With the value of classic games increasing and the current console generation coming to a close, now is a great time to start collecting. If you’re relatively new to the hobby, or have been thinking about starting a collection, this guide should help you ease into the process. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that game collections rarely make for a good investment so don’t plan on making this hobby a get-rich-quick scheme. When it comes to collecting, the true reward is the thrill of the hunt.
Start cheap, start slow
First and foremost, set aside a budget and limit your monthly spending on games. While it might be tempting to just buy up all of your games on eBay or Amazon, this is probably not the best way to start. eBay is probably one of the worst places to start finding games for your collection unless a) you have a lot of extra cash or b) you’re really good at sniping auctions. Thrift stores, craigslist, flea markets and pawn shops are your best bets to find sweet deals on games that are worth more than their asking price. Essentially, your goal should be to find people selling games that don’t know what they have. Exploitation? Maybe, but the person selling Earthbound for $10 really should have known better.
The best games to start collecting, at least in my experience, are from Sega consoles. The vast majority of old Genesis carts are dirt cheap and you’ll find many of them with their original boxes and manuals. The reason for this is due to the fact Sega distributed Genesis games in nice plastic boxes that, unlike Super Nintendo game boxes, people just didn’t throw out. Collecting Sega products really only gets spendy if you’re looking for one of their more obscure consoles, peripherals or the handful of rare games that exist for their systems. Feel free, though, to start collecting whatever you want, just remember to play it smart and don’t go for broke.
Don’t settle, be picky
Some people can be difficult working with, so if you come across someone not willing to negotiate, the smart thing to do is just walk away. Sure, try and sweet-talk them, but more often than not that tactic doesn’t work. Instead, try to build relationships with your local thrift stores, pawn shops or second-hand game re-sellers. If you get in good with management, it’ll be a lot easier to get discounts on their games. Better yet, get a part-time job at a place that sells used video games. That’s actually what I did and it payed off rather well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should try to find games that are in the best condition possible, preferably complete-in-box. However, don’t be afraid to build a collection with cartridge-only games. Games that come packaged with their manual can be pricey and you’ll more than likely be shopping on eBay a lot to find them. With this in mind, only focus on getting those coveted complete games if they’re truly rare. In other words, don’t seek out boxed copies of Madden ’95 and instead save up your money to get a near-mint Kirby’s Dream Land 3.
Research, stay current
This is probably the most important tip. Thorough research will not only help you to start noticing changes in the market, but it can also save you a lot of money. I’ll even get you started by referring you to a great site to help with your research: Price Charting. Think of Price Charting as the Wall Street Journal for video game collectors. It’s stuffed with information regarding the value of used games from virtually every console including weird systems like the 3DO and CD-i (gross). They also have nice graphs for each game that show the rise and/or fall of their value over the past few years and even include links to completed auctions on eBay as well as current listings. Not only will this help you keep up with the trends, but you’ll even find sales that might shock you. For example, this sealed copy of 3 Ninjas Kick Back for the Super Nintendo that sold for $2500. No, seriously.
As mentioned in the introduction, now is a great time to start collecting games. Retro game collecting is the “in” thing to do, but a modern game collection is just as good. The fact that the next-gen consoles will soon be arriving means that games released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 between now and whenever they halt production entirely could become collectible. This happened with every generation prior, and if you check the statistics you’ll notice that games released at the end of a consoles lifespan are typically worth the most. There are always exceptions, of course, but it’s something to keep in mind. Also, try to purchase collector/limited/special editions and box sets as they make for better collections.
If you’re just going to focus on classic games, now is also a good time to start because many of these games are continuing to climb in value. The current demand for retro games is due to a couple of factors. For one, video game speedruns of classic console titles are rising in popularity due in part to the Awesome Games Done Quick marathons presented by Speed Demos Archives. These speedruns are immensely fun to watch and have piqued the curiosity of young gamers eager to discover video games they missed out on. Other factors include the amount of retro gaming conventions that keep popping up every year as well as increased nostalgia amongst older gamers that might be burnt out on modern gaming or want to rediscover old classics. Like I said in the research section, these are the are the kind of trends you need to be aware of as a collector.
Have fun, don’t get addicted
Remember: Collecting video games is a hobby, not a full-time job. Yes, it can be time consuming on occasion but just remember to pay attention to the more important things in your life. This should be a fun experience and not something that’s going to cause you a lot of unnecessary stress. Get to know other collectors, too. Networking is not only a great way to get tips but it’s nice talking with like-minded people. Video game collecting communities like Racket Boy and Cheap Ass Gamer are definitely worth checking out, so give them a shot and see what develops.
I’ve been an on-again, off-again collector for about a decade now and these tips helped me build nice collections that I was able to resell to make a decent profit on. Hopefully somebody will benefit from this guide, I know I would have if I read something like this when I first started collecting. To those of you just starting this crazy hobby, I wish you the best of luck.