Recently I added a new Atari 2600 ‘Woody’ to my collection. Along with two genuine Atari 2600 joysticks and two paddle controllers. Which got me to thinking about my console collection and how it has amassed to something I’m proud of. Therefore I’ve decided to put together a list of tips for budding console collectors. When buying new, second hand, online or in store as well as general tips and what to remember when it comes to collecting consoles.
As primarily a console collector this post will be console focused however it is basically relevant to all things retro gaming as will be mentioned throughout. I don’t see myself as a guru when it comes to collecting, I simply want to share my experiences of what I’ve found leads to results. I hope you enjoy!
Retro Gaming Outlets:
This probably doesn’t need to be said, but garage sales are a great place to find a hidden gem, whether it be games, consoles, or accessories. I also think it’s important to consider what garage sales you go to. Some people don’t necessarily know the value of retro gaming equipment and some do, therefore it may be just as smart to go to Garage Sales that don’t advertise they have any video game related items on sale as ones that do.
Ones that don’t advertise could have an old Atari or old Commodore in amongst all their other electronics goods for sale and the seller may not think much of it, therefore getting a rare item at a low price. Ones that do advertise their video game item selection probably are aware people like you and me are still interested in these older games and consoles and hence know what to charge.
I suppose it does come down to what you’re after and how much time you have. Generally speaking I think getting into the habit of going to garage sales whenever you have time and you see one on the way to somewhere. I’m not certain it’s worthwhile to dedicate an entire day to garage sale-ing though, unless you plan on targeting a number that you are certain contain video game type things. That way there’s far less a chance of losing an entire day and walking away with nothing.
Garage sales are a great way to add to your Nintendo Wii Collection
Online stores can be very ‘hit and miss’ when it comes to finding a bargain. I would suggest they require the most frequent monitoring out of all the retro gaming outlets I will mention in this post. Obviously by online stores I’m talking your entire marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, but also encompassing retro gaming stores that are online and 2nd hand stores that have an online presence.
The reason why I’ve opted to group all of the above together is I think when it comes to searching for a bargain or hidden gem, it’s pretty normal to move across all outlets simultaneously to ascertain the best option available. If this is not something you do, it’s something I’d recommend.
What I do is have all relevant retro websites, under one bookmark folder on my PC. Then once a week, open all the bookmarks and sift through to see what’s available. I think it’s important to do it regularly, monthly is just as reasonable, or whatever suits you. Even if you don’t have the money to buy anything, simply keeping tabs on the prices of some retro video gaming equipment is very important. I’ll mention more on this later.
Online Shopping can be a great way to pick up 6th and 7th gen consoles
Brick and Mortar retail and Opportunity Shops
Basically any store either second hand or not that could possibly stock retro games. Whether it be ebgames/GameStop, Target/Walmart, JB Hi-fi/Best Buy, Salvo’s Store/Goodwill or your local pawnbroker, the list is reasonably endless and obviously varied depending on where in the world you live. It’s very helpful to get to know what stores are within driving distance from you and what they stock. It can be possible to find older generations of consoles and certainly old video game stock at these stores. Pay special attention to thrift store’s and pawnbrokers in your area as these can stock some rare items.
Similar to Garage Sales I’d recommend popping into a few stores when you have the time and regularly enough. Whether you head out specifically to do so, or simply pop in whilst doing the weekly shop etc. All stores update their stock regularly and the only tangible way to be sure they don’t have something, is if you go there and check.
In my experience ebgames is excellent for previous gen consoles, games and accessories however I’d recommend if buying preowned to go in store for this to know exactly what you are getting, if this is possible. If it isn’t, simply know it may come without the packaging and/or with a few dings and scratches. Thrift stores in my experience have the most hidden gems at low prices. However as they will only have a small amount of games on sale and it’s becoming increasingly better known about thrift stores and cheap retro titles, it is worth returning as often as possible to these places to see what else they have. Pawnbrokers often have a wide variety of consoles, games and accessories, although in my experience they will often charge around the same as eBay and other retro store’s. However they can be a good alternative if you want a second hand brick and mortar option and there isn’t much else in your area.
Thrift stores tend to have more games than consoles. But you do get some excellent games from them.
Things to Remember:
I’m not necessarily talking about discount’s here, however if money is tight it is perfectly reasonable to wait for a discount. More I’m talking about value. I think most console and video game collectors are aware of the nature of video game equipment to go right down in value and then creep back up years in the future. In some circumstances there’s no creep back up in value, in others there’s no fall in value. It usually comes down to supply and demand. Low demand and high supply means a bargain, high demand and low supply means the exact opposite.
