Let’s be honest, the video game collecting community is very competitive, and can be very cut-throat at times. I have been collecting for about fourteen months, and over the course of my first year of collecting, I have had many triumphs and many downfalls. Whether you have been collecting for years, or you’re just getting into the hobby, I’d like to share a few lessons I learned in my collecting endeavors.
First, let me dive into how I got into collecting. Like many of you, when I was growing up, every time I moved to a newer system, all of my older games and systems either got sold at garage sales or simply thrown away. If you fast forward to January of 2013, the only video games I had were an Xbox 360 with the typical COD games and sports games, a PS2 with a couple of my favorite Final Fantasy games, and a Wii with a variety of Mario games and some games on the virtual console. I was able to re-live some of my childhood by purchasing certain games on the virtual console like Final Fantasy, Mario 64, Super Metroid, Actraiser, and many more.
Eventually, I came to a point where I longed to play one of my favorite RPGs on the SNES, The 7th Saga. Unfortunately, the game was not on the virtual console and there were no plans to release it. At the time I still had some money left over for Christmas, so I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to look on EBay to check on the prices of a SNES and the game. I quickly learned that the condition of the games and whether they had manuals and boxes vastly affected the prices. Growing up, whenever I got into collecting different things, I always wanted the best and I usually went all out. So when I saw the differences in the prices, I decided I had to have a complete copy of the game. It didn’t take long for me to realize that retro video games had held –and in many cases increased– in value. That’s when it occurred to me that I should gather up some of my favorite games from my childhood.
Before I knew it I was following multiple auctions on Ebay, and checking Craigslist frequently. One Craigslist ad pointed me to a flea market in OKC called The Golden Goose. It was there that I ran across a vendor named Jimmy that introduced me to RGS. After a few weeks of being a member of RGS, I had developed a hunger and a passion to collect games – as many as I could.
From the purchase of The 7th Saga, my collecting snowballed into a massive collecting campaign, which lead me from having a few newer consoles with handfuls of games, to building a game room in my garage to store and showcase my collection that I have accumulated in the past year. While my collection does not even touch the awesomeness of many collectors who have been in the game for years, going from nothing to a collection valued loosely at around ten grand in one year was quite a roller coaster. Throughout that roller coaster I have learned some valuable lessons about collecting that I would like to share.
There are many different types of collectors out there. There are those that simply want to have everything. It doesn’t matter to them if the game is terrible or not, or even if they will ever play the game. These types of collectors will grab anything they can get their hands on. If you are just getting into collecting, I would advise against this philosophy because it can send you bankrupt quickly. There are also collectors who are system or brand specific. These collectors will often focus on getting a complete set of a particular system library, or maybe they are more brand specific and only collect Sega, or Atari, or Nintendo. Yet another type is the series collector. These collectors will pick a favorite series like Mega Man, Castlevania, Sonic, or Zelda and they will devote their time to grabbing anything and everything related to that series. Some collectors are more gamer oriented and only collect games they like to play. A lot of collectors are nostalgia collectors and their focus is to get games and systems that they are fond of from their childhood. Of course, many collectors are combinations of the previously mentioned types, and by no means is this an exhaustive list of all the types of collectors.
For instance, within these various types, there are even sub-groups. There are those who just want the games, some want CIB copies of the games, and an even more select group prefer to get sealed copies of the games. So, whether you are a series collector who wants sealed copies, or you are a brand collector who only want the games, the idea of setting goals can be beneficial to all types of collectors. Here is how this played out in my collecting last year…
I started out focusing on games I had as a kid, which quickly grew to grabbing anything that was a decent price. This eventually led to where I had three main focuses, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and boxed systems. Outside of those three I still grabbed up tons and tons of stuff, especially SNES RPGs, which are not exactly cheap at the moment. I finally got to the point where I had a lot of systems and games that I had no interest in playing, so I decided to sell those off in order to focus more on one or two things. At that point I decided I wanted to get all the Zelda games released by Nintendo CIB (complete in box). This meant that my efforts were focused on just those, which also meant I could go weeks before picking up something new.
Eventually I did complete that goal, so I started focusing on something else, getting complete copies of the NES Mega Man games as well as Dragon Warrior games. Thankfully, I was able to finish the Mega Man goal while I was at SUPER! BitCon. I learned through this process that setting goals made me less of an impulsive buyer, and kept me from spending more money than I should. Setting goals also helped me get to where I wanted to be in my collection more quickly than just buying when and whatever I come across. Now, with that said, if you run across a good deal on a game or on a lot, do not pass it up just because it isn’t part of your goal. You can always sell those off, or trade in order to get something that is one of your goals. Even if you’re ultimately trying to get everything that is gaming related, if you use short-term goals, it will help you get to your overall goal more efficiently.
