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Retro gaming machines are increasing in value. Though prices might not be reaching their original heights, the fact that they’ve started to increase rather than continue to decrease is fascinating.
It also gives us an opportunity to make some money. If you’ve got old gaming machines in your attic, basement, or at the back of a wardrobe, there’s a chance you could be sitting on a little gold mine.
Let’s take a look at what’s changed and how you can profit from this.
The Retro Gaming Revival
In case it escaped your notice, retro gaming is massive. Classic games turn up on Android and iPhone, and you’ll find high-definition versions of old PC titles on Steam. There’s even an 8-/16-bit artistic movement, which I briefly followed to create this retro 3D pop art video game scene.
A quick browse through eBay will reveal a massive market for retro arcade machines, as well as modern clones, built around a compact computer such as a micro PC or even a $5 Raspberry Pi Zero.
T-shirts bear testament to the nostalgia for classic gaming, there are magazines dedicated to the “golden age” of video games, and podcasts, too. You know when something is undergoing a revival when soundtracks are being remastered and released on MP3! And then there are the conventions…
So the retro gaming revival is certainly a thing. If you have any old hardware or games laying around, you have all you need to cash in.
What Systems Can You Sell?
As with any marketplace, the retro gaming machine market has tiers. Up at the top are original Apple computers, such as the garage-built Apple 1 or the hugely successful Apple Lisa, which will both fetch thousands of dollars.
But chances are you won’t have one of these. It’s far more likely you have computers from Commodore or consoles from Atari. Perhaps you own some old Nintendo or Sega consoles. Can you list these systems on eBay and make it worth your while?
Yes you can.
For instance, a Commodore 64 with peripherals can go for over $70, which is more than a cheap tablet. Same goes for the British Spectrum ZX81 (a sort of spiritual precursor to the Raspberry Pi), the Sega Megadrive, and other devices from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Value of Old Gaming Systems
Around 25 years ago, when the old Soviet Union was breaking up, there was a big market in Russia for computers. But all the West had to sell were old 8-bits. As a result, Commodore 64 computers (and others, including monotone LCD handheld games) were being sold to businesses in Moscow and elsewhere for close to their original prices, ten years after production.
What this shows us is that the price of old computers can go up as well as down. As with anything, it depends on whether there is a market and if that market is willing to pay to get what it wants.
So if you’re planning to make a sale in this marketplace, it’s important to time it right. While we’re in the middle of a retro gaming nostalgia bubble, it’s sensible to cash in.
Finding Retro Gaming Hardware
If you don’t already have some retro gaming hardware hidden away somewhere, what can you do? Sourcing retro hardware can be easy if you know where to look.
The best places are offline. Yard sales, flea markets, charity/church shops, even people you know trying to offload their old gear. Some of this stuff can be picked up for pennies. But be careful where you try. Some charitable organizations sell donated goods on eBay, so they’re aware of the value of their items. While they’re unlikely to reach the same price in a shop, you’ll nevertheless pay a bit more than if you purchased similar retro gear at another store that doesn’t sell on eBay.
Newspaper classifieds are a good place to look, too, as are freecycling websites.
Schools and churches can also be a good source of old hardware, but make sure you get your request in promptly and to the right people. Some institutions have arrangements with hardware disposal/recycling firms.
When you’ve found some retro gaming stock, it’s time to list it on eBay. Overall, stick to the usual steps, making sure your listing features clear, attractive photos, a compelling title, and an informative description. Remember to research similar auctions to get an idea of the price you should set (although eBay will suggest one).
Don’t Break Up Collections!
A browse of eBay will display old systems that are fully working, available for spares, and even full suites of computer/console, games, controllers, printers, and disk drives. If you’re looking to sell into this market, you might be tempted to break up your collection to guarantee a return.
In this situation, however, that might not be a wise choice.
Here’s an example. My old Commodore 64 and its Commodore Dataset cassette player/recorder work perfectly together. But as soon as the Dataset unit is attached to another C64, it won’t work. It’s a quirk, possibly due to the devices being connected permanently for the best part of 10 years, but it’s not uncommon in the 8-bit and 16-bit hardware world where digital and analogue existed side-by-side.
However, there are other reasons for not breaking up a collection. A full retro computing suite — computer, monitor, base unit/disk drive, and printer — could be worth around $200–300 in 2016. That’s the price of a low-end laptop, a mid-range tablet, or a new smartphone. It could be vital funds for your university degree or your startup.
When you’re selling retro gaming systems on eBay, maximize your profit by ensuring you list full collections. If you must split things up, take the games and sell them separately. If you have any rarities (such as titles that have never been uploaded as gaming ROMs), they will be snapped up.
Missing Your Retro Gaming? Try Emulation!
If you’ve found yourself considering the sale of your retro gaming hardware despite long-held affection, and perhaps regular gaming, this might be giving you a headache.
After all, you won’t be able to play those much-loved retro games any longer if you sell the hardware! Or will you?
With the help of emulation, you should be able to find emulators and game ROMs for your favorite platform and game. Emulators will run on any device, from Android to our old friend the Raspberry Pi. Desktop PCs and modern games consoles also offer emulation, if not polished versions of old 8-bit and 16-bit titles themselves.
Are you planning to sell your retro gaming system? Concerned about breaking up your collection? Perhaps you found a great offline source of old gear? Tell us about it in the comments.