One of the biggest questions you hear across retro gaming communities is where to find retro video games and where to find them cheap. This is not as hard as it sounds but you have to be lucky enough to live an area where decent stuff can be found and also put a little time into it.
I have been playing video games since the days of Coleco-Vision and Atari 2600 and have owned (and sold/lost) many consoles and games over the years, including many I wish I still had.
Recently real life has come and bitten me on the backside so having a gaming 'budget' is out of the question. Even with a large amount of financial strain though I think I have come out pretty well with semi-limited effort and very limited funds.
So I decided to write it out as a rough guide to retro video game collecting for those who may not have a lot of extra income to spend on the hobby.
Keep in mind though that primarily I will buy a game or console for two reasons: I want to play it myself or I know it is something someone else will want and buy or perhaps trade. I would always love to buy games complete in the box but if I see a game loose that I want at cheaper then resale or retail value I will go for it.
Location, Location, Location:
The first part is where to find these retro and new gems to add to your collection.
The most obvious would, of course, be a game store and if there is a retro game store near you they might price fairly for items or they may want the higher end of its value usually determined by E-Bay auctions and price charting websites.
Thrift stores, charity shops, yard/garage sales, Goodwill and flea markets are the standard places to go out looking for retro gaming items in the 'wild' as it is called.
Some collectors may have an abundance of choices in this regard while others might find slim pickings depending on their location across the world. Some people also say they have charity retail shops but the stores they go to never have any gaming items or at least anything worthwhile.
Of course in modern times we have the wonders of the internet and sites like E-Bay where you can virtually shop for all kinds of goods from both stores and individual re-sellers. There are also various groups and forums all across the internet that have an area where people can buy or trade games with other gamers.
Where ever you're looking for games, first you should probably read up on the subject matter at hand.
Kinda Like A Power-up:
It is, of course, a good idea to get yourself some knowledge of what may be out there. If you go to your local charity shop and what you mostly see is PS1 and PS2 games, you might want to know what the rarest titles are, that way a Misadventures of Tron Bone or Rule of Rose doesn't slip through your fingers.
In my searches as said I am looking for games for specific consoles, but on past trips to a local Salvation army, there was no way I was letting a copy of Wii Sport Resort complete in the box near mint for four dollars and Tatsunoko VS. Capcom for the Wii for two dollars with a flawless disc go any longer without a home.
At worst I could trade for a game I want or resell it myself or as my Gamecube seems to inch towards death I could search for a cheap early generation Wii and have two decent games ready to play when I get it.
A lot of you guys probably know a lot of this stuff but if I did not know that the Wii Resort titles still had a decent value and that a lot of the Capcom “VS” games are either worth a decent amount and are usually decent games as well, I might have passed them up.
A lot of this can be achieved by just putting phrases into a search engine like Google, such as: “Rarest Nintendo NES games, top ten rarest video games of all time etc etc etc...”
Again, I purchase stuff to play it but I'd feel stupid if I passed up on a game that would let me buy a new retro console and a few games if I decided to sell it to another collector.
No Strain, No Games:
If you search YouTube for videos where people film their game hunting expeditions, you might be shocked by the extremely rare items people sometimes find. I watched a YouTuber who has a show called LGR Thrifts find a copy of Intelligent Cube for the PS1 for under a dollar, a game I have always wanted since my friend had it in my youth and we played the hell out of it.
The game is (for my non-existent budget anyway) a little too highly priced and I kind of wished I could find stuff like that.
The thing is if you watch a lot of these you notice they are driving all over the place and some of these guys have game hunting videos numbering in the hundreds already. They are out there doing this several times a week and across a large geographical area.
Same thing with E-Bay, as even using my method (which I will explain briefly below) I have not gotten anything mind blowing, I do get good deals. Like a complete Soul Calibur Two for the PS2 complete with the Namco demo disk bundled with a more useless 'Tiger Woods' golf title for one dollar and thirty-one cents with free shipping.
Not exactly Stadium Events for a dollar or anything, but still a great copy of a game I wanted at a cheap price and complete as well.
A lot of time was spent losing auctions and seeing things go above what I was willing to pay before I got some really good prices. Patience and time were needed to get good results.
So to have a shot at getting some cool stuff you are going to have to go early, go often and be diligent...like some kind of kooky game hunting ninja I suppose.
Tips & Tricks:
I am not by any means an expert on this subject nor will I ever claim to be. I just have a passion for video games and wanted to be able to still have them in my life without having to have a lot of money.
That does not mean that through watching others do this online and through research and experience I have not gotten the hang of how some of the basic work:
When going to yard/garage/boot sales, ask the people selling if they have any video game items. I usually just say electronics and then also say games because some people might not have any idea what they have and no clue what in the world a 'Nintendo 64' or 'Genesis' is.
Search charity stores thoroughly and carefully, even where you might not think there will be games. Games can be stocked with the books, VHS tapes, DVDs, and CDs. Consoles are usually in electronics but depending on the store something video game related could be anywhere. Plus if you see a game console, even if you are not interested in buying it, look to see if there is a game in cartridge slot or disc tray or if a valuable or uncommon accessory is attached to it.
If you have a smartphone, use it to check prices with your online method of choice.
If dealing with a seller at a flea market or garage sale, don't be afraid to talk to them to ask for a better deal or to haggle a bit. Most people just want cash fast for the item unless they are a dedicated reseller going by E-Bay prices.
Having a set number in mind for what you will pay for a game or console can keep you from overspending. I when going to thrift store will not pay over five dollars for a game (not that I'm not going to pay more than that if I found Earthbound for ten bucks or some game I really want to play for six dollars of course, but five is my general price point of ) and twenty dollars for a console.
Good deals can be found on retail game sites like JJ Games and Lukie Games. Search for the systems that have cosmetic damage like my perfectly in working order DSI with a small deep scratch on the cover I bought for thirty plus got a free game with the points they give you.
A Brief look at what this kind of hard work can do if you have patience and time, as earlier this year I decided I wanted a slim PS2 and some games.
Hitting E-bay for about two weeks, looking at a ton of posts and losing quite a few good auctions, I finally won on a decent one. A slim PS2 with the composite A/V cables, one controller, one power cord and a few games. The games were GTA: San Andreas, Simpson's Hit N' Run, Narnia, Flushed Away and a random baseball game. I messaged the seller and asked if he could switch the baseball title for another one, and he switched it to Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2.
That package was fifty-nine dollars and free shipping. However, when the PS2 arrived it had problems playing due to an issue with the hinge on the disk drive cover. So the wonderful reseller sent me another working PS2 and told me to keep the other one for my inconvenience.
The 'broken' PS2 works if it has a small weight on the drive's hinge so that is two PS2s and games and a composite cable for under sixty dollars.
I now have about thirty plus games and my cost added up to about one hundred and fifty dollars total over almost seven months for items that added up to about three hundred dollars on the website Video Game Price Charting.
Anyone can get at least some of the games they want for not a lot of money if they just take to time to learn about gaming history and lore and take the time to thoroughly scour in each dark corner looking for what they want.
Hope you enjoyed this incomplete guide to cheap game collecting and happy hunting!
- Thomas Spychalski