General Advice

Determining the Value of an Item

One of the most important tools you can have when buying and selling old videogames is a reliable price guide.  For sellers, the difference between your item selling quickly or languishing on eBay or in a marketplace thread may be just a few dollars one way or the other.  And when it comes to buying, well, everyone appreciates a good deal.

Many resources are readily available to you to price an item accurately.  The first place you should go is a online retailer of old videogames.  After all, why bid on something when you can buy it for less at a fixed price from a store?  One of the most reputable online retailers is Atari2600.com.  Despite the name of the company, Atari2600.com sells hardware and software for most classic systems.  Its catalog includes a photograph of the item for sale so that you can gauge whether its condition is up to your standards.  I can’t count the number of times that I’ve seen bidders on eBay engage in a bidding war for an item that could be purchased for much less on Atari2600.com.  Other online retailers with reasonable prices for old videogames are Collector’s Cards and Games and 4Jays Video Games.  Check out the fixed prices from sellers on Amazon and eBay’s sister site Half.com as well.

Often, you won’t be able to find the game you are looking for at online retail sites.  A dedicated price guide can be helpful in this instance.  Rarityguide.com is a popular and comprehensive price guide that covers dozens of platforms.  The site assigns a rarity score to each game, ranging from 1% (dirt common) to 100% (ultra rare).  This rating is usually directly proportional to its value, which is given for cartridge only (loose), complete in box, and new in box conditions.  I’ve found the value estimates to be on the high side for the platforms I collect, so take these numbers with a grain of salt.

While online retail sites and price guides will provide you with a solid baseline for the value of the item, the most accurate way to determine its true market value is to note how much buyers have actually paid for it on eBay (as opposed to how much a seller wants to receive for it).  Unfortunately, eBay allows you to check only the last two weeks of completed auctions.  If you want to search beyond that time frame, you will need to find another method besides eBay’s standard search with keywords.

One of the most popular resources for digging into eBay’s database of completed auctions is Terapeak.  Terapeak is a pay service that is targeted at professional sellers, crunching mountains of data to reveal sales trends and effective marketing strategies.  Terapeak allows you to search completed auctions from the previous year.  For the average collector, however, Terapeak is probably overkill.

That leads us to what I believe to be the best resource for determining value for most people: Pricecharting.com.  Pricecharting.com is a combination price guide and database.  The site has published its methodology for determining values for its price guide, which itself is just fine as price guides go.  However, the most valuable part of the site is its database.  Many do not know that eBay will allow you to view a completed listing for up to six months if you can search for it by its unique item number.  Pricecharting.com includes links to the past six months’ worth of completed auctions for a particular game.  Some links will have expired, but most will be live.  Arriving at a value will not be as easily as looking it up in a price guide, but you can be assured that the closing price for an accurately-described item is as close as you can get to its market value.  This is especially true if you average the closing prices for all comparable listings of a title (all complete in box listings, for example).  When I buy and sell games on eBay, I feel as though I have gotten a fair deal if what I pay is at or slightly below the average amount, and the average amount is usually where I begin the minimum bid for items that I sell.

Note: If you have an iOS-based mobile device, you can download a very handy app that accesses both the Pricecharting.com price guide and database: VGT Video Game Price Guide.  This app is most useful when you are at a yard sale or thrift store and need to look up a value quickly.  It is $5 but well worth the price.

RetroAuction offers its own specialized price guide (based on completed auctions from eBay) for unusual items across multiple systems.  Check out the “Notable Completed Auction” pages on the home page.

If you ever intend to sell parts of your collection, your familiarity with all of these resources will go a long way toward guaranteeing that you will almost always be able to sell an item for more than you paid for it.

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