selling personal property. Learn more at http://www.moundcityauctions.com or http://www.coast2coastauctions.com.