22 Things You Owned in the '90s That Are Worth a Fortune Today

Amanda, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Amanda, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The Beanie Baby boom may have been overblown, but that doesn't mean that hanging onto vintage '90s toys was a terrible idea. Depending on what you kept from that era and what condition it's in, you could be sitting on a minor fortune in rare video games and toys. Here are 22 things you might have owned in the '90s and early 2000s that have majorly appreciated in value over the last few decades.

1. Polly Pocket

Open Polly Pocket sets on a table
Herry Lawford, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Tiny Polly Pocket dolls and their compact playhouses have gotten larger since Mattel bought the brand in 1998, which might be why the original, actually pocket-sized Pollys have increased in value. Sealed sets can net you hundreds of dollars on eBay, particularly those made between 1989 and 1998. A sealed Polly Pocket Jewel Case sold for$600 in 2016, and while a Polly Pocket Carry 'N Play Dream Home sold $550 that year. In 2017, an eBay lot featuring 69 different Polly Pocket compacts and more than 100 figures sold for almost $900, while in late 2018, a single Polly's Crystal Ball set went for $600.

2. Pokémon Cards

Hands shuffle Pokémon cards at a tournament
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Even in the '90s, a Charizard was a rare find. Now, those who really want to "catch 'em all" will have to pay a high price to add a Charizard to their collections. A mint -condition Charizard Holo card, from the first edition of Pokémon released in 1999, can fetch more than $5000. Complete first-edition card sets can cost $4600 to $8700—or more. A February 2019 eBay auction started the bidding for a first-edition holographic Charizard set in mint condition at almost $12,000.

3. Pokémon for Nintendo Game Boy

A red Pokémon game cartridge
mrbalcom, Pixabay

It's not just Pokémon cards that have grown in value. Pokémon games for Nintendo Gameboy can also net owners a pretty penny. Red, Blue, and Yellow versions can cost several hundred dollars each. A sealed copy of Pokémon Red Version sold for $405 in 2016, while the same game sold for $500 in January 2019. Nor is that the biggest auction of one of the games—a February 2019 seller started bidding on eBay at more than $800 for a sealed copy of Pokémon Crystal Version.

4. Furby

A yellow Furby
Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

If your Furby was too creepy for you to even take it out of the box as a child, you're in luck. A few years ago, original 1998 Furby recently sold for $700. Another limited edition toy from 1998 went for $405. Even used they can fetch high prices. A working Kid Cuisine Furby sold for $130 back in 2016, while in early 2019, a set of 12 used Furbys sold for $500.

5. Castlevania

The Dracula-inspired video game Castlevania is particularly valuable these days. Sealed versions of the game sell for upwards of $800, depending on the game and the condition. A 1994 Sega Genesis version of Castlevania: Bloodlines has sold for as much as $750 in the past, while Nintendo SNES editions of Castlevania: Dracula X regularly sell for more than $1000. A used copy of the 1990 PC game went for $585 in March 2016.

6. M.U.S.H.A. for Sega Genesis

A copy of M.U.S.H.A. for Sega Genesis in its box
Seismic, Amazon

The 1990 shooting game M.U.S.H.A. is much-coveted on eBay, where it can sell for up to $500. Even items that aren't in totally pristine condition are worth good money. A copy of the game that comes with a damaged manual was listed for $425 in early 2019, while one currently listed on Amazon (seen above) is available for $372.

7. SUPER MARIO BROS FOR NES

A Super Mario Bros. 3 game next to an NES console
Martin Bergesen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

You can play Super Mario Bros on a Wii these days, but some people are still on the lookout for the game’s original versions for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Mario Bros 3, released in 1990, has sold for as much as $960.

8. Super Soakers

A vintage Super Soaker
Savager, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A vintage Super Soaker Monster XL, which has the distinction of being one of the largest water guns ever sold, went for $500 back in 2016. That same year, a used Super Soaker CPS, known for being the most powerful water gun ever, went for $300. UK-based Wikipedia user Savager reports that he or she sold their 1996 CPS Super Soaker (above) for £140 in 2006. Based on inflation and today's exchange rate, that’s about $266 now.

