Classic Video Game
Collecting Tips


You can find numerous pages on the net that deal with collecting classic video games. But to my knowledge, I don't remember anywhere that had tips on collecting. So I decided to compile a reference guide for the novice collector. This may help your enjoyment of the hobby and let you get the most out of it.


There are many places you can get classic games. Among the most obvious are garage sales and flea markets. There are also rummage sales, thrift stores, and resale shops. Other ways to get classic games are on the internet (like this web page), or you can run an ad in the local paper. You can also let friends and family know you are interested and you will be surprised how often they come up with some. You could also make friends with the employees at a store that sells used video games. These stores may not buy or sell classic games, but I'm sure people call or stop in trying to sell them. If you give them a finder's fee, they will gladly send these people your way. You could also put up flyers at the post office and grocery stores.


When you are buying individual games, that number can be higher depending on how hard it is to find the game and how bad you want it. But if you are buying a large collection, you should try to pay a dollar a game or less. Whenever you buy a huge collection, you usually end up with a bunch of common games and may only want or need a few of the games. So try to judge a collection on what you actually need instead of what is there. Try not to pay much for untested systems as there is a decent chance they don't work. Unlike cartridges, systems and add-ons aren't as reliable.


This is one area that gets a lot of new collectors in trouble. They want so bad to collect everything that they get in way over their head. I suggest that you key in a one or a few systems. This way you have a reasonable chance of reaching your goals. Also keep in mind that trying to get all the 2600 games will be near impossible task. Maybe you should start with a certain software company, like Activision and go from there. Or you could try to get back all the games you owned as a youth. Keep in mind that even if you don't collect a certain system, be on the lookout for a great deal on games for the system that you can trade for the harder to find games for the system you do collect.


This is a matter of taste, but the most heavily collected system and the one that is easiest to sell games for is easily the Atari 2600. This is the one that most people had as a youth. I personally don't collect the 2600, but I also never had one as a youth. Here is a list in order of what systems are the most collected. This is based on my personal observations:

  1. Atari 2600
2. Intellivision
3. Colecovision
4. Vectrex
5. Atari 7800
6. Atari 5200
7. Odyssey II
8. Microvision
9. Emerson Arcadia 2001
10. Fairchild Channel F


Each system has its pluses and minuses. Some are more glaring than others. So I made a list of the good and the bad of each system. Hope this helps a little in your collecting.

ATARI 2600

Good Points

bulletHas the most games available.
bulletMost of the best games in playability are affordable.
bulletEasiest to find.
bulletPlenty of different joysticks available, with one that will fit you.
bulletEasiest to trade with other collectors
bulletMost variety of games.
bulletGreatest challenge.


Bad Points

bulletMore bad games than good.
bulletMany tougher games get quite expensive.
bulletGreatest challenge in getting all the games.

ATARI 5200

Good Points

bulletGreat versions of many arcade classics
bulletSome arcade classics only available on this or 2600.
bulletOnly a handful of real expensive games
bulletMulticart with all games available


Bad Points

bulletJoysticks are terrible and unreliable
bulletNot a lot of games available (slightly over 80 with demos)
bulletSome of the games are inferior to other equal systems.
bulletTougher to trade.

ATARI 7800

Good Points

bulletBest versions of many arcade classics.
bulletMany good multi-player games.
bulletYou can get most of the games cheap and complete.
bulletGood, reliable joysticks
bulletCan play all 2600 games.


Bad Points

bulletVery few original games
bulletMany classic games missing.
bulletMany genres lacking or barely represented.


Good Points

bulletMany great games.
bulletMany arcade classics only found on Coleco.
bulletMany good add-ons.
bulletLots of variety of games.
bulletHas all genres covered.
bulletSystems are easy to find and usually affordable.


Bad Points

bulletRegular joysticks aren't the best.
bulletSome of the better games are quite expensive.
bulletMany arcade classics not available except with 2600 adapter.
bulletFew games take advantage of the add-ons.


Good Points

bulletHas many great original games that are available nowhere else
bulletBest roleplaying games
bulletBest sports games
bulletThe later INTV games are excellent
bulletReliable system


Bad Points

bulletDisc is terrible for maze games.
bulletMost arcade classics do not exist.
bulletNo multicart available.
bulletA lot of the best games (INTV) are very rare and expensive.


