• Anything old, rare and in good condition – sports memorabilia, records, books etc. – could be worth something
  • If in doubt get it professionally valued, as only then will you know what to insure it for
  • Don’t forget the potential value of digital downloads – music, games, photos and films

1. Children's books

Your toddler’s battered copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar may make you smile but if you have, or have inherited, any vintage children’s books, especially first editions, these could be worth a small fortune, points out specialist rare books dealer Peter Harrington.

A first edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, for example, could be worth as much as £10,000 depending on its condition. And first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone are particularly prized, as this was initially published as a limited run.

“Depending on the binding and condition, it could be worth anywhere from many hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds,” the company says.

2. Those boxes of old vinyl

Dog-eared, warped or scratched vinyl may only have sentimental value, but a record collection that has been lovingly looked after might have real worth, says Ian Shirley, editor of Record Collector magazine’s Rare Record Price Guide.

“The price of rare records has outperformed the stock market in recent years,” he says.

But condition is everything, the more pristine the better.

“It’s worth investigating what you have, as you might sell a £10,000 record for £200 to a dealer or give it to a charity shop. You would not believe how many sons, daughters and relatives or executors of a record collector’s will literally give away collections of great value thinking they are worthless,” he adds.

3. Sports memorabilia

Old sports memorabilia can be something of a treasure trove, emphasises Graham Budd of specialist sporting memorabilia auction house Graham Budd Auctions.

“Generally speaking, the older the better. For example, if granddad was an Arsenal fan and had a collection of 300-400 programmes from the 1940s or 1950s they could be worth between £5 and £15 each, which would quickly add up.

“The exception, possibly, is if you’ve got something modern that features a sports superstar – Beckham, Pelé, Maradona and so on,” he adds.

As with any other vintage, rare or antique items it makes sense to get them professionally valued, as then you have a much better idea what you should be insuring them for, he recommends.

4. Digital downloads

When renewing household insurance, most of us will do at least a guesstimate of the value of our CD or DVD collection. But what about digital downloads?

The music you have on your iPod, the photos or games on your computer or tablet and the films you’ve downloaded may not have a “bricks and mortar” physical presence in your home but could still cost many hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds to replace.

The key is simply to ask your insurer whether it covers digital downloads, and to what amount.

5. Physical photographs

Personal photographs may not have an inherent value to everyone, but their value to you could be immeasurable. The thing to remember here is, whatever level of contents cover you have, if your physical photos (and especially their negatives) get lost, stolen or damaged, essentially that’s it – insurance may be able to compensate you financially, but it’s going to be unlikely you’ll ever be able to recover the actual images.

The answer then is to take measures to protect and preserve your collection. Most of these are pretty common-sense but, for more detailed guidance, the National Archives has a useful resource.

Make sure your albums are stored in a dry, safe and relatively cool place (as heat and humidity will be bad for them). Store negatives separately. For really valuable photographs, consider getting them scanned (professionally if need be) to create a digital back-up.

Think about the more unusual things around your house that could be valuable. If necessary, get them valued, properly insured and protected.

Don’t forget to use the big occasions in life, such as moving in with a partner or your children leaving home, as a prompt to re-evaluate your possessions. We pick out some of the important life events here.