Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Buying Guide: Sega Master System

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We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Oh the Master System, the red-headed step child of the 8-bit era.  Not only were Sega products unknown to American markets – Japan had seen several iterations of the Sega Mark consoles, the Master System known as the Mark III – but it released alongside the NES in America and had nothing to show for it.  The two biggest problems with the Master System today is that it’s relatively expensive for a working consoles itself, there are ways to play many of these games on the Game Gear or Genesis (with the Power Base Converter), and not too many good games (many arcade games also got ported to Genesis with better quality).  For those that aren’t aware, Nintendo also had developers and publishers locked into license agreements that didn’t allow games to be released on another console and basically had the Master System in checkmate in the US.  Still, I have the console and love some of the games/ports that are available on it (like Ghostbusters) and plenty of collector’s are curious what the console looks like.  Aside from the video provided below, make sure the consoles you get have the following:

  • An AC adaptor that is 9V and 1.0 Amp.  You will be tempted to use a Genesis or a NES AC adaptor, especially because they have the same plug input, but the amperage is larger than the Master System requires and could burn out your console.  With this console selling for $50+ used and the fact that they are somewhat rare, best not chance it.
  • This console requires an RF modulator that has a single RCA output, which is identical to the NES, Turbografx-16, and Genesis 1 RF modulator and unlike the AC adaptor you can use this with your Master System interchangably.  In fact, I use the same modulator for all 3 consoles without issues.
  • At least one controller.  The controller inputs are identical to the Genesis and Atari 2600/VCS controller ports although the d-pad and 2-button setup will have varying degrees with non-Master System controllers.  I just hunted down a console with two controllers and I was ready t0 go (although there are few 2-player games).

You can expect to pay between $50-$100 for a console depending on accessories, condition, and geographic location.  Since the console is scarce there’s no good way to pinpoint an ideal price point so I revert back to the age old “pay what you think it’s worth” rule.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Hi. Thanks for the advice. I’m wondering about cart storage. I know from personal experience that its a good idea to get replacement dust sleeves for loose NES cartridges. Do SMS cartridges require similar protection, and is there a suitable replacement for the original boxes?


    December 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

    • SMS carts will often have hard plastic cases with them (much like Genesis/Mega Drive) making that process easier. Unfortunately there aren’t many sleeve solutions I know of for Sega consoles. The best place to get plastic hard cases for games is, a Europe-based retailer that sells boxes for all consoles. In the case of SMS the carts are same, despite the site claiming for PAL (European broadcast) only. 1€ each or 9€ for 10, worldwide shipping. They aren’t affiliated with our site so if you can find elsewhere, let me know! For now, that’ll be my best solution. I keep mine in a loose slider case amd never had problems but it came with the system and was a toy store accessory.

      Fred Rojas

      December 1, 2014 at 11:33 am

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