A Retro Video Game Collecting Beginner's Guide
If you are relatively new to retro video game collecting, you have probably noticed that this hobby/quest/side hustle can be quite expensive and time consuming. It can also be difficult to even know where to start. Not only are game prices at an all-time high, but the inventory of certain high-value games is being hoarded and the decline of independent video game shops makes it challenging to find what you want for the price you want it.
Are we reaching a bubble? Will retro game prices plateau and start dropping? If/when the decline begins, it will be slow and gradual as many buyers will be reluctant to let these high-priced games go for less than they paid.
Do not lose heart! Retro collecting and gaming can still be fun and fruitful. In order to help you take on your quest, I have collected a few tips and tricks that may be of some assistance to someone who is new to the quest.
1. Get familiar with current prices.
Prices change all the time. It can be a daily battle to stay knowledgable with the going rate for a certain title. It feels like low-risk stock investing! Seasoned collectors can probably spout of the going rate for Little Samson in 2005 (because it was reasonable!) but in today's market, you don't have to log prices in your mind. Video Game Price Charting (VGPC) is an online tool designed to aggregate sale prices from ebay, Amazon and direct sales and display the average rate. This is a quick and easy way to get a baseline rate for games. Note that most collectors will offer a lower rate than ebay, so consider lowering prices 10% - 15% from baseline when selling or buying unless you are running a retail store.
2. Diversify your purchasing funnels.
It's commonly accepted that flea markets or swap meets have run dry with fair prices for retro games. However, if it's easy and cheap to regularly peruse your local meet, we suggest trying it out for a few weeks and see if you find anything. Avoid obvious resellers and look for average joe's selling their personal goods. Next, check local garage sales every weekend. There is an app called Yard Sale Treasure Map that will collect all the Craiglist's postings for garage sales in your area and display them on a map. You can quickly hunt through all the nearby sales and see if anyone is advertising games for sale or posts pictures of a box of old games. You can even create a yard sale route within the app to expedite your travel from one location to another. Those extra few minutes you save may be the reason why you get a copy of Super Metroid for $2 instead of the other shoppers on the block.
3. Tell people about your quest.
There is a huge psychological component to success. I'm not a scientist or researcher but it's easy to find lots of data to back up the claim that identifying with a cause or event helps others connect you with your goal, making you much more likely to accomplish your goal. So, if you tell your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers about your collecting goals, you're much more likely to be the person they go to when they unearth the old dusty box of NES games in their garage. Not only have I received free or cheap games this way, I'm often the first person my connections refer to their friends. Gaming is very communal and it's way more fun to travel the journey with others than alone. Own it. Enjoy it.
4. Find groups online.
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, indy websites...Find people with common interests and goals and get involved. Collecting is a popular hobby and it's easy to join the conversation. Use hashtags on Instagram and Twitter (#retrovideogaming) to find people, add content and get involved. I have met some really cool people purely through social media. We may never meet in person, but I know them. I know about their lives, their families, jobs and mostly their collections. I have learned so much about game history, collecting and gameplay just by being surrounded by others who have been doing this much longer than me.
5. Host game nights.
If you aren't collecting and playing games for fun, you're doing it wrong! It's easy to be selfish, but it's not rewarding. Find a local gaming group or start hosting game nights for your friends. Getting a few comrades together and button mashing on a Friday night is one of the best ways to enjoy this hobby. Break out the classics you have acquired and share them. You'll be the agent of nostalgia and community. Doesn't get much better than that!