5 Top Tips For Retro Gamers On How to Get The Best Bargains At Car Boot Sales & Flea Markets

5-Top-Tips-For-Retro-Gamers-On-How-to-Get-The-Best-Bargains-At-Car-Boot-Sales-Flea-MarketsAs the winter days draw to a close, lazy Sunday lie-ins are no longer an option for many a retro gamer. Instead, they’re up at the crack of dawn trudging through a muddy field.

Normally this would be seen as a sign of madness, but in actuality it’s one of the last ways you can get your hands on retro gaming gold at reasonable – and sometimes incredibly low - prices.

We speak, of course, of car boot sales. They may not have the most glamorous of reputations, but grabbing a handful of Gameboy carts for mere pennies can give you a much greater buzz than triumphing in a fierce bidding war on eBay.

So for those out there yet to experience one of these jumble sale extravaganzas, we’ve assembled a light hearted five-point guide on how to get the most out of your local car boot.  With many starting up in the next couple of weeks, now seems the perfect time to delve into what to expect and how best to approach them.

Many of the following may seem painfully obvious, and a few overlap with one another here and there – but if you think there’s an important point we’ve missed please do leave a comment below.

1 - Be prepared

It’s the most obvious point of this list - but make sure you know exactly where you’re going and which car boots are on in your local area. Checking your local paper or website (carbootsales.org is one of the better places to see where ones are located in your area) may even bring some car boots to your attention that you never knew existed.

Making sure you have a rucksack/bag and some spare change the day before is also wise. There’s nothing worse than the look you’ll receive from a seller after haggling them down from £1 to 50p…only to pay with a £20 note.

2 - Get there early

For the dedicated retro game hunter, getting to a car boot early is almost essential. Unfortunately this usually means usually getting up at around 6am, but this is necessary to beat what are the bane of many a car boot – traders. Usually found grabbing any games they can find as soon as sellers have set up and taking them to their own stall for a profit, these unscrupulous fiends are easy to spot. Fortunately they’re not at every car boot, but grabbing a bargain before them where they do exist is almost a reward in itself.

It’s worth noting that it’s not always a disaster to arrive later though. This way you can leisurely look around and pick up what’s left - sellers may be willing to sell games for a much lower price than they would have at the start of the day just to get rid of it. You’ll also have more of a chance to grab some tea from the battered burger van that seems to be at every car boot.

3 - Be ready to haggle

Unlike in your local Game, where all you can do is groan/sigh/tut at the many overpriced titles, in car boots you can cut a price right down if you take the right approach.

Many sellers genuinely have no idea what their items are worth, and although this can work for a lot of the time, it can also be hugely dispiriting when you have someone who believes that £5 is a perfectly acceptable sum for something like FIFA 96 on the Mega Drive (“…but look, it has its box and everything!”).

Although you’ll rarely cut a price in half, the odd pounds and pennies can be saved if you’re kind and courteous enough when providing a counter offer. Many sellers are willing to discount heavily if you buy a lot of games in one go as well, and enquiring whether a stall has any more titles for sale where you only see one or two can reap dividends.

Pick your targets wisely in terms of haggling too – insisting that a 7-year old takes 20p off the price of their copy of Super Monkey Ball is probably taking things a little too far…

4 - Don’t appear to be an expert

Demonstrating your knowledgeable of a specific topic is usually a good thing – but not at car boots. Being able to distinguish a ZX Spectrum+ from a ZX Spectrum 128 from distance is impressive, but in a car boot it will mark you out as someone that may be willing to pay that little bit extra. You’ll probably want to cover up that Space Invaders shirt and unpin that Atari Lynx badge while you’re at it.

Managing to keep a poker face when you’re quoted a ridiculously low price for a rare gem is also wise – otherwise you could find the seller having their suspicions raised and swiftly amending their original price tag.

