Collecting video games is a labor of love. Video games have survived their trial period of being a fad, becoming an integral part of life and world commerce. They are one of earth’s biggest industries, with over 2 billion users and $100 billion in sales. For many of us, they are our favorite pastime.
The love for vintage video games seems to stem from a deep place. Curiously, as we age, our nostalgia for the video games we played as kids is about as strong as nostalgia for our childhood homes. Who among us didn’t dive headfirst into the world of Sega or pick a side in the Nintendo 64 vs. PlayStation wars?
We remember the vibrant colors on the screens. The hangouts with our friends. The long battles with dragon bosses and nefarious fungi. Everyone recalls the graphing calculator-sized Gameboy tucked coolly into their friends’ pockets.
So if you are looking for a way to relive childhood in a fun and engaging way, video game collecting is about as good as it gets. This is a guide to collecting vintage video games, how to budget for them, how to get great deals and how to sell them when the time comes.
Pick a Focus and Try to Stick to It
You can disappear down the rabbit hole when getting into video game collecting, so it is helpful to find one or two themes and stick to them. For instance, maybe you are loyal to everything Nintendo, with an emphasis on the 1990s classics. Or perhaps your dream is to have a wall of PlayStation discs from first-person shooters to role-playing games and everything in between.
Before getting started, though, it is worth reflecting on exactly what you want out of video game collecting. This is a good way to narrow down what purchases you’ll make. For instance, here are a few good reasons that may apply to you:
- You may want video games as a long-term investment
- You could be hoping to sell them within the next 6 months for profit
- The video games could serve merely as a trip down memory lane
- You may want to start collecting video games as a hobby
- You might want a collection only as something beautiful to feast your eyes on
These reasons are all equally valid. Just try to figure out what you want out of a collection before haphazardly launching out on a spending spree.
Now, back to choosing a particular theme for your collection. There are several compelling reasons to have a focus.
- It prevents you from becoming a hoarder: The only thing separating collectors from hoarders is discretion. While you may be tempted to grab a whole bundle of various games from all over the spectrum, you’re going to save yourself from mountains of clutter by laying ground rules on what you will and will not buy. Resist the temptation. Make your collection meaningful.
- Your passion will be reflected when showing others: When you have a singular vision and work within a set of parameters, it’s easily visible to those who see the results. Your collection will be much more beautiful if it makes sense. It’s also easier to stay organized.
- Your video game collection will be easier to sell later: A thematically consistent collection is easier to market. If you should ever want to try your hand at making money off of your games, people will find you more easily if you have a concise label describing your catalog. Also, “every Rare N64 game ever made” is a lot easier to pitch than “assorted video games from different consoles.”
Before You Get Started Buying
There are a few steps you’ll want to take before you begin collecting video games. Doing your prep work will save you a lot of time, trouble, money and gasoline. Here are some tips.
Set a Budget for Your Video Games
Don’t just start throwing money around like a high-roller. Setting a budget ensures your hobby won’t become a burden or cause you any trouble with your finances — not to mention your significant other. This will also help if you feel the impulse to spend big money on a great find. You’ll know how much you need to cut back by for the rest of the month.
Do Your Video Game Research
The internet is your best friend when it comes time to do your homework. You can glean an incredible amount of information just by poking around forums and blogs. You’ll find how expensive or hard-to-find certain games are, as well as where you might have the most luck looking. Keep a pad handy and take note of the prices you find listed for games. This will be a valuable reference.
Join an Online Group About Video Games
Video game collectors are passionate people, and joining an online group is a fantastic resource for information and tips. You’re also liable to land some good deals when members of the group buy and sell to one another. And because everyone’s in the know, you probably won’t get ripped off.
Where to Find Rare and Valuable Video Game Collections for Sale
Stumbling across those coveted rare games from yesteryear is a true pleasure. But knowing where to find them can be tricky — it often involves sleuthing, following leads and exploring a bit on your own. Here are some suggestions for places to look.
Find New and Used Video Games at Electronics Shops
Electronics stores see a constant influx of vintage video games, and they are one of the best places to look. Retailers selling used electronics have been growing for the last decade, largely due to the fact that they often carry rare video games that previous owners have gotten rid of without much thought.
This leads to great prices and lots of unique findings. At Record Head, we carry a huge selection of video games and consoles we love selling to excited collectors.
- Shop Garage Sales for Video Games
Oh, the bounties to be had at garage sales. Owners whose kids left behind mountains of glorious vintage games, declutterers looking to get rid of all their old games for a low price —sometimes you can score an incredible deal.
Unfortunately, these sales can also be a waste of time. To avoid putting in a lot of effort and coming away empty-handed, look for ads for garage sales that mention electronics, video games or games.
If you do happen to find a goodie at a garage sale, you’ll either get it for dirt cheap or have to bargain. We’ll cover how to do this effectively a bit later on.
- Visit Pawn Shops to Find Video Games
Though thrift shops can be disorganized and randomly stocked, you can find a fairytale ending. You know the one — it ends with you spotting a dusty, neglected game sitting on the shelf that’s secretly worth hundreds. Such things do happen.
More likely, you’ll find some laughably unpopular games selling for far too much money. However, interspersed among them may be some gems. So don’t give up on thrift shops. They can really deliver from time to time.
