Collecting video games is a hobby I've dabbled in for many years. I've already pored over my most crucial advice on collecting, but these are additional tips you should soak up when gathering gaming goodies.

 

Tip 13: Stay on target and be patient
If you're like me sometimes, you'll be tempted to empty your wallet faster than you can rage quit E.T on Atari when you search Craigslist or visit a retro gaming store. If you settle on collecting something broad like anything under the Nintendo sun, lay out which games, series, or merchandise you want to prioritize and stick to it. You might see a pristine condition R.O.B. one day, but remember your money should be reserved for your initial quest to collect, say, each Mario Kart game.

"Patience is crucial to being successful when starting a collection," YouTuber Lithium of the Nintendo Collecting channel says. "At first, I would buy everything that was a decent deal, and would often compare my collection to other collectors. This caused me to spend a lot of money quickly rather than being patient and hunting for good deals for items I actually wanted. Since I want to collect for the long term, I am comfortable waiting for five years to buy, for example, a boxed indigo Nintendo GameCube at a good price."

Tip 14: Display with pride
One of the most difficult goals in collecting is trying to acquire cartridge games in their original boxes because they're not only difficult to find, but also a hassle to care for because of the thin, flimsy cardboard. However, you still want to display those cartridges, right? An awesome website called The Cover Project has thousands of wonderful covers created by video game fans that can be printed out and inserted into universal game cases, which fit multiple types of cartridges and displayed on shelves. The cases cannot fit NES games, but there are YouTube videos that show workarounds. Replacement DS cases are also great for Gameboy Advance games, but you must make adjustments to fit Gameboy and Gameboy Color games, however.

If you'd rather not mess with cutting up any plastic, websites like Custom Game Cases or any number of listings on Etsy specialize in making cases that fit NES and Gameboy games. Some cases also come with cover art made by the website, but this route is overall far more expensive. It's much cheaper to print the artwork from Cover Project and buy the cases yourself. I have the box art printed from a place like Office Depot or Staples. The quality of the paper is up to you, but regular printing sheets are the cheapest and look great in universal game cases.

Tip 15: Bird in the hand
Knowing monetary values is important, but eyeing an opportunity is just as relevant. You will inevitably stumble upon something listed at a higher cost than its market value. You might not want to spend more money, but this is when you debate whether or not to take the plunge. For years, I wanted Champions: Return to Arms, an addicting PS2 game that's valued around $35 CIB and has gameplay akin to Diablo. Like Lithium, I try to shop locally as much as possible because I'm a freak for an item's condition, but Champions rarely appears in stores, and it's often priced around $50. Because I long yearned for the game, I spent the extra $15 after asking myself, "When will I see this game again?"

Tip 16: Be friendly
Being friendly is a good life lesson that also applies to collecting. If you frequently venture to the same store, try befriending the employees or an online seller. It not only gives you a chance to talk with someone about video games, but they will be more inclined to help you and give info such as when a specific item comes in. After casually chatting with a Toys 'R' Us employee and bringing up how I was on a mission to collect the Super Smash Bros. amiibo, he offered to give me updates on when and how many store-exclusive Lucario figures they were getting, which ultimately helped me get the item.

Tip 17: Poker face
You will inevitably come across something that will make your heart burst with excitement. When you're out attending a flea market, retro gaming convention, or anywhere involving bartering, maintain a straight face and don't show the seller you found gold – whether it has sentimental or monetary value. This is not the basis for all people who sell games, but some will try to take advantage of your excitement and raise the price with baseless reasoning. Also, be careful about looking up a game's value on your phone at a flea market. Vendors watch everyone who goes through their wares. If they see you looking at your phone a lot, they might think you found something big and drive up the value.

This advice derives from when I was living in a small town at my last job. I frequented this booth at a flea market that sold nothing but video games. To my frustration, the owners constantly made up high, random prices because I think they knew I'm a collector. Any time I looked at my phone – whether it was to see a game's value or something unrelated – they thought I was trying to lowball them, even though I would make fair offers based on market values. Since then, I've learned to be cautious in any haggling situation.

Tip 18: Don't lowball, but don't highball either
The art of haggling is a difficult one to master. You want the best deal, but the person you're buying from is looking for at least a decent return in their investment. Peacefully negotiate a fair price with the seller based on the item's condition along with how much the item has sold for online. If you aim too low, then the seller might not want anything to do with you.

On the other hand, if someone is selling an item or bundle for a crazy low price, don't feel bad for them not getting their full money's worth. People who sell on the cheap either simply want to be rid of something or they didn't do a quick Google search on the value, and the latter is on them. That's how I got the $1,000 worth of games for $200. If you feel guilty and tell them you want to pay them a little more than what they're offering the item for, they could hold off on selling to do research on the item and possibly raise the price significantly.

