Dan’s guide to not being a noob at shopping

Howdy folks, my post for today comes from amusement and anger that occurred simultaneously at the popular Ohayocon. I tell you this tale so that you may understand, a deal is not always a deal, and that in the world of retro shopping, pirates and scammers are everywhere. If a situation is too convenient – such as the retro-game shop set up in the center of this convention – then it’s clearly too good to be true and you should run! Or else… But anyway, here is my tale and pointers:
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It all starts in the vendor’s room at the convention. Now, I’m not going to say that I know the exact rarity class (which I don’t care about anyway) and price of each and every classic game, but I have a good sense of the average value of a game, plus a collection of handy tools (which I’ll share later) in order to avoid getting ripped (beyond the price of my nostalgia). This vendor seemed to be well stocked with just about every system from Atari up to PS1 & N64.

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1) That brings me to my first point. Be suspicious! If a vender looks super clean and organized in their game collection, lots of complete boxes and all the popular titles – be wary right away. I have no problem lambasting one of the vendors in my town: Oogie games, who possess a very orderly collection of over-priced games. Most likely, the positive image of their product is going to entice you, which they are aware of, and the prices are going to be an easy $10 over, for starters.

The titled that caused me to laugh personally and walk away from the vendor was Mario RPG with box. A great game for sure, but the price they wanted was egregious: $110. I thought they had to be high, but of course they knew some sucker was out there.

2) This brings me to my second point. If it’s clearly too high a sale for you WALK AWAY. You aren’t bound to it, someone else is going to get scammed, be sure. Most of the games you’re looking for – with the exception of maybe Shantae (GBC) and Earthbound (SNES) – are in large supply around the world and you can find them at a steal at some other time.

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I wrote off the vendor until I was in a panel about two hours later. I hadn’t thought about the game for a second more, in fact I thought, more about the excellent game shop I found situated in the lobby. Slightly messy place, cluttered and loaded with merch, but of course, as I’ve already stated it’s usually a good thing. This shop had Street Fighter II (SNES) for the price of $8. Absolutely, killer. But I didn’t up and buy it right away, I was too suspicious of such a windfall.

3) Provided you’re not in the same position at a garage sale or something, then here’s what to do when you find yourself in a similar spot: talk to the owner. Such a reasonable price made me wonder about the quality of the game, so I asked the shop owner if he tested his games and guaranteed them up to a certain time. He said they were all tested and that if I had a non working game I could bring it back whenever with the receipt.

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Anywhoo, so two hours later I was listening to a Pokemon panel, when I heard two fellows chatting behind me. One remarking to the other, “Hey man check out what I got! Mario RPG!” His friend replied, “Oh man, nice!” Guy one then said, “Yeah, got it for 110, I would have bargained him down to 50 but I didn’t want to make him angry” His friend replied, “Yeah, I gotcha. Nice, man!” I just chuckled at first, and then realized how absurd it was that he was afraid to haggle the guy.

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4) This brings me to my next point: Haggle Haggle Haggle Haggle Haggle! When you’re in a store establishment – or when the vendor looks fancy – it seems difficult to do, or, dare I say it, WRONG, but that’s a load of crap. Mankind has been bartering everything for as long as he had some goods. The retro game market is EXACTLY the market to bargain in. There’s no company that is pushing exact prices because this is all resale (with the exclusion of a few companies that still print games, like PS for example). If this vendor scares you, then just bail. Clearly not worth dealing with, but when the time comes, you need the stones to face up if you wanna collect games AND have a shirt.

That fool who bought the Mario RPG game had no frame of reference. He thought a good price would have been 50, which is absurd. Had he a frame of reference for pricing in general, he would have realized that few SNES games would ever merit that price, and that he was being robbed (of roughly 4X the usual price!) Knowing history would have come in handy in his situation too, the more you know about a console and its success/printings, the easier it is to gauge the price.

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5) Price Range! This is one of the most critical. What I recommend to you is to check prices frequently, between stores, websites, and everywhere else you come upon them. When you start to develop a median in your head, you can better gauge in any situation. What I offer you in that respect is one of my favorite websites:

videogames.pricecharting.com

This beauty has a vast database of games and it generates the prices and history – over years and years! – of each game based on the info from: Half.com, Ebay, and Amazon. It is one of my bestest friends and you should make it yours too! Had our intrepid buyer used it, he would have seen that the price of Mario rpg is currently selling at: $28 middle of the road price. For fun 110/28 = 3.9

Then I offer you:

Dan’s Common Sense Average Price Table:
(These accord to consoles I regularly buy for)

NES: $1-$8*
Genesis: $3-$12
SNES:$4-$12(15)
PS1:$5-$15
PS2:$8-$15
GBC: $4-$12

If games exceed these ranges, RESEARCH THEM. They may be rare, with a possible special printing or unique history behind them, but you could also be getting terribly, horribly, ripped off.

*Why is NES so low? They are some of the oldest games, and people have no conception of their prices, so you can get them scandalously cheap at garage sales etc. Especially group sales on ebay where someone clears out a closet and mass sells 30 games at once.

Dan’s Box Rule of Thumb:
Unless the game is exceedingly rare, the box should only add 5-10 dollars to the value. Tack on an additional five dollars if they have the manual too. If they have some nifty crap, like a T-shirt that came with it – for example Illusion of Gaia – then you’re on your own.

Dan’s Plea of Common Sense:
Just because it’s a TOTALLY AWESOME GAME does not mean it merits an inflated price. Stores make a killing on N64 games because of this. Even, Goldeneye 64, yeah that’s right, should not cost more than $15 at this point, but it’ll be 25-30 in store, and people WILL pay it.

Dan’s List of Notable Titles to Watch the Hell Out For:

Nes:
Snow Brothers: I would shakily say pay 30-40 for it, but I have heard of 60.
Nintendo Campus Challenge,                \
Nintendo World Championship Gold,     JUST RUN
Nintendo World Championship           /
Myriad 6 in 1: 1000+

Genesis:
Blockbuster World Championships  IT’S A TWAP
Sega Genesis XVC X’EYE 200+
Megaman the Wily Wars 100+
Beggar Prince 140+
Spiderman Web of Fire 100+

Snes:
Super Mario RPG: Pay 20 for it, 25 if you have to. If they want 30. WALK AWAY. (unless it comes with box)
Final Fantasy VI (III) $30-40 tops. If they want any more than that, they’re smoking.
Chrono Trigger: $35-40. No más.
Earthbound: Shoot for 80-90 Max, but 110 isn’t unheard of. (This one saw a limited printing)
Super Mario Allstars 15 MAX. if it is the bundled one with Super Mario World: 20.
Seikken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana): $25-30 MAX. It’s not the most common game, but that doesn’t mean that it deserves to cost more than 30.

PS1:
Clock Tower: 20 or lower.
Clock Tower 2: 25 MAX. idiots out there run this thing up to 60 on ebay, just ignore them.
FF(ANY): 15-30 There is a website that is still printing new copies of these games, flooding the market with even more copies, you don’t need to pay tons. If you want black label, you’ll have to look it up. But no more than 50 even then, please.
Lunar Star Saga: try for 80 if you can.

GBC:
Shantae $140+ This was the last game printed for the GBC, and it’s unfortunately really good to boot.
International Super Star Soccer: $100+

I leave you with this wisdom that I have stumbled across through years of collecting and wish you happy hunting.
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~Dan

** Adendum: While I very rarely deal in sealed games, my first rule stays the same: BE SUSPICIOUS. If you’re buying sealed, do it from a trusted vendor. It’s incredibly easy to seal a game – store like EB games do it all the time – so don’t think you’re getting a great deal.

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