With the rising popularity of retro gaming, it is becoming harder and harder to find good deals in the traditional places. Stores like Goodwill are more and more often pricing games closer to Ebay and Amazon average, and even a baby boomer cleaning their basement has access to a smart phone to look up values of that old NES sitting in a box. So, what is a collector to do? Below, I've got a few tips on places you can still buy retro games at a bargain.
1. Look for "Off the beaten path" thrift stores: Everyone knows about Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Fewer people might know about your local small town resale shop. This is my number one source of good deals. You can find things like Nintendo Game Boys in 99 cent bins and the like. An additional benefit if you can form a relationship with the employees, you may be able to get them to set finds aside.
2. Grab trade bait: What do you collect? Nintendo 64? Sega? When looking to buy retro games, sometimes it is worthwhile to pick up games for systems you don't collect, if you aren't finding things for your system of choice. A good example would Playstation 2 games. These are often stuffed in with the DVDs at most resale shops, and sold on the cheap. You can take those finds to online collectors forums, and arrange swaps for things that interest you.
3. Get there early: This applies to anything, garage sale, estate sale, or flee market. You'll find the best deals with the first 3 hours of the day. For most of us, retro games is a hobby, but some people make their living reselling, and those people treat it like a job.
4. Ask: Ask around. Sometimes friends will have games laying around they are looking to unload, and will give them to you for a low price. When exploring garage sales, don't be afraid to ask if people have any old consoles or computers. Often, people will have old technology in a closet or basement they would be more then happy to sell, if someone asked.
5. Learn to repair: Many consoles and games develop problems over time. Dead save batteries, old contacts, wires not working, and the like. If you can fix the basic problems that come with older games, you can take things that people will sell for next to nothing, as broken, and turn them into treasures. Youtube is a great tool for finding easy-to-follow guides on returning retro systems to their former glory.
The most important thing is to keep at it. For every person that wants full Ebay price for their non-working Super Mario Bros, you will find a copy of a classic PS1 game, an SNES controller in a box of old wires, or the like. Games ARE getting harder to find, as more people collect retro games. Places like Goodwill are getting more ideas on the value of old hardware. The deals are still out there for those willing to look.