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.

Like any other product, collectibles are worth only as much as the public is willing to pay and their purchases decide the price. The funny thing is that the people who reference online guides to determine a game’s value are the same ones who rewrite those guides on the fly. In auctions, competing buyers will drive the market up, forcing losing bidders to pay more than the winner in the future.

Let me explain: If there are two copies of the game Sqoon on eBay from established sellers with a Buy It Now price of $9.95, one would logically think the value was close to $10. But auctions are different than the retail market and bidders are flooded with endorphins – a feeling not unlike a gambling rush. If a third Sqoon is listed at the right time under the right circumstances, say for a penny with free world-wide shipping, ending at 8:00 pm Sunday night, two collectors might battle the price up to $13.50. After the disgruntled loser clears his head, he purchases one of the other ones for $9.95.

Now we have two copies of a game that doesn’t ordinarily get much action averaging at $11.73 for one day, $1.78 more than the current seller price, and the online price guides automatically change accordingly, as does eBay’s built in “What’s It Worth” tool.

Then a third collector checks his faithful website guide and doesn’t look past “Sqoon – HOT – $11.73″ before he checks eBay for a deal. And there it is – a $12 game with a $9.95 price tag. Not knowing the trends of the day, he adds it to his collection with the illusion of a $2 savings. And it happens just that fast. Three copies with an $11.13 average.

Now when someone else comes along to sell his copy of Sqoon, not only would all his references point to at least an $11 starting price, he also has the only copy available on eBay and the cycle repeats more aggressively. Even the sellers will get in the game, buying the same thing for $13 they sold last week for $10. Suddenly everyone NEEDS Sqoon!

And after everyone has his own copy of Sqoon, and all of the bidding stops, and all the hype dies, and the game goes for three weeks without a sale, the price is finally set: $19.95 for a game that sold for $9.95 a month ago. And you’ll be hard pressed to find a copy for less for a long time. Sellers aren’t sellers because they pay $13 for a game and let it go for $9.95. They’ll do everything they can to get their money back.

But eventually, they will get tired of paying fees to sit on stock. Best offers will be accepted and some will make bold moves to unload, like their own penny/free shipping auctions. But everyone who wanted Sqoon in its hey-day already has it, so one sells for $6 and another for $5. Soon new sellers list their copies at its newly established $13.95 value and old sellers don’t have a choice but to match the price. Then it goes to $11…then $10…and everything’s back to normal (maybe cheaper).

During Sqoon’s downward spiral is where you come in – you were the one who got it for $5 because you can follow the trends and you were never willing to pay more.

Many things can suddenly bring a game to everyone’s attention – a new glitch on YouTube, a clip on G4, or even The Angry Video Game Nerd (and he’s telling everyone not to play the game), but if you take the emotion out of collecting so you don’t get caught up in the insanity, you can save a hell of a lot of money. An NES collection is a marathon, and the one thing eBay will never have a shortage of is grandmothers cleaning out the attic and college kids needing money.

But it’s not going to be free. A good tactic is to slowly build the the easy ones so you feel like you’re accomplishing something while watching for deals on the games that aren’t suddenly going to be economical, and more importantly, you need to mentally prepare yourself for the following obligatory expenses:

THE BIG-6

#1: The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peakdinosaurpeakbox

While certainly not as expensive as biggies World Championship and Stadium Events, the rarest, not ridiculous title isn’t going to come cheap, and it should be something you are always keeping an eye out for. But its popularity will fluctuate and it tends to be a game big sellers try to avoid because of the risk. Most of the time, you’ll see this one from a rookie’s closet clean-up.

Coming out just a little too late, the second Flintstones game was a huge improvement over its predecessor, The Rescue of Dino & Hoppy. In addition to being offered a choice between playable characters Fred or Barney, the game-play, graphics, and overall fun are improved. Unfortunately for creator Taito, however, no faith was invested in the success of this 1994 title that couldn’t possibly have held a candle to the 16-bit super systems of the era and the arcade fighting-game craze. But at least it saw the light of day, snatched up by Blockbuster Video for excited gamers everywhere to rent.

Because it was never sold to the public, it’s stupid hard to find a cartridge, let alone a box and manual, but they’re out there. The goal is to grab it for under $150.

dinosaurpeakcartridgeCollector’s Tip: I have seen these unloaded cheap many times over because of title errors. Search for “Flinstones” instead of “FlinTstones,” and don’t limit yourself to “Dinosaur Peak” either. I caught mine in mint condition for under a hundred with the title “Flinstones – NITENDO Dino. Peak.” Use as many different variations your imagination can muster. Even if he recognizes its value, never underestimate the laziness or stupidity of an amateur seller.

Now it gets a little easier. From this point, no licensed title should go much higher than $100 and only five will approach that mark. You’ve already decided to spend money, but spend it wisely – avoid getting any of these if the five combined will break $500, including shipping. There have been others for sale in the past and there will be more in the future. Prices will swing and you need to be smart, not quick.

#2: Bubble Bobble Part 2

LOOK FOR THE "PART 2" IN THE TITLE

LOOK FOR THE "PART 2" IN THE TITLE

Another late Taito release, the leader of the Hundred-Dollar-Gang is actually the 4th installment of the series, beginning with the original, followed by Rainbow Islands, and then Parasol Stars (a PAL exclusive). It’s worth owning, not only to take a lot of pressure away from your collection gaps, but also because it’s almost as fun as the original, only lacking in two-player simultaneous action.

Collector’s Tip: Don’t be afraid to step up here in price if you save some money on the other four. It’s worth an extra ten bucks to have a label that isn’t mangled. Also, watch out for seller tricks like “Bubble Bobble – 2 player game” and “Rainbow Islands – Story of Bubble Bobble 2,” both of which will show up with your search regularly. And finally, don’t buy anything without a picture – it might be the Game Boy version if the description is vague. Essentially, you’re not getting one cheap, so if it looks like the deal is so great you can’t pass it up, pass it up.

#3: Little Samsonlittlesamson1

Sometimes passing Bubble Bobble Part 2 in price, this is yet another late release for the system with one notable exception – it’s freakin’ awesome! The cut scenes are wicked and the game-play, while similar to a Mega Man platform style, is distinct because you have four different characters you can choose at any time, each with his own abilities, like short flights as a dragon or squeezing through small passages as a mouse. Just on quality alone, this one should be the most expensive of all.

Collector’s Tip: Download the ROM after you buy Little Samson so you can put your cartridge in a plastic baggie and periodically polish it with a diaper. The game’s addicting as hell, and while NES carts are durable, you won’t want to risk it.

#4-6: Snow Brothers, Panic Restaurant, and Bonk’s Adventure

Unless something big changes, don’t go above $100 for any of these. They’re up there, but they’re more common than people make them out to be. These games hovered around $40 not too long ago. The difference is NES collectors are a lot more widespread recently, so people don’t give them up as easily as they used to. But they’re available, commonly in multiple game auctions.

Collector’s Tip: If you just don’t want to deal with the increasing market price and would rather get these out of the way so you can focus on everything else, go ahead and spend $300 on three games. But these do occasionally pop up in lots. Here’s the question: Would you rather spend $100 on Snow Brothers or $200 on Snow Brothers and fifty other games?

4through63

And that’s it! After these six, you’re well on your way to a collection. From here, you can stop worrying that you “won’t be able to find it later” and you can take your time building when it’s within your budget.