EMERGING VINTAGE VIDEOGAME HOBBY GIVES PARENTS, CHILDREN A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO COLLECT TOGETHER
By Pamela Wiggins Siegel
The kids in your life love videogames, right? That’s almost a universal truth these days. But what about collecting them as well as playing them? Yes, that’s a thing now. A big, big thing, as a matter of fact.
The owner of Just Press Play, Zac Gieg of Lancaster, Pa., recalls learning the ways of collecting from his grandfather at a young age. By the time he was 11, the duo started selling at a local flea market, where his interest in buying and selling video games grew.
KIDS & COLLECTING
Fast-forward a few levels and that fledgling business has turned into full-time work. Still at it more than 25 years later, Gieg is now the proprietor of four brick-and-mortar videogame stores (new and vintage) as well as a website (JustPressPlayOnline.com). He’s also leveled up as a videogame collector in a huge way.
“This is a fun industry and hobby to be involved in right now because it is just emerging,” Gieg says. He also notes that videogames are now recognized as “bona fide” collectibles, and he has some great scores to prove it.
One of his prized possessions is a Nintendo Royal Challenge Gold cartridge that was given only to competition winners. That single “trophy” is worth six figures today. Another collectible game he’s proud to own is a highly valued factory-sealed copy of Stadium Events. Gieg was among a group of collectors who in early 2019 teamed up to purchase a highly graded and unopened 1985 copy of Super Mario Bros. offered by Heritage Auctions. It sold for a world record $100,150.
With Gieg being such an influencer in his field, it’s only natural that his 7-year-old son, Miles, is beginning to learn the ins and outs of videogame collecting. Together, the duo picks out games that are age-appropriate for his son, and Miles is learning the importance of leaving certain versions of games factory sealed. “He’s at the age now where he’s realizing that daddy has a lot of cool stuff,” Gieg says, adding he feels this is a great time to explore new ways to immerse his son in a hobby they can share.
A logical next step will be attending videogame conventions as a team, since Gieg often sees families enjoying these events together. Being a part of the game-collecting community is rewarding for Gieg, and he feels his son will enjoy the experience, too. Gaming conventions are held throughout the country, and usually offer an arcade, vendors and demos of emerging tech in the videogame field.
Valarie McLeckie, a consignment director for Heritage Auctions with a wealth of knowledge on videogames, agrees that conventions and videogame shops are great places to frequent with kids. They get to know others with the same interests and begin to experience the camaraderie that comes with being part of a like-minded group. She also recommends shopping for videogames in out-of-the way places.
In addition to garage sales and thrift stores, pawn shops can be a good resource for used games. This is especially true for shops in smaller towns, so don’t forget to stop in when you’re on road trips. “I’ve found a game for $10 in a pawn shop and realized it was worth $150 or more when I got home,” McLeckie says, adding, “If it’s sealed, pick it up. If it’s an older game, pick it up.”
And no matter where you’re shopping, she recommends looking for “blue-chip” characters like Mario, Zelda, Pokémon and Sonic the Hedgehog. Basically, consider anything that looks interesting or older, and take a chance on it if the price is right.
Heritage offers vintage videogames in its weekly online-only comics auctions (HA.com/comics).
As with other types of packaged collectibles, factory-sealed games are always worth more than comparable unsealed games. Next in line are complete-in-box games (also known as C.I.B.), McLeckie says. That means they come with everything originally shipped from the factory, including any package inserts, even though they are no longer sealed.
Condition remains important in this collecting genre as well. Boxes and cartridges in excellent shape are always more desirable, unless you’re dealing with a rarity or prototype that holds value regardless of condition. Getting away from the ultra-desirable examples into budget-friendly territory for kids can mean buying cartridges, or “carts,” on their own without the original box, McLeckie notes.
Deniz Kahn of WataGames.com, which offers video grading services and educational resources for collectors, shares that some of the most sought-after examples are “Black Box” games made for the Nintendo NES system. There are valuable variations of these games to watch for as noted in the WataGames blog article “The Definitive Guide to Black Box Collecting.” Gieg also recommends taking a look at this valuable resource as you learn more about collecting videogames.
This doesn’t mean collectors can’t enjoy collecting games for other systems, such as Atari, PlayStation and Sega. Some folks focus on collecting one of each game in a favorite series. Others focus on well-known characters. There are numerous paths to choose, and lots of them are perfect for children.
As with other types of collectibles, WataGames’ grading service includes encapsulating, or “slabbing,” games from many different platforms. That service can apply to games that are old favorites for sentimental reasons as well as value. Kahn explains that WataGames seeks to fill a gap by preserving “relics of nostalgia” as this slice of pop culture has transitioned into a legitimate form of art and history over the past decade.
So while you might not be able to beat them at the games they love so much, you can certainly join the kids in your life by guiding them as collectors. See how far you can advance in a collecting category that gives families more than one way to have fun.
PAMELA WIGGINS SIEGEL is the author of Collecting with Kids: How to Inspire, Intrigue and Guide the Young Collector, a book based on her columns in The Intelligent Collector.
This article appears in the Fall 2019 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.