Don't think about all the money you've spent on music, movies and electronics over the years. Just don't do it. That $15 you spent on the Smash Mouth's Fush You Mang in 1998? It's gone. Burned forever. Dwelling on it will only hurt your heart, and listening to Walking on the Sun one more time won't help.
It is a curse familiar to all media gluttons, be they music collectors, movieholics or early adopters of any new technology. Those Friends box sets, that iPhone 3GS, even the plasma TV you bought for Super Bowl XLII — today, all of it is worth much, much less than you paid for it.
But just because it's worth less doesn't mean it's worthless. If you need quick cash, selling it may be preferable to recycling it.
"We're just getting CD collections in hordes," said Michelle Allen, co-owner of Bananas Music in St. Petersburg. "We bought a CD collection before Christmas, and it was at least 800 CDs, and I think we paid about $300, $400 for it."
So if you're thinking now might be time to unload your old media and gadgets, what can you realistically expect to sell? And how much can you get for it?
Music and movies
Don't take your CD collection to a used record store expecting to get rich. Even a current bestseller like Adele's 21 will only fetch between $1 and $5 in like-new condition; most items would sell for much less. Some shops prefer to deal in store credit.
For any used CD, condition is key — it must look and sound like something you'd want to buy. And certain genres of music are more valuable than others — Allen said heavy metal, alternative and R&B CDs fetch more than classical, jazz and pop. The same is true for vinyl records, a format that has surged in popularity in recent years — a good Metallica album might fetch a couple of dollars; a common record by James Taylor or Herb Alpert, just pennies.
There is a very limited market for old cassettes, 8-tracks and even reel-to-reel tapes (the Sound Exchange is a good place to unload those), but unless it's a rare collector's edition, you're probably out of luck. "Even 28 years ago when I opened, they were already passe," said Nick Sorace, owner of the Disc Exchange in St. Petersburg.
As for movies? At Bananas, Blu-rays fetch a few bucks; most DVDs, a dollar or less. VHS tapes, Allen said, are only accepted as donations. You could also try eBay, where many hit movies sell for a buck or two each on DVD (not including shipping).
On the day the iPhone 4S was announced, owners of previous models unloaded more than 5,000 iPhones on Gazelle.com. That number has since grown to 150,000. Sites like Gazelle and NextWorth.com rely on early adopters, who want the newest technology as soon as it's released, to fuel their business.
"Our top two products are definitely iPhones and iPads," said Anthony Scarsella, Gazelle's chief gadget officer. "There's such a big demand out there for them, and they have such a loyal following, that people always want the latest device, and that's where we come in."
Gazelle trades in some 250,000 products at an array of price points, depending on condition. A top-of-the-line, 64GB iPhone 4S can fetch as much as $395. But the site also buys a lot of BlackBerry, and Samsung and HTC devices, Scarsella said.
For customers squeamish about dropping their phone in the mail, NextWorth offers trade-ins at many Target stores. An employee walks customers through the inspection process and trades it for a Target gift card on the spot. The benefit? "Immediate gratification, getting paid on the spot, but also knowing exactly what you're going to get for your item before you agree to sell it," said Jeff Trachsel, NextWorth's chief marketing officer. Look for occasional trade-in deals in Target's Sunday newspaper circulars.
If you think you might someday sell your current cellphone, treating it with care is essential. Invest in a screen protector and clean the device regularly. On Gazelle, sellers can rate the condition of their gadget from unusable to normal to flawless; Scarsella said there could be as much as a 20 percent price difference between tiers.
"We try to look at gadget trade-ins almost how people trade in their cars," Scarsella said. "When you have your old car, you wash it, you clean it, you get it all geared up so you can get the best value. We want people to do the same exact same things with their phones, tablets and all their gadgets."
Laptops sell well at pawnshops and online — if it's in good condition, and the operating system is not obsolete, you can get something for it. Desktop systems are not as valuable, but some places will buy them.
As you might expect, the most popular brand is Apple. "They're like Rolexes," Quick Cash Pawn manager Sergio Naranjo said of products like MacBooks and iPads. "We will sell Macs a little bit closer to retail than we would an HP or Acer."
The secondary market for tablets and e-readers like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook has grown in recent years. The latest Kindle Touch 3G, which retails for $149 on Amazon.com, can net you $52 on NextWorth. "Since it's a relatively new category, what we tend to get in is pretty good quality," said Trachsel.
If you're buying a new computer, and you think you might upgrade again in the next couple of years, some companies and retailers offer buyback programs. Apple offers gift cards and discounts on trade-ins of old Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPods and even some PCs. Dell's Guaranteed Buyback Plan enables you to trade in your machine for up to 50 percent of its value in store credit. Best Buy has a similar program.
At pawnshops and used-goods shops, good video game consoles can fetch $40 and up, said Naranjo. Newer PlayStations, Wiis, Xbox 360s and handheld games are consistent sellers, but you can occasionally find niche buyers for your old NES or Sega Genesis, especially online. On trade-in websites like Gazelle and NextWorth, newer, popular games can sell for $10 to $20.
Whatever you're looking to sell, wipe your device clean of all personal data before passing it along. And the more original accessories you still have (cables, booklets, etc.), the more you stand to make.
Things pretty much no one wants: printers, scanners, fax machines and external floppy drives. Sorry, 1993. You had your chance.
While many used-record shops are interested in turntables and amplifiers, especially high-end brands like Sony, JVC and Denon, there isn't a great market for newer-model stereo systems, unless you're talking about a high-end maker like Bose or Bang & Olufsen.
But there's hope. Charities like Goodwill accept donations of certain electronics like stereos, DVD players and VCRs, and will give you a tax donation form, which is good for the approximate resale value of the item. Goodwill Suncoast's website (goodwill-suncoast.org) lists some values for items like stereos ($25-$60) and radios ($4-$20).
When it comes to TVs, you can forget about unloading your giant cathode-ray TV that has been eating up an entire corner of your den. Even Goodwill won't accept them. "They're good quality; it's just that they're so heavy that they're too difficult to move," said Naranjo, of Quick Cash Pawn in Tampa. That limits the market for any reseller.
On the other end of the spectrum, you may also have trouble selling your plasma-screen TV. "Plasmas consume more electricity, they consume more heat, and they're much, much heavier than LCDs or LEDs," said Naranjo. "There are people who come in here and they've paid thousands of dollars on a plasma TV, but you can only give them a couple hundred, because we have to take them in a range where we can flip them, and the demand is just not there anymore."
Your best bet for a giant tube or plasma TV might be Craigslist. Or a yard sale.