Millennials and Generation Z may be sitting on a hidden goldmine, as auctioneers report a surge of interest is leading classic items like Pokémon cards, Casio watches and Lego to sell for tens of thousands of pounds.
Traditional auction items such as antiques, jewellery and art have growing competition from newer, traditionally less expensive items that many people had as children in the 1990s and 2000s, according to auction search engine Barnebys.
Barnebys said a wave of younger buyers and sellers is driving a 200 per cent increase in the sale of these nostalgic items since 2019.
One of Barnebys founders, Pontus Silfverstolpe, said: ‘It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons behind any given auction trend, but younger users entering the market have undoubtedly influenced which items become popular.
‘Millennial and Gen Z users have increased over 200 per cent on Barnebys since 2019, which aligns with the higher interest in ‘90s items like Pokémon cards and Casio watches. These users seem to crave a return to the nostalgia of their childhood, and they now have the disposable income to afford it.’
Building value: Old Lego sets can be worth a mint to the right buyer, with sets in good condition fetching the highest prices
Here are some of the 1990s and 2000s classics selling for hundreds or even thousands of pounds – and how to identify if you have a valuable retro item.
However, these items are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. But remember, anyone looking to make money buying and selling nostalgic items risks losing money if sentiment changes.
Pokémon and trading cards
Sports cards, such as baseball and football cards, dominate the global trading card market.
But despite this a new category has recently been making significant headway — Pokémon cards.
Pokémon cards can be worth tens of thousands, both individually and sold in packs.
The most expensive individual Pokémon card ever was a Pikachu Illustrator, bought for $5.2million (£4.29million) by YouTube star Logan Paul in April 2022.
These cards are used to play a game where fantasy monsters battle one another, and can be sold and traded.
The Pokémon Trading Card Game, to give its full title, has been around since 1996, and cards are still being released today.
Many serious investors also flock to Pokémon as an alternative asset class, attracted by the cards’ increasing value and limited supply.
Individual Pokémon cards are unlikely to be worth more than a few pence or occasionally a few pounds.
That is especially true if they have been opened and played with – there are 3.4 billion of them in existence, after all.
But packs of sealed cards, and some rare single cards, do go for high prices – and for serious investors this is where the money is.
Catch ’em all: Complete sets of Pokémon cards can also be valuable regardless of condition
However, the best price a casual Pokémon collector is likely to get is a few hundred quid for a rare card in good condition, unless they get the card professionally examined and graded.
Pokémon investor Adam Leslie said: ‘If you want to go from talking hundreds of pounds to thousands, you need to get your card graded.’
Professional grading services will assess what condition a card is in – for a fee. This affects its overall price.
A graded holographic first edition Charizard can be worth hundreds or thousands – with a mint condition one owned by Leslie valued at £500. But that drops to around £50 for an ungraded card in the same condition.
One area of Pokémon investors flock to is sealed packs of cards, bought unseen.
The sealed packs offer a lottery-style thrill to Pokémon fans, who may end up with an incredible card through blind luck.
But sealed packs are also a boon to investors.
Leslie said: ‘Part of the value is these are completely enclosed and you are not sure what card you will get.
‘That value can be destroyed as soon as the packs are opened.’
Leslie added that specialist investors often use sensitive scales when working out how much a sealed pack is worth.
That is because holographic Pokémon cards are worth more than normal ones, but these cards also weigh more.
Using high-tech scales lets Pokémon investors know if a pack is likely to contain such an expensive holographic card.
Popularity contest: Pokémon cards can be worth more if they feature a well-loved character such as Charizard or Pikachu
But anyone looking to buy Pokémon cards should beware of scammers selling fakes in place of real items. Pokémon runs a website that helps spot fake cards.
But to get a rough idea if your old Pokémon cards might be valuable, take a look at the bottom of each card.
Symbols printed on the bottom indicate how rare a card is.
A circle is common, a diamond is uncommon, a star is rare and a white or gold star is ultra-rare. Holographic and first edition cards are typically worth more than standard cards, too.
