Game Hunting Tips

1. MAKE A LIST – HUNTING LIST OF TARGET GAMES

If you’re going to get into game hunting, I highly suggest you start by making a list. Some set out to collect every title for a system; a complete NES set, a complete N64 set, complete X-Box set, etc. Some set out to collect every title for every system they’re collecting for. I started with a “best of” list for each system I played growing up.

Make your list and save it where you can access it from your laptop, PC, and phone (I save a spreadsheet in Google Drive) and any updates will be automatically updated across anything you access it on. Google Drive will also let you create a shareable link to let others view your list, but not edit it, so they can see what you’re looking for.

I recommend putting the titles on a spreadsheet then go through and check average prices on Pricecharting/eBay. This price isn’t rigid, but use it as just a general ballpark idea for quick reference. This will help your phone’s battery rather than looking up everything you come across on Pricecharting or eBay.

Having a list helps you stay focused on games you’re actually interested in getting rather than burning cash on literally every title you find. If you’re trying to get every title for a system, it will help you avoid buying titles repeatedly by mistake.

Pricecharting

What is Pricecharting? It’s basically a website that mines eBay’s sold auction data and determines final sale price averages on video games in loose, complete, and sealed condition. It also has data for loose manuals and boxes.

Some vehemently hate Pricecharting, claiming the prices are inflated, incorrect, or easily manipulated, but when I’ve spot checked it by looking at the last 6 months of sold listings on eBay, the average comes out spot on to Pricecharting or at least within $5 of their estimate.

(There’s another site called GameValueNow that started to get attention ((it had loose manual and box estimates before Pricecharting)), but due to problems with eBay’s systems blocking their data mining as a DDoS attack, the site’s prices are out of date by 6 months as of June 2018.)

Even if Pricecharting isn’t perfectly accurate, it’s a useful tool to get a quick idea on general value rather than trying to do deep dive evaluations on every title every time you stop in a shop or at a garage sale.


2. WHERE TO HUNT FOR GAMES

 

Retail Locations

Best Buy
Until 2018, Best Buy’s Gamers Club Unlocked was the best retail deal for new games. If you still have a membership, it’s valid until expiration, giving you 20% off on all new games regardless of when they were released and regardless if they’re on sale (excluding Black Friday). Even clearance games are 20% off the listed price as well as amiibos and strategy guides. On top of the discount, every dollar you spend earns rewards points at 1 point per dollar. Every 250 points is a $5 coupon.

Add in the fact that Best Buy price matches competitors (not in addition to 20% off though), including Amazon, and they’re the best choice if you’re near one and still have the GCU membership.

GameStop
A lot of gamers rag on GameStop and dismiss them as a waste of time and money. The online gag of an entire collection “worth about $3.55 or $5.50 store credit” is well known. Don’t fall for the crowd hate. Every source of games is worth using to your advantage. GameStop is still a decent source of used games for new and 1 generation back games (some are carrying retro games in small quantities) and if you’re a collector or play a lot of games, their top level Elite Pro membership is worth the money. You get discounts on used games and higher trade in credit.

As a game hunter, you’ll find mostly current and 1 generation back games at garage sales. Just check GameStop’s website for their trade in value for what you pick up when you get home. Some games have equal or higher trade value than average sale prices on eBay. For a while, Grand Theft Auto V on PS3 was selling for $15 on average, but GameStop offered $16 store credit. Even then, squirrel the games away and wait for the trade deal where GameStop will offer 60% bonus credit when you trade in 6 or more games. That bumped Grand Theft Auto V to $25 in store credit at a time it was selling for about $15 on eBay. It adds up.

When purchasing games, you can wait for the B2G1 free sales. If you’re looking for a specific game, search the website and check your zip code to find a store with a copy. You can even search in other states and find a store with the game you’re looking for. Give them a call and confirm it’s complete with case and manual, then have them put it on hold. You can then have your local GameStop transfer the game and have it mailed from out of state to your store and go pick it up.

When Dokapon Kingdom for Wii was selling for $125, GameStop had it for $40. I got a disc only copy this way, but even the disc was valued at $90.

Amazon
Of course, Amazon Prime does still offer 20% off on pre-orders. They’ve been progressively reducing the value of this for gamers with the 20% no longer applying to Collector’s Editions and now having removed the discount after release (it was previously pre-orders and 2 weeks after launch day).

