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

Atari 2600

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)

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.

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.

– eBay 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.
*

2. Car Boot Sales

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.

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

The 80s

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.

20 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. Adyns68

    I always thought eBay was the only place to find retro game. Until I found a 1990’s game boy in a flea market, it was well conserved and the price was very good too.

    So, I totally agree with your list. But, I still have some reserve about storage auction, it’s so unpredictable, it’s can pay big or not at all. Like you said, it’s a big risk.

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Adyns, thank you for taking time to read my post and leave a comment.
      I am a regular customer at flea markets and you would be surprised at the amount of gems that you can find there.
      It is not easy to get a bargain of course, but if patience and enthusiasm are your forte, sooner or later you will walk away with unique retro items.
      I often say to myself that all I can lose is time, and quite frankly, this is not even entirely true. You know what, whether I buy something or not – I am having a lot of fun. 🙂

      Regarding storage auctions, I totally agree with you: very intriguing, but too risky. This is something I might consider along the road, but definitely not now. That said, a mate of mine has taken part in several auctions. I am currently trying to get him to detail his experience on my blog. Hopefully he will accept!

      Thanks again for dropping by, stay tuned for more retro articles!

      Reply
  3. Richard Brennan

    I agree with what you say about ebay and specialist shops, Andrew. Going to a car boot sale is risky if what you buy turns out to be duff. Ok, you won’t lose MUCH money but the chances of you getting back what you did pay is little or none. I got my first online game console for (I think….) Christmas 1978, when I was 12. It had the tennis game, squash, and a rifle that you could plug in to shoot at a dot moving around the TV screen. Your post certainly gave me a happy trip down memory lane! It’s interesting to see that they’re still around and that it’s not just us ‘oldies’ they’re appealing too. 

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Richard and thanks for your nice words. I am glad that you enjoyed reading my post.
      Absolutely, it is not just us “oldies”, there is a big revival and I am happy that more and more people are becoming interested.
      I am amazed (and proud) at how many people ask me questions about retro gaming every day… Old times never die!

      Thanks again for stopping by, until next retro post!

      Reply
  4. affiliate_ghost

    Well, Thanks for the nolstagia of thinking about all the old retro games i played growing up. I have been craving a repeat of some but have not been able to get a trustworthy source to get some. 

    Investing in retro game is a wise idea, if not for the money later down the road as adults would pay more to relive their childhood but it has a sentimental value and would always make for some amazing stories for the coming generation. 

    Thanks 

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Affiliate Ghost, and thanks for stopping by again, I am glad that you appreciated my article.
      Yeah, all being well there is no reason for me to get rid of my beloved retro collection of games, consoles and accessories.
      The memories and the sentimental value they have is simply too high.
      In addition to that, my collection is not stored in a showcase nobody can even look at. On the contrary, both my kids and me, we are active retro gamers and they would never forgive me if I sold some of items they like and use.
      That said, I do not keep everything I buy, but when I sell something, that means that we really did not click with it.

      Thanks again for leaving a comment, until next post!

      Reply
  5. Chris

    Very interesting article. I first started playing video games in the early 80’s – those days it was either a Atari console or a ZX Spectrum 48k (I had both!). 

    I actually still own a lot of ZX Spectrum games, some of them classic like Knight Lore and Jet Set Willy. I’m wondering if you could suggest the best place to list these to get a good price for them? eBay maybe?

    Thanks in advance for your answer. 

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Chris and thanks for being appreciative of my post. I think I can call you a regular now. 🙂

      Regarding your question, you can either list them on eBay or take them to a nearby retro game shop.

      eBay’s pros:
      – Hundreds of millions of buyers from all over the world

      – You decide the price

      eBay’s cons:

      – it may take a while for you to sell your items.

      Retro game shop’s pros:

      – If they are interested in your item, they will pay you instantly.

      Retro game shop’s cons:

      – They decide the price: take or leave.

      – Given that they are going to resell your items and need to make a profit off them, do not expect a high offer.

      I hope that answers your question, but please know that I am currently writing an article about the best online retro shops. That will definitely give you more options.
      Till next!

      Reply
  6. Phil

    Hey Andrew! 

    Well, I’ve been searching for that TRS-80 computer game of my youth, Buzzard bait, and I couldn’t find it on your website.

    I could very much relate to your story though.

    Anyway, that took me to this page. 

    Going through your list of suggestions: I couldn’t find Buzzard bait on eBay. I’m curious if you’d have more online places to check out? Your other 4 suggestions are not something one can do online, but looking for a retro games store is something I have a chance of finding near me (in Montreal). 

    Thanks for your lists of pros and cons, I pretty much agree with all your points.

    Cheers, Phil

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Phil and thanks for leaving a comment, I am glad that you appreciated my post.
      The good is news is that I found a few * TSR-80 on eBay. The bad one is that they are not cheap, unless you are going to buy an untested unit.
      No worries anyway, I am going to publish a post about the best online retro shops soon, so please stay tuned! 🙂

      Reply
  7. 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
  8. Ashley

    Hi Andrew, I have a brother that is a huge fan of video games – so I’m learning something on this topic everyday. Thanks for the tips you gave on choosing a video game, they’re really helpful for someone like me. I’m a big fan of Ebay for buying cosmetics, but I always thought that with electronics or computer products it’s a bit more dangerous. I agree with the things you mentioned about auctions, I went through a couple and never managed to purchase anything, due to the prices raising so suddenly.

    I was actually thinking about surprising my brother and getting him a retro video game. But as I said, I don’t really know what to choose. Do you have any personal recommendation?

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Ashley and thanks for leaving a comment on my website. Glad to hear you found my guide informative.
      Regarding your question, I am afraid it is a bit too broad. I should know your brother’s tastes and preferences in order to give you an adequate answer.
      As retro gamers we love old gaming stuff, but we just do not buy and play anything. 🙂
      In any case, I am a big Commodore 64 and Amiga fan, so if you ask me, I would take the Commodore route and surprise him with a * C64 Mini.
      If you want to know more about the glorious Commodore 64’s remake, here you can find my review.

      Thanks again for dropping by, I hope you stay tuned for more retro posts!

      Reply
  9. Christina Spohr

    Hello! This is awesome that I came across this post… I found my old original GameBoy a month ago… I only have 2 games and wanted to get more… yes, the screen and everything looks outdated but it’s still super fun to play on.

    This article really helped figure out some places to look for some games and how to get the right price for them too! 

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Christina and thanks for your nice comment, I am glad you found my post informative.
      I hope you take advantage of my guide to get more games and find other retro gems.
      Thanks again for stopping by, I hope you become a regular on my blog!

      Reply
  10. RoDarrick

    Interesting post you have about the ways to get retro games. Growing up was fun with friends but what made it more interesting were video games. I particularly loved locking myself up to get engaged in video games. Though the modern games are totally on a new level, I would still want to play some of these retro games. I think if I were to go for those, I would prefer to shop mainly in eBay because I would be rest assured that I’m in safe hands. Thanks

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello RoDarrick and thanks for visiting my blog again. 🙂
      Same here, friends and video games were the perfect mix for happy days, at the time… And I must say things have not changed much since then. 😀
      If you do not want to risk, go for eBay: you are safe, and all you need to do is buy and wait.
      If you end up getting bitten by the retro gaming bug (like me), then you might like to explore other avenues. It is a natural process, lol

      Glad to have you as a regular, till next post!

      Reply

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