How to Turn Junk Into Cash While Cleaning Out the Garage

Some tips on how to turn spring cleaning into a treasure hunt.

— -- intro: The old adage one person’s trash is another person’s treasure is pretty much Kraig Bantle's business model.

That, plus the principle: finders keepers.

Bantle has turned finding treasures in other people’s cluttered garages into a successful business venture.

He is the owner of the Raleigh, North Carolina-based Garage Brothers, featured on the popular DIY Network reality show called “Garage Gold.”

Homeowners contract Bantle and his team to clean out their attics, garages and other cluttered spots. He doesn’t charge to haul away the unwanted stuff, but the deal is he and his team get to keep, sell, or recycle whatever they find.

Some of the most valuable items Bantle has found include artwork and vehicles.

“We’ve gotten pieces of art before that were worth $3,000 to $4,000,” he said. “I’ve gotten motorcycles. I’ve gotten a couple cars. I found a van once.”

His biggest find to date is a vintage Cleveland Browns championship trophy. “Inside the garage in a box was a 1946 trophy from them winning the championship,” Bantle said. “That got appraised for $15,000.”

He also finds items that might be lost treasures for the owner -- old family photo albums, for instance. Bantle always returns the things that may have purely sentimental value.

"I always ask the client beforehand, if there is anything they want to keep, and obviously if we come across any family mementos or anything sentimental we’ll always give that stuff back," Bantle said. "A lot of times, especially in this instance, the family is moving, and everything has got to go."

In an interview with “Nightline,” Bantle shared some tips on what NOT to throw away. Turns out many of the items you might think of as junk have real value to someone.

“It’s all about getting it into the right person’s hands,” he said.

Below are some of his suggestions.

quicklist:1 title:Old Vinyls and Cassette Tapes text:“Records and cassette tapes are both things becoming really popular and worth a lot of money,” Bantle said.

quicklist:2 title:Old Toys text:Train sets, plastic swords and action figures are just a few examples of old toys Bantle said can be turned into cash, especially if they are in their original packaging.

“Especially the toys from when I was growing up,” he said. “He-Man, G.I. Joe, [are] worth a ton of money now.”

quicklist:3 title:LEGOs text:“LEGOs are extremely popular and they are always done on a limited run,” he said. “There’s actually websites dedicated to LEGOs and you can go on there and find the one LEGO piece that you need and some of them are $75-$100.”

Bantle said he has even sold manuals to LEGOs sets for $30 to $40, and just the empty boxes to the sets for $50 to $60.

“Collectors want original, [they] want the entire package,” he said.

quicklist:4 title:Old Yard Tools text:“Everybody has yard tools in their garage that they don’t wind up using anymore,” he said. “We end up selling them at the flea market for $10-$20 a piece," Bantle said.

quicklist:5 title: Artificial Christmas Trees and Other Christmas Stuff text:“I could open up four Christmas stores with the amount of Christmas stuff I find,” Bantle said. “Everybody buys that stuff. Artificial trees at stores, they are not cheap. I probably get 50 to 60 a year. We can sell those for $40-$50 a piece.”

quicklist:6 title:Old Autographed Books text:“I found a book before that was autographed by W.C. Fields,” he said. “The family didn’t even know they had it. It was worth $1,200.”