I have been seriously collecting retro video game for the last 10 years or so and I have learned a lot about what games are worth. It seems that certain games that would most likely never be played or kept are worth a lot of money. Recently I am in pursuit of loose NES games to collect all licensed and unlicensed games. At the time of this article, I have 450 individual loose NES cartridges. I still have a long way to go to the official 685 licensed and the 97 unlicensed games for a total of 782 games. In this process I have done a lot of shipping around, researching and even bidding on eBay for some. Everyone has a different way of truly collecting the games, but because of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, it is almost impossible to go to an event or a video game store and do the game hunting I am used to. There are many ways to find the value of a game and to truly get what the game is worth and not feel scammed. Some apps like “Retro Game Collector, tell you what the game is worth for loose, with manual, and complete. There is also website like www.pricecharting.com who most gamers stand by for the worth of a game. The problem is that website uses eBay to average the amount for what a game is dol for. So, if eBay sells a game too high it changes the worth value on the website. It is a good range of gaming prices, but I still look around at others.

What confuses me are the games that are sold or go for hundreds of dollars and even thousands in some cases. Prices are based on rarity, condition, and history. The condition of a game is sometime the difference between buying a game for $10.00 to $45.00. IF it is graded and in mint condition, it could sell for up to $200.00 for the same game. For my current goal, to get every NES game is not possible unless I get the rarest of rare games, like Stadium Events (selling for over $9,000) or 1990 Nintendo Championship (only a handful of games created and in existence, selling over $13,000). Those are considered unlikely on my list. But there are games like “The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peek” which I would have never bought as a kid and for sure never kept it around. It is selling for around $800.00 for just the game, that does not include the manual or box. If you want that you need to spend around $2,100. Last year I was grouping up the current games I wanted to see what I needed, I came across Bonk’s Adventure for the NES. At first, I thought it was a fake and maybe a reproduction game that someone created. I never did remember Bonk being on the Nintendo. I always remembered that game on the Turbografx-16. I search it and come to find out it is one of the top 5 hardest games to get for the NES. So, I took it to the next level and searched the value. When I checked at that time, it was selling for $620.00. Mine was in perfect condition just the game, nothing else. I asked around and gamers told me to make sure the game was legit and check the board. It seems that gamers are reproducing the same game with the same cover but with a different gaming board inside. I am not sure why that fad started. Getting tricked on the internet buy buying these is cruel to me.

The madness of the worth of video games goes way beyond just Nintendo.  For example, if you happen to have the NBA Elite ’11 for the PlayStation 3 (like who would not, lol), it sold for over $9,000 in an auction because there were only a limited number produced. Another example is Superman for the Atari 2600. You may say you do own that, but wait, be careful, check the label, there was a different game with the same name sold at Sears back in the day and the Superman lettering was yellow. This game can go for up to $30,000. A sealed copy of Nintendo’s “Super Mario Bros. 3” has become the most expensive video game ever sold, going for a whopping $156,000 at an auction.

I was always told things are only worth what people pay for them. I had baseball cards back in the 1980’s. Rookie cards, complete sets, rare glossy ones that came in special packs. I packaged them up and put them in binders knowing one day they will be worth money. A few years later they did hike up in price and I was very excited. Fast forward to 2021, A Mark McGwire USA Rooke card which at one time in the 1980’s went for 600.00 (I had 7 of them). Today, the card goes for maybe 10.00, if I’m lucky. Now, of course history had a lot to do with baseball card going down, but it was also the idea that baseball cards are not that cool anymore or popular. It just devalued the amount they were worth. Same with video games, I feel like the last 5 years or so retro gaming is at a peak, and gamers of all ages are buying, selling, and collecting games for the older generations. This is spiking the value of the games. Like everything else that was “rare” or “mint” condition items, after time the value went down. This is what I believe will happen to retro gaming. As games are going more digital and most systems and portables can download a retro game in minutes, the originals are going to go down in value. Collecting games will be like collecting old pennies. They look cool but are not worth much more than they were 40 years ago. I will keep my Bonk’s Adventure for now, but I would have to gamble and say in the next few years to sell it as 20 years from now it will be worth $12.00.

Then there is the current generation who buys game, console, accessories, but does not open them and weeks later sells them for up to 3 times it was sold for. To me, this is not what collecting is all about. That is more of a fast investment on an item you never really wanted. This has been seen in items like the new Super Mario Game & Watch, The PlayStation 5 and at one time the NES “mini”, which at one time was retailed for $59.99 and was selling for $600.00 or more. Now you can get them anywhere for that $59.99 or even less.

Collecting is an obsession. The idea of getting every game or toy lineup, or trading card, is a rush. The idea of getting something and storing it in good condition seems very boring as you never get to enjoy it. I admit I have fell down that trap for video games. However, in 2019, it took courage, but I sold about 2,800 of my retro games. It was just getting too crowded and I was only playing about 30 of of the 3,900 games I owned.  I decided to keep a handful of game on each console I owned and sell the rest.  Except for the NES. I kept those to try to collect all of them. I kept it simpler and narrowed down to one system. So far, I have not paid more than $20.00 for a game which gets me up to 450 games.  I still have a few more that I can get for that price, but then everything goes up and up and up. I am not sure how I can pull it off other than spending thousands of dollars to get 80% of the rest of the games. The 20% of games that are selling for $400.00 or more, I will just wait until they go down.

Todd Friedman (338 Posts)

Todd Friedman is currently a writer for Old School Gamer Magazine and the Walter Day Trading Card Collection. He is the author of 2 books and has co-promoted the Video Game Summit for the last 15 years. Todd is also the Chairman of the Nomination Committee and board member for the International Video Game Hall of Fame.