With video games it’s usually easy to tell when products are at their lowest, ie. now is the time and has been for the past few years to be purchasing as many PS3 and Xbox 360 console’s as you desire. In fact, most 6th and 7th gen console’s are a bargain. In my experience 5th gen console’s and back are increasing but slowly. However by no means is there a hard and fast rule. Your most popular retro consoles will probably be around $50-$100 for a really long time, it’s when you start getting to the more obscure consoles like the Atari Jaguar and the Neo Geo AES things start getting expensive.
Lets be honest, consoles that are going up in price, or at some point in the past, were cheaper, aren’t going to be as cheap ever again unless you find a bargain. If you are hanging out for a rare console, or rare game, it’s important to consider that in some cases, it’s now or never.
Amiga CD32’s aren’t getting cheaper. If you want it now, figure out how.
In this instance I’m speaking more about the hobby itself and the kind of lifestyle you are considering as a retro collector. For me in the past, it has become overwhelming after some research, simply how much some retro games and consoles can cost, alongside just how much there is to buy if you are passionate about filling out your collection. My suggestion is to find ways to integrate the hobby into your lifestyle.
As mentioned previously, consider popping into places that could have retro gaming equipment whilst you’re on your way to do other things. Consider popping past ebgames/GameStop while doing the shopping, pop into a Goodwill on your way home from work. Life for most can be too hectic to devote hours to video game collecting let alone playing video games at all, but going 5-10 minutes out your way once or twice a week or even once a month can be all you need to see your collection to start to grow.
Lastly, patience. There’s zero reason for this hobby not to last a lifetime. Don’t succumb to peer pressure suggesting there’s an age you’re supposed to outgrow video games. Don’t listen to those who may call you a hoarder and most important, don’t listen to yourself when you start to question your hobby. Maybe you are a hoarder which can be problematic and maybe you are no longer interested in video games. However if all you are collecting is video game equipment, you aren’t a hoarder, and if you’ve lost interest in video games, wait a few years before doing anything with your collection. My interest in video games has left me in the past, but I’ve never been more interested in the hobby than the last couple of years and I’m stocked about what I’ve kept, and upset about what I’ve gotten rid of.
Took me a while to get a GameCube, then a while to get a genuine controller, then a while to get Super Mario Sunshine. No need to drop all your money at once, just gradually collect a little at a time.
Priority management is important for a number of reasons, there’s budget constraints that most retro collectors have, time constraints as mentioned previously, availability of product constraints, location constraints, etc. I could potentially make some more headings for these options, however in reality there are many reasons to opt not to invest in a retro console or game etc. Or really anything. It seems more relevant to discuss what to do when there simply isn’t the option to get all the available retro items that you desire.
In the most part it comes down to a variety of different factors when deciding what next to invest in. So this discussion can’t necessarily be a blanket discussion. A budgetary constraint, is very different from a location or supply constraint. A time constraint is very different from a space constraint. If you’re anything like me you probably suffer from all constraints to varying capacities, I live in a small house in Western Australia, make reasonable money, but not much is left after expenses, and I do struggle to find the time for most things these days.
Having constraints on a hobby can be difficult, but it can also be beneficial so as to give your life balance. These days I have zero issues with the constraints on my hobby as I see it as an opportunity to seek out good sales, be patient and snag something that ends up meaning a hell of a lot to me. Which is why it’s all about priorities, it is rare to be able to buy all the retro equipment you so desire. Therefore it’s important to think about what you most want and accommodate those interests first before stressing about other things. I think that’s where I came into console collecting, for me I wanted a bunch of different consoles. So I bought a bunch of different consoles. But then I was left with a bunch of consoles with only a few games each and some consoles with dodgy controllers or no controller at all. Once I bought a few games and equipment to get the consoles working, my interests fell back to getting more consoles.
I don’t have much space where I live. Hence when I want to get retro gaming, things tend to get a bit messy. But I love it, because I think that’s how retro gaming should be.
I think that priority management in the context of a hobby is not as cut and dry as maybe it is in an actual job, because it’s far more about what interests you than what’s actually needed. If you are more fulfilled having one entire collection, that’s the priority, if you are more fulfilled having every console but only one game per console just to show it works, then that’s the priority. I think hobbies are a very personal thing, and in reality, just do whatever you most want with the constraints you have.