5 - Leave no system or stall unturned

Games can lurk in the most unexpected places. A stall housed by an older couple can sometimes end up having some cartridges nestled under the crockery, and a box of dusty copies of NHL 99 and Mary-Kate and Ashley:  Winners Circle could well have a gem buried at the bottom. 

For portable systems such as the Gameboy it’s also worth taking a look if there’s a cartridge already in the slot too. The opposite rule also applies – if you buy a boxed game make sure the cart/disc is in there, as sellers don’t always check these things before putting them on their stalls.

Good luck!

So that’s a basic outline of what you’ll see from a car boot – and how to get the best out of them. Not every one will have retro games stall to stall – some sadly turn out to have next to none – but be patient and you’ll find that getting up at 7am on a Sunday is a much more exciting prospect that it has any right to be…

Last Updated ( 17 January 2013 )  

Simon Reed

An avid collector of retro handhelds since getting a Game Boy Pocket back in the 90s, perhaps his most embarrassing gaming moment was when he got involved in an eBay bidding war...for a Tiger Game.com game. Also has a interest in sports and likes to write features connecting them with games whenever possible.

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(Link to this comment) Ewokmic 2012-03-08 21:40
A good tip for those willing to haggle is that if the seller isn't willing to lower the price to your offer its often worth telling them you will leave it and back away. Often they will shout out "go on then". If they don't you can always pop back a minute later and agree to their price. A little embarrassing maybe but worth it!
+1 (Link to this comment) Cauterize 2012-03-08 22:31
Quoting Ewokmic:
A good tip for those willing to haggle is that if the seller isn't willing to lower the price to your offer its often worth telling them you will leave it and back away. Often they will shout out "go on then". If they don't you can always pop back a minute later and agree to their price. A little embarrassing maybe but worth it!

As an alternative to this, I tend to hold out the cash I am willing to offer (best if a crisp note) as I tend to find that once the seller sees the cash, they often forget they were haggling in the first place. Money is hypnotic!
(Link to this comment) threeaugustones 2012-03-08 22:32
6) - Avoid armadillo_09! ;)
(Link to this comment) Level Up Games 2012-03-09 10:49
From personnal experience it can sometimes be wise to grab the whole box of games/consoles just to get the hidden gems.
We once bought small goldmine just on a chance purchase, a box of cables and megadrive carts turned out to have not one, but two complete megadrives and a Saturn at the bottom, complete with a copy of Shining Force!! All ours for a fiver...

it's not often this can happen, but not that bad if you do! Bear in mind that all you don't want you can always sell or trade of afterwards - sometimes even to other traders stalls :)
(Link to this comment) Speedle 2012-03-09 11:29
Great advice, theres often a couple of resellers at one of my local carboots and they really do take the piss.

I heard one of them talking to other stall owners saying how surprised his "boxed" goods weren't selling... uh because your selling them above eBay prices! I said to the guy straight out if i wanted to get ripped off I'd go to eBay... his face was a picture!

£40 for a boxed megadrive? uhh yeah good one! Got a boxed megadrive and 10 games for a Tenner... some people!
(Link to this comment) hydr0x 2012-03-09 11:35
All of this doesn't help if there are no games present on the carboot/flea/whatever :(
(Link to this comment) MicroBytes 2012-03-10 20:59
During my last visit to the local car boot I was glancing around stall. At the last second before I moved to the next one I noticed a nappy box (of all things) closed up on the floor which faintly had the words "Old Computer" writen on top with marker pen. Intrigued, I opened it up and it was full to the brim with unboxed SMS games.
I asked how much and she said £5 (I brought her down to £3) and I scampered off very pleased with myself.
It wasnt until I got home I realised there was a SMS console and 2 pads resting at the bottom too!
There was 27 games in total. Many of which already had and sold for profit :)

(I recall seeing someone else at that boot sale with a SMS with a price tag of £30, unboxed, no games. What were they thinking)
+1 (Link to this comment) Level Up Games 2012-03-11 00:30
Off down our local Booty first thing tmrw morning!!

