Some of you readers may know that I am rather fond of retro video games, I covered how retro games still dominate the best titles of the major gaming genres in last month’s feature and this feature will focus upon what I have come across in my 3 months or so of serious retro games hunting.
My first ever console was a Super Nintendo which I got for my birthday in 1994, I remember the day like it was yesterday and I still have the first game I ever had for the SNES, my Street Fighter 2 Turbo cartridge sits in my collection to the right of me as I type. In later years I stupidly let go of my SNES because I had moved on to more advanced consoles like Playstation 2, Xbox 360 etc etc. It’s been well publicised on this website that I am getting increasingly disillusioned with the gaming industry in its current form; I am [this] close to boycotting EA, I am fed up with overpriced average titles, and I am irritated by penny-and-dime practices from gaming companies. I like modern gaming, but I want to love modern gaming; it’s a one-sided affair unfortunately.
Sadly the box for my copy has deteriorated over time, it is a priority to get a mint box for my cartridge.
I never really kept old consoles but I do keep old games, in recent years I’ve looked at my small games collection and thought “they don’t make them like they used to”. Games in the 90s anyway were tested to destruction, there may have been a few bugs here and there but generally, a game would only be released in the best shape possible. Games nowadays rely on the internet to patch over problems which allows for developers to get lazy and it’s gamers that suffer, Battlefield 4 is still not fixed almost 7 months after launch. Price is another issue, I paid near £80 for Battlefield 4 and Premium, it’s the highest amount I have ever spent on one game and it has not rewarded me with anything and is second in my most disappointing purchases next to Modern Warfare 3 Hardened Edition.
So what am I paying for? Now don’t get me wrong, I still buy modern games but I’ve gone off giving lesser games a chance, I will pretty much only buy the unmissable titles like Grand Theft Auto V and Watch Dogs when it’s released. About 3 months ago I was asked to help out at a car boot sale, I haven’t been to a boot sale in years ever since the closest one to my home was closed down for constantly getting busted for selling pirated games. As I was walking around the boot sale I noticed some games that were selling for £1, I had always wanted a games collection but I never thought it could be done on the cheap. The boot sale pretty much kickstarted my collecting.
I have passed up on many games recently, the Tomb Raider reboot being one of many.
The problem with where I live is that there’s never been a strong gaming culture until recently, in another feature article I wrote about how gaming in the UK became mainstream where I asserted that gaming really came in from the cold with the Xbox and Xbox 360. Retro gaming, at least where I live is practically non-existent as evidenced by Dave Cook’s article at VG247. We unfortunately don’t have many retro games conventions, flea markets, garage sales, Craigslist-ings or independent game shops like in North America and Mainland Europe where people like The Game Chasers and Dr. Retro make their name. The main focal points of retro games hunting where I live lies with boot sales, charity shops, Gumtree, and eBay at a push.
I probably do 80% of all my hunting at boot sales and it’s a love hate relationship, I have found many retro games that I can add to my collection or ones that I can sell for a good profit and the proceeds get put back into more retro games. The best part is that most sellers ask on average £1 per game, the best deals come when buying multiple games where a discount can be worked in. My best pick up at a boot sale so far is a complete copy of Mega Man X4 on the PlayStation purchased for 50p. Checking on eBay right now reveals that the average sale price for that game is around £70. I also grabbed a nice Nintendo 64 bundle for £5 and if I were to resell those games I could easily make ten times my outlay. I am also not adverse to picking up more recent games either, 2 weeks ago I scored on a Nintendo Wii bundle for £20 which is worth triple the amount in retail value.
The Mega Man X series is rare in general with X4 being the rarest of the PlayStation numbered titles.
There are always games is what I am saying and I have rarely walked away empty-handed from a boot sale. It’s about spotting who might have what, if you see people selling DVDs, they might also have games. The thing to keep in mind is that most sellers want to sell everything on the same day because having a space at a boot sale costs time and money. I managed to get the limited edition Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Wii remote despite the seller not wanting to sell it separate to the Wii console. I was well aware that the Wii is at its lowest in terms of demand and was sure that it would be unlikely for the seller to be able to get rid of the console that particular day. I waited until the end of the boot sale and made a second offer which was accepted. The lesson is ‘sellers be selling’ and haggling is also great fun. Another lesson is to always ask if there are any games, I have lost count of the amount of times where I’ve seen people having just the console on the table only to have the games still sitting in the car or behind the table where nobody can see. Sellers sometimes have too little space to display everything so they tend to keep additional ‘stock’ in the car and substitute them in when displayed items start selling.
Here’s the problem with boot sales, I’m not the only one collecting in town nor the only one who knows that games are worth money. Rival collectors are more experienced and I have found myself getting to a game seller a fraction too late on many occasions. Some rival collectors also run their own stalls at the boot sale and those really know what they’re looking for, sometimes they will delay opening their stall to scout out the boot sale themselves; I have seen them pick up games from a regular seller and for the same game to appear in their stall later in the day and marked up.
