Boss Battle: The pricing conundrum.


Well we might as well touch on the issue of pricing as it seems to be a constant elephant in the room when it comes to collectors. I’ve talked before about rare game prices, having a budget and a limit but let’s look at the actual market and the prices past, present and future.

The past:
Once upon a time in a not so long ago past retro games were cheap, there wasn’t much interest in them outside a few collectors and so prices were reflected in that. $1-3 games were commonplace, you could go to a yard sale and pick up an NES and a boxes of games for maybe $20 max. Those were the days for sure, but since that time until the present there has been a growing interest in retro gaming that has changed the demand for these items despite the fact that the supply is finite.

The Present:
Thanks to the demand for retro games/systems and the dwindling stock of these items the prices have risen. Once the demand goes up the prices follow and as more and more games become less and less common as they go into collections or landfills (they are over 30 years old and over time many will be junked for various reasons like no longer working, damage, etc) the prices will be reflected.

Currently the prices in the retro market are at an all time high but seem to be hitting a plateau for the time being. More people are entering both the collector and reseller markets and that has a direct effect on pricing, the sellers are looking to maximize profitability and so over time things like ebay have become the standard for prices.

This is where the bitching begins…I hate ebay prices as much as the next person but it’s the standard whether I like it or not. I often find when I’m buying items I’m met with the usual arguments when negotiating:
1. “That’s the average completed sale price on ebay”
2.  “Yeah but these go for a lot more on ebay”
3.  “I’m saving you the shipping”
4.  “Price isn’t firm and will be checked against ebay before purchase as prices fluctuate frequently.”

So yeah that’s frustrating on the buyer end, but I’m also on the selling end as well so the problem becomes to ebay or not to ebay?. I like to give out deals when possible because of the varied prices I find things for but recently I was listening to a podcast where the question was posed:

“If I get things cheap should I sell it cheap?”

The person was referring to helping out friends but it can apply to anyone really. The answer surprised me as it was:

“You can do what you want but you can’t complain later because you sold something of value cheap only to find out the buyer listed it for full price and sold it.”

I know everyone has tossed someone a deal at one time or another only to find out you got burned by the buyer reselling it. So this got me thinking further on the subject as prices aren’t going to change anytime soon, do you price accordingly? or maximize what you can get out of the item as someone else is just going to anyway?
This will continue to be an issue as long as the popularity of these items continue which brings me to my last point..

As speculation continues, people who have an investment in the further rising price of retro games and systems will want to continue to drive prices up to further profit. But the question is how much will the market take before the market explodes or prices begin dropping?

If the interest in retro games starts to decline, which most trends tend to do (remember when sports cards were a booming industry?) what changes will this bring? Will we see games go back to 90s-00s prices? Not likely due to the continued future scarcity of these items but I think you will see a decrease in the pricing in general as well as some rarer titles may become less desired or may find their way back into the market if current collectors decide to sell off collections, etc.

As the market continues to expand however, more systems start to become as collectable as the current “vintage” systems. But will the newer generation systems have the following or nostalgic value to continue to drive the market forward? Only the future will tell as the cohort who’s first systems were the 64, playstation, and xbox start to look back with fondness on the games they grew up playing.

In the end, a few facts remain: the market has decided that ebay is a standard whether people like it or not and until a change comes into the current retro market the prices will continue to be determined by online auctions. Possibly in the future the market will level or correct itself, but until then the price conundrum will continue to be a division between sellers and buyers.

A collection has a value much greater than its determined monetary value, the value of the satisfaction it brings to the collector. Unless you only got into collecting for the profitability then your collection probably means more to you than what you’ve paid to add different pieces to it and the market doesn’t change your enjoyment of it.


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