Want Tips on Finding Vintage Games for Your Collection?
Tip 1: Get Friendly — As silly as it may sound, buddying up to a fellow collector locally or through the internet is a great way to get retro games. Chances are your collections will both overlap and have some unique areas that each of you collect. It’s great to keep an eye out for a buddy’s collection and have them do the same for you. Additionally, if you both collect original NES games, for example, chances are that if the other collector is ahead of you in their collection, they may have duplicates from which you could benefit. Trading to fill parts of your collection is a practice that is still alive and well. Obviously, there are also collectors like me who simply list their extras on eBay or Amazon. Let them know what you’re looking for, what systems you collect, etc. Ask them to keep you posted on stuff *before* they list it on eBay so you can get first shot at it.
In the case of my extras games, after returning from retro video game hunting, I dump them out on the floor like a kid sorting through a bunch of Halloween candy. Then I photograph them and post photos. Not only do I enjoy showing off my finds, but I figure it’s a good opportunity for people to see what may be hitting my store.
Tip 2: Thrift Stores — This is a pretty obvious one, but I can’t emphasize it enough. Hit up your local thrift stores, and check out the electronics section, CD/DVD racks, and even the toy section. Drop in regularly. I have a friend who will stop into the same Goodwill a couple times a week, and she’s always amazed at how quickly inventory turns over. Sure enough, they’re always receiving donations and want to get as much of that inventory onto the shelves as quickly as possible. If you do stop by regularly, be sure to make friends with the employees. You might even be able to get them to set aside retro video game stuff when it arrives. Or at a bare minimum, they’ll let you know where in the store they just put some.
Tip 3: Pawn Shops – Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not a big fan of pawn shops. Maybe it’s the generally rough attitudes of the employees or the thick air of desperation as people try to pawn off their valuables to get by. However, I’ve had some of my best luck hunting for uncommon game titles at area pawn shops. Once you figure out which ones are in your area and start going to them, you’ll notice that each one has a theme. Some specialize in jewelry. Others are big on power tools, musical instruments, AV equipment, etc. Once you find one that’s big into video games, you’ll be in heaven. I found this one that had been open for the past 40 years, and it had display cases full of old games. Sure they had some current generation titles too, which seemed to turn over quickly, but no one seemed to have touched the older stuff in years! I can’t even list all the great stuff I bought there, but a $3.00 Final Fantasy VII comes to mind. After I spent several weeks dropping in to make more and more purchases and had cleaned out most of the games I needed for my collection, I really hit the jackpot. I asked the owner if he had any old games in the back. Sure enough, he hauled out several dust covered boxes of games packed full of rare SNES and Genesis games! PS…Don’t be afraid to ask for a deal for multiple items. A buddy of mine who is a big time video game collector seems to have a ton of success bartering at his local pawn shops.
Tip 4: Record & CD Music Shops – It’s easy to overlook them, but a lot of music shops that buy and sell used vinyl and CDs have a small video game section. I always ask the guy at the register just in case.
Tip 5: Flea Markets & Swap Meets – Here’s my personal favorite. There’s nothing quite like flea markets. It’s a needle in a haystack experience. You never know what you’re going to find, and when I do I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. Plus, I simply love the personalities of the sellers. Remember that haggling for prices is the norm, so don’t be afraid to ask for a deal on something you find or to get a discount for buying multiple items.
Tip 6: Craigslist – If you haven’t already discovered Craigslist.org, you’re missing out! It’s by far the best classified ad site on the internet, and best of all it’s free. I’ve bought and sold everything from laptops & video games to surfboards and bikes. Naturally, this is a great site to watch for games. If you’re new to Craigslist, just be careful. My rules of thumb are to meet in a public place, to only do business in person, and to only give or receive payment in cash.
Tip 7: eBay – eBay.com is a pretty obvious one, but I have to mention it. If you’re looking for a particular video game or system and want to find it fast, eBay is your best bet. They’ll have games ranging in cost from a few dollars to thousands. It’s certainly a collector’s best friend…and a great way to burn through whatever funds you set aside for your collection. If you’re new to eBay, be sure to read the description carefully, to check photos for a good look at what you’re actually buying, and to make sure the seller has great feedback. I spotlight rare items from eBay regularly here in my blog, so feel free to check out those posts.
Tip 8: Amazon – Like eBay, there’s a little of everything on Amazon.com, and there is no shortage of vintage gaming stuff. Unfortunately, if you’re picky, you won’t have access to the photo of the actual item you’re buying and will simply have to trust the brief description of the seller.
Tip 9: Independent Online Retro Video Game Stores – From time to time, I’ve filled holes in my collection from independent online stores like GameGavel.com, JJGames.com or LukieGames.com. Watch sites like these for sales, and you’ll probably do well.
Tip 10: Random Video Rental Stores – Mom & Pops video rental stores are not only awesome for having the most unique selection of videos to rent, but chances are they out rented video games at one time or another. It never hurts to ask what they do/did with the games they stopped renting.
Tip 11: Friends, Family, Coworkers – Tell your friends you collect and/or simply play vintage video games. Heck, next time they’re at your place, bust out your Sega Dreamcast, Vectrex, or Original Nintendo for a retro gaming session to really grab their attention. Not only will they think you’re one rad dude, but you may be amazed at how many say, “Hey, I’ve got a box of old Nintendo stuff in my basement that I don’t know to do with. Want it?” I’ve given friends a fair price for their old system, and other times they’ve simply insisted that I take it for free. In either case, these are some of my favorite finds.
Tip 12: Your Suggestions? – I’m sure I’m leaving something out here. If you have any suggestions for finding old games, let me know, and I’ll add them to this list.