I’ve been a retro video game collector for approximately 6 years now. As such, I’m no newbie but I’m certainly no pro either. Throughout my six years of pouring money down the drain, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks about where to look for and buy retro video games. Today, I’d like to share some of these with you. You may not benefit from everything in this guide, but hopefully, it’ll give you some fresh ideas on how to build up your games collection.
Buying Retro Video Games – Things to Consider
Before we really get into the nitty-gritty, you need to consider a couple of things. Us video game collectors are mostly all cut from the same cloth. We’re all obsessed with video games and would likely prove to have an unhealthy addiction under examination. With that said, there are areas in which we all differ. This ranges from the consoles we prefer to the physical aesthetics of our video games. As a retro video game collector, you should consider the following.
Flash the Cash or Scrimp and Save?
The main thing to consider is your budget. Some game collectors are willing to pay the extra cash in order to get precisely what they want when they want it. Meanwhile, others prefer to get down and dirty in the lucky dip. This method means you’re getting video games at their cheapest, but generally don’t get a choice on the titles. I’m part of the latter. For me, the thrill in video game collecting is adventuring out to find treasure… I also don’t have much spare cash.
Game Conditions – Pristine or Well Loved?
We all want our games to look pretty, but how much is it going to bother you if your copy of Streets of Rage 3 is missing its manual? Can you shrug it off if your copy of A Link to the Past is covered in marker pen? If the answer is “NO! I’m pulling out my hair thinking about it”, then you may be in the pristine category. If you’re willing to spend a fair bit more on your video game collection, you can guarantee pristine games. Otherwise, you’re going to have to deal with a few bumps and scratches!
Can You Wait?
Do you need all the games now or will you be content with finding games as and when they come to you? Your level of patience factors into what type of video game collector you are. Spend more, get the games now! Spend less, maybe get the games one day.
The Root of Video Game Collecting
Ultimately, just like most things in life the type of video game collector you are or will become depends on how much money you’re willing to spend. I want all my games to be as close to free as possible. As such, I spend much of my free time looking for video game bargains! Other collectors I know are happier to spend more money to get their hands on the rare and desirable immediately. Perhaps I’m just tight?
Buying Retro Video Games – Where to Search
There’s plenty of places you can search for retro video games both online and offline. Sometimes you need to get creative in order to unearth the real gaming gems.
Car Boot Sales & Garage Sales
I live in the UK so only get to frequent car boot sales (I did learn a lot about video game hunting from American YouTubers though). If you’re unfamiliar with what a car boot sale is, it’s essentially a large garage sale held in a field. Garages in England are more of a luxury than they are in America. I also believe there are some legal implications of holding garage sales in England. Either way, we choose to load up our cars with junk and sell it to strangers in a field.
Car boot sales and garage sales are a fantastic way to find retro video games for next to nothing. With that said, they’re much more competitive than they used to be. When I first started frequenting these sales, I’d return home with bags full of games. Nowadays you’re lucky to get one full bag. Not all hope is lost though, you can still find some mega bargains if you’re fast, vigilant and a little lucky.
If you want to head to these sales, the key is to get there early. When I say early, I mean early! Get there when the sales start and cover as much ground as possible. Also, remember to bring money (notes and change). There’s nothing worse than striking gold only to realise you’ve got no cash handy. Finally, try not to be a douche! If people are setting up, let them set up. Your integrity as a human is more important than a few games.
Some of my best game finds have been made at car boot sales and I’ve spent very little. Don’t disregard this way to buy retro video games.
Charity Shops & Thrift Stores
Again, being from the UK, I deal with Charity Shops. Charity Shops are essentially the smaller British versions of Thrift Stores. These types of shops are also a very good way to find video games. Get to know the stores in your area and frequent them often. Learn where any video games may be and get a feel for each shop. Prices will vary between each store. Some places are savvier on their prices than others. I find some charity shops are happy to knock everything out at one staple price, whereas others want the highest prices possible (sometimes the impossible).
I know some guys that get to know the staff who work at the charity shops. As such they reserve video games for them when they’re donated. It’s a bit annoying, but I don’t really have a problem with it. To be honest, if I was more confident I’d probably do the same thing.
Buying from thrift stores and charity shops is a great way to feed your gaming addiction whilst also helping a good cause.
Facebook Groups & Facebook Marketplace
Facebook has proved to be a great place for me to buy retro video games in the past. Some of my most prized possessions have come off sellers on Facebook. Buying retro video games on Facebook varies massively depending on who you’re dealing with. There are dedicated gaming groups on Facebook where you can meet like-minded collectors to buy, sell and trade game related items. Here you’ll likely be paying more for what you purchase, but you’re also more likely to find the things you want.
Meanwhile, there is also the Facebook Marketplace. This is where people in your local area advertise various items for sale. If you refine your search for something video game orientated, you can find an abundance of games for sale in your local area. Have a good dig through the listings and see if you can find some bargains. This, like most methods of video game hunting, is highly competitive so don’t delay.
Always remember to be safe. If you’re transferring money online, only pay through the PayPal Goods and Services option. This way you can retrieve your money should anything go wrong with your purchase. If you’re meeting somebody face to face, put your sensible hat on. Don’t meet anywhere you feel unsafe. I’ve never really had any issues, but you can never be too careful.
eBay & Amazon
Plenty of people turn to eBay every day to buy retro video games. This is the easiest and most convenient way to add to your retro games collection. It’s also generally the most expensive. If there’s a game you really want, most of the time you’ll be able to find it on eBay. There are deals to be had on eBay as well, I personally haven’t had much luck though.
On the other hand, I’ve had plenty of luck buying retro games on Amazon for cheap. It’s quite surprising because Amazon is generally considered too expensive to buy retro games on. On Amazon, I’ve been lucky enough to find games for half of their average selling price (sometimes much more).
Retro Video Game Stores
I love retro video game stores. I’ve visited a fair few before and generally tend to find them very welcoming places to visit. Many retro video game store owners are people like you who are living the dream. They love gaming so much, they’ve made it their full-time job. But it’s not all fun and games. Running a retro video game store can be a time consuming, expensive and demanding pastime. I always like to support my local video game store when I can, and you should too. Independent businesses are rapidly dying out and it would certainly be a shame to see these stores go away.
In return for supporting your local retro video game shop, you’ll be treated to all the games you can stuff into your peripheral vision. Talk games, learn about them, buy the ones that take your fancy. For me, that’s an afternoon well spent.