— From the pages of FLL Magazine, Issue #36
Not too long ago, you could get a box of Nintendo cartridges for a few bucks at a yard sale. Old video games were obsolete; people couldn’t give them away fast enough. Electronics stores were actually destroying their excess inventory to make space for newer products.
Today, those outdated cartridges are collector’s items, and that box of garage sale games might be worth hundreds of dollars. It’s Retro Fever, baby!
Is there a Dr. Mario in the house?
It starts with an itch. You remember a video game from your childhood, one that captivated your imagination and filled you with wonder. The Legend of Zelda. Chrono Trigger. BattleToads. Your temperature rises as you recall impossible boss battles. Your hands twitch at the memory of motor skills long dormant. Soon you’re digging through the attic or scouring the internet for relics of your youth: you’ve got a full-blown case of Retro Fever.
Take heed! Retro Fever can quickly progress into a game-collecting addiction, so if you want to come out of it with your family, friends, and bank account intact, you should ask yourself a few questions first.
Why am I collecting — to play or to display?
If you’re collecting games to play, there are often digital options and rereleases that are much cheaper and easier to find than the original cartridges.
Which systems do I want to collect?
Trying to collect everything will sap your funds, fast. Set criteria for yourself: only Super Nintendo games, or only shoot- ’em-ups, or only games developed by Square Enix. You’ll probably break those rules sometimes, but they’ll help you focus your collection and learn to say no.
How important is condition?
There’s usually a major price difference between a game that’s Complete in Box (CIB) and one that’s loose, damaged, or written on. If you just want to play it, save some cash and go for the beat-up copy.
Where will I look for games?
Yard sales can still be very rewarding, but the competition is fierce. Flea markets offer decent prices, but the games are often sun bleached and in poor condition. Craigslist can net you great deals, but dealing with strangers is risky. Local game stores clean, test, and usually guarantee their games, but you’ll pay close to market value.
Feeding the fever
When you’re serious about collecting retro games, you travel great distances, spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to get that one game, and maybe even get a job at the local game store for the opportunity to see rarities before other collectors. When you’re hardcore about collecting retro games, you open your own game store. Zach Geig, owner of Just Press Play, is a hardcore collector.
To put things in perspective, the crown of my personal collection is EarthBound, a Super Nintendo cartridge worth $200 loose. Zach Geig possesses a boxed copy of the rarest Nintendo game, Stadium Events, worth 100 times that. And that’s just one of the holy grails in his collection.
“I’ve always been a collector of things,” says Geig. “Star Wars, baseball cards, comic books, antiques… with all of my collections, I’ve reached a point where I lost interest and sold the collection. The thing that’s different about video games is you interact with them. You can play games with your kids and have a really fun time. If you’re collecting baseball cards… what do you do with a baseball card?”
Geig displays much of his monumental collection inside the three Just Press Play stores, but he dreams of someday opening a dedicated museum. “I don’t think video games are a fad,” he says. “Our society has changed so much with the advent of computers and electronics. Video games are at the heart of that.”
No matter your budget, it’s not too late to start collecting vintage video games. If you’re new to the scene, Zach Geig recommends PlayStation® 2 and original XBOX games—they’re cheap now, but in a few years they’ll undergo the same nostalgia-driven price spike as every console that preceded them. After all, Retro Fever is contagious— it wouldn’t hurt to get a head start on the competition.