Tip 19: Cleanliness is godliness
Half the fun of collecting is looking at what you've assimilated with pride, not disgust. Cleaning your collectibles is important not only for appearances but for functionality. Remember when you used to blow on cartridges because they wouldn't boot up? That's from dust and grime building up on the cartridge and console pins over time. These are some tips to cleaning your collectibles.

  • Use cotton swabs, paper towels, and a general surface cleaner like Windex to spruce up the cartridge pins. Lightly spray the cleaner on both ends of a cotton swab, then pat them down a little with a paper towel. Wipe both sides of the pins with each end of the cotton swab. Then use a dry cotton swab for a final sweep.

  • You're pretty much doomed from cleaning permanent marker off any label as I harshly learned with my copy of the original Mario Tennis, but you can always try the dry-erase marker trick. Grab a black dry erase marker and thoroughly mark over the writing. Wait about five minutes, then wipe off dry erase marker with a dry paper towel. There's a chance the permanent marker will dissipate.

  • After disassembling the shell of a console or controller (best to look up YouTube videos on how to do that) for cleaning, fill a sink or container with dish soap and warm water. Mix the water and soap well and let the parts soak for about 30 minutes. Take out the parts and wipe down with a bath towel while being careful not to remove any labels. Let everything air dry for about two hours before reassembling.

  • For pesky permanent marker smudges or tough stains on plastic, use a slightly wet Mr. Clean Dry Eraser. Combine that with a cleaner like rubbing alcohol, Windex, or Goo Gone and swipe at the dirty spots until they disappear.

  • Use air cleaners at your own risk. There's a slight chance blasts can knock a small part out of place and ruin a part of the console, if not the whole thing.

  • Use a micro-cloth and car scratch remover to give glossy and smooth matte consoles a nice, polished aesthetic. Nothing can truly remove scratches, but your system will shimmer and shine.

Tip 20: Never settle for stock art
People online are often lazy and don't take pictures of the actual items they're selling. Instead, they opt to do a quick Google search and use stock art to represent what they are vending. Always ask to see pictures of the product before you meet with someone. If, for example, you see a PlayStation 3 that's backward compatible with PS2 games, make sure it does not have the yellow light of death and ask to see various angles of the console such as the sides, top, and back to see its condition. Don't be afraid to request a video of the console turning on either. If the seller refuses to show you anything for whatever reason, then move along.

Tip 21: BB GCU FTW
The number of people who aren't aware of Best Buy's Gamers Club Unlocked is baffling to me. It has amazing benefits at only $30 for TWO years. I almost never buy modern games from anywhere else. Perks include:

  • A 20 percent discount on all new physical games, collector's editions, amiibo, and digital guides. The discount isn't timed and applies to titles already on sale.

  • Double Reward Zone points with physical or digital titles, accessories, and trading in games.

  • Some pre-orders give a $10 certificate, but you must purchase the game.

  • Extra 10 percent on trade-ins.

It only takes buying two or three full-priced games to get that $30 back. Furthermore, Best Buy frequently has free shipping, and it's not costly if you end up paying for it.

Tip 22: More terminology

While the terminology listed in the main feature is the most important, you should still keep an eye out on the following:

  • BIN (buy it now)

  • CE (collector's edition)

  • FA (for auction)

  • FS (for sale)

  • FMV (fair market value)

  • FT (for trade)

  • MIB (mint in box)

  • NIB (new in box)

  • OEM (original equipment manufacturer)

  • PCB (printed circuit board)

  • SIB (sealed in box)

  • WAE (with all extras)

  • WTB (want to buy)

  • WTS (want to sell)

  • WTT (want  to trade)

A picture of Lithium's insanely awesome collection of Nintendo goodness.

A look at a part of Lithium's insanely awesome collection of Nintendo goodness. He has every Nintendo 64 console and their boxes.

Tip 23: Breath of the wild
There's nothing wrong with buying collectibles online, but purchasing something on eBay or Amazon does not have nearly the same thrill as stumbling upon a treasure in the wild. A huge part of what makes collecting such a fun hobby are the stories behind how and where you discover amazing finds.

One of my favorite collecting memories in gaming is from 2016 when me, a friend, and his wife drove about four hours to and from the famous First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas. I not only unexpectedly found the watermelon red Nintendo 64 at a great price, but that day allowed me to bond more with my two friends. I couldn't have replicated that experience by clicking "check out" at an online cart. I realize the capacity to venture out depends on your living situation – whether you have a car, if you live in a small town with few options around you, etc. – but you should embark on the endeavors if you are able to.

Lithium recounts one of his favorite collecting moments. "I remember two specific finds in particular," he said. "One was essentially like buying the SNES Classic entire game library of cartridges, a console and 2 controllers for $100. The games were all very good from Mario to Zelda, Donkey Kong to Mega Man, and even some rarer titles like Sunset Riders and Ninja Warriors." YouTuber MetalJesusRocks' fondest find was when he purchased 600 big-box PC games for only $75, which you can see in the video below.

I would love to hear about any tips you have when collecting, or your most-treasured find. Tell me in the comments!