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What systems are practical to collect for in 2021?

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I have recently been buying a lot of NES games since getting my wife’s NES up and running, and I have been surprised by how many decent lots I have gotten for not very much money. Including some where despite my protestations the seller included several moderately rare boxes and manuals for games he lost! I had thought NES collecting had gotten stupid, which was one reason I avoided it, but it seems that boxed games are what are really stupid.

 

So here are my criteria for a system being practical to collect for:

 

1. consoles and accessories easily available and reasonably easy to keep working

2. a majority of the best/iconic games for the system being available loose for $25 or less

3. a number of “hidden gems”/fun and unique but less high profile games that are actually findable and affordable

4. a reasonably high chance of finding something you don’t own in the wild

 

The systems that these criteria eliminate are pretty obvious (several of which are coincidentally the focus of most of my lifelong collecting): Sega CD, 32X, Turbografx 16, Saturn, Jaguar, 3DO, CDi, Tiger R-Zone, Gamecube, 5200, 7800, Virtual Boy, and so on. Many are failed systems, and I’m a sucker for those.

 

SNES is starting to fall afoul of criterion 2. There are lots of good, affordable games for the system but the best of the best (even games that sold a lot) are getting hard to come by. (The fact that the system is an RPG specialist doesn’t help any). To my shock, even some basic Genesis games like Sonic 3 are becoming pricey (comparatively).

 

But I have rarely paid more than $15 for any of the NES games I wanted, and I have gotten really interesting games I enjoy a lot as fodder in lots with some of the higher profile games. Likewise the 2600 and Intellivision are still widely available at less-than-a-fancy-coffee prices.

 

Handheld systems have largely dodged the problem. For instance, Game Gear has a handful of games that sell for a lot (particularly the Japanese and European rarities) but only one US-released game is truly crazy. Most of the really rare games (Power Drive, Tarzan, Mega Man, Panzer Dragoon Mini) aren’t worth owning anyway, and that’s not just sour grapes. Game Boy has more desirable titles that have entered the stratosphere (ZAS, alas, along with Rolan’s Curse 2 and Great Greed), but besides the Pokemon games (which are their own bubble within a bubble) most of the heavy hitters can be had for under $20.

 

Most more recent systems are pretty easy to fill shelves with awesome games for under $20. Xbox, 360, PS2, PS3, Wii, Wii U, DS, 3DS are all easy to build great libraries on a relatively constrained budget. (PS3 seems to be going a little crazy, at least for some of the few games I have.)

 

And of course the current generation, while far from the huge bounty of clearance bins in the past, still has some amazing deals if you keep an eye out.

 

Some notable systems that are surprisingly easy to collect for:

 

While the Vectrex has a reputation for being pricey, that’s mostly about the hardware and the official controllers. (And most of all the out of print homebrew, which is CRAZY pricey.) Once you have a unit, though, loose games are quite cheap with few exceptions, and nice reproduction overlays are available from several sources now. Lightpens and 3D imagers are being made by several different homebrewers and there are ample guides to servicing them.

 

Milton Bradley’s other weird console, the Microvision, has a very small library but I really enjoy most of the games. And how often does a handheld have a built in paddle controller, you know? Most games sell complete in box for $20 or less, and bundles are easy to find. The original screens are dying but there are two good modern replacements.

 

What systems have surprised you with their accessibility or insanity? What should people looking to try something new be on the lookout for?

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FC, SFC, and Japanese Game Boy. Most games are extremely cheap and some are worthless or close to worthless in monetary value, especially if you go for cart-only.

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This time next year you will be able to find it all for pennies on the dollar.. really.  Just hold off a bit.  Even now, people in the know who spent the last 5-10 years going nuts collecting everything now seem to be slowly selling their stuff as they see the writing on the wall.  It pains me to say and think this, but it's pretty much a given.

 

 

 

 

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In general, just avoided the 15-25 year high, when people who played the games in their teens are well into their career with lits of disposable income.

 

The best time to buy games for the cheapest prices is usually 2 generations back, just before the newest generation is being released. For example, because PS5/Xbox S series were coming out last Christmas, most stores were dumping their PS3 and Xbox 360 stock of games for dirt cheap prices. Usually, you can also pickup late system release games after the new system releases (I.e. PS4/Xbox One) for regular prices, which many times become hidden gems due to lower unit sales because many people have moved onto the new platform (think Little Samson, Duck Tales 2, Tales of Destiny 2, etc.)

