Not Quite Rare

A GUIDE TO “VALUABLE” GAMES

Hopefully by now, you’ve given up on the “Impossible” games. Your local game store doesn’t have a World Championship. There isn’t a Stadium Events within a thousand miles on Craig’s List. Maybe you picked up a few fun titles at the flea market and you were stoked to find a Zelda at a garage sale, even though you already had one. But you bought it anyway so your day wasn’t a complete failure. The disappointment is growing and the only thing that has filled the holes is wasting an unnatural amount of money on the “Big-6 Rare” games.


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Where do I get games?

IN THE WILD

yardsaleEvery collector dreams of catching a Stadium Events at a yard sale or Goodwill, but it’s just not going to happen. I tapped every resource in both mine and neighboring cities on a regular basis for quite a while, and here’s what I came up with:

Yard sales are for old people. Anyone with NES games has internet access. Catching games at a yard sale is a billion to one shot as it is, much less any games worth a damn.

Game stores have stores to run. They’re not going to accidentally let something that’s worth $100 go for $5. They specialize in selling video games. You’re not going to find something cheaper than market value here, and usually it’s more to compensate for such a large overhead.

Flea markets have changed quite a bit since the mid-80s. When you approach the games, notice the elaborate Mario mural on the side of the booth. It’s just another game store.
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Traveling Abroad

THE PAL COLLECTION

fullcollectionAlexander the Great’s worst feeling was having no more land to conquer. Lucky for you, however, today we have the technology to go overseas and steal some of their cool stuff.

North American and Southeastern Asian systems were encoded with NTSC and most other countries with PAL. I don’t work for the FCC or NBC, so to me, most of this is like a colorful NES version of a Japanese take-out menu. But it’s along the same lines as DVD coding. Our games don’t work over there and their games don’t work here. They don’t have the same screen size standards we do, the same frame-rates, or the same color palettes, so like everything else involving a television, they made games for over here and the same games for over there. But sometimes, things get overlooked (you can buy me a beer for not using the “Lost in Translation” cliché).
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The Unlicensed Collection

UNLICENSED GAMES

Don’t ever fall for the description “BLACK CARTRIDGE – RARE!!!” Beginner collectors tend to get sucked in because they think they’ve seen it all, so when something “new” comes along, they quickly act. You need to study up a little bit before you just start throwing your money around for third-party games.

And should you even bother? Nobody’s going to call you out for not having the translucent cartridge with the label printed on pink tin foil, and these companies often produced simply terrible games. The licensed games were developed by experienced programmers with a great deal of funding, while unlicensed cartridges were made in a basement and generally have next to no replay value. (“Am I collecting Nintendo games or games that play on my Nintendo?”)
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The Big-6

WATCH THE TRENDS

After World Championships, Stadium Events, and the crappy rare unlicensed pixilated booby games, there’s a really big drop in price, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the rest of your collection for a single paycheck. Down the ladder, the next six licensed titles alone will drain you of at least 600 bucks, and then there’s about forty more that dance around the $50 mark.

But don’t necessarily get steered into market traffic. Prices fluctuate and memories fade a lot faster than you might think. A new article on IGN’s website may read that Dragon Warrior IV carries an “A+ Rarity Rating,” valued “Over $100!!!” If newcomer collectors read this, every copy of the game up for auction will get immediately play (primarily by sellers cornering the market), thereby increasing its value. When the dust settles, however, the itchy and impatient collectors learn what the smart, experienced ones on the sidelines knew all along – there are more copies of Dragon Warrior IV than that author realized and suddenly sellers are desperately trying to unload their stock to recoup expenses before the price drops dramatically.
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Dealing with “Inverted Jennys”

“INVERTED JENNYS”invertedjenny

Nobody is going to shoot for a complete NES collection without being both a gamer and collector at heart. What you consider a collection, however, determines which side you more lean towards. In the 90s, my brother was a huge toy collector, and I never understood why he had to own, for example, both the Darth Vader with the red light saber and the one with the blue light saber. Isn’t owning the Darth Vader enough? For some, not so much.

In the early 20th century, the post office began air-mail shipping with a whopping accompanying rate of 24 cents instead of the 3 cent traditional ground postage. To bookmark this event, they created a special 24 cent air-mail stamp. Common practice for multiple color printing at the time was to feed a sheet through once for each color, in this case, once for the red border with the text and again for the blue airplane. Of course, in their haste, mistakes were made and the second feed occasionally went in the wrong way, printing the airplane (a Curtiss JN-4 or “Jenny” biplane) upside-down.
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A Whole New Rarity Guide

ABOUT RARITY GUIDES

While you might consider it a Bible when you start collecting, an A+ to Q- rarity list usually isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on and won’t much help you on your quest. After all, what is the difference between five million and four million copies, other than giving merchants an excuse to charge more? I suppose there is some truth to the difference in price between “A-” and “C+,” but that isn’t going to tell you what you should pay based on recent trading developments.

I’m not saying they’re useless – they make decent checklists, but just because 10 million copies of a game were made, it’s not necessarily going to cost you a quarter. Conversely, a run of 10,000 may not as a rule have a $75 asking price.
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