Summer is nearly here, which means only one thing for the retro gaming fanatics - it's time to set your 5am Sunday alarm and go hunting for car boot sale bargains! Excitement aside, are carboots really the gold mine they once were with the value of vintage gaming goods just a click away for your average seller?
We've all had the same dream: It's a warm Sunday morning, the air is filled with the delicious aroma of bacon rolls and mass produced instant coffee. You're strolling through the gates of a crisp field into a car boot sale (or flea market for the US readers) and there in front of you, an elderly lady is unloading a selection of mint condition rarities. For some inexplicable reason, she once imported them for her grandson but somehow forgot to give them to him. She now needs to clear space in the house and these 'useless' American imports for a long forgotten console no longer have a reason to be kept. Clutching unopened shrink wrapped copies of Earthbound, Chrono Trigger and MegaMan X3 you nonchalantly ask "How much do you want for these old games?" She smiles sweetly. "Is 50p each too much dearie?" "Well I tell you what" you reply "I'll give you £1 for all three?" "Oh you're such a nice generous young man" she agrees "Would you like a carrier bag?"
It's a dream that will almost never come true, but we all find ourselves pulling off the 5am Sunday crawl just in case.
Thanks to eBay, everyone's an 'expert'
So far this year I have been to boot fairs twice; I didn't buy anything gaming related on either occasion. On one trip I did see a couple of Super Nintendo games, but wasn't happy with the seller. "I want £20 each for those, they sell for more on eBay mate" he says as he follows my gaze to the games. He, like many others selling on the day, have failed to do their research properly. Taking the first completed listing on eBay as his pricing guide (an unsold item no doubt), both FIFA and Nigel Mansell's Championship will no doubt be sat there all day long and remain unsold like the prices he's referenced. Adding further insult to injury, both of these cartridges are unboxed and covering in a layer of filth. I feel like yelling that even if they were boxed with instructions they wouldn't sell for more than £5 but I'm British so I bite my tongue and politely walk away.
This is the problem with half of the sellers in boot fairs; they are under the impression anything old regardless of condition is almost priceless.
The other half of sellers are closer to the old dear of dreams; no idea that what they have that might be worth something. They would be exactly the type of people who would sell games for less than the going rate on eBay. The problem with these sellers though is that they'll never sell to me. The only people who benefit from their lack of knowledge is what are affectionately known as "resellers" by the retro collecting community. Typically arriving prior to opening time, you can often tell who is a reseller through their generic questions they ask to everyone who arrives, enquiring about old games or mobile phones. The goal of course is to get the most valuable games as cheaply as possible from those who don't realise their value. These games are then sold either on a stall at the same boot fair or online later in the day.
Should we be thankful for resellers?
It's a practice that seemingly frustrates the retro gaming community. But if we are honest we are simply jealous. We are annoyed we've been beaten to the best games the car boot sale had to offer, simply because we didn't get up early enough. Because we set the alarm for 5am rather than 4am, we will have to pay a premium for the games we want - or at least a price closer to the going rate online.
Obviously we'd all prefer that people bought games at a car boot sale to play rather than to shift for profit, but to judge them would be hypocritical. They're a lot closer to us "true collectors" than we care to admit. With our hours spent watching eBay and discussion with traders at gaming events around the country, we have a specialised knowledge. We know what is a valuable game and what isn't. With this knowledge we would be foolish to see an expensive game underpriced and leave it at a car boot sale simply because we have it already, or it's not for a system we are collecting for. Even though I don't collect for the Saturn, if I saw Panzer Dragoon Saga for £1 I'd buy it, simply because I know I could make hundreds of pounds on eBay selling it.
Am I just as bad as the often despised reseller for having this thought? Absolutely not. In this tragically self centred world I just don't believe that anyone would pass up the chance to make money selling something. After all, once sold, this item will potentially pay for next week's car boot sale haul, or potentially a few hard to get items from eBay.
With all this in mind it seems strange to me that there is so much fury directed at resellers. They may not go home and play the classics like we do, and they may not loving study the box art - but they do know a bargain when they see one. On top of that, they know how much we are willing to pay for these desirable games. If anything, we are the ones driving up the prices of vintage games and they are simply providing the goods.
Time for a lie in?
I don't go to car boot sales all that much now, well not at least to find games. The chances of me finding an obscure game I want, in the condition I'd like is pretty slight. Even presuming the fictitious old dear with her grandchildren's SNES games did exist, I have no desire to set an alarm for 3am just to beat others to her undiscovered treasure. I like to think theses often hated 'resellers' are actually doing me a service. They have gone out at the crack of dawn to find the best games. They have taken them home, cleaned them and then put them on eBay for me to buy. Sure I have to pay for this service, but at least I get to have a lie in and breakfast in bed on a Sunday.
So while the days of next to nothing boxed games at car boot sales are long gone, are they still worth the time?
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