9. G.I. Joe Action Figures

A vintage G.I. Joe prototype on display
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Even used, Starduster, an action figure that you could get through the mail from Hasbro back in 1988, can net you $300 on eBay. Other G.I. Joe sets go for more, like an incomplete space shuttle complex that sold for $600 in May 2016. A used G.I. Joe Mobile Command Center, on the other hand, can sell for $3000, while a U.S.S. Flagg aircraft carrier can sell for more than $1100. Real American heroes don’t come cheap.

10. Power Rangers Action Figures

Power Rangers action figures
Richard Lewis, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers are now mighty valuable. A 1993 action figure the Carrier Zord (fighting machine) Titanus is worth $300. Other used Power Rangers toys have gone for more than $200 in recent years.

11. Transformers Action Figures

A Transformers action figure and cassette
Joe Haupt, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you’ve got a sealed Transformers figure stashed somewhere, sell it off, stat. A 1995 Megatron action figure sold for $750 in 2016, and a pack with Optimus Prime and Megatron sold for $1000. An Abominus combiner set recently sold for $480.

12. Magic: The Gathering Cards

Players at a table playing Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering debuted in 1993, and some of the earliest cards produced can fetch several thousand dollars from collectors. A sealed Alpha starter deck has sold for more than $8700, while a single Black Lotus alpha-deck card—one of only 1100 ever printed, considered the "holy grail" of Magic cards—is worth more than $27,000. Even an empty Alpha deck box is worth at least $85.

13. Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards

Yu-Gi-Oh! cards on a table
Timothy Tsui, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A first-edition box of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards can be worth more than a thousand bucks. First-edition Legend of Blue Eyes White Dragon booster boxes have sold for up to $1450. Just a single card from one of those booster boxes is worth $550, even if it's been played and has moderate wear.

14. Hot Wheels

A Hot Wheels 67 Pontiac GTO toy car
Hot Wheels 67 Pontiac GTO
iStock.com/CTRPhotos

Hot Wheels Treasure Hunt cars, first released in 1995, are still quite popular with collectors. A toy version of a 1967 Camaro recently sold for $509, and a set of 12 cars in the original box sells in the $1100 to $1550 range. Even an incomplete set can go for upwards of $800.

15. RC Cars

A Ferrari RC toy
ZANTAFIO56, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Vintage RC Cars are worth several hundred dollars each, even used. An unopened Kyosho 4Runner sold for $700 in March 2016, while an incomplete, used Tamiya RC Ferrari from the early '90s sold for $140 a few months later. (One of the Ferrari 312B models above fetches between $100 and $200 on eBay.) A used Nitro RC Car sold for $2000 in January 2019.

16. LEGO Sets

A Star Wars Snowspeeder LEGO set
A Star Wars Snowspeeder LEGO set released in 1999

Sealed vintage LEGO sets might get you around $500 (for a King's Mountain Fortress set), while used sets are worth significantly less, especially if they don’t have instructions or a box. Still, a used castle set with no box can be worth between $125 and $190 if it's complete. And it's not just decades-old LEGOs that are valuable. A 2007 Star Wars Millennium Falcon set recently sold for $1800.

17. Wrestling Specials

Hulk Hogan's Hulkmania tour in 2009
Paul Kane/Getty Images

Some wrestling specials from the '90s are worth several hundred dollars today on VHS. A used 1996 tape from a match between Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage can sell for $200. A 1997 tape of World Champion Wrestling's Great American Bash goes for around the same price, while a used Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament VHS from 1986 is worth up to $400.

18. Stamps

Postage stamps in a collector's book
iStock.com/ideabug

A select number of rare stamps from the '90s get traded for (relatively) high prices among collectors. A 1997 sheet of Bugs Bunny stamps, for instance, sold for $90 in May 2016. A set of 1992 Junior Duck Stamps (which can't actually be used to mail anything, but benefit environmental conservation efforts) recently sold for a whopping $995.

19. Beanie Babies

Los Angeles Lakers player A.C. Green stands with a green Beanie Baby bear on his head during a game in 2000.
MIKE FIALA/AFP/Getty Images

No, your plush Ty toy collection isn't worth the fortune you thought it would be during the Great Beanie Baby Craze of the late '90s, but if you've got an especially rare toy, or one with some kind of manufacturing defect, you might still get a few hundred bucks—that is, if you kept the tag on. A Peace bear that features several errors sold for $4000 recently, while a Britannia bear sold for $2000. A wingless Quacker—one of about 780 ever shipped—sold for $1800 in March 2016, although another wingless Quacker sold in April of that year fetched just $430.

