Is The Golden Age Of Finding Retro Games At Car Boot Sales Over?

Car-Boot-Sale-Retro-GamesSummer 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?

Last Updated ( 12 June 2016 )  

Julian Hill

Julian is the author of the popular blog Boxed Pixels, and is currently on a mission to document his thoughts as he buys boxed complete SNES Games.

Described by PlayStation Access as a "gamer, Dad and all round hero" he has been playing games since they had four colours on screen and blips for music.

Other recent articles:


+4 (Link to this comment) gunstarhero 2016-06-12 12:03
The golden days were over approximately 15 years ago!

If I was to make a list of the best 100 things I've ever found at a car boot, 95% of these were probably found in the 1990's

I would say that as a collector though, you will always have the upper hand. Dealers are not experts - they can be incredibly rude by looking at their mobiles to see prices right in front of the sellers, but they will always miss stuff too because they don't have the passion to begin to know as much as a collector.

The difference now is that there is competition for stuff - however, PS2 is in abundance, PS3 and 360 games are easy to find for a quid or two now and these are what people should be picking up rather than worry about the lack of 8-Bit or 16-Bit games, which have long had their abundantly available days.
(Link to this comment) mudeki187 2016-06-12 20:07
nice reply! i agree
+1 (Link to this comment) Mayhem 2016-06-12 13:53
Finding anything prior to the PS2 era is now a rarity at car boots!
(Link to this comment) Longview01 2016-06-13 12:07
I miss heading to the carboot in the late 90s early 2000s and picking up all manner of games, now most of it is already sitting on ebay or stolen by greedy resellers who have no interest in gaming outside of making money out of other peoples passions.

Theres a few on facebook I refuse to buy from because of this no matter what they throw up
(Link to this comment) wonderboy 2016-06-13 12:34
I have been to a few carboots recently (one in Cornwall on a Wednesday afternoon) and have never found anything pre - PS2 era....I dont think the golden age of finding retro games at car boots is has just moved on. Replace SNES with PS2 and I think that is where we are now!
(Link to this comment) DarakuTenshi 2016-06-13 23:33
I've never heard of a car boot. I'm assuming it means Car Boutique? You basically stuff your vehicle with garbage to sell to someone. Basically a flea market on a smaller scale.
(Link to this comment) gunstarhero 2016-06-14 10:16
@Daraku Tenshi:

Yes, except they are not on a small scale. The one I having been regularly going to for the last 15 years can have approx 2000 people selling on a Sunday morning. That is a lot of cars (not just one huge field, but sometimes two or three fields).

