Top five ways to buy retro games – hunting for (g)old

The Atari 2600 with a bunch of cartridges

In 2018 the video game Industry generated an estimated $135 billions in revenue. There has truly never been a better time to be a gamer with so many quality games to choose from. More and more people are also turning their attention to retro games, pulled in by the nostalgia of playing their favorite childhood video games on their favorite consoles at the time. Many parents that were avid gamers as children (like me 😀 ) now want to show off retro games to the next generation and share the awesome memories they cherished with their children.

But it is not just the older generations that are getting involved: also many Millenials and even youngsters from the so-called Generation Z (people born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s) are becoming interested in the history of video games.

Such a demand means a lot of money can be made, as there is a limited and shrinking amount of genuine retro games, retro consoles, and retro game accessories. A lot of major companies are starting to create remastered versions of glorious video games such as Crash Bandicoot and Grim Fandango, or even console remakes.

Despite all this, a genuine piece of retro gaming history will be worth a lot more than any re-released or remastered version. In this article, I will be telling you about the top five ways to buy retro games for a fraction of their real value.

(Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that – at no additional cost to you – if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. For more info, please check my affiliate disclosure page.)

Tips before you start:

– Always be careful of sellers inflating prices, and do not trust their valuations before you have done your research.

– When bargaining, always start lower than the maximum you are prepared to pay and do not give in easily.

– Research how rare a retro gaming item is. That should give you a good idea of the current and future market value.

– Even if you find an item, make sure it is genuine and not a fake.

Ready? Let’s do this!

1. eBay

eBay logo

* eBay is still to this day one of the biggest e-commerce platforms in the world. What makes eBay so good for retro game treasure hunters is that the majority of sellers are everyday people looking to sell off old stuff they found in their garage or items they no longer want for various reasons. The website is essentially one massive online car boot sale with millions of items that you can purchase without leaving your home.

Of course, eBay is not the only online place where you can buy retro gaming items. I have mentioned it, because it is so widely known that it represents the online alternative.
Just see it as a metonymy for the retro gaming e-commerce.
In any case, an article about the best online shops for your retro purchases is in the works. 🙂 was published a few weeks after this one.

Pros:

– eBay is a website famed for its buyer protection, which – thanks to its partnership with PayPal – allows buyers to open a dispute with a seller up to 180 days from the date they bought a product on the platform. This means that if the item is not as described, does not work or you simply do not get it, you are entitled to a full or a partial refund.

– It allows all buyers to leave a review of the sellers they have bought from, which gives you a pretty accurate outlook of a seller’s reliability.

– As previously mentioned, eBay is integrated with the PayPal payment system, which is mandatory for all sellers on eBay to use. This adds extra buyer protection as PayPal can automatically withdraw money from a seller’s account to refund you.

– You do not have to spend money on travel when searching for retro game bargains on eBay, as you can simply browse from the comfort of your own home.

– You can easily compare prices between different products and decide what the best deal is for you.

Cons:

– You cannot see the products in person before you buy them, which means that you have to rely on the images provided by the seller.

– Going through eBay to find something you want to buy can potentially take up a lot of your time.

– Some items are sold through auctions where all users can bid. While this may be an exciting way to buy something, the price can skyrocket pretty quickly. You also need to spend a lot of time watching the auctions, since they tend to last for days, with most buyers waiting until the last few hours or even minutes to submit serious offers.
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Toynk Toys

2. Car Boot Sales

People at a car boot sale

People at a car boot sale

Car boot sales are still an extremely popular and effective way to find all kinds of retro gaming gear, from games, to consoles, to joysticks and old personal computers. They really are an absolute gold mine due to the rock bottom prices and highly motivated sellers.

Pros:

– Prices are known to be very low, which will probably allow you to pick up a nice bargain if you find some retro stuff there.

– Most of the time sellers are not experts in what they are selling, therefore if you have a lot of knowledge about retro games and spot something good, you are likely to turn a nice profit.

Cons:

– Most car boot sales do not have set prices for each item. This means that you will have to haggle for the price with the seller. When this happens, expect the final price to be higher than what you originally wanted to pay.

– You will have to spend time and money traveling there, and you need to accept that not always you will find something good.

– Most of the time the items for sale are unlikely to be high quality or worth much. Instead, they tend to be a collection of things that the seller wants to get rid of.

– Technology is on high demand, so if you want to get the best deals and items for sale, you need to make sure that you are there early before most people arrive. The early bird gets the worm, or better said, the early retro-er gets the gold.

– A lot of objects hold a sentimental value for the seller, so there will be occasions where at the last minute they refuse to go through with the sale.

3. Storage Auctions

An old storage room

An old storage room

Storage auctions have become a lot more popular thanks to television shows such as Storage Wars, where professional dealers frequently turn huge profits from the abandoned storage units that they buy.

Pros:

– If you strike it lucky, you can make massive returns on your original investment.

– Often people store valuable items in storage units that they want to keep safe.

Cons:

– You will most likely need some sort of experience to be able to more accurately predict and sense if a storage unit is likely to contain items that are of high value.

– The majority of storage units will not contain retro gaming items and accessories.

– You will need a lot of capital. It may be cheaper to just buy games and accessories individually, online or in stores.

