As summer wanes, we are starting to take stock of the souvenirs we’ve accumulated from our getaway trips, albeit ones made a little closer to home than usual this year. Over the years, definite trends have developed on what items find their way into suitcases and find places of honor on bookshelves and in china cabinets. Here are our top 8 vintage souvenirs that can go up in value.
No. 1: Clothing, including T-shirts, scarves and hats. There is something comforting about slipping on the T-shirt you bought just as you were leaving your last beach vacation, or the one you grabbed in the airport as your trip-of-a-lifetime was coming to an end. To see value in the future, you will have to keep it long enough and in good condition. Look for clothing that has unique graphics, a unique style or dated maps.
No. 2: Ticket stubs from theme parks, museums or special exhibits, history-making events or popular places. For the highest prices, tickets have to be in good condition and complete.
No. 3: Mugs (coffee or tea). Most of us don’t have any more room in our cupboards thanks to dozens of mugs collected over the years. They are a nice daily reminder of fun times. Anything from an old World’s Fair with the emblems or the date is valuable.
No. 4: Spoons, spoons and more spoons. The first U.S. souvenir spoon was made by M.W. Galt Bro & Co. in 1889. These are usually made in the country or state pictured on the spoon. English coronations, royal weddings and World’s Fair souvenirs are the most popular.
No. 5: Posters. Vintage posters of your favorite cities, states or events (fairs, carnivals, etc.) can be true pieces of art. Frame it and put in a favorite room and you will smile at memories every time you walk in. If you pick the right subject and wait long enough, sometimes it turns out to be worth a lot more than you paid. Favorites include trains, airplanes, skiing, golf and work by important artists.
No. 6: Big events, unique souvenirs. Momentous experiences such as attending inaugurations or watching royal weddings from afar can be the source of truly different souvenirs — such as auctioned pieces of cake from royal weddings. Think out of the (cake) box when searching for the perfect souvenir!
No. 7: Postcards. A postcard allows you to remember the sites of a trip. The earliest picture postcards mailed in the United States were probably the souvenir cards sold at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Look for recognizable landmarks or events. You can date the postcards by the changes in the landmarks. Collectors want how things looked before they got there.
No. 8: Shot glasses / souvenir glasses. Put these souvenirs on the shelf right next to your Disney coffee mug as reminders of good times. One of the best examples of this phenomenon is a tradition associated with the annual Kentucky Derby. Every year since 1939, a glass is produced in limited quantity with a specific design intended to be used to enjoy your Mint Julep on Derby Day. Kentucky Derby glass collectors want to collect the annual glass to have a complete set. Souvenir glass collectors usually collect glasses from one event such as Mardi Gras, the Olympics, horse races, golf tournaments, World Series or other important annual events.
For more information, explore our identification guides for souvenir spoons, prints, textiles, glass, tile, and American, Asian, British, and European pottery and porcelain.