Like any hobby, collecting retro gaming paraphernalia comes with a mostly imagined and incredibly loose set of rules or guidelines that you’ll often find over zealous members of gaming or retro forums espousing any chance they get. Some of them are common sense, helpful bits of wisdom that have no doubt evolved over many years and from the experience of many collectors, but a handful of them James Matson is willing to challenge. Why? Because he’s badass. That’s why. Well, not really – but we thought we should put some kind of reason in there.
Only collect what you’re going to play
If I collected only what I play, then I’d have a smaller collection (and a heavier wallet, but that’s beside the point). I do understand why people say you shouldn’t bother collecting what you don’t play, having games that just sit on the shelf seem harder to justify than those you’d actually fire up and enjoy, but for me the act of collecting is a big chunk of the joy itself. I like finding games and systems, I like finding them at bargain prices, and I like setting them up on shelves, or firing them up just to see what they’re like rather than to play them for hours on end. It’s okay to collect for the sake of collecting, and I think if I only gathered up what I intend to actively play, I’d have a less impressive collection and feel far less immersed in the history of gaming as I do when surrounded by my current collection.
Only collect the good stuff
The successful gear (the SNES, the Master System etc) is the less interesting part of the retro gaming world. The failures, oddities and mutants of the gaming world help to define its history and – despite commercial failure – should be just as much a part of your collection as anything else. Don’t look past the Sega-CD, the Virtual Boy, the CD32 and all the other failures that litter the roadside. These are arguably more fun to collect and in some ways, more prized. When something fails commercially, it’s less successful, which translates to less sales and less availability now (try finding a boxed Sega 32x for cheap). Don’t stick to just the major players, do your research and uncover a world of possibilities.
You only need one of everything
Ludicrous! Folly! Downright bollocks! One of my favorite corners of my collection pile was occupied by no less than 3 boxed Nintendo Entertainment Systems and I can tell you it wouldn’t have shone nearly as bright had there been only one. Well, okay, it didn’t actually shine at all, but you know – metaphorically speaking and all that guff. While you need only to keep one of everything for a collection, it never hurts to acquire doubles, they make perfect trading fodder and while they’re not doing that they look damn impressive on the shelf ;).
Keep it boxed, pristine and stored because one day you can cash it in and retire!
Really? Let’s look at the facts. In 1994, a Sega Megadrive would cost you around $150, boxed. It’s now 19 years later and a boxed Sega Megadrive in great condition with all its little baggies can be had for around the $100 mark, no problems. So it’s taken 20 years and the value is still only two thirds what it was when it was still available at retail. A Game Gear boxed would cost you $189, and again 19 years later you wouldn’t lay down more than $80 – $100 for a boxed one in beautiful condition. Are there games or hardware that have reached parity with their retail prices, or exceeded them even? Sure – Nintendo Game & Watches are a good example . Some G&W handhelds go into the hundreds of dollars boxed, but many were releases in the 80s, meaning it’s taken 30 years to push past the release retail price and relatively speaking, not by much. When you boil it all away, you’re talking about a handful of dollars value increase a year.
There are better investments to be had.
You’re going to be old, grey and possibly forget where you’ve left your pants by the time anything but the rarest of your gaming items are worth any great deal of money. While on the subject of rarity, another misnomer is that certain things are rare because they are/were popular, and therefore should be squirelled away so it’ll be like winning the lotto in 20 years time. Case in point, Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. How many times have you seen someone selling it on a forum somewhere – boxed – and with big bold letters saying RARE. You stupid hobgoblin. It’s not rare, it sold 2.5 MILLION copies. Million. That’s right, 2.5 million. There were enough copies of Zelda: Ocarina of Time released that every single person in the country of Jamaica could be given one as a Christmas gift.
If you want to preserve the condition of your games and systems, by all means. Do it. But never be afraid to take them out and play. You’re not damaging some yet-to-be-realized fortune in the making. Promise.