Video game collecting has become a very popular hobby in recent years, but with rising prices of popular titles, it can be tough to start collecting without breaking the bank.
Start out with a focus.
One of the worst things a new collector can do is collect without a focus. First you need to determine what you want to collect. Video games is too broad. Do you want to collect Nintendo, Sega, Sony? Is it retro games that you want or modern titles? Do you want a complete set or just hidden gems? Figuring out what you want to collect and narrowing it down to a specific niche will help you avoid spending too much money and ensuring the hobby is enjoyable.
I would suggest at least starting with the games you remember when you were a kid. Some of these games might be buried in your parent’s basement right now which will give you a good base collection to start off with. Also most of the games you remember as a kid will likely be the most popular and easiest to find. I don’t remember too many people stating they played Panzer Dragoon Saga when they were a kid all the time. Most of the time it’s Mario, Sonic or Ratchet and Clank.
Set a budget.
You have found your focus and now you want to buy all the games and get that complete collection by the end of the year. But you also need to eat, pay rent and have a social life. Game collecting can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Setting a budget will help you prioritize which games you want to add to your collection first and prevent burning out and selling it all right after you acquire it.
Your finances may vary, but I have a gaming budget set at $100. This includes all video games, modern, retro, and digital. This keeps me focused because it’s really easy to nickel and dime yourself out of hard earned money. Spending 10 dollars here and 20 dollars there doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you add games that you have no intention of playing, did you really save money?
If you really just want to collect games on the cheap, you can purchase games for the previous generation.
Know the going value of games.
Setting a budget doesn’t mean squat if you’re overpaying on your games. It might be tempting to drop 30 dollars on Super Mario Brothers 3 at the local flea market but the going rate of that game is about 13 dollars.
There are a plethora of sites to tell you the price of video games, but I use pricecharting.com because it’s a barebones site that I can pull up on my phone. It shows the price of the game based on loose, complete in box, and new. It’s not 100% accurate but it will give you an idea of what to expect to pay and determine if you’re about to be ripped off. Sometimes I’ll pay a little bit more for a game based on condition.
If you really want to research, I suggest looking at the eBay sold listing. This can give you the most up to date idea of what’s going for what. Price Charting does this for you, but sometimes there are some listings that sneak in there that shouldn’t have come up in the first place. Namely reproductions.
Know if you’re getting the real deal.
This is a big one. Game collecting has gotten so popular that reproductions (read: counterfeit) copies of very expensive games are starting to become profitable to ship out. You can get reproductions from china and whether you think that reproductions are good enough, there are a lot of people who know a collector’s mindset and might try to pass it off as a legit copy.
The best way to tell if something is a reproduction is to open it up and check the guts. There are plenty of videos available to give you an idea of what to look for. Otherwise if you can’t open it up, you need to take this sage advice:
If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
It’s so cliché but it’s true. No one is going to sell a very good looking copy of Little Samson for $300. There are only three types of sellers. Those who know what they have, those who don’t know what they have, and scammers.
So it’s a good idea to know what the price of games are. Little Samson for $300 might seem like a good deal on the surface, but $300 dollars for a repro is not.
Shop local, collect local.
The easiest way to collect is to start locally. Maybe your friends, family and coworkers have games that they want to get rid of or there’s a local craigslist/facebook marketplace post looking to offload their games.
Even the local game store will have a slightly better deal than eBay and you’ll be able to inspect the item to check to see if it’s legit. I’m pretty cautious of buying any game over $100 so I’ll try to find it locally if I can.
Personally if I’m looking to flesh out a couple of system collections, I check out Gamestop. Gamestop may be the devil when it comes to buying your games, but the majority of their selection is reasonable. Looking online for games at Gamestop.com comes in handy, because they can tell you which store near you has what you’re looking for. And if you ask nicely, the rep at your store can order it from another store and have it shipped so you can pick it up there.
Gamestop’s rarer titles will be closer to what you can find on eBay, but they typically price it based on if it’s loose. Meaning that if you go into the store, you can find a complete copy for the price of just the disk.
You can also trade or sell your duplicates for copies that you really want
Selling some of your excess collection to put it towards some heavy hitters is a good idea. As previously stated, sometimes you find hidden gems for really cheap and can sell them for market value. Or you didn’t have a focus and have decided to trim down. Following the price charting rate, you can sell some games either online or locally to get some extra moola and stay within your current budget.
This is probably the best option to get what you want without spending a lot of money. It’s just very time consuming. I tried doing this for a while, but trading games typically doesn’t go the way you want if you don’t have popular items. No one wants to trade their copy of Super Smash Bros for your copy of Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt. On the flip side, you’ll find a lot of people trying to trade you their copy of Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt for your copy of Smash. There are a lot of people who are patient and can turn a paperclip into a Mercedes, but it takes a lot of time. Which brings me to my last tip;
This is the biggest tip I can offer to any collector. It’s really easy to see a lot of collections online and want that, but it takes time to build it. Your dad or grandpa didn’t start out with that huge tool collection, they added pieces as needed until it developed into a huge functioning workshop.
The same applies to a quality video game collection. I have almost 800 physical copies that I have acquired over the past 15 years. There’s no way that I would have been able to buy them all at the same time. Keeping an eye out for deals and saving my budget to purchase a more expensive game has kept the hobby fun
There is really no wrong way to collect video games, but this is a pretty good strategy that works for me. If you have any other tips for collecting I would love to hear them.
About the author:
Super Nicketendo has been collecting video games seriously since 2003 and has a number of games in his collection since 1988. He also posts on YouTube at YouTube.com/supernicktendo and you can follow him on Twitter @Snicktendo.