20. Happy Meal Toys

A Happy Meal from McDonald's
DocChewbacca, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

That giant bin full of old Happy Meal toys in the attic will not make you a millionaire, sadly (sorry, mom!) but certain '90s McDonalds toys can earn you back the cost of that Happy Meal and more. If you happen to have gotten a hold of an entire display—like this one for Super Mario 3 Happy Meals with four toys—you could get up to $400. (We already know Super Mario fans are intense about their collectibles.) Another lot featuring hundreds of Happy Meal and other fast food toys recently sold for $145. But even the entire toy display for Tiny Toon Adventures meals only earned its seller $46 a few years ago, and a set of 46 unopened Furby toys sold for as little as $56, so the chances of you making it rich on Happy Meals toys are not great.

21. Beauty and the Beast on VHS

Stacks of Disney VHS tapes

In the modern era, VHS tapes can be surprisingly valuable, even if most people no longer own a VCR. The Disney classic Beauty and the Beast is a particular gold mine. Listings on eBay for a Black Diamond edition of the 1991 film run from $17 to $12,000. And people do buy them: One sold for $10,000 in January 2019.

22. Harry Potter Books

A signed early edition of 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' on display
NEIL HANNA/AFP/Getty Images

Some early Harry Potter novels are now worth big money. Only 500 copies of the first 1998 edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone—with Joanne Rowling listed as the author—were printed, making them extremely valuable now. One bookseller estimates that one could be worth up to $56,000. Some other books in the series are a bit less valuable, but can still sell for far beyond list price. A pair of early-edition books signed by J.K. Rowling were recently appraised on Antiques Roadshow as being worth up to $4000.

A version of this story first ran in 2016.

The Bird or Bunny Optical Illusion Could Have You Second-Guessing Your Eyesight

jamesvancouver/iStock via Getty Images
jamesvancouver/iStock via Getty Images

The internet can't resist a mind-bending illusion. Some of the most popular ones to go viral feature content that can be interpreted two ways: The infamous dress ignited a web-wide controversy over whether it was black and blue or white and gold, and the "yanny or laurel" audio clip messed with people's ears instead of their eyes. The latest illusion the internet can't agree on is a video of someone petting a raven—or is it a rabbit? Watch the clip below and decide for yourself.

Paige Davis, the curator of bird training at the World Bird Sanctuary, shared this video of a white-necked raven more than two years ago. A biological psychiatry researcher named Dan Quintana recently found the clip on Imgur's Twitter account and tweeted it with the caption: "Rabbits love getting stroked on their nose."

"By first directing the viewer's attention to the nose, I was trying to distract viewers from the ears/beak, one of the clear giveaways that this was a video of a raven," Quintana wrote in a blog post.

With its head tilted back, it's easy to mistake the raven's beak for bunny ears and the top of its head for a nose. But a few details—like its translucent nictitating membrane that closes across the eye horizontally—indicate that it's really a bird.

This video is a real-life version of one of the most famous illustrated illusions of all time. Like the raven vs. rabbit clip, this drawing, sketched by American psychologist Joseph Jastrow in 1899, depicts either a duck facing left or a bunny facing right. There is no "right" way to view this illusion: Jastrow drew it to see how fast viewers could switch from one perception to the other.

Even though we know which animal the subject of this latest illusion really is, it still works with Jastrow's test: Watch the clip again and see if you can force your mind to go back and forth between seeing a bird and a rabbit. After that exercise, here are some more optical illusions to break your brain.

Hard Sell: A History of the Pet Rock

Amazon
Amazon

You may have heard the story of the Pet Rock, the Mexican beach stone that could be purchased in bulk for less than a penny, retailed for $3.95, and made inventor Gary Dahl a millionaire during a kind of novelty gift hysteria in late 1975. But Dahl didn’t really get rich off of the rock.

He got rich off of a cardboard box.