One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was not pacing myself, which led to spending way too much money. If you are new to the collecting scene, it is easy to get swept up with the excitement of finding good deals and building your collection. While your enthusiasm is good, it will also lead to many impulse buys and spending beyond your means. While video games have value at the moment, they are not a guaranteed liquid asset. So, before you dump your child’s college money into a video game collection, think about why you are collecting. If you seriously want to be a collector, I want you to think about people who have large collections. They did not get those collections over night. In most cases they have been collecting for years – decades even. So if you plan on being a collector and holding onto your collection for the rest of your life, remember that you don’t have to have everything in a week.
If you pace yourself, you can add some here and some there, and eventually your collection will grow and grow. I believe the famous saying is “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” The world of video games is massive, so take your time and enjoy the ride. Don’t go so fast that you burn yourself out and exhaust your finances. Another plus of being patient is finding good deals. If you jump at the first sighting of a game you want, you may end up spending more than you need to. Take for instance eBay. Many people are not fans of eBay, but I love it. I have searched and watched auctions for an item for 6 months before I got a good deal on one. There is a reason why auctions generally sell lower than buy it now sales, because some people cannot be patient and wait. There have been numerous times where I could have spent more on a CIB copy of a game, but instead I decided to wait and got the game and the box and manual at different times and saved money.
Patience is not fun, but in the long run it will help you as a collector. Too many times I have seen collectors buy, buy, and buy but then something comes up and they have to sell a bunch of games because they didn’t budget wisely. So the next time you see a pic of that Little Samson, or that Hagane, don’t get all crazy and spend the rent money to run out and get your own copy.
The best advice I think I could ever give to a new collector is this: you are not in a competition. Because of the rise in popularity in video games, the hunt for games has become very competitive. Understand that you should be aggressive in your pursuit of the games you want, but competition should not be the reason you collect. Collecting games is a hobby, and therefore it should be something we enjoy, not stress over. Too often, collecting becomes a competition of who has the most, or the rarest, or the nicest stuff. Go ahead and get this through your head, there will always be someone who has something nicer, better, or rarer than you. Once you accept this truth, the race to be better than the Joneses can be eliminated. Let’s face it, once you post a pic of that awesome addition to your collection, within days most people have forgotten about it. So instead of trying to impress other people with your collection, try to be content with it. Collect in order to make yourself happy; not to impress people on Facebook.
If you are happy with your collection, who cares what other people think, or what other people have. I see people complain about sealed games, or complain about people trying to get a complete library. It doesn’t matter what type of collector everyone else is, you need to go after what you want and what you enjoy. If you want games that have been graded, go for it. If you think boxes are a waste of money, then just focus on the games. Bottom line is, don’t let someone else’s opinion affect your collecting. So what if you paid market value for a copy of Chrono Trigger instead of finding it at a flea market for five dollars. It’s your collection, be happy. Just because you didn’t find your games for dirt cheap, or your boxes aren’t as mint as someone else’s does not mean that your collection isn’t awesome. Instead of comparing your collection to someone else’s, try enjoying it.
Like I stated earlier, the game collecting scene is very cut-throat. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Instead of trying to take out other collectors, maybe we should work together as a community. That is why I love the Retro Gamers Society. A large portion of my collection has come from trading and buying from members of the group. If you make friends in this hobby, it will help you out tremendously. I have a large number of friends in RGS that I can count on to help me with my collection. I don’t expect them to give me games for free, or take a loss on their investment, but they do meet me at a place price-wise that is beneficial for both of us. The concept of working as a community is really not difficult. If you run across a good deal, say you find a game that you already have that’s worth $100 and you only have to pay $40. Instead of trying to maximize your profit and aim for that $100 or more, simply meet somewhere in the middle at like $60-$80. That way you both win in the transaction. I promise, if you help others out when you work out deals, when the time comes, they will help you out as well.
Also, if you have friends in the hobby, you can find stuff for each other. There have been numerous times were someone has sent me a message and asked if I had a particular Zelda item, either because they saw it out and about, or because they know someone trying to sell something. Some of my friends collect things that I don’t, so if I run across something they need, I let them know about it. In other situations, I have run across something I already have, so I see if anyone needs it, in which case I would pick it up for them. Flying solo in this hobby is extremely lonely, so build relationships, and help each other out.
The last year of collecting has been a whirlwind for me. I have found some awesome deals and I have taken some losses at times as well. I have learned a lot from my experiences and from the knowledge of all the collectors I have been in contact with, or have communicated with through RGS. I firmly believe that there will always be something that I will want to add to my collection, so I look forward to the decades of collecting to come. What really makes me happy is that my children love these retro games as much as I do. So I know my collection will have a home when I no longer have need of them. So, to all of you out there who are just getting started: don’t get discouraged, have fun, and most importantly, play more video games. ♦