The Search for Retrogaming Booty

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Matt Barton's picture

Commodore 128: Would you buy this for $20?Commodore 128: Would you buy this for $20?Arikhan of Destructoid has a fun post up about why he enjoys retrogaming. Most of his reasons seem centered on the rather dismal situation of his pocketbook, though he cites other factors as well--more original music, a calming look to the 8-bit graphics, and simpler controls. Normally, something like this wouldn't be very interesting, but he adds one dimension that I hadn't thought of before (but now realize is one of the reasons I enjoy retrogaming): The Hunt. How much of your devotion to retrogaming stems from scavenging in dusty bargain bins and used game shops--not to mention classifieds and ebay--for treasures?

Bill is definitely more of an expert than I am at locating oldies but goodies, but I have had some great luck myself. It's definitely a thrill getting a hard-to-find item or a batch of forgotten treasures from a garage sell or flea market (I don't patronize pawn shops for ethical reasons). I'll never forget the joys of discovering a huge retrogaming shop at a flea market in Tampa and walking away with a working Amiga 1200 for $40 (which I later sold on ebay for $100). The only thing wrong with it was that it was missing the letter "K" on the keyboard and the button for the drive (you had to stick your finger in a hole to eject the disk). The place was also selling a C-64 that didn't work, but I talked the owner into letting my take it off his hands (along with two 1541s and a box full of accessories and software) for $20. That turned out not to be a good deal, because I had no way of testing the drives and ended up tossing them when I moved (I tried selling them on ebay but no one bid, even with no reserve!)

I've probably had the best luck simply combing the classifieds. Most newspapers now have their classifieds available on the web, so you don't even to buy a paper and do the old-fashioned scanning. More times than not, there's at least one person selling an obsolete console and 5-40 games for a ridiculously low price. Sure, sometimes you get some idiot who's trying to sell it for what he paid for it (Get a PS1 and 10 games only $500!) but usually they're more reasonable.

I've also had luck at the local thrift stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army. It's easy to pick up old Nintendo or Sega gear at these places for very reasonable prices. I once found a whole stack of Atari 2600 cartridges for fifty cents each. The people running these shops generally don't know the value of the merchandise, which can work for or against you. Sometimes they'll be jacking you for an item without even realizing it ($20 for an abused controller), while other times you'll walk away with a treasure for a pittance. I suppose it would help immensel if you knew enough about electronics to spot equipment that just needs a bit of tweaking to get working again. I don't have this knack, so I avoid stuff that I can't try out in the store.

Ebay has not proven very useful to me. The problem is that there are too many collectors, and the sellers tend to know the value of they're merchandise. While you can sometimes get a deal there, it seems better to save it as a last resort (after you've exhausted all the local options). I'm sure it's pretty much the same story with collector stores like this unbelievable one in Japan. Mat can probably speak to the quality and value of the items in shops like this and whether it's worth a visit if you're in Japan.

Finally, I've learned to keep an eye out at major discount stores, particularly K-Mart and Wal-Mart wannabe's. Stores like Big Lots and such will sometimes have a bunch of dusty old merchandise sitting on a shelf somewhere and selling for a buck. I found a large assortment of old Windows and even a few DOS games at a store called Mills Fleet Farm, a sort of warehouse for hunters and farmers (I guess at some point they'd wanted to extend into gaming?)

Do you consider "hunting" part of your retrogaming fixation? Or do you care nothing about collecting old pieces and just stick to MAME or other modern emulators and compilations?


brn's picture
Joined: 05/22/2006
A Quick Analogy

I used to enjoy trips to all the used game places around, thumbing through stacks of truly tacky stuff, looking for the odd gem or game I'd forgotten about. At a certain point I realized...

I shopped for games the way many women shop for clothes.

Now that I don't game as much, I usually just check out for the exceptional sales. Picking up Indigo Prophecy for $8.96 was nummy.

Mat Tschirgi (not verified)
Never heard of Cheap Ass

Never heard of Cheap Ass Gamer, but the prices sound nice.

The hunt is part of the fun, true. One of my favorites things to do is find the absolute worse games I can for the PSX, then show them to my gamer friends as we laugh like idiots on how bad the game design is. We do the same things for movies too. I truly believe a game/film that is "so bad it is funny" is better than a mediocre game and as a designer one can learn more from a really bad piece of software than one that is just OK.

=- Mat Tschirgi =- Armchair Arcade Editor
Hear my gaming podcasts!

The Super Koopa Troopa Show

Played to Death

brn's picture
Joined: 05/22/2006
I am a Cheap Ass

I didn't actually buy Indigo Prophcey at Cheap Ass Gamer. I bought it at a Circuit City clearance sale I read about on CAG. CAG is, for my purposes, a list of sales. They also list DVD on sale, too. I recommend subscribing to the Gaming Deals and DVD Deals threads.

My recent purchases include Indigo Prophecy from Circuit City for $9.65, TimeSplitters: Future Perfect for $5.90 from, and Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction for $12.55 at Those prices include tax and shipping. Viva la CAG!

Oh, and for anyone interested, Prey for PC is on sale for around $35 shipped at for the next ten hours at Heh. Not all the deals are on old games. :)

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
eBay and the Collector's Game

I definitely play the "collector's game" to the chagrin of my all-too-understanding wife. There's a certain thrill I get when I both identify and then am able to acquire a precious videogame or computer collectible. Luckily I've been able to justify a huge increase in that practice over the past couple of years due to the nature of the book I'm writing. It really is research and photographic material!

With that said, with 200+ systems of all types now collected and a seemingly countless number of books, software, add-ons, literature, doo-dads and thing-a-ma-jigs, I also find with everything else factored in I don't have the time I would really need to devote to this stuff to go that next level of joy - full usage. If the magic money fairy ever came my way and made me independently wealthy I could turn my obsession into usage and writing heaven, but until that time, sadly, the actual hunt and eventual acquisition take precedence over usage and utilization. I know SOMEDAY I will be able to maximize my collection, but until then I will have to put up with a certain amount of guilt and longing. Nevertheless, in my unending quest to be a well-balanced person, that's the way it has to be.

As for eBay, I've been doing 95% of my collecting on there for at least the past three years. I have very specific searches that target very specific items and categories. Occasionally I even catch an amazing deal, but it's certainly true that for the most part competition is fierce and prices are high. You have to pretty take it all into consideration and decide what's worth it for yourself. Usually when systems - any system - exceeds around $200 or so with shipping, I have to bow out. Usually when it passes that mark there's a rarity reason and you'll often see prices soar to $500+ real fast anyway, which puts into the realm of people either with lots of extra money, or truly devoted to that one particular platform. I don't have that luxury. Same thing with software. I usually cap out around $60 or so. Anything else and best of luck to the winner, especially when certain titles go in the hundreds or thousands. I'd have to be REALLY wealthy to justify that, often just because of the packaging (let's face it, a LOT of the old software is available in other manners that cost nothing).

There are articles in all this somewhere.

Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ ]


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