Given our small population and relative isolation compared to many other Western countries, being Australian has its frustrations at times. We lag behind when it comes to Internet speeds, our pricing is driven northwards by the effect of the “Australia Tax”, and we often find ourselves late to the party in terms of innovation and product release (although it must be said that we do tend to be a testing ground for software releases, as going live in Australia isn’t likely to crush servers).
Being a collector in Australia is also impacted by these issues – on the one hand, we have limited access to items as there are fewer people selling them, but more importantly, given we are now an interconnected world, buying online can come with extremely painful shipping charges. This means that something that would ordinarily cost $50-100 locally could fetch upwards of $150-200 when buying from overseas.
So what are our options here? Are we really just out of luck? In this post, I’ve summarised all the options available to the modern collector (well, all the options I could think of, at least).
Do your research
Before you do anything, take a look online for what people are trying to sell things for. Go to eBay, and do a search for a few items that you might want. This will give you an initial picture as to what you should expect to pay. However, don’t just look at the “Buy it Now” options, as these are often inflated (although truth be told, I often buy these when I’m in a lazy mood as it saves the hassle of bidding). Find something that is available for bidding, and monitor it through to the final sale – this will give you a better idea as to what people are willing to pay – and therefore, what YOU may have to end up paying if you really want this item. You’ll likely notice things sell for slightly less than the “Buy it Now” advertised price. In fact, you will find a whole wonderful range of pricing under “Buy it Now” as some people like to try their luck at an inflated price (don’t give them the satisfaction, even if you have the money to burn).
Then take a look at international pricing as well – are people in the US/Japan/Europe selling these for the same price, or much less? Don’t be surprised when you inevitably find that it’s less – there are more people in these locations and therefore more devices in the market, so it stands to reason that they would sell for less. However, this also helps to provide some context to the pricing.
Once you’ve done this, have a search elsewhere – the Trading Post, Gumtree, whatever. Get a feel for pricing. Some things are expensive. Some are not. And keep your phone on you when you’re out and about, so you can use some of these services to reference pricing on the go.
Gifts from friends
While not everyone is a hoarder, there are plenty of people out there that have just kept “stuff” over the years, not necessarily because they want to sell it, and not always for sentimental reasons either (some people just like to keep things). If you are vocal about your collecting habits, there will come a time when somebody will mention that either they or someone they know has something you might like. Rule of thumb is to pretty much take whatever people may be willing to give you, because it could end up being awesome, and often they’ll give it to you for nothing. If not, or if it’s something you have three of already, you can always throw it up on eBay and make some money back.
Banking on the previous note that people like to keep things, it’s wise to throw your net wide, and not just within your circle of friends. There are a bunch of garage sales happening on any given weekend (yard sales to our American friends), and there are several websites tracking these. In fact, keep an eye out for October and the “Garage Sale Trail” – here, a bunch of folk run garage sales on the same weekend and post their location to a shared map, so you can plan out a trip and hit as many as possible.
While garage sales aren’t guaranteed to have something you might think is worthwhile, what you find will almost always be undervalued, as many “normies” have no idea what people are willing to pay. Then again, with the ubiquity of the Internet these days, you’ll just as often find someone who has done a quick search online and decided they’ll sell for the highest advertised price on eBay. When you find these, often it’s easiest to just walk away – these kinds of people usually can’t be convinced otherwise, because “that’s what it’s listed for on eBay”…
I don’t even know if local markets are a thing in my area anymore, but I do know of a few weekend markets that run regularly an hour or so drive from where I live. There will almost always be a shop there that sells gaming bits and bobs, and in general, pricing will be far more realistic than what you’ll find at garage sales. The only thing is – you won’t be the only collector there, so often the stock moves quickly, or you just won’t find anything at all (or, on the odd occasion, you’ll find a BUNCH of awesome deals, but you won’t have enough money for everything)… I rarely go to markets these days, but when I do, I always take some extra cash, just in case.