 

The cheapest price for games will probably be when they are considered junk by most people. This will likely happen for VCS carts in about 10 years, when the people who played them in their youth are 65+ years old. The problem with that is that finding copies at that point will be much more difficult, because most people will just throw away the stuff that is considered junk.

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I mean...for a lot of us, #4 rules out everything I think, as there is very little "in the wild" period any more. I found a Genesis and 20+ games, including Toe Jam and Earl, at a tag sale 5+ years ago. That is the only "in the wild" find I can remember in the last 10 years.

 

 

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13 hours ago, Steven Pendleton said:

FC, SFC, and Japanese Game Boy. Most games are extremely cheap and some are worthless or close to worthless in monetary value, especially if you go for cart-only.

That is mostly true (alas, ZAS) but SFC games seem a little harder to find. Psycho Dream for instance doesn’t seem available loose for under $45.

 

I’m not sure that the 15-25 year thing makes sense. 2600 games never got that pricey except for some rare games that are still pricey. Nobody ever owned a Vectrex back when it was released and they are not easy to come by, and the games never really got expensive in the first place. The Channel F sold relatively few and it has never been cheap, and has never been more expensive than the last few years despite being 40+.

 

It may be true that the Atari generation aging out of being able to play video games will kill all these things, but I am slightly behind the Atari Generation (and indeed never owned one until the mid to late 90s when I started garage saleing), and I often spend more time with those games than modern console games.
 

I am still hugely into the systems I had as a teen that are hooked up (Game Gear, Genesis, 32X, Sega CD, Lynx, Game Boy, 2600/7800, Channel F) and really eager to set up my Saturn, Playstation, Atari ST, and Color Computer when I have a proper space for them. But I am equally into the stuff I got into in my late teens and twenties (Game Boy Advance, Gamecube, Dreamcast, Xbox). And I still love the 360, the Wii, the Wii U, and the Switch. I guess I just love video games :) 

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#2 for now is also having Gameboy creep (Color, Advanced) into that SNES edging of being a fail on that point sadly.  Scum are at their antics big time this year on it, but I don't see it sustainable.

 

The beagle their said it, hold off, give it a year.  I'm sure you have plenty that will take considerable time to finish, if not necessary master too.  The reality of it is, things are changing and the door will swing... just wait.

 

For those in the US next year you'll have self employment tax if you don't file on second hand selling of anything if it pops over $600 in a year (vs 20K now.)  A lot of people will find out and will act appropriately.  Some won't care, but largely I think you'll see a lot of resellers/flippers drop out if they don't want to pony up for tax forms if not a business license so the greedy taxes can get raked in off their stuff and it's on everything.  Games, sure... how about someone dies and you inherit some furniture you hate and make 2K on it... 1.4K is taxed.  Tired of your last years model super computer...taxed.

 

I think you'll see a large amount of people shifting to:

- Cash only

- Trading

- Turning in to retail shops for credit or cash

- Flea market/garage sales having a moderate come back as they're cash based

- And some just either keeping stuff or just outright throwing it out as paying on old junk instead of tossing it is less work

 

For games, it means an adjustment.  Short term second hand stores will get flooded more with goods for in store credit/cash.  As they get more, they will get inventory they run out of room for, trying to keep these bullshit prices up, it'll rot.  As more comes in, they'll pay less and less due to backlog, they'll then fix the prices lower, then lower, until it moves and they can turn over more backlog.  It'll drive down the costs of various second hand items...games included.  You'll see a divergence where the current run of known reseller twits who ask a premium are going to take a pounding online, they won't have random sellers to compete with, but that doesn't mean their laughable prices will work when local cash buys and trades get people far better value.  There will be the online price, and the local price which hasn't been a thing in years.

 

So whatever you think may hit your list of reasons of gaming/systems that are price disgusting and inaccessible shouldn't last.

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On the upper end of the economy, though, collectibles are a tax haven, as they are taxed at 28% (way less than earned income at the upper tax brackets) for only the capital gains (what you sold them for minus what you paid) and can even be a tax credit if sold at a loss (as long as you kept them in storage and didn’t play them).