If you have a van or small lorry, you usually have to pay the organisers a bit more to sell your stuff. With regards to "garbage", one mans rubbish is anorther mans treasure ;-) . 15-20 years ago it wasn't difficult to find a boxed NES or SNES with a dozen tripe A titles in fantastic boxes for a fiver (£5). Those days are gone now though.
+1 (Link to this comment) DarakuTenshi 2016-06-14 14:05
Sounds like something I would enjoy. I don't call it garbage in a bad way... I even refer to garage sales as "Garbage Sales". Coming from someone in his youth that used to go dumpster diving quite often I know the great stuff you can find that people consider garbage. From toys to perfectly good TVs to video games. I think it original started when I was trying to make money as a child by recycling aluminum cans and ended up finding Star Wars toys.
(Link to this comment) cusser 2016-06-14 19:46
I started frequenting car boots late 90's. There were a couple of regular resellers and a couple of other collectors about. One of the collectors was an arrogant git who would bully his way through buyers. The resellers were really quite fair with prices.
These days I see so many resellers forcing themselves into the back of cars, grabbing at anything with a sega, Sony, Nintendo label while the collectors politely enquire. Of course this may only be my local perspective.
The good days are certainly over, but there are bargains to be found. Just need to be more patient and dig deeper.
(Link to this comment) maddocks 2016-06-14 21:08
I had some good stuff the other week at the car boot sale. But that was just luck, and sometimes people do get lucky. PS2 & Xbox360 stuff are the cheapest to buy now and I've bought loads of this stuff for buttons. I hate resellers because once the idea gets around about game collecting they know theres a quick buck to be made and prices shoot up and up.
(Link to this comment) Jacobino 2016-06-15 01:58
Scalpers =/= Resellers. Though the problem here is people who don't love games or aren't even gamers entered the "business" of selling games, also they check this site regularly (and many others), which is why I think rarity of a game should only show if you have a minimum amount of games of said plataform.
That said, where I live there are no boot sales, so all I have is the internet to search. Luckly I arrived at the right time to buy the games I wanted, mostly ps1 and ps2 games, sadly now getting pricier.
Too many people who think retrogames are worth a lot these days. We raising awareness of rare games isn't helping too.
(Link to this comment) maddocks 2016-06-15 09:16
your right as soon as resellers see ER,R,U next to a game the £ sign is straight in there head. And I'm sure carbooters check eBay before going out, i have seen SNES, N64, NES games with price stickers on at car boot sales with the bay price on it.
(Link to this comment) lawbag 2016-06-16 18:09
People selling at car book sales often wont do a deal as they claim to be selling on behalf of someone else.
I think the only thing decent and retro at a car boot sales these days are old Win 95/98 desktops for classic retro PC gaming.
(Link to this comment) Dance21 2016-06-19 23:56
I agree but there are still bargains to be found so don't give up only 2 weeks ago I picked up a heavy sixer sunnyville (atari 2600 rev a) for £20 but that was the only retro console I've found in the last 6 trips
(Link to this comment) topblagger 2016-06-27 03:54
Retro video game collecting is (unfortunately) getting to where the Sneaker collecting game was 3-4 years ago.
Back then you could cop a bargain on a peair of sneakers for $15 out of some factory outlet.
Then people cottoned on to the resale value of theser things on Ebay and everything changed.

It's sad, I live in Australia and I remember getting a NES and 2 games for about $50. Nowadays you'd be lucky to get just the system for double that.

It's the way things are gonig, I can;t beleive we have yet to see a retro/vintage gaming section on Antiques Roadshow.
(Link to this comment) oldgamerz 2016-06-28 23:30
Where I live I am lucky to have a Indoor Flea Market / Car Boot Sale every weekend and part of the week every week for 5 days open year around. And the best thing it is a walk able distance from where I live. Here in my local area we have plenty of mint condition games to choose from also. It's too bad I can't say the same for the rest of you. but the sellers don't really rely on Ebay for their prices, we in Michigan are hard core gamer who sell our games based on how fun and not how rare they are at least some of our re sellers are like that.
(Link to this comment) bulletmarv 2016-06-29 20:46
Were I go Dewsbury and Rufforth Car-boot's there is little to no Retro Games. I do think it has gotten a lot harder to find Retro Games. On the last Retro Find I got was a couple of ZX Spectrum Games and the Wide Viewer and Battery Pack for my Game Gear, That was a year ago now. It's I believe it's due to Retro Gaming/ Collecting being more popular and thee rise of easy to use Smartphones with constant internet connections so people can check the prices of items before taking them to the booty.
(Link to this comment) MartinSaysHuh 2016-09-05 18:38
Great article. I agree with everything you said, especially the re-seller section. They get a lot of hate but we would do the same thing if we found a rare game for a $1. Personally, if that does happen to me, I always hook someone up with what I get(especially if I know the person really wants it).

With all of that being said, I think that there's one more thing that people aren't talking about much right now, and that is the rise of the "Youtube Game Hunting" videos. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the videos, but I have noticed the amount of people starting to go to Car Boot Sales because they see another Youtuber do it. :lol:
(Link to this comment) Johnzilla206 2016-09-30 22:35
Great article. 15 years ago I remember finding a master system with 4 or 5 games for 50p. This year some lad wanted £15 for Finding Nemo on GC, he claimed it went for double that on eBay ??? I had to laugh and walk away.
(Link to this comment) ninjaalex 2018-01-31 19:15
These day I can't be bothered with it. Like a lot of people mentioned 90s were the glory days, also really good then for board games as well if that's your thing. I only go to car boots now to sell things or buy household items and books, I'm not in it for the games anymore.

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