– You take on a massive risk every time you invest in storage units, as you do not know if you are going to make your money back or if there will even be anything related to retro gaming in there.
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Microsoft Surface Book 3

4. Retro Game Shops

A retro game shop

A retro game shop

Retro game shops are popping up left, right and center due to the massive surge in demand and popularity of old games. If you live in or nearby a big city, there is likely to be at least one of these shops near you.

Pros:

– There will be a wide selection of retro gaming items in the store, as that is what they specialize in.

If you are more worried about getting your hands on the Classics, rather than how much they are going to cost, then this is the place for you.

– On average, the items will be of higher quality and in better condition than the products you will find at a car boot sale or in a storage room.

– You will be confident that all the products at a Retro Game Shop are genuine, because the store has a fixed address and is a registered business. Unlike potential scam artists at Car Boot Sales, who you will probably never see again, if they scam you.

Cons:

– The employees and especially the owners of a retro game shop are going to be very experienced, and will know the market price for the items they are selling, so it will be almost impossible to get a big bargain.

– Forget about haggling. Unlike car boot sales, all prices will be set and non-negotiable.

– Both the employees and the owners of such shops are likely to be video game collectors too, so they might keep the best products for themselves rather than selling them.

5. Flea markets

People at a flea market

People at a flea market

Flea markets are very similar to car boot sales, however flea market sellers are mostly professional traders that sell for a living. They also tend to specialize in selling vintage or retro items, which is perfect for what we are looking for.

Pros:

– Since seller specialize in retro items, it is going to be a lot easier for you to find old gems, especially at some retro technology booth.

– To operate in a flea market you need a special license that every seller has to buy and yearly renew. Such license contains their personal details, so you can rest assured that you are not going to get scammed.

– Products will be hand-picked, as all sellers want to keep a good reputation. For this reason their quality will be a lot higher than the average objects that you can find at a car boot sale or at a storage auction.

Cons:

– There is unlikely to be a lot of old technology and retro game booths open, as flea markets generally sell antiques.

– The target demographic is focused on older generations, who may not be really interested in buying retro games and accessories. This further decreases the chance for a successful hunt for (g)old.

– Get ready to bargain with sellers in order to not fall into their trap, and pay a price that is too high for the item they are selling.

Final thoughts

An image reading "I love 80's"

Endless nostalgia…

Video Games became popular in the 80s, and are now one of the top forms of entertainment, alongside movies and music. As time has gone on, the few surviving retro gaming items have become more and more valuable, while their numbers dwindle.

When all is said and done, eBay and Retro Game Shops appear to be the two best options for your retro purchases, since you have adequate buyer protection.

Moreover, you will spend considerably less time searching for rarities or your childhood’s favourite games, unlike you would in a pile of random items at a car boot sale, a storage auction or a flea market.

Personally, I would take the above three options into account, only if you are up for taking big risks in return for big rewards.

Last but not least, investing in retro games is a good idea, as prices will exponentially increase in the years and decades to come, but I want to emphasize that this is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

I am an avid retro gamer and a nostalgic to the core, and the only reason I wrote this guide is to help you start or expand your retro gaming collection.

With that being said, happy hunting and have a lot of retro fun!

About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our younger gaming years alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

4 thoughts on “Top five ways to buy retro games – hunting for (g)old

  1. Lauren Kinghorn

    Hi Andrew, excellent post. You make such great points. I definitely would go the car boot sale or flea market route as I love a good bargain.  Or even a Church Fete, it’s amazing what you can pick up at Church Bazaars. Unfortunately, I probably wouldn’t know enough to be sure I’m getting a great deal though. My favourite game as a teenager around ’87, ’88  was a game we played on the TV called Turmoil.  It was like an early version of Minecraft and we were totally addicted for a while. Have you ever come across it?  

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Lauren and thanks for leaving a comment, I am glad you found my post helpful.
      In answer to your question, I know 2 retro games named “Turmoil”: one is a Shoot’em’up for Atari (1982), while the other is a Platform for Spectrum (1984). Rings a bell?
      Neither of them actually reminds me of Minecraft, but now that I think of it, in the latter you have to build an expensive car. I was wondering if the building factor could somehow be related to Minecraft. Please let me know, I am genuinely curious now. 🙂
      Thanks again for stopping by, I hope you stay tuned for more retro posts!

      Reply
  2. Todd Matthews

    I’ve had good results over the years at Flea Markets, but also stores that sell retro games as well. I’ve even seen retro games in hobby shops, whereas while retro gaming might not be the shop’s one area of expertise, pricing there has always been fair and the games themselves have been in good condition. 

    Where I’m from, we have one gigantic Flea Market, which is where me and some friends have landed some fantastic deals. There were actually a few sellers there who have had booths at this particular market for a while now. 

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Todd and thanks for stopping by again.
      Glad to hear you have had good results at Flea Markets, I too cannot complain. Like I said in an another comment I am a regular there and I have a lot of fun in “hunter mode”.
      it is also great to hear you have seen good retro bargains in hobby shops.

      Anyway, my guide is meant to feature the best places where to buy retro items and – at the same time – describe the typical situations that may take place when on eBay, at a Flea Market etcetera… Of course, this does not take away that there can be exceptions and that there are other places where one can land some good deals. 🙂

      Thanks again for your comment, I hope you stay tuned for more retro posts!

      Reply

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