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Odyssey 2/videopac, though you probably won't find their stuff in random cardboard boxes on roadside sales, the last time I checked the games are still relatively cheap on auction sites that it isn't prohibitive, I'd argue that in terms of the easiest collection to go for, it always wins out, only a couple of games go for three figure numbers, and they aren't the mainline games*. Sometimes you can hold off and find a game a lot cheaper just waiting awhile too. I've paid less than £2 including delivery for a rare videopac title before (not to say that it is worth a lot more, only that its frequency of finding it is low). 

 

* not including the European exclusives for the upgraded console, but even then there is nothing over £300

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A local record store has piles of Odyssey2 carts. They are not super cheap, but I think they’re in the $5 range. How easy is the hardware to get and maintain?

 

One way I’ve added to my collection this year without breaking the bank too badly is by finding independent stores and especially Japanese independent stores that haven’t seen the price inflation. It’s somewhat easy for me to justify $35 or $50 for a PC Engine or SFC game I really want CIB, and it’s even easier to justify $5 or $10 for a Game Boy or Game Gear game.

 

One thing I learned today was don’t order fine china from game stores. Yikes.

 

D75A4E07-A929-491B-8DD6-F860976DCECA.thumb.jpeg.652a13d53969e542c226f5d480780dcd.jpeg

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1 hour ago, jgkspsx said:

A local record store has piles of Odyssey2 carts. They are not super cheap, but I think they’re in the $5 range. How easy is the hardware to get and maintain?

 

One way I’ve added to my collection this year without breaking the bank too badly is by finding independent stores and especially Japanese independent stores that haven’t seen the price inflation. It’s somewhat easy for me to justify $35 or $50 for a PC Engine or SFC game I really want CIB, and it’s even easier to justify $5 or $10 for a Game Boy or Game Gear game.

 

One thing I learned today was don’t order fine china from game stores. Yikes.

 

D75A4E07-A929-491B-8DD6-F860976DCECA.thumb.jpeg.652a13d53969e542c226f5d480780dcd.jpeg

In Europe a console can go as low as £20 unboxed, £30 boxed for the videopac. Quick look on ebay shows similar prices for Odyssey 2 units: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/124935335910?epid=111291489&hash=item1d16b9efe6:g:7b4AAOSwdplg~v27 is an example I quickly looked up. Spending a bit more will probably get you a better box. The European ones sometimes come in different sized boxes - possibly depending on whether controllers are hardwired in or removable. One version of the box is considerably bigger than the other, but all the consoles is the same size.

 

Also, was that how it was packed? Jeez XD Nearly as bad as my Wii U console through Ebay - I had to buy a second hand Wii U touchscreen controller and that was NOT cheap to replace.

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Aw man, you make a great case for it! I need to check out what my record store has first… I kind of willed myself not to look at it when I’ve been in there.

 

This was from Suruga-ya, and they packed the outer box fine but the cup and saucer did not have sufficient padding between them, and… bam. So much for that gift idea…

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Someone who goes to thrift stores and yard sales when I can. The ones that you can get cheap now will be the 360 and PS3 for the most part, Most of these people moved to Xbox one and PS4 normally don't care about these. 

 

If your looking for a little more modern gaming, you can get some really good stuff with 360 and PS3 games for cheap... They are not 4K but, most titles hold up very well today. 

 

Finding more retro is getting harder now. With COVID times people are grabbing them thinking they are going to make a ton off them. I tend to sometimes, getting rarer finding NES, SNES, N64 type games as they were more common. I look forward to the pricing dropping a bit, there is a few GameCube titles I want but, NFW paying $100 for a Zelda GameCube. 

 

Anyway about it, it's not as easy to find as it was 3-4 years ago.

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11 minutes ago, TheCoolDave said:

Someone who goes to thrift stores and yard sales when I can. The ones that you can get cheap now will be the 360 and PS3 for the most part, Most of these people moved to Xbox one and PS4 normally don't care about these. 

 

If your looking for a little more modern gaming, you can get some really good stuff with 360 and PS3 games for cheap... They are not 4K but, most titles hold up very well today. 

 

Finding more retro is getting harder now. With COVID times people are grabbing them thinking they are going to make a ton off them. I tend to sometimes, getting rarer finding NES, SNES, N64 type games as they were more common. I look forward to the pricing dropping a bit, there is a few GameCube titles I want but, NFW paying $100 for a Zelda GameCube. 

 

Anyway about it, it's not as easy to find as it was 3-4 years ago.

