Know this if you are trying to sell old toys: Vintage toy stores may pay up to $700 for Hasbro’s rare 1967 GI Joe female nurse. They would love to buy a retired Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer LEGO set for $600 or more. The Fisher Price blue A-frame house might fetch $50.
But they aren’t interested in your bag of stuffed animals.
“People come in all the time with plush toys. I don’t want to risk getting bed bugs. I always pass on that unless it’s a Care Bear from someone I know,” said Jason Williams, who owns Big Fun Vintage toy store in Columbus, Ohio.
The market for old toys has grown during the pandemic because of pent-up demand from collectors and young parents who are nostalgic for a simpler time. Many vintage toy stores are open in person again and eager to buy and sell.
“I think the pandemic has brought out a lot of recreational collectors,” Williams said. “A lot of these toy lines that may not have sold as well before like Polly Pockets or Mighty Max now sell pretty well.”
Here’s what you need to know to get top dollar for your vintage toys, whether you’re selling to specialty toy stores or in online auctions.
How to Determine the Value of Collectible Toys
Williams reels off values of vintage toys as easily as Wall Street traders quote stock prices. But values vary widely based on supply, demand, the number manufactured originally and the condition of the toys.
If you are thinking of selling vintage toys, research the most recent selling prices online and pay close attention to what’s sold, not the asking prices of unsold vintage items.
“I look at sold listings on eBay and try to find a median price,” Williams said. “If something sells for $100 once, and a dozen times it sold for $50 and it also sold for $10, I’ll price it at $40 or $50.”
Williams then pays a seller 50 percent to 70 percent of the price he will put on the toy, depending on the rarity.
Professional Appraisals and Grading
If you have a toy, especially an action figure, that’s in its original packaging and seems to be selling for $200 or more on eBay, it may be worth having it graded professionally. If it has an outside appraisal, you might get more for it and you’ll know if someone is trying to make a lowball offer.
Many companies grade collectibles, and prices range based on the size and how long you are willing to wait. The Action Figure Authority, for example, charges $32 to grade a standard sized figure within 60 to 80 days, or $55 to grade it within a week. Usually you have to mail the item to the grader and they return it.
If you can find a grader or appraiser at a toy convention or local auction house, that’s a faster and less expensive route.
Toys from the 1960s and earlier can also be highly valued even if they aren’t in their original boxes and could also be worth getting professionally graded.
The supply a dealer has at any given time, which is purely situational, also impacts an offer to a seller.
“If I have 30 of one figure, I’m going to price it lower and I’m going to pay less,” Williams said.
A toy in the original box is worth more, of course. If that original packaging is still wrapped in clear plastic, it will bring top dollar.
It’s usually the professional collectors who keep toys in mint condition. But if you are trying to sell your vintage toys that kids played with for years, there are still plenty of potential buyers.
Consider the vintage Fisher Price Little People sets that were manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s.
The blue A-frame is one of the harder-to-find sets. Williams would sell it for around $100 and pay a seller $50. If it’s missing a few pieces, he’d pay closer to a third of his asking price. If it’s missing more than just a few pieces he’d pay around $25.
Just as vintage record stores may buy a scratched album because the cover is in good condition and they know the same album will come along unscratched, vintage toy stores buy incomplete or even broken toys to complete previously purchased sets.
“We buy things all the time to cannibalize the pieces to go with other sets,” Williams said.
So How Much Can You Get For Old Toys?
Here’s a sampling of what some old favorites sell for.
My Little Pony
Big Fun has a glass case full of My Little Ponies in every shade of plastic selling for $10 to $75. Expect to sell yours for about half. The male ponies are worth the most.
“They did males that came with shoes and hats. There was a construction worker pony,” Williams said. Male ponies didn’t sell as well as the female ponies so fewer were manufactured, thus making them more rare.
A first generation, used Mountain Boy pony just sold for $549 on eBay. First generation females Stardazzle recently sold for $27 on eBay while Bangles went for $20 and Flutterbye went bye-bye for $12.50.
GI Joe Figures
Williams recently paid $20 for a 1993 GI Joe. “He didn’t have any of the weapons,” Williams said. “If he’d had those (the owner) would have gotten an extra $10 or $15 out of me.”
On eBay, a used 2008 GI Joe recently sold for $15 and a 1964 GI Joe with uniform and boots went for $165.
Hasbro began manufacturing the Marvel Legends figures based on Marvel Comics in the early 2000s.
“The demand for those is healthy. People bring them in all the time,” Williams said. “A figure may sell for $8 if nobody cares about it anymore or they can go for a couple hundred dollars.”
A new She Hulk action figure from the Fin Fang Foom series recently sold for $170 on eBay. A used 6-inch Epic Heroes Iron Man went for $18.