How rare a card is, and what condition it is in, also affect its value.
Anyone wanting to know how much a Pokémon card is worth can check sale prices on auction websites like eBay. Alternatively, app TCGplayer lets users get prices by uploading photos of their cards.
Small but mighty: The Pikachu Illustrator card has set the record for the most expensive Pokémon card ever sold
Another item well-known to millennials is retro film cameras, which became trendy again as a reassuring analogue alternative to smartphone cameras.
Most famous of these is the Polaroid. These iconic cameras require little introduction, and have always been popular due to their ability to take and print out photos instantly.
Standard Polaroid cameras can sell from a few pounds up to a few hundred, but Polaroids that belong to celebrities sell for thousands.
An example is artist Andy Warhol’s camera which recently sold for around £10,500. Warhol famously admired Polaroid cameras, and the Big Shot model was said to be his favourite.
Vintage tech: Polaroid cameras can fetch high prices because there has been a consumer resurgence in older, offline technology
During the 1970s and 1980s, Warhol took Polaroids of numerous celebrities, including rock icons John Lennon, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Debbie Harry, Diana Ross and others.
Classic cameras from brands such as Kodak and Canon are also highly sought after, Barnebys said.
‘We saw a trend of younger users seeking out analogue items in 2021, with things like stamp and coin collections, vinyl records and physical books gaining traction at auction,’ Barnebys said.
‘Vintage film cameras continued this trend richer images, a therapeutic and artistic process and physical copies that digital just can’t match.’
Similarly to the popularity of retro cameras, watches with a touch of nostalgia about them are also seeing growing demand.
Luxury watches such as Rolex, Patek Philippe and Omega are always popular at auction, but Barnebys reports a lower-budget rival edging in too – Casio.
Casio’s digital and analogue watches are known for their tough design and utilitarian function, but that has still drawn them a legion of fans.
Big in Japan: Casio watches tend not to break the bank, but older examples are becoming more popular. This watch is worth around £50
The Casio company has been making watches since 1974, and there are now dozens of different designs.
Watches in the Casio G-Shock line in particular are adored by watch enthusiasts worldwide and have graced the wrists of celebrities including singers Rihanna, and Justin Bieber, as well as filmmaker Spike Lee.
New Casio watches sell for around £10 for an entry-level F-91W, ranging up to £30-£60 for mid-range watches and into the hundreds or thousands for top tier items.
But the same watches can fetch far higher prices at auction.
Most Casio watches listed on Barnebys in 2022 sold for under £150, which still makes them extremely affordable for those looking for a trip down memory lane.
However, vintage Casios in great condition do sell for as much as £3,500 on popular auction websites such as eBay.
Used run-of-the-mill Casio watches are unlikely to be worth significant amounts, though even a broken watch can still be sold for spare parts.
But Casio watches can be worth more than you paid for them if they are in excellent condition or one of the brand’s rarer models.
Check auction websites for an idea of what a watch you own might be, making sure to be accurate about your Casio’s model number and condition.
Old Lego and toys
Old and limited edition Lego sets can sell for tens of thousands of pounds on auction websites such as Barnebys.
In fact, a job lot of Lego from the 1950s and 1960s in their original packaging sold for £1,915 in December 2022, a whopping 499 per cent higher than experts predicted.
Lego also periodically releases limited-edition kits that get snapped up in stores, resulting in high prices at auction just a few years later.
For example, a Lego kit that ties in to Star Wars, the Lego Death Star, recently sold for £5,000.
Likewise, the Lego Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon recently sold for £3,700.
Big figures: The Lego Millennium Falcon is worth huge sums, both in its original and reissue versions
At the other end of the scale, used assorted Lego is worth very little in terms of cash value – but is still immensely valuable as a toy.
Lego sets tend to be worth the most, then Lego mini-figures, and then assorted Lego pieces.
Age, condition and rarity all affect the price of Lego.
Specialist websites such as BrickEconomy and Rebrickable are good ways to work out how much your Lego might be worth.
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