If you were born during the mid-20th century, surely you remember shopping at your local “five-and-dime” stores, or dime stores.
These inexpensive variety stores priced a majority of their merchandise for 5 cents, 1o cents, 20 cents etc. Their prices would accelerate with time and coincide with the economies inflation rate. Some of these early, 20th-century, low-cost items can be quite valuable to collectors today.
Back in the early ’70s-during my high school years- my favorite five-And-dime Store was an F.W. Woolworth’s- Woolco Store, which had a wonderful soda fountain/lunch counter inside. Every Saturday my best friend and I would eat lunch at Woolco’s; browse the shelves of the store in hopes of purchasing clothing, makeup or accessories for under $5; and then head on over to the local theater to watch a movie. A super fun day, all for under $10.
The F.W. Woolworth Company
F.W Woolworth created the concept for the five-and-dime store. In 1879, F.W Woolworth opened his first store in Lancaster, PA (false start in Utica, N.Y.). During the late 19th and 20th centuries, Woolworth had hundreds of five-and-dime stores located around the world. In 1962, Woolworth’s (i.e. Great Five Cent Store) evolved into a larger single-floor discount store, Woolco. By 1979, the chain of Woolworth Stores, soared to over 800, making it the largest department store in the world. Unfortunately, by the 1990’s the Woolworth Stores all but disappeared as Walmart took over in the discount store arena.
First known as “5-cent” stores, due to inflation, they became known as 20-cent stores during the 1930s.
Most of the 10 items I’m about to mention, originally cost a $1 or less during the mid-century, but today they are selling for over $100 to collectors.
10. 45 and 78 RPM Records: Certain music genre’s and musicians records are quite valuable-some selling for over $800. Northern Soul (R&B) 45-rpm records are currently sought-after.
9. Mid-century Sunburst Wall Clocks-Teak and brass Atomic Age-themed wall clocks can sell for over $500. Search for clocks from Elgin, Westclox, and George Nelson ™
8. Ceramic Head Vases (Planters)-The term “head vase” pertains to the shape of a ceramic vase (usually the head bust of a woman) which became popular during the 1950s. Some head vases designed by Betty Lou Nichols; those with three-dimensional eyelashes, and wearing pearl jewelry; teenage girl- head busts, and those depicting Hollywood glamor celebrities, can sell for over $500 if found in excellent condition.
7. 1940s-1950s Christmas Tree Bubble-Lights/Lamps-These fun-to-watch bubbling devices, which were draped around a Christmas tree, were huge sellers! Some notable bubble light companies were NOMA, Royalite, Paramount, and Sterling. A box of these mid-century lights-in working condition-sells for over $200 today.
6. Vintage Shiny Brite Christmas Tree Ornaments-These bright festive Christmas tree ornaments were-and still are-nostalgic holiday decor favorites. Made of machine- blown glass bulbs, which were silvered, sprayed inside with silver nitrate and lacquered to give them a shiny and bright appearance. Bulbs manufactured during WWII years were clear and hand-painted; also void of the signature “Shiny Brite” metal caps. Assorted glass ornaments have stenciled scenes, indents, mica-dust for a snowy appearance and came in fancy shapes like bells, pinecones and teardrops.
Vintage 1940s-1950s Shiny Brite ornament sets-if found in their original box and in excellent condition can sell for over $150.
5. Vintage 1981 Gund’s Plush “Bearspot the Teddy Bear”#2149- This adorable 14.5″ teddy bear was introduced in 1981 and has been out of out of production for many years. He features a vinyl coating on his paws and nose. Valued over $140
4. Vintage 1930s-1950s Halloween Diecuts-Early Halloween thin cardboard wall die-cut cutouts can sell for over $500. Early Halloween-themed die-cuts made in Germany- or those marked Beistle or HE Luhrs, and made in the U.S.A- are extremely collectible. Similarly, several five-and-dime store Halloween merchandise from the early to mid-20th century are considered collectible today. Blowmold plastic lights, games, Ben Cooper costumes, and plastic candy containers can be just as valuable.
3. 1960s-1970s Vanity Fair Nylon Panties-Yes, you heard right. Vanity Fair sheer frilly nylon women’s panties are highly sought-after and can sell for over $200. The panties will have what they call a “Pillow tab” area along the waistline which resembles a small satin fabric stitched square; and the label will be marked “Vanity Fair, made in the U.S.A.” Additionally, watch for panties with the mushroom-shaped gusset area.
Important buying factor: New with original price tag attached, or UNUSED only.
2. Bakelite Bangle Bracelets and Brooches-Bakelite is an early plastic made of a thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin. It was used to make carved and shaped costume jewelry during the mid-century. Certain types of bakelite bangle bracelets can sell for over $1,000 each, such as the random injected “polka dot or “gumdrop” bakelite bracelet types.
1. Vintage Sewing Patterns By Vogue (Paris Originals)-Vintage UNCUT patterns can be valuable simply because they are considered “Dead Stock” meaning they aren’t printed or made anymore. The earlier and mid-century designer originals by the Vogue Company, lead this category. Other early 1900’s patterns by McCall’s, Butterick, and Simplicity follow in popularity depending on the garment or craft type.
I hope this article has been an awakening of sorts when deciding what is valuable when sorting among an estates items. Most people believe the above-mentioned items to be worthless, but as you can see, they can be quite collectible and valuable to others.
So in closing, please always remember-
The most valuable things in life Can’t be bought with money-Phillipe Nover