On My Radar: Vintage Medical and Scientific Items

I enjoy finding new categories of things to sell and one of them actively on my radar is vintage medical and scientific stuff.

first-aid-kitYears ago at a rummage sale I found a 1960s-era German travel first aid kit that was in great condition and even included some pills in tins (with crumbling shrinkwrap) and quality Solingen implements. (I made $40 profit on it, but in retrospect I could have done better.)

This kit whetted my appetite for more medical stuff so over a year later when I spotted a listing for vintage medical equipment on Craigslist I contacted the guy ASAP. The listing included two leather doctor’s bags, two portable blood pressure gauges and assorted other bits. Wow. This stuff was cool.


The seller had individual prices on things or “buy everything for $100.” Hmmm. We settled on meeting at a Park-and-Ride commuter parking lot. Once he arrived we got down to business and he asked me point blank what I was going to do with this stuff (which had belonged to his dad, a pediatrician). I answered honestly, “I’ll try to sell it.”

Now I had done some research beforehand and I knew his prices on the blood pressure gauges wouldn’t leave me much room for profit. So I told him I’d leave those but take everything else. I think he was ready to be rid of this stuff because he said, “How about you take everything for $50? That should give you a chance to make some money.”

WOW! I was happy to do that. And everything but one small implement sold within a few months. My profit was somewhere north of $225.

Since then I have kept my eye out for more medical and scientific stuff, but other than some Pryex lab beakers, I wasn’t finding anything cool–just walkers, plastic bed pans (ick) and knee braces. Then a few months ago I spotted this Medcolator Muscle Stimulating machine in an online auction. I won it but am having a “What was I thinking moment?!” with it and haven’t listed it yet.


The plaster anatomical heart model was a fun (dare I say “heartracing”) find at my neighborhood thrift store.


And the two medical tomes with illustrations were found for $1 each at an estate sale. (“Well, why not.” I have sold a few medical books in the past.)


Then a few days ago I spotted an online auction for two stethoscopes, a reflex hammer, and a little medical bag (of unknown material…hoping leather!). I was the only (crazy) person interested and won the auction. With the cost of shipping I won’t make a ton of money on this lot, but still it’s rather fun. The stethoscopes will be great for someone’s Halloween costume.

One pair is a vintage “G.P. Pilling & Son, Phila, Rieger Bowles, Pat #1671936.” The tubing is a little grimy but it works great.



The other is a lesser Marshall model which isn’t worth enough to sell on it’s own, so I’ll add it to a collection of medical tools and sell it in a lot. In fact I may combine it with the reflex hammer which has the name of the doctor who used it—Dr. P.D. Smith—on a piece of tape on the handle.


For some reason I find that rather touching. This hammer has some age as the rubber head is now hard and looks and feels more like bakelite!

The doctor’s dopp kit bag is leather (not super quality though). I found a similar bag for sale online for $63, but I think that’s too pricy. I’ll give mine a good cleaning and list it for $25 or so.

But what I really (really!) wanted to buy (but the bidding got too fierce and the price too high) was a 1921 collection of Rorschach Psychodiagnostik cards. The final price…$321.78! While vintage Rorschach cards or plates can command good prices, most sets sell for $200 and under. For some reason folks will pay a lot more for things on Shopgoodwill.com. I don’t get it. :\


Wouldn’t Rorschach cards would look great framed?

I haven’t gotten into vintage/antique medicine bottles and tins yet, but was intrigued this past summer by the wonderful collection in my father-in-law’s basement.


These “Hamburg Drops” contain an amazing amount of alcohol. I’ll bet they were a popular remedy.

Turns out most of these were from Jim’s great grandfather’s store which was open from 1845 to the 1950s. For many decades it was the only store in their small Nebraska town so by necessity it stocked a little of everything including liniments, teas and tonics. Quite a few feature treatment for the bowels, nerves or skin. I guess not much has changed in a hundred years or so!

Alas, alas Jim wasn’t looking to part with any as these are destined for a local museum that will be a recreation of his great grandfather’s store. How perfect is that! But I am definitely hoping to find more vintage medical and scientific goodies in the months (and years!) to come.

Would love to hear if you had any experience and success selling vintage medical and scientific items!

As always, happy hunting,


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