Before we jump into the tricks of the trade, let me point out some of the pros and cons of shopping for retro video games online, especially within online auctions.
- Ability to find games to add to your collection for minimal face value.
- Option to buy games in bulk, allowing you to lower your final cost per game.
- Possibility of free shipping, depending on the seller.
- Ability to actually FIND a game you are looking for is exponentially easier than stumbling upon it in a store.
- Saves Time.
- Saves Money (if you know what you're doing, and how to buy effectively)
- Dealing with people you don't know. Risk of buying from an "untrustworthy seller". Stick with sellers with positive REP.
- Not able to SEE the game in person. You may not always get exactly what you want, even if there are pictures on the auction.
- Dealing with auction SNIPERS - unavoidable.
- Dealing with fakes - this DOES happen.
- Receiving broken goods. Either it was broken in the first place, and you were lied to, or you've dealt with the monster that is USPS / FED EX / UPS / etc.
- Addictive - trust me, this is a real issue.
Pretty close, huh? If you enter into the domain of online auctions, you are treading on thin ice. It's a make or break scenario most times, and you have to be extremely careful.
So here are a few tips I hope will help out in your retro hunts online.
- Know your retro game values - Before buying a game you want, look through the completed auctions and figure out the average for the game. Look at only SOLD auctions, don't bother looking at auctions that didn't even get a bid. Use that as your basis for determining your games value, as that usually signifies the demand. Find a game constantly being sold between $5-$10? Look for it between $6-$7.
- Check your auction times - I've found that I am able to get retro games at cheaper prices, just by looking at the ending of an auction. I had bought a lot of SNES RPG games including Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Illusion of Gaia, and Ogre Battle for around $120 (that's not a joke), just because the auction ended during the Super Bowl. A few other people were in a bidding war with me, but not as many as usual. Looking for auctions that are ending at odd times, add to your chances that less people will bid, and if they do bid, less effectively.
- Buy in bulk when able - sell games you already have! - One thing I have started doing recently, is buying "lots". For example, a lot of 20 NES games, that when added up, are cheaper than buying individually. Any duplicates I have, I just sell back as singles on auction sites. I'm basically earning some money back, and keeping the games that I didn't have in the first place. A great way to build up your collection, while at the same time earning some $$ in return and keeping your costs low. The one problem with this, is that it is usually hard to find "rarer" games within these lots, or if you do, the prices are usually MUCH higher. Be careful, and be sure to check what games you're buying in your lots. You'll typically find only generic / common games.
- High Value Games Tend to Fluctuate in Price - time it! - This is something that you have to pay a lot of attention to. Most of the rare retro games that are out there vary in price depending on the time of year, current popularity of the game, and the amount of games available (either in auctions, or just in general). One of the best examples to use, is Earthbound. Now, I'm totally biased with this game, as it is my current favorite, but this game is also one of the most expensive games to buy for a collector. Especially if you want it CIB. I was a sucker, and sold my original copy of earthbound (with box and strategy guide) for $150. This was almost 8 years ago. Now, the same thing goes for $300-500. The game itself goes for around $150-200. But it all depends on when you buy! Look for a downward trend in prices, and snag it when you feel its lowest. There's also a great site for earthbound that shows you what the current trend is. Too bad this doesn't happen with all games, but that's where YOU Have to do the research.
EARTHBOUND PRICE GUIDE - http://buyearthbound.com/
So that's just a little bit on online auctions, and how they can be used to your advantage when building your retro game collection. Now take my advice with a grain of salt, as it doesn't always work. But keep at it, and above all BE PATIENT, and you'll steadily watch your collection grow without spending a fortune.
When we talk again on Retro Retrospective, I'll talk about another means of acquiring some retro games without breaking the bank. GARAGE SALES!
Until next time. Keep on Gaming.