Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Bang For Your Buck

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Video games are similar to several other hobbies, like comic books, that have two different worlds: collectors and players.  Players, like comic book readers, are more concerned with the content rather than the value or potential value as items become old and/or rare.  Collectors, in any form, are always concerned with several aspects like condition, completeness and rarity.  In the case of retro gaming, the two worlds collide quite often, especially because plenty of rare games are also known for their amazing content.  Fortunately digital downloads and re-releases have assisted in making former high-cost classics like Final Fantasy VII and Phantasy Star IV cheap and easy to get your hands on.

Personally I am not much of a collector, despite the fact that I do have a decent collection, because I’m more interested in the game itself.  My copy of Snatcher is not worth what others fetch on eBay – it has a large rental sticker all over it that someone attempted to remove (and failed) not to mention it had several surface scratches before I resurfaced it – but the game plays in my Sega CD nonetheless and I enjoyed it as much as any other gamer.  Other than the games I bought new, many of the expensive games I have acquired don’t have cases, instructions or even labels.  Although rare, there are even a few games that were so badly beaten they wouldn’t play but I was able to resurface or create backups because there was no copy protection on the console (I do not perform permanent hardware mods or install mod chips).  I am a player and I’m not shelling out $150 for Snatcher.  I want the largest amount of quality games I can get and my budget is limited, therefore I get what I can.

No matter how rough a game is (assuming it’s playable) or what format you get it in, there are always going to be minimum and maximum points at which to purchase games.  It’s just not reasonable that you will ever find a copy of Snatcher for $20.  When you’re out and about, it’s important not to get taken advantage of because like all collectible items, video games can suffer heavy mark-ups from those cashing in on the misinformed.  Your best bet is to get a price guide, especially when you want to check if that copy of Final Fight Guy on SNES really is appropriately priced at $30.  It’s also fun to look back at the classics and discover what games from the past became gems of the present.  In addition you may discover that you own some of the top dollar products out there and cash in if times are tough.  These higher value titles are also good trade value – I recently traded my second 32x console, which I thought was broken but just had the wrong AC adaptor, for most of the cost of a Turbografx-16 at a brick & mortar shop near me.  It’s like the stock market, you want to consistently keep up with the trends so as to make the most out of your dollar.

Be One Step Ahead

Anyone who has been a collector knows not to trust one source unless it’s considered an industry leader in pricing – think Kelly’s Blue Book or Overstreet’s Comic Book Guide, although I’m not even sure those are considered “authority” anymore.  In addition, collector’s and appraisers alike have been relying heavily on eBay because that is where the biggest auctions have occurred.  Much like the housing market, value is only truly deciphered by what one would pay for an item and with the contractual status of eBay, no one bids unless they know they can pay for it.  This helped appropriate the $10,000 – $13,000 value of a boxed copy of Stadium Events because before the infamous recent auction no one had a copy in that condition for sale so no one knew what someone would pay for it.  On the other hand, the eBay market is also guilty of obscene price gouging so just because it’s listed there doesn’t mean that it’s valid.  The first group of price boosters are those cashing in on recent events – take for example that same auction above, many con artists flooded eBay with ridiculous $10,000+ auctions for a simple NES with a few games hoping that the average person wouldn’t notice that the real item for sale in that auction was Stadium Events*.  Then there are the guys who get there first, which happens often for rare items that usually don’t show more than once or twice every few months.  We’ll go back to Snatcher on eBay and right now there are copies of the game on auction for $145-$200, one even trying to sell for $250 with a Justifier (a light gun that enhances the game and usually sells for $15-$25).  These sellers are welcome to try to fetch that price, but until someone actually pays for it, that’s not necessarily the value – nor is it just because one person paid that price.

***DID YOU KNOW?  There are actually two versions of Stadium Events, one that is NTSC (United States) and one that is PAL (United Kingdom/Europe).  While the PAL version is rare, it’s worth only around $400 compared to the $13,000 price tag associated with the US copy.  For this reason, it’s important to catch the scammers, lest you pay $2,000 for a $400 game.  Below is a guide to telling the difference.***

Click to expand

If you go to Price Charting for Video Games, an excellent resource for getting recent “market” values of online auctions, the pricing seems to be right about correct.  When you search for that specific game you can see that not only does the average copy sell for $188 on eBay, but that the overall average is $177 and that the game is trending on a major upward slope.  Unfortunately the reasoning could be anyone’s guess from the info on the site – perhaps Kojima’s work is getting more praise with the rising popularity of the Metal Gear Solid franchise or the fact that english version of Snatcher or even a re-release seems farther away.  It does allow you to view completed auctions that justify the price, which can be useful to view market trends and get into what people are usually paying for the product given factors like the holidays and geographic location.  On the other hand, let’s face it, the convenience factor of eBay tends to inflate the price, so I’m not sure the game is actually worth $177 or if that’s what it should be selling for on a used game shelf in Chattanooga, TN.  For a much more informational and accurate price guide, which takes into account both used game shops and online auctions, I recommend VG Collector magazine.  To me this guide feels much more like an Overstreet and has great updates with each new issue – I think the magazine is seasonal – providing a value versus a price for used video games.  It also accounts for factors like condition, which is necessary when trying to adjust a price depending on how rough the gamer was with the game.  Currently the web site does not provide a price guide, but the publication contains informational articles that are a charm for any classic gamer, so what’s the harm in dropping a mere $8 to pick up the current issue?

It’s important to know the value before you buy, otherwise you may not notice that Night Trap isn’t worth that much anymore and end up dropping $50 for a game that used to be worth that and is now more like $15.  It also prevents your jaw from dropping when you go to buy a new SNES and they quote you an $80 price tag.  Not to mention, who doesn’t love sifting through a price guide?

Written by Fred Rojas

January 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm

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