- Use Family Members and Friends to Track Down Vintage Video Games
The best social network you have is that of your friends and family. Don’t forget to put the word out that you’re looking to collect old video games. Chances are a co-worker, aunt, cousin or someone else has some you could pick through. And even if they’re not willing to part with the items for free, they’re likely to give you a good bargain.
- Frequent the Flea Market for Video Game Bargains
A solid flea market is not only a great place to snag video games, it’s also two tons of fun. Finding goodies among the mountains of clutter is a glorious feeling indeed. To do so, you need to keep your eyes peeled. Piles of books or movies may conceal games.
It doesn’t hurt to ask vendors whether they have any games, as this can save you lots of time, but also learn to trust your eyes. You may spot something they’d forgotten they had. Another benefit to flea markets — you can practice your bargaining game.
- Check Online Sources for Video Games
Places like eBay, Amazon, Reddit and Glyde have extensive resources for those looking for games and consoles. Amazon and eBay are particularly ripe spots for those selling old belongings. Just make sure to read through the entire description before purchasing, as you can’t get your hands on the product to inspect it yourself.
Also, keep in mind that there are probably great deals to be found in person. Items on eBay and Amazon are visible to everyone, which means prices match their market value a bit more closely. That’s great for the seller but bad for you.
- Make a Journey to Goodwill to See Video Games
Now, Goodwill could easily be lumped in with other thrift stores, but it’s worth mentioning on its own due to the fact that literally, everyone knows about these shops. They’re a household name and contain just about everything in a household. The result is a large number of people go to Goodwill to unload their old things, and there’s a chance you could come across a rare or vintage game.
How to Bargain for Video Game Prices Without Burning Bridges
Bargaining can be either fun or stressful, depending on your personality. There are many different schools of thought on how to haggle effectively. However, if you want to endear yourself to a potential ally in your quest for video games, you should try to make your bargaining as pleasant as possible. You’re a collector, after all — you want to have a good reputation. Try following these steps:
- Talk the price down without being aggressive. You can make your point without being overbearing. Ask plenty of questions, avoid argument and do not make yourself seem desperate. The more likable you are, the better price you’re going to get.
- Communicate to them why it’s worth it to sell to you at your price point. Perhaps you’ve done your research on the going price of different games, and you know for a fact that $20 for Banjo-Kazooie is a fair price for both of you.
- Offer cash. Have cash ready to hand over when you offer to take a game or console off their hands. This is a great way to seal the deal.
- If they don’t want to budge, walk away and give them time. A seller sometimes needs time to consider the pros and cons of a sale. If you walk away and come back a short while later, the seller may have loosened up a bit.
- Give them your contact info in case the item doesn’t sell. At the end of the day, the seller may not have gotten the price they originally wanted. In that case, they might be more than willing to take your offer.
How to Check Video Games’ Prices Over Time
The value of video games and consoles constantly changes. Popularity, scarcity and other factors influence this, and keeping up with it can be a lot of work. Fortunately, there are dedicated online video game pricing guides designed to help you pinpoint the current cost of games and systems.
The best way to make use of these guides is to check them and then compare with other online sources. Don’t rely entirely on the quoted value — the market price may be higher or lower.
How to Organize Your Video Games
You should organize your games not just so you can see them but also for other reasons. This keeps your purchases safe and lets you avoid too much duplication. Here are a few tips on organizing your collection:
- Get a shelf system for video game collection storage. There are plenty of them on the market, and they work wonders for getting your games off the floor and into a manageable order. Don’t load it up yet, though — we’ve got some organizing to do first.
- Start fresh by putting all the games in their proper cases. Some games are bound to be placed in the wrong case, so make sure they’re all in the right ones.
- Alphabetize your games. Make piles starting with “A” and so on. Now alphabetize each pile by the next letters in their titles. This will get all of your games in complete order.
- Alternatively, you can also organize them by genre or platform. This may be appropriate if you have some games for NES and others for Sega Saturn, or if you have a defined set of genres like first-person-shooter.
- Load them into your organizer. Stack carefully to keep them in good condition.
How to Clean and Restore Game Cartridges
Video games go through a lot of handling and abuse. Check the game’s condition before you buy it. Are any metal contacts missing inside the cartridge? If possible, try to test out the game before buying it.
Here are some tips for cleaning and restoring vintage games:
- The port of the cartridge: Grab some isopropyl alcohol and a cartridge cleaner. Dab the alcohol on the tip of the cartridge cleaner and rub it inside the port. This will remove dust, grime and gunk that may block the metal contacts from connecting with the system.
- Removing writing from a cartridge: Many people scribble on cartridges with a sharpie, and removing it is easier than it may seem. Simply write over the marks with a colorless blender pen, then apply Goo Gone to get rid of the markings entirely.
- If the game doesn’t work, open the cartridge and clean the board. Using a screwdriver, open the cartridge up and clean off the circuit board inside. Then reassemble and try again.
Visit Record Head to Increase Your Video Game Collection
Record Head is passionate about new and used electronics, and we have gamers in mind at all times. That’s why people come to us with their most valued vintage games.
We offer competitive pricing and love making new friends through our stellar customer service. Plus, we’re all gaming geeks. Stop in Record Head today, visit our website, or call us at (414) 453-3900.