Retro game shops
There are a few around – Gametraders, if you’re lucky enough to still have a store in your area (if so, get in while you can, because I’m not sure it’ll be there for much longer), and The Gamesmen, if you’re in NSW. Take a look online as well, because there are a few smaller shops here and there, and each will have something worthwhile. The only issue with these shops is that they need to make money – they need to pay rent and utilities, after all. As a result, you’ll find pricing is highly inflated – but this comes with the knowledge that what you are buying is likely to work. Not only that, but there is likely to be quite a lot of options to choose from, as these stores are constantly trading (and the owners are likely out checking the garage sales and markets for stock they can sell at inflated pricing).
The Gamesmen, in particular, has a special place in my heart (this is probably the same for many gamers my age). They’ve been around since the dawn of time, and I still remember looking through the ads they used to place in video game magazines back in the late 80s (or was it the 90s?) – not to mention their catalogues. But they won’t be the cheapest out of these options.
Realistically, eBay is the best place to go when you want something specific. It won’t always be available, but keep an eye out, or create an alert, and soon enough, you’ll find that special something that you’ve always wanted. From here, you have a few options – do you accept the “Buy it Now” price, if there is one, or do you reach out to the seller and make an offer? Or do you take the plunge and place a bid?
Bidding is an interesting game in and of itself, but you do need to make sure you can afford to pay what you say you will. There are a few ways to approach this, but I’d recommend you jump in early if you can, when the price is super low. Chuck on a quick bid (you can way underbid at this stage) just to keep an eye on the pricing, and see how many people are interested. Don’t make the same mistake I did initially though – never put on a bid and just expect you’re going to win because there are no other bids for two days. The real bidding action happens on the final day… the final hour… the final minute – even the final few seconds. This is often referred to as “sniping”, but it’s a fine art. Watch bids increase over the final seconds, then submit your bid in the last 10 seconds or so, way outbidding everyone else. Don’t worry, because eBay doesn’t make you pay the amount you bid, only the amount that’s slightly higher than the NEXT highest bid. So the game here really comes down to trying to guess what the other bidders have put as their highest bid.
I have to admit, I’ve been caught out a few times, and it took a while before I learned the Golden Rule of eBay sniping – never put in a bid that you aren’t 100% willing to pay. Don’t expect that other bidders have put in a reasonable price, because sometimes you’ll put in a bid for $100 more, and you’ll win! …At $80 more than you were willing to pay. So be warned. It’s OK to lose, sometimes.
No matter which country you go to, it’s likely there will be people that like to play video games. Depending on the country, it’s possible you’ll even be able to find a little retro shop (or a big one, depending on where you are). And, given what I mentioned at the start of this article, it’s very likely you’ll find the pricing to be FAR cheaper than what you can find back home. But just keep in mind that you will need the space in your suitcase to lug these things back, so don’t go too crazy. Also super important is to consider power supplies, and depending on how old the system is, TV region (back in ye olden times, TVs were encoded differently in different parts of the world – it wasn’t until the HDMI generation that this really became a thing of the past… I even had trouble with the original Wii).
I don’t have a lot of experience in many countries, to be clear, but I can tell you that Tokyo is a GREAT place to do your retro game shopping. If this is your first intro to retro shopping in Tokyo, then it’s likely you haven’t heard of Super Potato (see photo). It’s in Akihabara. It’s basically the best place to go. There are a few other shops around in Akihabara, and Nakano also has a couple of little retro shops if you look hard enough. Apart from that, you need to look for second-hand bookstores, like Book Off, where you’ll also find games and occasionally the odd console. All of that said, just go to Super Potato for your retro cravings – it’s most likely to satisfy (although if you go during a busy period – anytime near E3, for example – you might find the shelves on the lean side). I guess the only issue with Super Potato is that their pricing has risen in recent years, as it has become more and more famous with us crazy foreigners, but it’s still FAR cheaper than anything you’ll find in Australia.
There are plenty of options for you when looking for retro games and consoles, but be warned, it’s not a cheap hobby. I have a bunch of consoles in my collection, and that probably represents several thousand dollars of my hard-earned cash. My pride-and-joy is my Atari Jaguar, which I bought many years ago and set me back a princely sum (mainly because I imported it from the UK). I really should do an audit someday – I may even share it here!