Will Seippel | February 29, 2024

In this video, Allison Radomski of WorthPoint parses through hundreds of unique vintage mugs in a thrift store. Watch as she learns their value using the WorthPoint mobile app.

It was an ordinary evening at home when a friend called and said he was working at an estate sale for the weekend, and I had to come by for an early look. Because I couldn’t say no to a potentially unique find, I made my way over the following day.

After entering his home, I was led downstairs to the basement, where I was met with an impossible sight. Mugs, not hundreds but thousands, surrounded me as they were stacked from floor to ceiling. There were mugs of all shapes and sizes, many with their retail stickers still attached. Call me crazy, but I loaded the cups into my car and brought them home that day. My wife was less than thrilled, but I started a production line to disinfect and prepare these finds for listing.

The Love Mug Valentine Anniversary Coffee Mug I Love You Handle
Sometimes, mugs have monetary value, but mostly, they can make us smile. Either way, many favorite mugs are deemed valuable because of the personal connection between the object and its beholder. This mug is currently listed on my eBay storefront for $12.74 plus shipping and handling.
Image Source: eBay

Types of Mug Collectors

You pick up a thing or two when trying to resell several thousand mugs, such as which mugs sell and why. I can break down the people who buy my profiles into three categories: general, restaurant, and nostalgic mug collectors. While most vintage cups resell between $5 and $10, I want to show you a few higher-value categories so that you can keep an eye out for them the next time you are out picking.

General Mug Collectors

The general mug collectors and I have much in common—we buy things because we like them. I sell a lot of humorous mugs to this group simply because I have something another person likes. While this doesn’t necessarily affect the mugs’ monetary value, it still lands money in my pockets. You might be sitting on a pretty penny if it is a popular character from a well-known classic brand like the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes or Snoopy from Peanuts. I wasn’t fortunate enough to land a collectible mug from those collections, but they can sell for close to $200.

Restaurant Mug Collectors

A big niche of people is interested in filling their homes with mugs from their favorite chain restaurants or classic past restaurants. For example, faces from Priddy’s Grill and Big Boy can do well on the market. Additionally, many places like Dairy Queen issued them in series, and there might be four to eight mugs within a series.

Another brand that appeals to this group is Starbucks. When purchasing these, it can help to be cautious because some are only worth $5–10; however, discontinued or rare cups will likely sell at a higher price point. We can see the apparent price difference when comparing this Starbucks Banff 2012 Collection Series mug with the more commonly found Starbucks Banff 2012 mug. Use tools like the WorthPoint Price Guide to see what your particular item or series has sold for.

Nostalgic Mug Collectors

Finally, I might sell something just because I happen to have something they connect with. People tend to overvalue something when it has a personal connection. Things sell when there’s a connection or a story.

Happy Hunting!

You might wonder how the guy before me acquired thousands of mugs. Interestingly enough, the man who owned the estate was known for holding a grudge. There had been some tension between him and his children, and this was his way of having the last word. You know what they say, “one man’s feud is another man’s treasure.”

We can’t all be lucky enough to have thousands of mugs fall into our lap. If you want to resell vintage mugs, check out your local thrift stores and garage sales to see what’s lying around. Be sure to watch for those defining categories I mentioned earlier, but also be on the lookout for mugs made by Anchor Hocking’s Fire-King. That is a story for another time.

Will Seippel is the CEO and founder of WorthPoint, the world’s largest provider of information about art, antiques, and collectibles. Individuals and organizations use WorthPoint, an Inc. 500 Company, to seek credible valuations on everything from cameras to coins. WorthPoint counts the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and the IRS among its clients.