Collection Ideas: 6 Interesting Antique & Vintage Items to Collect

Updated on October 16, 2019
Kim Green profile image

Kim has been an estate liquidator for six years and resells some very interesting things.

Before You Start a Collection, Consider Your Available Display Space

Some items are more easily found than others, but anything can be collected. Some of the more common items to collect include coins, stamps, antique cars, Hot Wheels (a type of toy car), marbles, and trading cards. But some people like to collect more unusual items, like spray paint. I once had an estate sale and advertised a large collection of paint in spray cans. A man called me from California looking for a certain paint brand and color. "Wow!" I thought. "People will collect anything."

But most of the time, collections are started with a memory. Grandchildren sometimes collect Grandmother's Jadeite glassware, inspired by the memories of growing up in her house. Others continue a collection a parent starts (like pocket knives, guns, or antique furniture). Consider the space you have available for displaying your collection. Antique furniture and rugs will need a lot more space than smaller items like hand mirrors. If you are starting a collection for the first time, a great question to ask yourself is "What size of items do I have room for?"

Collect What You Love (But Consider Your Budget)

It's important to collect what you love, whether it's Bibles, folk art, wooden giraffes, or something else entirely. Your fun will begin when your hunt does. Just remember to keep your budget in mind, too. Starting a collection beyond your means can easily turn into a financial burden.

My Picks: Wall Pockets and Art Glass

I collect antique and vintage wall pockets (wall mounted vases and storage containers). They are fairly inexpensive, depending on the size. Some larger ones such as the Mexican Majolica made pockets can be sold for around $200. But smaller ones can go for much cheaper. This Roseville Foxglove pocket (photograph below) from the 1940s is worth about $85. I also particularly love the art deco style of the 1940s.

Vintage Roseville Wall Pocket
Vintage Roseville Wall Pocket

I also collect vintage art glass. I'm always on the hunt for unusual pieces. I have Blenko from West Virginia, Murano from Italy, Lalique from France, and Loetz Iridescent art glass from Southern Bohemian town of Klosterm├╝hle (today part of the Czech Republic).

I also have an old barber bottle made of glass; it definitely is a work of art. A lot of mid-century glass is coming onto the market now. I'll be looking for glass from the 1950s like glass made from Art Vannes in France from 1950-1970. These come with a special stamped signature. I particularly love Murano Millefiori Art Glass. I watch for signatures of the artists; signatures always increase the value.

1950s French Art Glass Centerpiece
1950s French Art Glass Centerpiece

Collect what you love, but remember: starting a collection beyond your means can easily turn into a financial burden.

6 Items to Consider for Your Next Collection

1. Pyrex Bowl Sets

Vintage Pyrex nesting bowls are a popular item among collectors, and they shouldn't break the bank. Plus, they are wonderful and functional as cookware. I own and use my mother-in-law's bowls, which are pictured on the bottom left below.

Vintage Pyrex bowls are a popular item to collect. They come in many delightful patterns and colors, plus they come in handy in the kitchen.
Vintage Pyrex bowls are a popular item to collect. They come in many delightful patterns and colors, plus they come in handy in the kitchen.

2. Wood- and Marble-Topped Furniture

Many people are embracing materials that reflect the beauty and simplicity of nature like wood and stone. Slabs of walnut are being found all over Facebook Marketplace these days. People buy them to make a console table. "Live edge" furniture is very much in fashion right now. Marble-top tables like the ones sold in the 50s are very popular as well.

Wood Bench
Wood Bench

3. Upcycled and Repurposed Architectural Salvage

Architectural salvage items are big! If you haven't seen some of the projects people are creating with them lately, just log onto Pinterest. Old windows and doors are making their way inside as decor items. Vintage sprinkler heads are mounted on the wall as coat or bag hooks. What kind of project could you make with salvaged vintage items?

Outdoor faucet knobs are fun to collect and repurpose.
Outdoor faucet knobs are fun to collect and repurpose.

4. Die-Cast Toy Cars

This item is a constant favorite that never goes out of style. Toys are made of plastic now and the older die-cast toys and cars, specifically, are highly desirable. Plus they are small enough to enable those short on space to collect a lot of them. The best place to find them is at yard sales as boomers are cleaning out attics and throwing them out for 25 cents each. Plus, these can be bought online and the shipping is inexpensive because they are so light.

Die-cast toy cars
Die-cast toy cars

5. Cast Iron Skillets and Cookware

Griswold and Wagner are the two top collectible skillet manufacturers, so keep an eye out for them at yard sales and thrift stores. But watch out for reproduction Griswold cast iron cookware. These only resemble their desirable counterparts. Look for the original signature. The faint markings can give a new collector cause for pause.

A Griswold  Lodge Camp dutch oven.
A Griswold Lodge Camp dutch oven.

6. Antique Old World Copper Cookware & Domestic Kettles

Old world copper cookware is very collectible. An 1880s beautiful copper water jug with a hand-hammered finish and hand-cut thick handle attached with copper rivets goes for about $650 (so, be warned, this collection can get expensive quickly). Other more common copper teapots go for $20 to $40. Reclaimed copper is also frequently made into tabletops, trays, and other useful and beautiful upcycled items.

Copper Water Jug circa 1880
Copper Water Jug circa 1880

Have you found an item you'd like to start collecting from this list? Do you already have a collection of your own? Let me know about your experience with collecting in the comments.


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