The number of ‘wheeler-dealers’ are also a constant problem. I’m not experienced enough to know about boot sale etiqutte entirely but generally the rule is no speaking to the seller until they start setting up; the people who go around talking to sellers before the tables get folded out are definitely looking to deal. It is a bigger problem the smaller the boot sale is. I can admit that I make profit from reselling games but that money goes right back towards the collection. Dealers look for pure profit and the relatively inexperienced ones tend to sweep all the games no matter the rarity; it’s a relatively cheap hit and hope for them so there’s no reason not to do it from their point of view.
Wheeler dealers are the enemies of collectors.
I mentioned that retro gaming is non-existent where I live and it totally shows at a boot sale. People usually sell things that have piled up for years at a boot sale so the lack of anything pre-PS1 era is an indication of how poor the retro scene can be. The majority of boot sale games are Playstation 2 titles, it is truly a golden age of PS2 games collecting which I am taking full advantage of although I will probably never be able to make significant advances on my SNES collection from boot sales. That will be the most expensive part which I need to cover with reselling.
Charity shops can be hit or miss and I have walked out empty-handed many times. It’s not to say that I haven’t found anything of note, I’ve picked up the entire PS1 Tomb Raider collection from charity shops; they are probably best for picking up common titles that I don’t have.
The problem with charity shops are that it’s more time consuming than boot sales. Charity shops usually base themselves on a single road in areas dotted around the city so it is unlikely to visit all the charity shops in town in a single day and that in itself is already at a disadvantage to boot sales where everything is at one place. Another issue is that the inherent nature of chairty shops is to get the most money possible from items to raise funds so therefore, every game is researched and priced according to the retail average and it is increasingly rare to catch charity shops slipping.
Only go to charity shops for commons.
Another issue is that most people who work at charity shops are volunteers who generally have little knowledge or interest in games so when games do get donated, the volunteers usually process games last. There has been a few occasion where I’ve been told I can’t buy any of the games in the back because nobody’s processed them yet.
I’m beginning to like Gumtree as a method to pick up retro games, people who are fed up with eBay and PayPal commissions will list retro items for a very fair price because they save on shipping. They also have the convenience of having people come to them to purchase things rather than opening shop at a boot sale. Every Gumtree deal I have made has been great for my collection and the best part is that you pay when you’re happy with the items unlike eBay which I will get on to. I have had the pleasure of buying out somebody’s PlayStation 2 collection for one-third of the retail value while the odd rare title also appears once in a blue moon.
Gumtree is far better than Craigslist in the UK.
The competition on Gumtree is very high and it’s always first come, first serve; I have missed out on great deals by a few minutes for instance a complete in box N64 with several rare complete in box games for £100. It definitely hurts more knowing that it was a matter of minutes and that the games are going to somebody else in the same town. Collectors definitely have their eye on Gumtree and it’s something that needs to be checked upon constantly; not the best during a busy schedule. Then there is always the security issue with Gumtree and it’s best to bring along a friend or meet the seller in a public location; there have been stories where ‘sellers’ rob a buyer because they know they’re carrying a large amount of money to complete the deal.
There is obviously the great convenience of eBay, the thought of an aggregation of retro games from all over the country in a single place is very comforting and I have managed a few fair deals to bolster my collection. However, the bad definitely outweighs the good and eBay should be seen as a last resort.
Rarely these days a collector will come across a great eBay deal, there are simply too many people using eBay and too many tools for them to keep track of items whereas in more traditional methods, there is always somebody slipping. Sellers can also use the in built search engine on eBay to figure out a retail value for their items which for a collector is bad news since we never want to pay full retail value. Like with charity shops eBay should only be used to find common titles that you don’t come across elsewhere, it’s the only way you’ll buy things cheap.
Nothing really slips through on eBay.
Serving as opposite to Gumtree, I’m beginning to dislike eBay; not entirely at the site itself but more for sellers describing items inaccurately. The characteristic of a games collector is that the item must be in as near mint condition as possible or that if there are any imperfections, they should be described in detail whereby the collector can make the decision to go ahead or not. There have been many occasions where the seller’s opinion of mint or ‘VGC’ is far from the mark even with direct communication and most sellers simply can not be bothered taking photos.
‘Sellers be selling’ and they don’t particularly care if they’re not 100% accurate in their description as long as the item is away and the money comes in. They bank on the fact that eBay is very roundabout in their handling of dissatisfied buyers, it is simply far easier for a buyer to resell the imperfect item and break even than to bring up the issue with eBay. This is where Gumtree has the upper hand, no money is exchanged until the condition of the item can be checked which gives advantage to the buyer which is the way it should be.
A collection like this is far more impressive than a digital library.
Hunting for retro games certainly has its ups and downs but it definitely doesn’t get boring; every week is a different story, sometimes you hit the jackpot, sometimes you’re just a minute too late. Everyone needs a hobby and this is mine, will I ever get to play every game I collect? Most likely not. So what’s the point in collecting?
It’s the love I have for the good games of the past, in an age where games are going digital I think a lot of that sentiment will begin disappearing; certainly, I would feel no happiness in showing somebody a Steam library but a wall of complete in box classics is something to boast about and to be proud of. Let me know if you have any stories of retro games hunting in the comments section and thanks for reading.