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Got A Videogame Goldmine In Your Garage?

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  • Got A Videogame Goldmine In Your Garage?

    Here is a good article about how much some of your old videogames could be worth and how to maximize your sales. Enjoy the read!

    Got A Videogame Goldmine In Your Garage?

    Could you be sitting on a $40,000 windfall? Fueled by a surge in interest from collectors, a string of high-profile, high-dollar sales of collectible video games have been making headlines -- but how can you tell if the long-forgotten stash of gaming treasure you found in your garage is going to make you rich?

    First things first: if you bought it in a regular store -- and all your friends bought one too -- it's probably not worth anything. Although some games (and, to a lesser extent, consoles) are indeed worth many thousands of dollars, the vast majority are widely produced consumer items, and that means they're unlikely to be hard for collectors to find.

    Take the comparatively esoteric Mattel Intellivision, an early competitor to the Atari 2600. Although it released over 30 years ago, worldwide sales were over 3 million, and today it simply isn't worth all that much. You might be able to squeeze $50 out of one if it's in nice condition and includes some desirable games. That's not a whole lot of money, considering it's about as close as the video game world gets to a genuine antique.

    Even trendier, higher-demand machines like the original NES fetch comparable money, although if you have some desirable blast-from-the-past accessories you'll do better. Unusual versions of popular consoles can be worth substantially more than regular ones, though: a top-loading NES commands a premium over the more common front-loading variant, pushing prices up closer to the $100 mark.

    Sounds kinda paltry next to $40,000, no? It's the games themselves where most of the real money is. But if you're sitting on a stack of games that are (or were) popular, critically acclaimed, or top-selling, forget it. You could probably pick up a lot of every Mario game released on the NES for less than $60 or so. But there's a thriving trade in older, more obscure games, especially for the NES, which is where you'll find most of the real highly sought after rarities.

    How about more modern gear? Being newer, and consequentially more plentiful and less collectible, anything made within the last 10 or 15 years is unlikely to be worth anywhere near as much as you paid for it (with the notable exception of a handful of collectible specials, like Uncharted 2: Fortune Hunter Edition, which is worth well over a grand). In general, anything bearing the words "Playstation" or "Xbox" should go back in the attic for another decade or two.

    So what is going to open the door to early retirement -- or at least foot the bill for a nice meal?

    Obscure peripherals

    Collectors have an insatiable appetite for failure. It stands to reason: success leads to popularity, popularity leads to high sales, which leads to the dark side. No, wait, it leads to low used prices. Conversely, unpopular hardware has lower supply and consequently fetches higher prices. In short, if you played with it twice, decided it was a waste of money and stashed it away in the attic, it could be worth big bucks --and the more terrible and useless it is, the better. If you were so horrified that you never even opened the box, that's best of all.

    Remember the Nintendo Power Glove? What a piece of junk that was -- but today, in good condition, it's worth upwards of $50. Well-kept examples of Nintendo's even more terrible Virtual Boy are also worth significant cash. Even third-party peripherals, like Konami's head-mounted lightgun, the Laserscope, can yield prices out of all proportion to their, you know, quality.

    Obscure games

    It's big-ticket games like Stadium Events and Atari Air Raid -- both of which fetched auction prices in excess of $30,000 in recent months -- that make the headlines. Unfortunately, you're extraordinarily unlikely to find any of them. Most seriously high-priced collector games were produced in vanishingly small quantities, and many were never available at regular game stores at all.

    But they're out there, says top game collector JJ Hendricks. "26 Nintendo World Championship Gold cartridges were made and only 13 have been accounted for," he told us. "That means there are 13 still in the wild."

    Fortunately, there's an easy way to determine the price a particular game is currently fetching. Hendricks keeps track of the average selling price of a bewildering number of old games at his website, and there's no better place to get an impression of the value of that box of old NES games you've been hoarding.

    Just be careful: it's not necessarily as simple as looking up the game's name. Sometimes, games that were released in unusually colored cases are worth considerably more than their regular counterpart: the rare gold-colored version of NES bestseller Punch Out is worth north of $400, for example, compared to just $10 or $15 for the regular release. But color is by no means a guarantee -- the gold version of the original Legend of Zelda isn't worth much of anything, other than really good times.

    And even if you don't happen to be sitting on your own goldmine, you might be able to snag someone else's. "Go to garage sales and pawn shops and thrift stores to look for games," JJ suggests. "I've heard many stories of people finding games worth a couple hundred dollars, and even one person who found a game worth $20K by rummaging through games at places like these."


    Would you believe a box of 20-year-old Nintendo cereal recently sold for over $200? Random consumables branded with game-related imagery can often be worth surprising amounts of money to the right buyer -- and here's one area where better-known characters are likely to command better prices. Think Mario or Donkey Kong, rather than, say, fellow NES star Kid Icarus. Still, there's such a wide variety of licensed spin-off consumer products out there, you might just want to throw it on eBay and see what happens.

    Navigating the eBay minefield

    And when it does come to making a sale, make sure you do everything you can to stack the odds in your favor. Hendricks passed on his top tips for a smooth -- and, most importantly, profitable -- auction experience.

    -- "Take lots of high-quality pictures of the game, game box, and manual, if you have them. Collectors want to see the condition of the item before they'll pay big bucks. Take a picture of the game being played on a TV if you can, a picture of the game next to a note showing the date and your eBay name (so people know you didn't copy the pictures from somewhere else), take pictures of every side of the game. The better the pictures, the better the chances you'll get bidders."

    -- "Start the bidding off low. $0.99 is always good. If you have something that is valuable the item will get bid up to a higher price really quickly, but starting the auction at a high price will discourage people from placing any bids."

    -- "Write a good description. You don't need to write an essay, but make sure people know what you have, its condition, and any shipping or payment terms you might have."

    -- "Answer people's questions. No matter how good your description is, you will probably get questions from people asking for more details. You don't want to ignore any questions, because they probably won't bid unless you answer."