Retail Resell

When you buy games at any retail location, there’s a few things to keep in mind. Primarily, prices are going to be a little higher than eBay prices. Keep in mind these locations have bills to pay – electric, equipment expenses such as disc cleaning machines, payroll to cover, and rent for their store. If you find a game you haven’t seen anywhere for a mere $5 to $10 over Pricecharting averages, that’s really not that bad.

Half Price Books
Half Price Books is another store that I see scoffed at by gamers all the time as a waste of time and not worth stopping by. They actually have a bit of a reputation as “Half Price Books, Double Price Games” ever since they started accepting and selling second hand games.

The truth of the matter is, Half Price Books is variable depending on the store you go to. I’ve noticed the stores around me have been progressively getting better with pricing, coming more and more in line with what Pricecharting lists (though they are not allowed to check Pricecharting, they have to go by a number of sold listings on eBay when pricing).

As a result, while people are dismissing Half Price Books as pointless, I frequently visit them and see what’s available. I got my copy of Duck Tales 2 for $160 (which is what Pricecharting showed) but I had a 20% off and traded in a few books for another $8 off. As a result, I paid $120 for a $160 value rare game. It has a marker mark on the front and back (not on the label), but I never expected to find this at a random store “in the wild” so to speak and I was pretty happy to get it.

Sign up for their mailing list and watch for the coupon weeks where you get M/T 20% off, W/Th 30% off, F/S 40% off, and Sun 50% off coupons. During this week, go in on Thursday and see if you find something you want and ask if they can put it on hold for you. Usually items can be on hold for 3 days under your name, allowing you to get that item for the half off. I’ve never had a store that didn’t allow it on coupon week, but I’ve read some encounter that problem.

In addition, always check the Clearance section. Some stores don’t have games in clearance, but many do and you can sometimes find decent games there for $2 or $3 a piece.

Keep an eye out for any other coupons and even if they do clearance events at convention centers in your area. Games are fairly lackluster, but you can often find strategy guides at the clearance events as well as $1 CDs and $2 DVDS (and sometimes blurays, which will only increase with time).

I don’t recommend trading games in at Half Price Books, though. Their cash values seem fairly low and you’re better off getting store credit at a number of game focused stores, even GameStop.

Thrift Stores

Thrift Stores are extremely hit or miss and nothing but a crap shoot, but everything is worth checking out. Games are normally in with the movies, but be sure to check the CD section for Playstation games.

Goodwill stores sometimes have decent game bundles wind up in the auction case and I’ve won an amazing lot before, but that’s all dependent on what they put in there and who shows up for the auction.

Retro Game Stores
Game stores that specialize in retro games will often have anything they can sell from all generations and will usually take trade ins, but the trade in value will often be as bad as the much bemoaned GameStop, possibly even worse. These are usually smaller shops, not nation wide chains with a major corporate headquarters backing them. There are ups and downs to this.

Often at smaller stores, the owner is frequently there and as the owner they have full authority to make deals, offer discounts for larger purchases, and negotiate prices. I’ve had some success getting things matched to Pricecharting or eBay since I could just as easily click a button and buy it.

The key is to not be a jerk about it. If they don’t haggle, they don’t haggle and whining about it won’t change their mind. Be courteous and friendly and chat with them before you start trying to wheel and deal.

For more information on Game Stores I’ve visited, go here.

Flea Markets
Flea Markets are about as hit or miss as you can get. Sometimes you’ll find a secret gem hiding somewhere, most of the time you’ll find nothing. However, it’s always worth checking as you never know where that missed Stadium Events is hiding.

Antique Malls
It’s pretty rare that I find something in an antique mall, but once in a while, you’ll find a booth with video games or video game related merchandise. Sometimes you can score nice finds, so it’s worth stopping to do a quick look through them.

Pawn Shops
Pawn shops can be feast or famine. Some areas don’t have game stores and some people will take older games to pawn shops rather than GameStop. My experience has mostly been current and previous generations as the majority with a handful of games from two generations back. Sometimes, especially in smaller towns, you’ll find retro games back to NES and Atari. Pricing, however, is a real gamble. Some pawn shops guess their values and others have nothing but time to do research.

