Collectibles from ’50s and ’60s can hold surprising cash value


Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Albert King played a series of concerts at San Francisco’s storied Fillmore and Winterland in February 1968. The poster advertising the shows featured a bloodshot eyeball flying through a ring of fire.

“It was totally cool and bad-ass and your-mother-would-shriek-if-she-saw-it kind of thing,” says Ben Marks, a collector of vintage rock posters.

If you were lucky enough to be there, you have the memories. If you nabbed a poster, you may have much more. A first printing in mint condition might sell for $10,000, says Marks, senior editor at Collectors Weekly, a San Francisco-based website.

It’s just one example, albeit an extreme one, of the market for baby-boom collectibles. Many of the things boomers cherished as children and young adults now have monetary value.

According to Collectors Weekly, recent eBay sales include:

• 1969 Hot Wheels Redline gold custom T-Bird, $502

• 1966 Color Magic Barbie doll in box, with accessories, $710

• 1959 Sony transistor radio, in box, $256

• 1958-60 “Youth for Kennedy” campaign button, $265

The common thread for those items is condition — they’re in original boxes or like-new shape — but even things with lots of wear can sell. A Color Magic Barbie with almost no hair went for $211 on eBay. A third printing of the “flying eyeball” poster with condition issues sold for $99.

It’s all supply and demand, says memorabilia dealer Penny Simonson; items from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s are hot now.

“The buyer’s market is the younger generation, and that’s what they find kitschy and fun,” she says.

Toys based on Hanna-Barbera cartoons such as The Flintstones, Yogi Bear and The Jetsons sell well, says dealer Joshua Scott. And merchandise based on the 1960s TV series The Addams Family and The Munsters is so popular “that stuff is getting harder and harder to find,” he says.

Will that be the case in 10 years? Probably not.

Simonson, who’s been in the business since 1994, says she recently came across a calendar featuring the Dionne Quintuplets that she would have pounced on 15 years ago.

“Nobody wants them now,” she says. “The time has passed.”

Marks, at Collectors Weekly, says his fellow music poster collectors wonder whether that market will hold up as baby boomers age.

“There’s a lot of this stuff in peoples’ garages, closets and attics, and it’s only a matter of time before all this stuff starts getting released,” he says.

But maybe it doesn’t matter, Marks says

“To me what’s really interesting is what these things tell us about what we are and where we came from.”

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