Recently, I scored a long sought-after Chrono Trigger on Nintendo DS, which I didn’t think I’d be able to score for under 100 USD (I did). So, I wanted to share my 10 tips for collecting video games in 2022:
1. When you start collecting games that are considered ‘retro’, you’re already too late.
Obviously, if there’s a game you want to desperately buy, and you’re willing to pay the price, don’t let anyone get in your way. But chances are, you’re buying the game at its peak in value.
When gaming systems move from being ‘current gen’ to ‘last gen’ (e.g., PS4, Xbox One), they seem to move into a valley of systems that are considered new nor retro. This process is exacerbated once production for these systems end, and in my experience, making this a great time to be picking up games for it. Systems moving into this ‘valley of unsought’ seem to be stuck there for at least two generations. Some examples are PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 games. PC games of that generation tend to float around the same price. For handhelds, you could go PSVita or 3DS.
2. Try pages two and upward when digging through your Google results.
I know, Google’s algorithm presents the best matches on the first page – but Google doesn’t take into account that you are desperately looking for that one game you played with the neighbor kid, and therefore don’t care much for page loading speeds, semantic HTML or SEO-unfriendly sites. In fact, SEO-unfriendly territory is where you might find that one local game store’s website selling your childhood relic.
You’d be surprised how many (especially older) sites are not properly indexed by Google because they don’t meet the web standards. Dig past page one, and you might occasionally find yourself in luck – it’s how I found my Chrono Trigger for Nintendo DS.
3. Find your games in the wrong categories.
If you’re like me, and you buy most of your games online, then you might want to try this trick to stave off that fiery competition. Depending on which country you live in, you may use eBay or a local competitor (here in the Netherlands we’re very keen on using Marktplaats.nl), but it should work the same nonetheless.
Often times people will put up a single ad for a bundle of games, or they might sell a console which includes several games, in which case they might’ve put the ad in a generic category rather than ‘NES Games’, or they might’ve put the ad in the console’s category instead. Either way, trying the same search query in the wrong category might pleasantly surprise you. Give it a go.
4. Two wrongs can make a right
Yes, that is not how the saying goes – but you may have come across a sweet deal, only to realize that the manual is missing, or the case is broken (PS1 games notoriously suffer from this), or perhaps it’s a 4-disc game, but one of the discs is missing. Elsewhere, you might find that missing disk or someone selling the manual separately. Maybe you can even buy a 2-dollar thrift store game of the same system and then just swap out the cases to create that perfect, complete version you were looking for. A little creativity can go a long way!
5. Be open to trade
A true game collector thinks with his heart first, wallet second. You may find someone willing to trade for that special title you coincidentally have a double of, because your one friend decided to gift you a game before checking in with you first (rule 1.0.1 of being friends with a game collector) – and like the good friend that you are you gracefully said thank you and stuffed the game in the back of your collection, hoping that one day it might come in handy. Time to cash in those chips!
6. Get your games from a different region
Some games that were big hits in Japan (like the Tales series) might not have been as big in the US or Europe, or vice versa. Provided the shipping costs are manageable, you may find that importing games can be a money saver.
If you’re from the US, and you’re worried about having a foreign language game, you might try importing a British PAL game; you’ll have both the game and box art in English. Make sure that if you’re in it for playing as well, that you either have a region-free system or own a system of that same region. Modern systems (PS3/Xbox 360 gen and onwards) tend to be region-free, meaning you can just as easily play PAL games on your NTSC system as you can NTSC-J games on your PAL system.
7. Flea markets, thrift stores and local game stores
Your best bet to find games at a reasonable price is to buy them locally. At worst, you will only save on shipping costs. I’ll admit that patience and diligence are key components if you’re going this route. A friend of mine recently scored some Japanese import games for Game Boy from a thrift store – and even though he wasn’t looking specifically for these titles, it adds to the list of titles you could sell or are willing to trade for ones you do want.
8. Buy bundles
Okay, so maybe you don’t want another Mario/Duck Hunt for NES or Brain Training for NDS – but if it’s part of a bundle that contains a gem or two, it might very much be worth the effort of having to sell some games. Often, you’ll find people on eBay, Facebook Marketplace and the like, selling bundles or a console that comes with a bunch of games. Bundles can also be a great opportunity to swap out cases for neater ones.
9. Befriend your local game store
Especially if you hand in some games now and then, you may find your local game store more than willing to put you on a list for certain titles. That unknown caller you’re tempted to ignore may very well be your local game store, wanting to tell you they’re looking at a clean copy of Chrono Trigger for SNES.
10. Watch out for fakes and scams
With the increased popularity of video game collecting, so do fakes become more common – and not always intentionally. Scarcity of the Pokémon games for Game Boy has popularized buying bootlegged versions off of places like AliExpress. That’s fine for some who just want to play the game. The problems arise however when they end up being sold as legitimate.
In my experience, the color of the cartridges and/or label is usually off. Look out for things like the original Nintendo seal or differing font styles and sizes. It’s always a good idea to do a quick search for the original box art / cartridge / CD, so you can do a proper comparison. Nintendo Life over on YouTube has a great video on spotting fakes.
Again, fakes don’t always come from a place of malice. I’ve found various sellers on Etsy offering reproductions (repros) of game boxes or manuals. These are honestly great services for some, but probably not for collectors. You can usually recognize repros by the colors being slightly off, or the paper that it’s printed on might be lighter than the original box paper, which usually has a gray or yellow texture.
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