Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Miami Vice, Madonna, the mixtape, muscle action figures… the 1980s saw the birth of a massive wave of pop culture. And with any generational shift comes vintage memorabilia. Some of the greatest collectibles of all time can be found in 1980s music, fashion, toys, and video games.
A pair of game-worn 1985 Air Jordan 1s signed by Michael Jordan himself sold for $752,600 at a Sotheby’s auction in May 2020.
If you have boxes of old action figures, baseball cards, basketball shoes, or comic books stashed away in your home, it’s worth digging through them to see if you have any of the most valuable collectibles from the 1980s. Here are some of the best rare collectibles from the last decade.
Pez, the lovable candy dispensers with various characters, have been around since the 1980s and remain just as popular today. Many people who grew up loving candy save the collectible dispensers, which can be worth a lot of money! One in particular is known to be the rarest and most difficult to obtain, owing to the fact that there are only two in the world, and they were never open to the public; it is the Astronaut B and has sold for more than $32,000.
Air Jordan 1
The original game-worn shoes signed by Michael Jordan sold for $752,600 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2020. The record-breaking pair was paid more than three times the estimated selling price, making them the most expensive Air Jordans ever sold. The 1985 Air Jordan 1s in the iconic ‘Chicago’ colorway were a player sample pair, which meant they were the only ones made.
Rickey Henderson Rookie Card
Who would have guessed that vintage baseball cards from the 1980s would be worth a fortune three decades later? The 1980s Rickey Henderson Rookie Card has a perfect PSA condition rating of 10 and is estimated to be worth $36,900.
D Quarter with Multiple Errors
Coins are a popular collectible. In 2019, the most valuable Australian coin, a rare penny, sold for more than $1 million. This coin from the 1980s is a 25 cent American quarter. It’s an error coin with a smudged “In God We Trust” on it that raises the value by 100,000 times. Esty has the rare collectible coin listed for $28,400.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Many boys in the United States had some form of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle memorabilia. Many had sheets or action figures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Before becoming a cartoon, the heroes in a half-shell evolved from a comic book to action figures to a mini-series. With the right collector, old action figures can sometimes be worth something. Check your home to see if you have any of these priceless childhood possessions.
Original Game Boy
There’s no denying that the Game Boy is a cherished piece of gaming history. The handheld console, which debuted in 1989, sold 300,000 units in its first two weeks in Japan. A Game Boy in its original packaging is now a highly prized collectible. Prices range between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars. According to Price Charting, an unopened and sealed 1989 Nintendo Game Boy with Tetris sold for more than $8,000 on eBay.
Star Wars: Droids, Vlix Action Figure
Star Wars collectibles are among the most valuable in the world. This is one of the rarest toys that no one has ever heard of. The action figure line was originally planned to be part of the Droids animated series, but it was canceled before it could be released. Even so, the rare action figure was available in Brazil, where it was produced in extremely limited quantities by Brazilian distributor Glassite Vlix. Glasslite’s 1988 “Droids” toy line’s 4.25-inch tall Vlix action figure sold for $61,432 in 2018.
Original Panerai Compass
Before Google Maps, the only navigational tools available were a compass and a paper map. The 1984 Panerai Compass has a sapphire dome glass and a nylon strap that fits around the wrist. This collectible from the 1980s will set you back $32,305.
Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Teresa Ann
If you grew up in the 1980s, you probably remember the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. Coleco Industries’ line of one-of-a-kind cloth dolls found their way into the arms of children everywhere in 1982. Collectible toys can now command a high price. Teresa Ann, a 1985 Cabbage Doll, sold on eBay for $2,700 in 2019.
Michael Jackson: Superstar of the 80’s Doll
Of course, only a small number of people are fortunate enough to own one of his stage costumes or a signed piece of memorabilia, but there are other Michael Jackson collectibles that are more readily accessible. Like Barbie, the Michael Jackson: Superstar of the 1980s Doll is an uncommon collectable doll. The 1984 collector doll from “Thriller” may be purchased on eBay for about $200.
David Bowie, 1989 ‘Sound + Vision’ CD
David Bowie’s 1989 compilation was limited to 350 copies. In 2013, one copy of the 49-track album, which included studio and live recordings, sold for $7,645 on eBay. The CD is packaged in a basswood and birch box and comes with a 72-page booklet.
