I’ve collected several things in my life (OK.. OK.. too many things).  From comics to collectible card games to video games, I have a lot of interests.  And when you build out large collections (and scraping the bottom of the barrel on the quality of games), you start to feel the weight of those collections.  Why do you have so many games?.. games you might never play?  Some people fold up and end up getting out of a hobby because of that.  Others get lost in the mix (always looking for the next thing) and end up spending too much money and nearly going crazy from all the management issues of an out-of-control collection.  But have no fear.  There is a balance to collecting anything and hopefully I can give some strategies to reigning in the things you collect.  Once you have a goal and a purpose, your collection can become something to be proud of for sure.  After all, it’s no easy task to pull together a bunch of anything into a cohesive subset.

(Above: Complete Japanese Megadrive Collection)

First of all, I’m not a completionist by any means and despite my owning useless and un-fun games (mostly out of morbid curiosity) I don’t really understand going for whole sets.  I just never felt the need to – no matter how close I come to owning them (and there are several collections I could easily complete to some definition of that term).  My feeling – in general – is that going for complete sets means spending money on games you don’t even like (I think that’s just the fact of the matter).  And that’s just not what I’m into.  

Believe it or not, I’m very passionate about my games (despite having too many to play).  I really want there to be a reason I own them and I don’t want that reason to just be “filling a slot” or “checking a box.”  Sure.. I own way too much stuff (I’ll admit that), but it’s all stuff I’m fond of (or have a purpose to own.. or maybe lack of purpose to discard is more likely).  And I’m always looking for ways of streamlining my collection and the display that collection (something that’s ongoing to be sure).  I actually do get rid of things (such as a really large Magic: The Gathering collection I’ve been slowly selling off).  Also – as an example – I’m probably going to eventually get rid of my Virtual Boy system and games because it’s a system I’m just not that into.  But at the same time I haven’t quite made up my mind on that so it remains for now (if there was a flash cart for it, I’d gladly give up the games and keep the system).

Now.. enough about me and my interests.  

Here’s an important tip (the most important?) for you starting collectors:  You should start limiting or restricting your pickups by deciding what you collect at the current moment.  It’s certainly fine to collect multiple types of things if you hold multiple interests (I collect video games, prints, books, comics, etc), but it will really help you to realize what you’re into and then focus on that.

For one thing, limiting your purchases will save you money (you won’t be out there buying up everything you come across, but will instead be more discerning).  This also teaches you to be more patient (to save up for the things you really like in order to get the most bang for the buck).  And as you start to get rid of things you don’t collect anymore, you won’t feel any regrets (after all, you were able to take the funds and apply them to things you want more).

Let’s be honest here.  There’s simply not enough time or enough money to own everything (especially as you leave young-adulthood and start having a family).  Even if you have the money, you won’t be enjoying the things you collect at some point due to other interests, lack of space, or other personal reasons.  

And I’m not talking about the typical playing games or reading comic sets to completion here or anything.  I’m talking about having enjoyable free time after buying, shipping, cataloging, cleaning, and finally shelving the things you own.  

A collection of a few dozen games is fine for most people (toss the carts in a box and call it a day).  If you find yourself with a few hundred games, you’re definitely an enthusiast (this is the point where you really want to decide what to go for), but you’re probably able to fit that all on one bookshelf in a room.  It’s when you have thousands of comics or games, you start to feel the weight of that set – of just maintaining it.  Your hobby can start to feel like a part-time job at that point.  No matter what, don’t let your collection stress you out.  Start reigning in that collection early and know when to take a break from the hobby so as not to burn out.

(Above: My Saturn Imports and PlayStation games.. yep.. just those.  Dreamcast are still in bins for now.)

Here’s another tip.  If you can’t define your collection within simple terms to a stranger, then you might have some problems already.  It could be as simple as saying: “I collect original PlayStation (PS1) games”.. Simple enough.   