One thing to say to everyone is that you can't go expecting things to be there. You'll just end up dissapointed (and mabey going home with half a chess set and a comedy teapot...)

If something is there, then superb!
If not, mabey next time, think of the good the fresh air has done you ;)
(Link to this comment) Lonewolf 2012-03-21 17:40
Great read but ........I have been running a stall at a few local boot sales now for a little over two years ,and i really don't mind a small haggle etc when im selling a few games but if i have a nice Brand New and Factory Sealed copy of Tombi for £45 and someone offers me £10 i will say no so i think showing some politeness and courtesy should also be a must.
(Link to this comment) cusser 2012-03-24 19:34
It's been a long time since i found anything memorable at a car boot. perhaps i've depleted the local stock?
On many occasion i've found choice bits by looking through boxes of crap, rather than passing them by as simply junk. patience can often produce rewards and a lot of buyers can not be bothered to stop by a dig deep in case somebody else gets to the next stall first.
(Link to this comment) Turricanx 2012-04-18 14:33
Great tips, the main trouble for me is actually finding a car boot local to me. The few that come around near me only come around in the summer and generally the pickings are very slim, last year I didn't find a single item. There is one guy who always has a table of retro games but they are massivley overpriced, it makes eBay look like bargain central. Not so much of a retro market here in the South, only for people wanting to cash in on it.
(Link to this comment) andy280685 2012-04-30 11:06
hey guys, heck out my new site. www.reunitems.com for all you retro gear and memorabilia. its launching on the 9th of may. its free to register just no with no insertion fees, so why not go on n have a look. trying to build up the database just now before launch. any queries email me at andrew@reunitem s.com
(Link to this comment) Superh 2012-05-07 19:29
Don't even get me started. The resellers and traders at my local are despicable.

3 asian blokes who run a game stand.they are sooo cheap! Once i saw one find a boxed PS1 with all cables controllers and 10 games, the woman said you can have it for £2! the cheeky fucker then offers 50p for it!!!

Also, they have dirty business tactics. Once I was looking at their wares. A N64 caught my eye. I asked how much for it and he asks for £15(this was for the unit it's self, no controllers or games) I then have a look in the memory slot and the bastards taken out the memory module and sold it elsewhere!!!

The look on his face when he saw me look back at him after he caught me checking.. he knew what he was doing is wrong!!

some poor kid could have ended up taking it home and not being able to play it!
(Link to this comment) retrorich80 2014-01-09 19:42
I got a gameboy advance and a handful of games for a tenner. the chap didnt know what he was selling bless him!!
I also found several Megadrive games for a few quid each. Obviously i have difficulty haggling with people exactly my age as they are in the know and wont drop by much!! Still a great hobby and a challenge to scour the field to find a gem or two. Even power supplies and carry cases are handy to store and keep the dust off.
+1 (Link to this comment) raiden58237 2014-04-26 13:13
I recently went to a car boot ( first one of the year ) and was able to get a boxed PS2 with 30 games for £8. There was absolutely no point in haggling as in my eyes that is a bargain, especially as none of the games were sports games. What made me laugh though was a few stalls down some one was selling a loose PS2 console with cables and controller (no games) for £15. You can always tell which stands have done there research because of the prices.
(Link to this comment) Flozem 2014-06-15 09:12
Indeed - I once was quoted 20 Euros for a SNES with 2 controllers, 6 very good games and an NTSC adapter. No point haggling then... Neither do I haggle for Gameboy games at 0,50 Euros. :)
(Link to this comment) Kingcizz 2014-05-22 17:52
I cannot believe I sold my mint copy of Gunstar Heroes and Sonic & Knuckles at a car boot for a quid each....have spent considerably more to replace them many years later....doh!
(Link to this comment) Flozem 2014-06-15 09:10
"if you buy a boxed game make sure the cart/disc is in there, as sellers don’t always check these things before putting them on their stalls."

I would add that you shouldn't forget to ask whether you can take the empty box as freebie since they will throw it away anyway... :)

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