The Legend of Zelda for NES
It’s no secret that Nintendo Entertainment System games are extremely expensive. This year, Heritage Auctions sold a mint-condition version of Super Mario 64 from 1996 for a whopping $2.08 million. In July of this year, an unopened copy of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda from 1987 sold for $1.17 Million at another Heritage Auctions sale. The rare version was produced in a limited quantity for a few months in late 1987.
Professional wrestling may have peaked in the 1980s, but Wrestlemania III drew a then-record 93,173 people to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987, where they witnessed Hulk Hogan famously bodyslam Andre the Giant. Another million people watched the event on closed-circuit television in 160 locations, and millions more watched the pay-per-view event at home. From wrestling dolls to action figures to lunch boxes, almost every home contained something wrestling-related. You probably don’t want to see any of that around these days.
Slap bracelets may no longer be popular, but they did adorn the wrists of nearly every kid on the block for a brief period of time in the 1980s. We don’t know if you remember the pain or the fun, but we know you remember the sound. Maybe you remember when these slang words were popular, but we bet you didn’t know about their surprising origins.
An old Micro Machine commercial will transport you back to a time when that was all that was shown on Saturday morning television. The first miniature cars and trucks hit the market in 1987. They were later incorporated into popular culture by appearing in Home Alone and even becoming a video. The Micro Machine seemed out of place in a decade known for its excesses.
Few were successful in solving it, but every kid in the 1980s was obsessed with this cube-shaped puzzle. We carried them from our homes to school and back again, twisting and turning in the hopes of finally finding the right color combination. It became so popular that it spawned its own short-lived show, Rubik, the Amazing Cube, about a talking and flying Rubik Cube and his posse of crime-solving kids.
It was as if you had your own arcade in your living room. Sure, the graphics were bad, but no one seemed to mind. Any kid who was fortunate enough to own an Atari 2600 was the most popular person in his or her neighborhood, with friends and would-be friends lining up outside his or her door to play Pong, Space Invaders, Breakout, or Pitfall.
Scratch & Sniff stickers
Sticker technology had its Apollo 11 moment in the 1980s with scratch-and-sniff. These stickers not only had delightful illustrations, but scratching them with a fingernail released a fragrance that was well, at least similar to what the drawing represented. Is there anything more amazing to a kid (at least a ’80s kid) than scratching a sticker proclaiming “Grape Stuff” or “Melon Power” and then smelling something that smells vaguely like real fruit?
The Walkman revolutionized music consumption. It allowed us to take it with us on the go while also making a fashion statement. Portable music players and transistor radios have been around for a long time, but you were forced to listen to whatever radio station was on at the time. You now had something tailored to you with the Walkman.
Every tape you put in was a personal choice based on your lifestyle. In 1980, Sony invented the Walkman, which was almost dubbed the “Sound-About.” It was developed because Sony’s owner at the time desired to be able to listen to his music while traveling. They had portable tape players, but they were too big and bulky to be useful.
It was just a bunch of plastic circles with holes in them, but this seemingly simple crafting tool could instantly transform anyone into an artist. Hasbro marketed it as a “geometric drawing toy that generates mathematical roulette curves,” but that doesn’t explain why these things were so addictive. You could create designs that were downright mesmerizing with a few colored pencils, and briefly convince yourself that you might have a future as your generation’s Monet.
Big League Chew
Big League Chew, a gum with the consistency and weight of chewing tobacco—it was shredded and came in a large aluminum foil pouch—felt more substantial than regular bubble gum. The commercials reminded us that “When you’re into Big League Chew, you’re in the big leagues.” We’d definitely agree… if we could move our jaws with all that gum stuck in there.
These colorful and tubular timepieces, designed by a Swiss watchmaker in the early 1980s, became essential for any ’80s kid who wanted to stand out. They not only looked cool, but they were also very affordable for a preteen on a budget.
They gave your feet the appearance of having been submerged in jello. Which, apparently, was what cool kids wanted in the 1980s.
Polaroid cameras have been around for a long time, but by the 1980s, almost every home had a Polaroid camera or something similar. People nowadays use their phones to capture nearly everything they do, making for a very different scene. Polaroid cameras are still on the market, and a nostalgic look can make one long for the days of flipping through photo albums.
This has been a real throwback to the 1980s, and it’s funny how many memories you associate with these items. Hoping it makes you smile and reminds you of good times!