Dahl was working as a freelance advertising copywriter in California that year when, while having drinks at a bar with friends, the conversation turned to the destructive nature of pets. Dogs and cats ruined furniture. Worse, they required constant attention, from being walked to being fed to cleaning up after them. Dahl said that he didn’t have to worry about any of that because he had a “pet rock.”

It was, of course, a joke. And it got a laugh. But Dahl decided there could be more to it than that. He went home and began writing an owner’s manual for this hypothetical pet rock, which detailed how best to handle it, the tricks it could perform (“play dead” being the most popular), and how it could remain a faithful companion due to its “long life span.” The gag was not so much the rock itself but the way it was presented. In addition to the manual, Dahl conceived of a cardboard box with air holes that resembled the kind used by pet shops. It also bore a passing resemblance to a McDonald's Happy Meal container.

 

Dahl's motivation in making a serious effort to monetize his pet rock idea was due in large part to his precarious financial situation at the time—he was struggling to keep up with his bills. He recruited George Coakley and John Heagerty, two colleagues, to come on as investors. They both signed on, with Coakley investing $10,000—a not-inconsiderable sum in 1975, especially when the intention was to sell virtually worthless rocks.

The Pet Rock packaging is pictured
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dahl, however, knew what he was marketing. Like chattering teeth, the Hula Hoop, and other fads, the Pet Rock was the beneficiary of good timing. Vietnam had ended but Watergate was still fresh; the country’s mood was slightly downcast, and Dahl believed people would see the inane nature of the Pet Rock and recognize the humor of it. He boxed the rocks with the manual and packed them in excelsior, which may be best known as comic book legend Stan Lee’s catchphrase but also means a softwood shaving pile meant for protecting fragile items. The rocks were purchased from a local sand and gravel company, which sourced them from Mexico’s Rosarita Beach. Dahl debuted the rock at a gift show in San Francisco in August of 1975, then waited for a reaction.

He got one. People understood the appeal right away and he began taking orders. Neiman Marcus wanted 1000 rocks. Bloomingdale’s later signed on. Newsweek did a story with a picture, which spread the word. Dahl had retail and media credibility for what was superficially a nonsense product. His bar joke was turning into a national phenomenon.

When the holiday season arrived, Dahl estimated he was selling up to 100,000 Pet Rocks a day. Ultimately, he would sell between 1.3 and 1.5 million of them within a period of just a few months. Coakley made $200,000 back on his initial $10,000 investment. Dahl gifted both Coakley and Heagerty with Mercedes. Making 95 cents in profit on each Pet Rock sold, Dahl earned over $1 million. He launched his own firm, Rock Bottom Productions, which was itself another joke. “You’ve reached Rock Bottom” is how the receptionist answered their phone.

 

The fad did not last—by definition, they’re not designed to—but Dahl was satisfied. His two investors were not; they "claimed they had received too small a share of the profits" and later sued Dahl for more revenue. After a judgment in the investors' favor, Dahl wrote them a six-figure check.

The Pet Rock is pictured
Amazon

There were attempts to prolong the life of the rock by offering a Bicentennial version in 1976—it had the American flag painted on it—and mail-order college degrees for them. Dahl sold Pet Rock T-shirts and Pet Rock shampoo. There were also copycat gifts, since Dahl could not really patent a rock. (He might have been able to obtain a utility patent because of the rock’s particular purpose as a companion, but he did not.) The humor was transient, however, and people had moved on.

Dahl had other ideas. There was the Official Sand Breeding Kit, which claimed to provide guidance on growing sand, and Canned Earthquake, which consisted of a coffee can that had a wind-up mechanism that caused it to jump around on a table. Neither was particularly successful. Dahl’s real passion, though, was buying and renovating a bar in Los Gatos, which he named Carrie Nation’s Saloon.

This was not without its problems, as people who believed they had the next Pet Rock would often stop by the bar to try and secure an audience with Dahl for his insight. Many times, their idea consisted of packaging bull or elephant excrement. There were also proposals to market a pet stick. Dahl had no patience for these inventors, believing the Pet Rock could not be duplicated. Later, he went back to advertising after taking what he described as an “eight-year vacation” following the success of his project.

The Pet Rock can still be found online, though it’s no longer Dahl’s business. He died in 2015. Of the unsold rocks he had left over at the end of the fad, he was indifferent. If they didn’t sell, he said, he would just use them to repave his driveway.

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