Ah, the wonders of eBay. While you can occasionally get a hard-to-find game for a low price with lots of luck - say maybe $35 with shipping - other times you'll see boxed software go for ridiculous prices that no mere mortal can afford, like SSI's classic "The Warp Factor" for the Apple II, with a very recent final sale price before shipping of $449.44! Even though it's sealed, it's still an amazingly over-the-top winning bid. As is usual with SSI games - particularly pre-1986 SSI games - the cover artwork is beautiful and there are nice extras inside the oversized box. A fine specimen or not (though this one is actually a bit crushed!), average-to-good game itself or not, it can't help but make you reflect on the meaning of collecting, particularly as it applies to our hobby.
As someone who can be considered a hardcore computer and videogame collector myself, I certainly find that I desire boxed product such as the "The Warp Factor" (especially being - in this case - a big fan of SSI as well). Heck, I even actually did bid on it, though I rarely - for any software and moreso in this case - go above $60 or so as a maximum (often including shipping), and only when my financial situation is particularly favorable for the short- to medium-term (most of my "fun money" goes to my hobby). So even though I have countless software titles to go along with countless hardware, accessories and other doo-dads, even I can't quite understand the mind of the New Old Stock (NOS) enthusiast with amazingly deep pockets. To me, it's one thing to collect something like "action figures" or coins and keep those sealed in the box, it's another thing entirely to desire the same for software, something that by its very nature is meant to be USED. That's what it was designed for and to me that's how it can best be appreciated. While it may look nice on the shelf, the REAL benefit doesn't come until you put the - in this case - disk in the disk drive and boot the thing up and PLAY it. This is in addition to actually interacting with any of the included materials such as maps, firing tables or any other physical items. Digital representations are nice (and ROM images are nice for restoring corrupted files), but having the real map, for instance, laid out on your desk makes the experience what it should be to me - complete. For those collectors that place ultimate value on something staying new and unopened, it obviously creates scenarios where bidding escalates into wars and the permanent value of an item - new or not - becomes all but forever skewed, like in the example above.
This same thing applies to a recent experience I had from a few days ago where I was to pick up - for free - a small collection of mostly obscure computers. Unfortunately, a gentleman who I'm friendly with somehow beat me to it and added it to the collection of the museum he's associated with. Even with duplicate hardware, he scored all but one of the systems in the collection. If I had the opportunity to pick it all up, I was to keep one of the systems for myself and distribute - for free - to other collectors the rest of the collection, minus the cost of shipping (per prior arrangement). I can see museums needing one to put behind the glass and never turn on, but more than one simply takes it out of collector's hands, who are more likely to put it to actual use and help to share knowledge as much as or more than a physical museum possibly can. Again, I like the idea of computer museums, but unless you can guarantee working interactive exhibits, I somehow feel that museum hoarding is a high crime in our hobby along the lines of bid wars resulting in inflated pricing for something sealed. One example behind glass should be more than enough
Sour grapes on my part? Perhaps. I can certainly also be accussed of "hoarding", as it will take the rest of my life to get through even my current collection and share it with the world, but through options like Armchair Arcade, the book that I'm writing for a mainstream publisher and the many other things I'm involved in, I"m at least in a position to give back to the broadest range of people possible. It's a position that I don't take lightly.