Garage Sales

Garage sales are the best place to start if you’re just getting into game collecting, but don’t expect to find boxes of cartridge games these days. Even GameCube and PS2 are getting less common to come across, but it will still happen.

Despite this, it’s still worth hitting garage sales. You can find current and last gen games for good prices which you can keep or flip in sales or trades for games you’re wanting. More importantly, this is where you can gently ease yourself into learning how to negotiate and haggle.

Be sure you take small bills – $1s and $5s preferably. Nobody running a garage sale wants to break you $100 first thing in the morning, leaving them with no change for the day.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook’s own little corner of Craigslist/eBay market, you can sometimes find great deals someone has listed on here. If you’re patient, you can also sell your own games on here, but expect a good number of messages asking if something is available without any further messages after you confirm it is. You’ll also likely have to answer a few questions that are clearly answered in your listing.

eBay

Of course, one can’t completely ignore eBay. Yes, you can still get deals on eBay, but it takes patience and self control. Never emotionally commit to purchasing something and always stay focused on the price you want to pay. There’s no need to pay just $10 more than your desired price as you can always get the item later. Few games are so rare that you won’t have more opportunities to get it.

One tip I will encourage everyone shopping on eBay to experiment with is the Make an Offer feature. If a seller has this on their listing, utilize it. Don’t be ridiculous and expect them to take 50% off their listed price, but try an initial offer of 30% off and hope for a counter offer. If they reject your offer, you can always make two more best offers. I’ve had some surprising offers accepted immediately.

Facebook Groups

Search around on Facebook and see if there are Retro Game Collecting groups in your area. Join a few and just monitor the group for a while. I recommend looking for smaller groups with around 100 or less people. One group I’m in started a “junk box” where the first person got people interested to sign up and made a list of everyone committed to it. A large flat rate USPS box was filled to the seams with video games – duplicates and commons that they had – and sent to the first person randomized on the list of sing ups.

Upon receiving the box, the rules were simple: take what you want out, put things of equal value in. Over the course of going to everyone on the list, the “junk box” has seen single games worth almost $100 added to it for a lucky person to find. Of course, they have to find a way to fit $100 worth of new stuff into an already cramped box. Tetris Master skillsets are required!

Of course, larger groups are still fine, but be cautious with making trades and sales through the group in these very large ones. It’s just harder to keep track of who has a good reputation.

In either event, watch for events the group hosts. Some Facebook groups will organize trade swaps at local stores and locales where people just bring their extra games to sell and trade with each other. They’re a lot of fun as a buyer, seller, or just to hang out and talk about games with other collectors.

 Conventions

Obviously you can find video games at video game conventions. Keep any big names you find during your game hunting – Mega Man, Zelda, Super Mario Bros on NES and SNES, any Final Fantasy games prior to Playstation, and any other uncommon (but not necessarily super rare) games you’ve found. These are fast moving titles for game shops and vendors will be fairly willing to trade a stack of these for a rarer game.

As far as straight negotiating at conventions, I’ve had hit or miss experience. Some vendors are firm on their prices and unwilling to haggle, but others are open to making deals when you’re buying a lot. I’ve known some who go to conventions with a couple of decent games and trade and negotiate at one vendor to take those games to another vendor and trade again, then take those games and trade/negotiate up to even higher value titles! It all comes down to the vendor’s willingness and your skills at haggling.


(A Note On Resellers & Concerns of Becoming “One of them”)

It seems a lot of game collectors have a negative view of those they refer to as “resellers.” Simply put, a reseller is someone who goes around and buys games for cheap and flips them for profit. Yet pretty much every game collector does this themselves when they find good deals.

I think the frustration comes from those who do this solely for profit, not for any love of video games, but purely as a business pursuit. It’s frustrating, I’ll agree, to know there’s someone going around with enough money to throw around buying every single game they can only to flip around and put a 1000% mark up on what they paid. However, it’s not immoral. It’s simply capitalism. They’re buying low and selling high, same as any game collector coming across those good deals.

I see it more as simply part of the game. We’re all looking for games and if we come across a copy of Chrono Trigger for $10, we’re going to pick it up and we’re going to sell it to someone or trade it for its full $100 value. Sometimes you find the great deal, other times you miss it. If there are resellers out in your area, you’re simply adding a race and “get to the right place first” challenge to the game.


