As the old adage goes: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

But how do you tell the difference between the trash and high-value items inside your home? How do you know if you have an antique, and what valuable antiques should you be looking for in the first place? What items are worth keeping and what items are worth selling?

We’ve all come across this conundrum at some point or another, either from rummaging through an attic or perhaps cleaning out a family home. And each time it doesn’t get any easier.

“I’ve sifted, sorted, and organized dozens of family collections and discovered that sometimes less is truly more, even when it comes to family archives,” said Denise May Levenick of The Family Curator. “Yes, we could probably find a family story in every single item set aside and saved, but is that the story we want to preserve? Or, knowing the story, can we let them go?”

Use the tips below to identify those old items worth money that are hiding in your attic or basement.

Look for Stamps, Labels or Other Antique Indicators

The first step in deciding whether or not an item is trash or treasure is to do your homework. According to Leavitt Group, one of the top insurance brokerages in the country, high-value items are considered to be anything having to do with:

  • Antiques
  • Art
  • Coins
  • Furs
  • Jewelry
  • Precious metals and stamps

What you may think is worth a lot isn’t always the case.

Carrie Aulenbacher, who runs a Facebook fanpage for antique and thrift store shopping in Erie, Pennsylvania,  recommends researching any items in your attic with stamps, marks or labels on them first.

“As you dig up any information on a company name, do a search for replicas related to that company. Don’t just assume what you have is authentic,” she said.

According to Helaine Fendleman, a nationally recognized expert in the arts, antiques and collectibles field, you should look for signatures on the items as well as other traits.

“Condition is very important. Be aware of signs of aging and the size of the item. Travel to tag sales, resale shops, antique shops and shows to train your eyes to recognize items of potential value.”

Helaine Fendelman I Helaine Fendelman & Associates

Seek Out an Appraiser

After you’ve done your research and concluded that your items in fact have some value, the next step is to get them appraised. In lieu of appearing on the next episode of Antiques Roadshow, you should find a professional appraiser to learn the approximate value of your potential treasures. Keep in mind that if you’re going to sell, make sure you get a fair price.

Use Online Resources to Research Pricing

Sites such as eBay and Amazon are great tools for finding others who are selling items similar to yours. You should be able to get a general impression of what your own items will sell for, as well as whether you really have trash or treasure on your hands.

Ask Yourself Questions

Even if you’re not looking to sell, finding hidden treasures in your home is as easy as asking yourself a few simple questions.

  • When was the last time I used this item?
  • Is this item worth the storage space?
  • What’s the value in keeping this item?

If you can’t answer these questions then what you have could possibly be junk after all. But don’t worry, there is always some value in getting rid of extra stuff inside your home.

Now that you know how to tell trash from treasure, you’ll be better equipped the next time you decide to go explore the inner depths of your home.

Planning on going through your stuff? Take a look at our Home Project Guides to learn how to efficiently declutter your home and more. Who knows, you may even have a few high-value items you forgot about. Know of any other ways to tell trash from treasure? Share them in the comments below!