Or in my case (because I wanted a large collection but I had to stop at some point: “I collect all games between Atari 2600 and PS3.”  Yeah.. that’s not much of a filter I’ll grant you, but I’ve got more rules that I’ll share later to help me along the way (coming right up).  

The point is that I leave those newer games (i.e. PS4) alone these days.  Sure they’re fun and I could feel modern and relevant buying them, but I already have fun playing older titles and this way I can go back and spend money and effort on things I want for those consoles.  There’s plenty to do already.. trust me.

Your tastes also change over time and that’s the chance to refine what you pick up (and that time can be now – so don’t worry if you start to regret owning something and need to get rid of it).  When I started collecting comics, I was just buying a little of everything.  I wasn’t dedicated to any particular idea at the time.  As time went on, I ended up with long boxes full of comics I had no personal interest in and so I changed direction (and began selling off the extras).  I then decided to limit myself to certain comics in the effort to have goals (to keep this from happening again).  

Some of those still-current comic-based rules I came up with were:

  • I collect anything for particular teams/characters I’m into: i.e. X-Men, Thor, Dr Strange, Dr. Doom
  • I collect anything for particular artists I like: i.e. Jack Kirby, Alex Ross, Mike Mignola
  • I collect anything for writers I like: i.e. Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore
  • I collect things I’ll read (important.. that I’ll read!) in the genres I like: i.e. horror comics, fantasy

I certainly make exceptions to my rules from time to time (usually if I really like the cover art), but for the most part this buying strategy has brought peace and harmony to my comic collecting.  I’m often being upsold things while I’m at comic shops and this is my way to stay strong and tell that shopkeeper that I’m just not interested.  I’ve even got some sellers that understand my collection and help me out (i.e. get every Mike Mignola comic that comes out because they know I want them).

In the case of video games (because I started overly-broad and haven’t completely pruned back yet), I started recognizing items I wasn’t into (meaning that I don’t pick these up, although I might own some of these already that I’ll get rid of later):

  • I don’t collect sports games unless they’re from the 8/16-bit era (I find those interesting/fun from the abstract angle..)
  • I don’t collect Turbo CD games (because they are costly and I don’t want to own the CD-based hardware for these).  There are CD systems I own tons of games for like the Saturn.  It’s also a lot easier to emulate and play Turbo CD games than it is Saturn games, so there’s that too.
  • If there’s a choice between a Japanese Saturn game and a US Saturn game and the US game is even a little expensive, I’ll always favor the Japanese one (games like Rockman 8 are way cheaper than Mega Man 8 on Saturn).
  • If there’s a choice between a NES game and a Famicom game, I’ll pick always the NES one (because I just like the NES more and the price difference is worth it).  This might even mean buying a NES reproduction cart instead of an original Famicom cart if the play-value is there.
  • I don’t collect old computers outside of the Atari 800XL/XE (because of its cartridge support) – so I don’t own floppy discs.  There are exceptions to this rule – like me collecting some of the TSR gold box games because of my nostalgia for those particular games.

My own collecting system definitely isn’t perfect and I’ll often still get into something and realize half-way through that it’s not for me.  Case in point: the Odyssey2 (something I’m still on the fence over).

 

I started collecting Odyssey 2 games and I really like the cover art on the boxes.  But I’m not really into the games or the system (in fact I don’t like the system to be frank).  So I’m at this weird point with that system where I guess I’m looking for an exit, but I might already have committed too much.  So, for me, it’s time to pause and think about if the system means anything to me.  If it doesn’t, I’ll make sure those games end up in the hands of someone else.

The point here is that you need to refine what you want to go for and set yourself some rules for pickups.  This will make it much easier to turn down games out in the wild when you know you’re going to regret buying them.

At some point – because of the cost and popularity of rare games – you’re going to have to decide if you’re willing to collect reproductions or game collections – be they official or not.