3. MAKE ANOTHER LIST – OWNED GAMES

Once you’ve got your list of games to look for when game hunting, make another list of games you actually own. It doubles the work a little with every game you find having to be removed from the hunting list and added to the owned list, but it’s worth having for two reasons.

  1. Once you remove games from the hunting list, it’s no longer listed. You will eventually have a moment where you come across a title, see it’s not on the hunting list, and think “did I not have it on the list to begin with or do I own this one?” That’s when it’s nice to have an owned list to fall back on. It’s also easy to update an existing list by just looking at your shelf.
  2. Renter’s or Homeowner’s Insurance. You want to have a list of what you have, what you spent on them, and what their current value is to be able to submit to your insurance agent.

Alternatively, you can use your hunting list and highlight cells to another color as you add them to your collection. I prefer a separate list so I can have one simple sheet for insurance.

There are apps and sites you can use to maintain your collection as well, but I haven’t explored using them enough to recommend one.


4. MAKE A THIRD LIST! – FOR SALE/TRADE

Yes, another list! You’re going to come across games at prices you can’t pass up, even if you’re not looking for it or already have it. When you find a game worth $40 for $5, a lot of 120 games for $50, or a console for $10, you’ll want to pick it up. Keep a “for sale” list to keep track of what you spent on games that you’re going to have available for sale and trade. Buying a $40 value game for $5 means you can then trade that game for a $40 game you want and you’ve gotten a valuable game for $5 in your collection.

However, the list has another purpose as well – don’t get fixated on every game’s value. If you spend $50 on a bundle of games and trade two or three of them for $50 in value, you can sell/trade the others at 50% what they’re worth or even $5 for them all and you’ve come out ahead. It just helps with motivation to keep an eye on your spending vs return on investment and helps you stay focused on not just burning your cash. It also keeps your home from becoming stacks of boxes filled with games you don’t want and haven’t been able to move because you’re determined to get their value for them despite already making your money back.


5. TIPS FOR CLEANING GAMES

You’ll definitely come across games that need some cleaning, be it sticker residue, a label on the case, or marker on the game.

I typically use only three things – Simple Green cleaning solution, Goo Gone, and Isopropyl Alcohol with the occasional guest appearance of a simple Dry Erase Marker.

Getting labels off Playstation and XBox cases is a matter of scraping them off the plastic most of the time. Peel off what you can, then give it a simple spray of Goo Gone and gently push at it with your fingernail or a tool such as a cuticle pusher. Once it’s all removed, give it a thorough rubbing with a bit more Goo Gone or Simple Green and a paper towel.

Goo Gone is gentle enough that it can, with some patience and caution, remove sticky residue from labels and even manual covers without damaging the color of the original label/paper. Simple Green has proven to be gentle on labels for me as well.

Isopropyl alcohol is for stubborn sticker residue, but DO NOT use it on labels or manuals. It will strip the color from them. If you’re comfortable, the lightest, gentlest strokes of a cotton swab dipped in alcohol will start to take off permanent marker, but if you get too firm, you’ll start to fade the label.

The best trick for permanent marker is to color over it with black Dry Erase Marker, then wipe it off. I once removed a solid circle of permanent marker from an SNES box using this method with almost no indication of damage (though I didn’t get every bit of permanent marker off either).

For permanent marker marks on game cartridges, some also suggest very gentle use of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, but keep in mind these are basically excessively fine sandpaper pads so you can smooth off the texture of the cartridge in the process.


6. ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS

Buy a toolset for games and consoles so you can open them and do minor repairs and cleaning inside them. It’s surprisingly easy to fix a stuck disc tray in a PS2 or clean a laser reader in consoles.


In Conclusion

Some collectors feel that the Internet has made it more difficult to find deals, but my collection is very largely from an assortment of all the places I’ve listed here and I’ve spent about half of what my library is worth. Just be smart about your purchases, utilizes all the deals at different locations, and put those great trades aside.

Remember, if you amass 120 combined total copies of Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros 3, etc. and spend only $5 each, you’ve spent $600 over a year, but those 120 cartridges could easily trade to a vendor at a convention for a legit copy of Little Samson worth $1300. Just play it smart and be patient. Know what you’re after and work towards that goal.

Have any tips you think should be added? Let me know!

  • Trackback are closed
  • Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s