by Val Doty, Storage Unit Auction List
When searching through potential storage auction winnings, you never know what historical treasures could be waiting for you. Without a trained eye, it’s very possible you end up discarding something that’s worth more than you buy the unit for. Before you pass over a sad-looking unit or decide to donate that “junk” to a thrift store, take a look at this list and see if any of these dusty gems look familiar.
After looking through box upon box of glassware, you’re probably sick and tired of it and want to throw it out. It’s ugly, plain, and cheaply made— who’s going to want it, right? Stop right there! You might have stumbled upon a collection of Depression glass. Produced during the Great Depression (1930s-1940), it was often given away for free as a promotion, or sold at very low costs. The bright colors were intended to bring some cheer to American life, and make it easy to for collectors to recognize. Green is one of the most sought-after colors, but it comes in a wide array of colors from light pink to aquamarine. Even though it’s relatively low quality, and there are often visible bubbles in the glass, it’s highly collectible and can catch you a pretty penny quickly.
Beer steins are large, often stoneware or pewter mugs that were (and still are) produced in Germany, often as souvenirs and collectibles. Many of them are ornate and beautiful, while others look unassuming, with goofy characters carved onto them. Look out for steins with lids, believed to have been popularized during the Black Plague to prevent spread of disease. The lid has long gone out of fashion, and is a good indicator of age. Check the bottom of the stein for a stamp from the production company as well. Mettlach was one of the most popular companies to produce ornate, carved and hand-painted steins through the 1800s and 1900s. Anything made before or around 1900 should be worth something.
When we think antique dolls, we usually think of porcelain or bisque dolls in frilly little dresses. While these are obviously highly coveted, they’re not the only type of doll that a collector will pay high prices for. Many dolls produced for children that were intended for play instead of collection can carry a high price. One of the obvious brands is Barbie, but be on the lookout for others as well. Kewpie dolls, for example, are highly collectible. They first appeared as illustrations in Ladies Home Journal in 1909, and were produced as bisque dolls in Germany before they moved to America and were eventually produced from plastic. Earlier Kewpies can sell anywhere from $20-$500.
Cookie jars are very popular amongst collectors (even Andy Warhol collected them). They have been used since the 1800s in England but rose to popularity in America around the 1930s. The most sought-after cookie jars carry the McCoy name, one of the first companies to produce cookie jars in this country. In fact, the very first cookie jar they produced, called Mammy, is extremely rare and can be sold for as much as $1,000. Of course, the chances of finding a Mammy aren’t all that great, but vintage cookie jars in general are still very collectible. Other brands to look out for are The Brush Pottery Company and American Bisque.
Even modern fountain pens can fetch a hefty price, but a vintage one might be worth a small fortune. As the quill pen went out of fashion in the 1800s, it was slowly replaced with the fountain pen. Early models were faulty and notorious for leaking and uneven ink distribution, until the Waterman company innovated the field in the 1880s. Waterman boomed until the 1930s, when the market for luxury pens waned and more affordable companies started to spring up. These pens, which were sold for a hefty price of about $5 in the 1930s, are now being bought by collectors for hundreds of dollars.
Image courtesy of RetroArtGlass.com