 

Say you collect for the Playstation Vita or PS3 and there’s the Sly Collection.  You could just own that and then choose not to own the PS2 games from the same series.  That might save you money AND they’re even remastered to look better.  Or you could choose to own the older PS2 games and not buy the PS3 copy (enjoying the game as it originally was presented).  Or you might decide to go for both if you’re a Sly fan.  It’s up to you, but that mentality of strategizing your purchases goes a long way.  

Now for the less-than-legal quandries.. You might want to buy a reproduction of Little Samson (a very fun little game) on NES instead of the super-costly official version or the less-costly-but-still-expensive Famicom version.  If you just want a player-copy to hold and play then the knock-off will be fine for you.  If you decide you must own only official NES games then you’re going to need to save up and get the real thing.  If you collect both Famicom and NES and just need one copy from either then that Famicom copy is going to be great for you and save you some money.  You could also just get a flash cart or multi-cart and bypass this game altogether, but then you wouldn’t really be collecting it either.

I didn’t mention it above, but there’s also the Greatest Hits version of games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.  In these cases you get an official, legal copy to own but it’s been marked with a variant label (so it might stand out on that shelf with all the other Playstation games).  If this is fine with you, then by all means go for it.  There are even releases like the Greatest Hits version of Silent Hill on PS2 that have bug fixes (and are actually worth more for players because of that).

 

(The original Journey Into Mystery #83 (first Thor) is very expensive, but the very-similar reprint from the 70’s is much more affordable.)

The same thing about owning reproductions applies to comics.  I collect Thor comics pretty seriously, but I didn’t want to spend the money on a Journey into Mystery #83 (the first appearance).  Luckily there was the Golden Record reprint from 1966 that’s much more affordable with pretty much the same art on the cover.  It’s still old and it’s still official, so that was the one I wanted.  While it’s the only reprint I own for Thor, I’m still very happy to have it and I feel it fits well into my set.

So – as you may have guessed – at some point I started collecting reproduction carts for NES and SNES (mostly translations).  While I own flash carts for convenience, I just wanted the games on the shelf, as their own cart.

(I mean it’s pretty obvious that this is a reproduction since it was never released here in the States, but other reproductions aren’t quite so obvious.)

I actually quite enjoy owning them even though I know I’m in disagreement with some in the community over their existence.  I really don’t believe their availability dilutes the hobby or the market – which is still overly-inflated for NES carts as far as I’m concerned anyways.  

I realize that I’m basically stuck with them and that when I die someone will have to determine what’s real and what’s not (it’s not that hard.. I keep it all in my collection list).  It’s fine.  They’re permanent place-holders.   This is the decision that I made for myself and I still get quite a bit of enjoyment owning these knock-offs – same with the official games.

I’m more involved with how reprints/reproductions shape my collection (for my own personal enjoyment) than the right or wrong of it all (which – in case someone in the future needs to know – I do actually keep detailed collection lists of).

(These Jaleco officially-licensed Multi-carts by Retro-Bit were announced earlier this year.)

To me this owning repro carts (or multi-carts) is akin to people collecting Marvel Masterworks hardcover collections of comics instead of the actual comic books (at least for early runs in a set).

 

(The Masterworks editions of Marvel Comics are the same idea as the Rare collection for Xbox One – a way to let late-comers experience great entertainment without having to pay so much money to own original copies of now-collectible/rare items.)

Going for reproductions is a valid strategy (as long as it fits with your style) and it might not be a bad one really.  There was also the X-Men classic comics put out by Marvel – basically different-colored (improved even) retellings of previous issues – cheap enough to be available to the masses.  These were sold one-at-a-time in stores.

Anyways, if you’re thinking of going for a large game collection (or comics or anything else really), I hope this helps give you some ideas on how to keep things under control.  We all need to keep our heads in a world where everything keeps going up in price – what with real-life worries (like kids and mortgages).  And we all need to stay healthy physically and mentally to enjoy these treasures another day.  Take care!