I only recently picked up a 360.  The graphics ABSOLUTELY hold up on a 4K screen cuz apparently the 360 has a decent graphics scaler and the PS3 does not.  The PS3 looks crappy on a 4K screen (i dont remember if it did as well on a 1080, but i would assume yes since it relies on the tv to upscale and not the PS3).   I regret i bought all cross platform racing games from that gen on PS3 :/  I'm slowly replacing my PS3 racing games with 360 ones for that reason.  The best thing about the 360 is that i've grown a collection over the years before even buying a system of just games i find on the street out for free.  about two dozen complete games so far just from the streets!!! 

 

never look up!

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Can't offer any tactical street advice since I don't collect in the normal sense of the hobby. Not in the thick of it. Not anymore. But I can tell you this. Collect only the games you like to play and the systems you enjoy. Get the stuff that's nostalgic to you specifically. Get the stuff you will play again and again. Develop focus. Do not try to build quantity. Do not chase after every game for every system, or even any one chosen system unless it's a small library. It's just not worth the time and effort expended.

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10 hours ago, Keatah said:

Can't offer any tactical street advice since I don't collect in the normal sense of the hobby. Not in the thick of it. Not anymore. But I can tell you this. Collect only the games you like to play and the systems you enjoy. Get the stuff that's nostalgic to you specifically. Get the stuff you will play again and again. Develop focus. Do not try to build quantity. Do not chase after every game for every system, or even any one chosen system unless it's a small library. It's just not worth the time and effort expended.

Best thing I ever did was start tracking how many games I finished, harder to justify buying for a system I had 30 games for but only finished 5.

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4 minutes ago, Mikebloke said:

Best thing I ever did was start tracking how many games I finished, harder to justify buying for a system I had 30 games for but only finished 5.

I know I've posted this before, but it's basically obligatory

 

 

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Definitely agree with all of that.  I fell into the trap of the whole shelf candy crap, (tho i do love my gaming shelves and collection).  It's not like normal people are ever impressed, and they are probably like wtf weirdo.  i stopped picking up games that i think i should have just to have and only focus on racing games for every system.  it's so much easier to collect for just one genre if that's basically all you play i guess. i like shmups too, but that's a rich man's game.  

 

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5 hours ago, Mayhem said:

Neo Geo Pocket Color and Xbox360?

NGPC games are awfully expensive alas...

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3 hours ago, roots.genoa said:

NGPC games are awfully expensive alas...

Yeah have to agree.  When I got one back into my hands 5 years ago, I was already upset by that fact because the prices of the loose games were at or tipped a bit above the complete copies of the games went for from the retail period up to that point as they stayed low.  Now since then the loose ones have more or less (garbage and super average & common aside) gone up even further where I'd probably not bother or just get a flash kit for it.

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For the past 10-15 years I've been mainly collecting games for the PC Engine, but even though I managed to get a few games I wanted for a reasonable price recently, most of the games I'm still interested in cost more than $200 each CIB (I don't like loose games, especially HuCards, it's difficult to store them properly). My PC Engine shelf is already full anyway, so I think I'm gonna stop for now. 😅

 

But since I recently got the Mega Sg, I was able to test a few Master System games I bought for a few bucks on retro conventions. Then I decided to buy a few more and prices are mostly reasonable, even though there are a games I didn't expect to be that expensive since I thought they were quite common (Alex Kidd in Shinobi World for instance).

 

But rather than collecting for a specific system, I've also started collecting wrestling games for a while. I don't collect them actively and clearly don't want some kind of full set. First I favor games for systems I own of course, unless the box and manual are really cool or the game "special" in some way. Because the main reason I started collecting them is they almost always are the cheapest games on every system😉 It's especially true on the PC Engine, but I got a near mint copy of the PC-FX game and the collector edition of the Cutie Suzuki Mega Drive game for a very reasonable price for instance (I don't remember but probably less than $40).

 

Well, that was until I discovered there's a wrestling game on the NGPC, and it's supposed to be good too, better than 3 Count Bout.

But it costs almost $400 loose, and over $700 CIB. 😰 When I started "following" a CIB copy on eBay, the seller sent me a (temporary) 15% discount ($100+!!). 😅

The worst part is I can afford it, but I'm pretty sure it would cost me a lot more because of shipping and tax, and I just can't pay that much money for a game, good or not. 😔

I don't think I've ever spent more than $100 for any game anyway, and even if I spend more than $60, it has to be a collector edition or something important to me.

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