Good Points

bulletHas its own screen
bulletGreat games still being produced for it
bulletHas multicart with all the games
bulletGreat joystick
bulletGreat vector graphics
bulletBest asteroids and missile command versions anywhere
bulletEasy to trade
bulletNew games still being made for it


Bad Points

bulletVery expensive
bulletVery few games available
bulletOnly two sports games, neither that great
bulletMost arcade classics missing
bullet3D Imager is ultra rare and ultra expensive
bulletFinding a second joystick is tough and costly


Good Points

bulletAffordable system
bulletThree games with boards are great (Quest for the Rings, Conquest of the World, Great Wall Street Hunt)
bulletVoice system is cool
bulletBox art is quite nice


Bad Points

bulletAlmost no third party support
bulletLimited number of worthwhile games
bulletGraphics are quite bad
bulletMany early systems had the joysticks connected
bulletLimited number of collectors


Good Points

bulletHandful of great games
bulletCan convert into a computer
bulletUnique and quite responsive joysticks
bulletHandful of dedicated collectors
bulletEasy to sell


Bad Points

bulletNot many games, even less good ones
bulletJoysticks break easy
bulletTough to find stuff for it

I decided not to cover every system due to space constraints and due to my limited exposure to them.



1. Unlike most collecting genres, the older a game is usually the cheaper it is. This is the opposite of baseball cards, comics and most genres. The main reason is that most games were kept in production throughout the life of the system, so the earlier it came out the more plentiful it is. Most of the valuable games are ones that came out at the end of the system's life when fewer people owned the system. There are exceptions to this rule.

2. The better the game is, the less chance it has much value. Most of the valuable games are the ones that were so bad no one wanted them. Again, there are exceptions to this rule.

3. Rare cartridges vary in value from system to system. A rare game on the Atari 2600 is generally more valuable than one on the Intellivision, mainly due to the increased amount of collectors.

4. Rulebooks and boxes are usually tougher to find than the actual carts. While they are usually not worth as much as the cart, that is quickly changing.

5. Cleaning a cart will make it work again 95% of the time. Since they have no moving parts, they are quite tough to destroy. Out of over 3,500 games I have owned, I only came across three that wouldn't work.

To clean a cart, get some rubbing alcohol (the higher the purity the better, try to get 90% or higher) and some q-tips.  Take the q-tip and dip it into the alcohol.  Then take the moistened q-tip and rub along both sides of the chip sticking out of the bottom of the cart.  Then take the dry side of the q-tip and rub it over the same area, drying the cart.  Now try and play game again.

6. While there are many variations of labels, especially for the Atari 2600 games (with some having up to 20 different variations), they generally don't vary much in price. Once again, there are exceptions.

7. A general rule for value of carts is:
Common game=$1.00-$3.00
Uncommon game=$2.00-$5.00
Rare game=$5.00-$15.00
Extremely rare game=$10.00-$50.00
Unbelievably rare game=$40.00-????

Once again, there are exceptions to the rule.  Some things that will make one game worth more than another game of the same rarity is if it is:
     1.  A great playing game (aka: Pitfall II)
     2.  Based on a popular arcade game (Tapper)
     3.  Only found on one particular system (Diner)
     4.  Has a story behind it (Chase the Chuckwagon).

8. Some common terms used to describe cart conditions are:
    1. Actiplaqued-A term for the spotting of labels that tends to happen especially with   Activision carts.
    2. Screw holes-This is where the screws that hold the cart together are exposed and the  label is missing. 
    3. End Label Missing-This is the top label on the cart that usually has the name of the  cart.  This is occasionally missing or loose.
    4. Rolled Label-This is where the label has been rolled back.  A part of it is not sticking  to the casing.

9. If your Atari paddles don't work, pull the top off and spray some WD40 into it.  Wait a few seconds and then wipe clean.  Put top back on and it should work.  Electrical cleaning spray can also be used.

10. If you are going to set up a classic system, it is best to get an old television for this.  Look for one that has the screws on the back, where you set up the antenna.  You can find them cheap at garage sale (I have found them as low as a few dollars).  While you can set them up on a newer television, there are some televisions that they will not work on.  Which ones or why this is, I cannot tell you, but I have had people who could not get an Atari to work on their new television, but it would work perfectly on my old television.

The best place to find classic games is ebay.  Click below to begin searching:


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