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Finding your fortune in the attic

We all live in hope of finding discarded old rubbish in our attics that is worth a fortune. But how do you tell the difference between treasure and trash?

We all live in hope of finding discarded old rubbish in our attics that is worth a fortune. But how do you tell the difference between treasure and trash? The answer is simply to find out how rare your piece of junk is, says Gwyn Jones in The Independent. The fewer such items there are about, the higher the value.

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So start by visiting Ebay, the world's largest online auction site, and you'll have a verdict in seconds. And if the verdict is good? If you aren't going to keep it, sell it through a local auction house, says Jones. You'll be more likely to fetch the right price than you would at a car boot sale and it's a lot more fun than Ebay. Below, we consider some of the best things to look out for as you rummage through your own attic this year.

Toys

Condition is paramount here: original packaging can account for two-thirds of the final value. Television and film-related items do particularly well. The epic 1980s Star Wars trilogy spawned a plethora of must-have toys. The Tatooine Skiff vehicle, for example, can now fetch up to £600 in mint condition, and even a Star Wars lunchbox is worth around £100 today. Barbies are hugely collectable: the most sought-after is Mattel's first Barbie, launched in 1959. Usually dressed in a swimsuit, she can fetch up to £6,000. Raleigh Chopper bicycles are worth valuing too. The rarest is the 1976/1977 silver SE, which can cost up to £1,000.

Music

Aside from actual records, music memorabilia is a multi-million pound industry. The Beatles lent their faces to a vast range of products, says Rachel Porter in the Daily Express, and as a band credited with shaping an era, it is worth hanging on to any gems you might find. But if you find any Cliff Richard memorabilia, cash in now, says Porter, as "Cliff is unlikely to gain many more fans in the future", so anything from his heyday could see a fall in value. With records, keep an eye out for "Promo" discs, says Jones. They are rarer than general releases. Also profitable are picture discs and coloured vinyl.

Household gadgets

Even practical items as basic as a toaster could be worth investigating early ones can now easily be restored and are good examples of design through the ages. It might come as a surprise that a cream plastic Ericsson Ericofon telephone from the 1970s has been labelled "an icon of late-20th century industrial design", says Porter. Currently valued at £20-£30, it should see appreciation. And don't dismiss the Bakelite radio, says Simon Gage in the Sunday Express. The humble dark brown boxes now fetch up to £60.

Vintage fashion and accessories

No decade escapes some sort of fashion revival, says Porter, and you can't go far wrong with designs from Dior, Chanel, Pucci, Vivienne Westwood and Mary Quant. Handbags, cufflinks and ties, particularly handmade or showing distinct craftsmanship, are very popular today. It is also worth weeding through the children's dressing-up boxes, which are likely to be crammed with long-forgotten pieces from mixed generations. A truly superb find would be vintage fancy dress costumes, says Avril Groom in the FT. These are particularly favoured for their craftsmanship, and the fact that many will be hybrids of older costumes cut up and reused. Nineteenth-century costumes are often exquisite and can be worth well over £1,000 so country house attics "remain a potent source" of great costumes, "often with their personal history intact", says Groom.

Photographs and postcards

When it comes to photographs, there are a few guiding principles, says Roger Hargreaves in The Sunday Times. Firstly, vintage rules, so look out fordates and retain negatives if possible. Next, image matters a great image by an unknown photographer can hold as much value as one by a well-known photographer. In postcards, it is often the mundane that produces very interesting returns, says Jones. Small village postcards are rare, and any featuring animation (people rather than empty streets) are desired because collectors are interested in what is happening. However, cards depicting seaside views or cathedrals hold very little value as they are extremely common.

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