Whether it be in person or online, building connections is just as important as you hear about. However it doesn’t need to be as difficult as it often seems. In no instance do you really need to go out of your way to make connections with people or try and make friends, simply say a few extra sentences when at the store or garage sale. Just be a nice person and mention a few details about why this particular purchase interests you. It sounds pointless maybe, but in my experience sharing a little bit about yourself in the context of your hobby, can result in a few extra items thrown into the purchase. Knowledge about other things that are for sale that you didn’t know about, discounts on the purchase or future purchases, knowledge about other locations that may have similar merchandise, the list goes on. I think these days it’s common to Google the answers to everything, but in the retro gaming space, alot is still word of mouth. It’s worthwhile making connections with others about your interest in retro collecting and maybe they will provide some information to lead to your next investment.
I got the Atari 2600 ‘Woody’ pictured above through work connections, with two joysticks and two paddles and the original box. I’m absolutely stoked to add it to my collection.
Not to mention it’s nice to share your hobby with others, learn about why other people are interested in retro collecting and simply to know that there are other people in your area that have similar interests to you. Having ways to be more confident in your hobby can help you to branch out a little further when looking for a particular item, or simply when living day to day life and people asking you ‘what are your hobbies?’ Retro collecting is a very cool and fun thing to do. Something I enjoy telling myself is, beyond good health, everything else is an artificial construct of humanity and ultimately doesn’t matter. We assign meaning to things that objectively have no meaning, but subjectively mean everything. Therefore why not assign meaning to things that interest you, giving things importance adds value to our lives and gives us something to enjoy and be fulfilled by. If something is important to you, than that’s all that matters and no one should stop you from enjoying that thing.
Quality and Restoration:
Lastly retro collecting 95% of the time involves collecting things that have been used. Games, consoles and accessories can and do deteriorate over time and can often be poorly looked after, gathering dust, getting knocked around in an old box. I’ve cleaned up my fair share of dust and dirt covered consoles, games and accessories. Water damaged, melted, bitten, scratched, parts missing, parts broken off, etc. Although it would be nice to get everything in good condition, it’s simply not realistic. A boxed or mint condition console or game really raises the price and can be very difficult to find. It is more reasonable to set up a space at home or wherever you collect your retro equipment for the purpose of restoring a dusty old console, than trying to find a mint condition one. Not to mention it feels really good to restore technology that was otherwise destined for the trash.
Depending on what you get, it could require differing levels of restoration, in my experience it’s usually cosmetic, but I occasionally try my hand at component repairs if need be. If the need was more substantial I would do it more and learn more of how to repair older consoles and accessories etc. However these retro consoles were built well, so sometimes you’ll plug in something that looks filthy, rusted, damaged etc. but it just works!
If you do need to do some serious repairs of a console, depending on what it is, it’s a good idea to check online for parts as it can be more worthwhile to buy a replacement part than attempt to repair it. However if you are skilled in repair of electronic components then by all means repair away. If I was more confident in this department, I don’t think I’d ever buy a working console, it would save alot of money and I’d have fun repairing and refurbishing old consoles.
Replacing the laser in my Sega Dreamcast
To conclude, console and video game collecting is an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding hobby that is absolutely worth doing if you’re considering it or keeping up if you’re questioning it. There can be alot of factors to consider and depending on what you’re interested in collecting and what your constraints are, can lead to a completely different collection to someone else.
It has every capacity to be a hobby that lasts a lifetime, something to always enjoy, grow, to relive memories, to create new memories. It is unlike most other hobbies and collections, it’s interactive, often starts from early childhood, and involves collecting of three different components, the console, the game and the controller/accessories, each of which are collectors items of their own. It’s interesting to boot up an old game and see it still work, it’s incredible to play it on original hardware, the same way people would’ve played decades ago. Even if you just want a collection to look at and appreciate whilst playing more modern games instead. That’s fine too. Retro collecting, like gaming in general, is for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.
Lastly I want to say, if you aren’t interested in retro collecting please consider giving your equipment to someone who might be, or a business that sells it. You may think it’s an old Commodore 64 gathering dust and should just go in the bin, but I promise you. It could mean the world to someone so either keep it or give it to a goodwill, retro gaming store or someone who has the capacity to find a good home for it.
References: All images taken by me! The author of Gaming Detour.