Hunting For Retro Prey: Game Collecting Hints and Tips

posted by on 16th March 2013, at 2:18am

As the writers at Informer get a month off from our normal topics, I thought I’d switch gears from RS and talk about gaming – but not the current stuff. I started a hobby about a year ago, when my step son got a taste for the older games, the stuff I grew up on. I pulled out and set up my old N64 and Gamecube, and we had a blast. Since then I’ve gained some “new” old systems and great games I had or maybe that I missed out on growing up in a family where money was tight. I find myself in a league that many 20 and 30-somethings with a little extra income now do – we are retro gaming collectors. I know there’s lots of other people out there with this interest or want to get started and maybe don’t know how, so I thought I’d share some introduction and knowledge I’ve gathered over the past year.

I use the term “collector” loosely. The great part about collecting anything is that you define what you focus on. While there sure are people who collect everything under the sun that has to do with gaming, there are many who pursue just certain things. Lots of people like a certain game franchise, like The Legend of Zelda series, and just collect that, or there’s also people out there that love the seemingly hundreds of RPGs on the PS2 and collect those. Growing up I never had a Super Nintendo, so I find myself hunting for classics on that console. Those of you reading may be at the age that you remember playing older stuff, maybe the handheld Pokemon games. ¬†Whatever your game, console, or genre is, know it before you get started, or you can become overwhelmed with boxes of games and consoles around your house that you never even play or even want to.

With that being said, don’t completely ignore the rest of gaming history. You never know when you might find a game you never heard of before and have it end up being your new favourite. There’s tons of resources out there and online communities to discuss things with. It’s always good to familiarize yourself with the information that is out there or at least know where to get information if you need it, such as prices, similar games, the consoles they’re on – things like that will help out when you go hunting.

The hunt is what makes the hobby fun. Sure, you can hop on Ebay and buy any game you wanted in under a minute, but at a full priced cost. Unless you’re really well-to-do, ¬†you naturally want to try to find great games for a super low price “out in the wild”, meaning at a place where they are oblivious to the game’s value, like at thrift stores. What I like to do is find a game for cheap, enjoy it, and if it’s something I know I won’t want to play again, I sell it for close or more than what I paid. Now, if you think this is a great way to make money, let me rain on your parade and say it is not. It’s a painfully slow process full of risks, like games or consoles not working and many “too good to be true” situations. My advice is to make this a semi self-sustaining hobby, but like all hobbies, there should be an expected cost for your enjoyment.

So where are the best places to find games on the cheap? First and foremost, there’s everyone’s favourite sketchy online bulletin board – Craigslist (or your country’s equivalent). You can find a great deal from people just clearing out their closets, but expect many deals to fall through because most Craigslist deals just do. Act fast and expect to meet fast, as this minimizes the opportunity for the seller to flake out. Next are thrift stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army stores. Most of these places sell every and any game for $2.25, however due to the surge in this hobby and going to thrift shops in general (thanks Macklemore…), many stores have gotten smart and price games accordingly or even overly inflated. You’ll just have to check them out because each store is different. Don’t forget about locally owned consignment or pawn shops, as many of these are owned by older people who don’t know or can’t be bothered to learn the prices for games. These can be hit and miss though. Be sure to check shops that call themselves book or music resellers, as these places commonly sell games too (i.e. Half Price Books). If you are really looking for the rare stuff for your collection, specialty gaming stores are in most major cities. As I said before, the lowest common denominator for all things is Ebay. Normally their prices are about as low as you’ll find among fellow collectors, and if you search a game and look at the “sold listings,” you’ll see the current price for any game out there. There’s also Video Game Price Index that allows you to look up games by console that uses some fancy algorithm to come up with the average sale price of a game using sale data from Amazon and Ebay.

Well there you have it. A Game Collecting 101 for anyone interested in starting up this great hobby. I know that my son and his friends always get a kick out of the older stuff, and it allows me a chance to actually school them in games that I long since mastered. As far as final advice, I’d say enjoy the culture and soak up the knowledge of gaming history, and explore games and genres that you couldn’t before due to prices when you were a child.

Please do share any experiences you have as a collector or any fond memories you have growing up playing some classic games. Any good finds in the wild? Post and let us know!

Happy hunting!

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