Chronicles of a
by Sean Kelly
I don't know how many of you have noticed this, but we appear to have lost a "tier" in classic game pricing and I'm proud to report that you were warned about it right in the pages of DP first.
When I first got into classic collecting there were four general pricing tiers for people selling games to other collectors. You had your commons which were always going for under five bucks. You had your mid-ranges which generally went between five and say twelve to fifteen bucks. You had your rares which went for twenty to forty-ish and you had your very rares going for forty to God only knows how much. It seems that most people have dropped the mid-range section and everything is either common or rare anymore. This is all a part of the price restructuring that's going on based on supply and demand. The supply of commons keeps getting bigger because nobody wants them while the supply of mid-range stuff is slowly drying up pushing all those titles into the rare category.
So who really cares you ask? Well you do and I'll tell you why. You're new to this collecting stuff. Introduced to it by a friend or you stumbled upon the classic newsgroup on the net, or whatever. Your search begins....
You start by hitting the casual garage sale that you happen to pass by on your way home from work. Occasionally you'll pick up a straggler or two in a "25 cent box", but one day you hit paydirt! A 2600 system, about 40 games, several controllers, and all for a measly ten bucks! You snag it and are off to check out your new toys.
"Hey I used to have this game!" you hear yourself saying several times as you're going through the box. Little do you know...
Now you're getting more serious about it spending a few hours on Saturdays actively looking for garage sales. Here again, every once in a while you'll find a cart or two that you don't have, but generally you're skunked. One day you see someone else with a box of 2600 carts in their hand at a garage sale in YOUR neighborhood. You find yourself peering over the guy's shoulder to see what goodies are in the box. When he decides to take them, green with envy, you casually start up a conversation.
"You collect those old games too huh?" you say while paying absolutely no attention to the man, bobbing and weaving your head so as to get the best view of what's in the box.
"Yeah, I've been collecting them for a couple years now. I've got about 270 titles and am always looking for more." he says.
"Well I just started a couple months ago. So where do you find all your games?" you ask with your jaw now scraping on the sidewalk.
"I used to get most of my games at garage sales and flea markets, but I've been doing a lot of trading on the internet of late because it's getting harder and harder to find games I don't already have anymore. A lot of.."
"270 titles is a lot of titles. Well, I'll see you around" you abruptly cut him off and scram the hell out of there.
"The internet - THAT'S the ticket!!" you think to yourself and make your way home to the PC.
Once on the net you realize just how wide-spread this thing really is. At first you thought you were the only psycho looking for all this "old crap", but you now realize there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others doing the same thing as you. The first thing that smacks you in the face in the newsgroups is all the people selling and trading carts and the PRICES they're asking for them.
"Are people actually PAYING that much for these games? I just picked up about 50 carts for a quarter each over the past few months! There's no way in hell I'M going to pay that much for them!!"
You're back on the hunt now more serious than ever. You don't have anything "good" to trade other people so you're going to have to be a loner at this and it doesn't bother you one bit. You now have a rarity list and know what's hot and what's not and you're determined to find some good carts now.
Flea markets are a great idea and you start looking for all the fleas in the area. You map them out and hit the garage sales on Saturday and the fleas on Sunday. By now you're wife is threatening divorce but you don't care...."these things are worth MONEY dear" you try to explain to here. The word "money" shuts her up for a while as it usually does with wives and you're off.
Saturday you're skunked! You only see a few carts the whole day and you already have them. You do pick up this giant moose-head on a plaque to hang in the den which you thought was just too cool to pass up. Not only are you hooked on classics at this point, but you've also now become a pack-rat and doomed to a life of bargain hunting or even bargain creating when there are no bargains to be found. "Bargain Creating" is the process by which you rationalize buying something you have absolutely ZERO USE for just so you don't go home empty-handed - i.e. the moose-head!
Sunday you do a little better but not much. You pick up 5 carts you didn't already have, but comparing them to your rarity list you realize that they are only listed as "uncommon"!
Several weeks go by with the same results. Your search has expanded to thrift stores now and your scored a few good finds, but not much. Your collection has now reached about 100 titles and you're feeling pretty bummed about the whole situation. You really NEED to get some new titles for your collection so you decide to take one more look at the internet.
"This isn't TOO bad." you're now thinking to yourself. "It's not exactly a quarter apiece, but for a couple bucks each I can get quite a few games I need." You scrounge up a few bucks (sneaking it past the wife of course) and pick up about 40 more titles you don't have at around two bucks each. Your collection is now at 145 titles and the pickings of titles you don't have, and can afford, are getting pretty slim so you decide to play your hand in a few smaller auctions on the net.
You win several titles you need and end up paying about four bucks each for them which isn't that bad you're thinking. Now you're a little more hip to what titles you've got a chance at finding at flea markets and such and what titles you'll most likely never see and you run across someone selling a cart for $50 that you'd seen go for $85 in an auction recently. "What a deal!!" you think to yourself and without even thinking you snatch it up. Fifty bucks is much more than what you'd wanted to pay for any cart, but it's "worth" more than that.
The thing that you don't realize has been happening to you all along is that you've become an addict! You NEED to get more games for your collection. You're past the point of even caring if you'll ever play them or not, whether the games are fun or not, whether you'll get divorced or not! You're hooked and one way or another, no matter the cost, you WILL get new games for your collection.
This scenario may have taken certain aspects of the collectors quest to an extreme, but for the most part I've seen it happen time and time again. The question is this though - is it such a bad thing to be addicted to? Yes some of the games are going to cost you a pretty decent buck unless you get real lucky. Yes you're going to spend a lot of time scrounging around for them. And yes you'll probably get in a good argument or two because of the money you're spending, but they way I look at it there are a lot of worse things collectors could be doing. Take a look around you at what some other people are doing with their time and money in regards to their addictions. Hey, drugs are fairly readily available, but you get plenty high when you run across that $80 cart at a flea market for a quarter! I see a lot of my friends hanging out at the bars paying three bucks each for a beer. I'll sit at home and pick up a six-pack for that price if I want to and spend the other fifteen bucks on a game or two thank you very much. What about gambling? If I have to choose between spending $25 on the lotto and the same amount on a game, I don't think I need to tell you where my dough's going.
I'm not trying to rationalize the prices that the rarer games are going for by any means, or even saying that collecting games is TRULY addictive. Prices have skyrocketed on the rare stuff bottomed-out on the commons. And I'm sure 98% of you wouldn't sell the kids in to slavery to pick up a Chuckwagon in an auction either (but there is that 2% of you now isn't there?!) The thing I AM saying is that if you're going to have a hobby it's going to cost you money no matter what it is. Classic game collecting can be expensive, but for the most part, it is generally agreed-upon that the rare stuff will retain it's value for quite some time to come. I'm fairly comfortable knowing that the money I spent has simply taken the form of a cartridge and can be converted back to cash without too much hassle if need be. The end result of alcohol isn't worth piss, pun intended, and wall-papering my room with losing lottery tickets wouldn't be much fun. Those of you that can afford to do all three, I'm a hard worker - lemme know if your firm is looking for any help!!
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