Level 14: Has the gravy train rolled out of town? 

Remember when this was the scene at a flea market or yard sale? Boxes of games usually set at an arbitrary price of a few bucks each, now most markets have a dealer there with individually priced games and the yard sale scene has got rough as well with more and more sellers knowing that games are worth money. 

Nothing is more frustrating than over priced games at yard sales, the guys at the flea markets usually have reasonable market prices give or take, but the regular Joe looking to sell their gameboy advance at his yard sale, not so much. People are starting to go to ebay before pricing things at their yard sales and it leads to some astronomical price differences. Everyone wants their old Mario 3 or Blades of Steel to be worth $50 but they just aren’t and it can be frustrating when trying to haggle said item down from that price. 

There was a time in the 90s where getting was definitely good, people were selling off a system and a box of games for maybe $20-30 and most games could be found in second hand stores for under $5. Those days are gone for sure as most of that old stock found its way into the hands of collectors and resellers who had the foresight to sit on them until they would be worth selling. 

Even today there are a lot of stores like Value Village, Talize, Goodwill, Vinnie,  etc depending on where you’re from but they all operate on the same business model, the public donates their items and the store sells them for profit and  donates part to a charity they’re affiliated with. They were also once a place to get amazing steals on games because they just priced them generically and that would sometimes allow you to score big. However these stores are now turning to ebay too, but only really on retro and gaming items. As a guy who frequently scouts his local stores and has found many a good find, I’ve also watched the prices jump…a lot over the last few months even. At one time I could walk in and get a Nintendo 64, Playstation 2 or GameCube controller for $2-3 which is awesome, however in the last few months that price has jumped to around $20. Yes I know $20 isn’t a rip off for a controller in good condition but the guy selling the controller at the game store still had to pay to get the merchandise.  I inquired one day why a gamecube the store was selling was $12 but the separately priced controller was $20 the answer I received was “We compare with ebay and local game stores”….WTF? I had to ask “but isn’t your stuff donated to you for free?” The answer back was a simple “that’s what everyone else sells them for..”. 

I have no problem with people making a few bucks, I sell games myself in my spare time to support my own habit but I also have to pay to get those games, nobody just donates a pile of them to me. If I received them for free I couldn’t really in good conscience sell them at a major profit because in that case it’s all profit. This is an issue I’ve touched on before as every collector/seller has to go through this and decide how they choose to handle it. 

So even the last places that were once the caboose of the gravy train are starting to catch up to the retro game engine’s speed as it plows ahead into the market. This creates an extremely vicious community as everyone now wants top dollar because they have to pay the next guys top dollar on items they want. I’ve found in my area anyway that this has really slowed down the market a lot, items posted on various buy and sell sites that used to get a lot of responses get none as even the lowballers have become tired of trying to squeeze blood from a stone. 

Maybe this is the catalyst the market needs to start changing, now that everyone wants top price I feel a lot of casual collectors will start to wander away from the hobby again as will some serious collectors as things continue to climb and put full collections out of reach. I had a conversation recently with a guy who had been in the hobby for about 2o years now and it was interesting to hear his take on how the hobby is cannibalizing itself. 

He deals a lot in the States and in doing so sees a lot better prices because there’s still a lot of swap meets and flea markets there that haven’t jumped the rails yet into the ebay pricing world. So it’s interesting to me as a Canadian to hear him talk about $2-3 common games when here in the great white north the same game starts at $5 and some even dead common titles find their way to the $15-20 mark. A lot of the pricing has to do with greed rather than the market, in Canada we bought millions of Nintendo and Sega Genesis carts when they rolled out in North America and I don’t find it that hard to come across games here in comparison to the States, but somehow the prices here reflect a scarcity  that doesn’t really exist. 

That’s where things like the second hand stores, the goodwill’s and the yard sales  used to come in handy, it was an opportunity to round up games without the insane price tag. But unfortunately it looks as though the train has left the station on those deals which is sad as it will discourage new collectors from wanting to get into what many of us consider a fun and rewarding hobby. Like I said though, maybe this will be the straw that finally starts to break the camels back and we’ll start to see the much needed correction in the market but until then myself like many others will be waving goodbye to the gravy train from the station waiting for the good times to come back around and unfortunately wading through our now ebay infused market while trying to carve out a deal here and there. 

Hopefully wherever you find yourself you’re able to still wheel some deals. 

I’d be interested to hear how things are for you in your area in the comments. 




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