Retired LEGO sets are worth the most, and anything related to Star Wars or Harry Potter is in demand, Williams said.
A Diagon Alley set that was opened with a worn box just sold for $70 on eBay, but the same set in a sealed box went for $510.
As for Star Wars LEGOS, a used Rogue Shadow retired Force Unleashed set sold for $149 while a used Resistance Bomber went for $110.
“Polly Pocket has gone up in popularity quite a bit over the last year and a half,” Williams said, again nodding to parents becoming more nostalgic during the pandemic.
A used 1993 Polly Pocket Fairy Light Wonderland just went for $58 on eBay while a 1992 Sky Princess Ring Doll sold for $24 and a Glitter Wedding Locket with all the pieces went for $85.
Hasbro’s and Takara’s Transformers made between 1984 and 1990 are known as Generation One. Those are the ones that interest toy buyers are the most. Black Zarak, Fortress Maximus, and some Diaclones pieces are the most popular, Williams said.
A used Cybertron Dark Scorponok from the Black Zarak series recently sold for $60 on eBay while a used Fortress Maximus Headmaster from 1987 went for $288.
Rumors have circulated for years that the rarest Beanie Babies sell for tens of thousands of dollars. But seller beware: More than 1,000 of the purple Princess Diana bears are listed on eBay for $3.95 to more than $10,000. Some are knockoffs for sure, while other prices are based more on wishful thinking than comparable sales.
The Internet is full of lists of the most valued Beanie Babies, and they vary greatly as well. Some consistent comments say the bears with emblems embroidered on them or a wording error on their white tag will get the best price. They are supposedly worth half as much without the heart-shaped Ty tag.
If you want to find a value and perhaps a potential buyer, it’s a good idea to join one of the many Beanie Baby groups on Facebook.
Fisher Price Little People Sets
There’s a Fisher Price schoolhouse from 1971 in Big Fun’s store window is a hook for bringing potential buyers into the shop.
“Fisher Price is one of those iconic things that grabs people’s attention,” Williams said. It’s not in as much demand as action figures or retired LEGO sets, but so many people connect with those sets that were fixtures in playrooms for generations.
They are also gender neutral, so they appeal to a wider audience.
A Fisher Price A-frame play set with all the pieces recently sold for $114 on eBay. Twelve little wooden people and five plastic chairs from the early 1970s went for $16.50 while the pink dragon from the castle sold for $50.
The Sesame Street sets appeal to a specific but wide audience: Those who are nostalgic for Fisher Price and are fans of Kermit, Oscar and Big Bird. The Fisher Price Sesame Street town with characters and furniture recently sold for $250 on eBay while a single lamppost with the Sesame Street sign went for $12.50.
Selling Vintage Toys to a Toy Store
Vintage toy stores are a great go-to for both professional and recreational collectors.
Toy store owners pay on the spot, which is an advantage over waiting for items to sell in an online auction. Also, if you can drive to the store, there are no shipping costs involved when you sell.
Williams’ calendar is filled with “clean outs,” which means he’s going to a house with a lot of old toys hidden in the attic or basement. Some homeowners bring in an estate sale manager or auction house, but Williams goes in to appraise and buy the old toys first.
There are vintage toy stores in every state. If you look on their websites, most say they are always ready to buy and sell. Call ahead, of course, to confirm they are buying what you have to sell. Some vintage toy stores mainly buy comics, while some comic stores also buy toys.
Selling Through an Auction House
If you have just one or two items, eBay or a toy store are a good bet, advises Blake Kennedy, auctioneer, appraiser and co-owner of Kennedy Brothers Auctions in St. Petersburg, Florida. But if you have a collection, an online or in-person auction run by an auction company may bring in more money, he said.
Nationwide, auction companies generally take a 10% to 35% commission, though they may charge a flat fee or negotiate a smaller commission on a very expensive item.
6 Tips for Selling Vintage Toys Online
Many people will automatically head to eBay to unload their childhood toys. Here’s how to create an effective listing.
1. Be Transparent.
Describe any defects or missing pieces. This saves a lot of time and trouble if the purchase is disputed later.
2. Post Good Photos.
Have at least five well-lit photos of the item from every angle and include any tags or manufacturer markings to get the best price.
3. Be Detailed.
Include as many details, which are also keywords, in your product description such as the manufacturer and year it came out.
4. Be Clear.
Look at the product descriptions for other sold products in similar categories online to get their keywords.
5. Be Responsive.
Pay attention to direct emails or messages on the online platform so you can quickly answer any questions from potential buyers.
6. Be Prompt.
When the item sells, mail it promptly and carefully so you will get a good online review.
Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for Codetic.