The 8-bit NES Rules of Acquisition
January 10, 2005
FIRST OFF - I got my first NES late into it's lifespan in the winter of
1991. This was due to the fact that 3 years prior, my mother had gotten
talked into buying me a Sega Master System by a sales clerk at a Sears. So
I endured years of being denied at video stores for rentals, and being
laughed at by my friends. But when I finally DID get my NES, I was
indescribably fucking happy. I use the word 'fucking' here, because
honestly, no other word would apply. It was one of the happiest moments of
my young life. And every time I lay my hands on another cart, that exact
feeling is rekindled. This is the main reason I collect.
SECOND - I have been collecting for a scant 3 years now, and my collection
has grown to almost 500 carts. I have paid an average of about $3.50-$4.00
a cart, and looking at some of the rarer carts I own, that seems very fair
to me. So, you can either take one man's advice, or stick to whatever it is
you are doing. Either way, no skin off of my nose (and more carts for ME).
And FINALLY - A few things to remember about collecting NES carts.
1) I know it's difficult passing up on rarer carts, but I do not advise
going crazy and blowing all of your funds on them right away. While they
are nice to have, look at, brag about, take scans of, etc., many of the
rarest carts are also the most god awful (which might explain their rarity).
Examples include Action 52, Cheetamen 2, Bubble Bath Babes, etc. While they
may be the cornerstone of any -complete- NES collection, don't blow $350 on
Ebay for a copy of Hot Slots and expect as good a game as a $5 copy of
contra (if you can find one that cheap). Good things come to those who
2) Have a list. This is VERY important. Print out a list of EVERY nes
game (depending on what you are collecting, PAL, Famicom, NTSC, etc.) and
take it with you every time you go out cart hunting. It will help you
decide whether or not you are paying too much for a game, or whether or not
you even need the game in the first place. But a list does NOT substitute
for just plain paying attention. Ultimately, the one who must decide how
rare the cart really is and how much it is worth is you. If you see a game
considered rare frequently, and one that's considered not so rare with less
frequency, maybe that is telling you something.
3) Don't get frustrated if your collection grows slowly. If you are
having a hard time finding carts in your area, driving to the next biggest
city is always a good idea. Also, tell everyone that you know that you are
collecting, and to keep their eyes open for carts. Go ahead and do yourself
a favor, and memorize the phrase "Yes, I mean the OLD Nintendo.", and "No,
the one before Super Nintendo". Post fliers in your town with your name and
number. Do what you have to do.
4) There are THOUSANDS of NES carts. There are many different variations
of many of the carts, and many language variations as well. If you are
striving for the PERFECT collection, you have a long, arduous road ahead of
you. But plenty of friends and resources. I am only collecting American
releases right now, to simplify things for myself, but if you think you can
collect every cart from all over the world without getting overwhelmed, then
be my guest.
5) Get ready to learn how to build a shelf for all of your carts...
Now, let's get down to it...
Here are all of the resources I use/have used to get my carts. I don't go
to places like Funcoland or Gamestop, because they are too far of a drive
for me. If you can get to one of these places, you can usually pick up 15
carts for about $50, which comes out to about $3.33 a cart, which is good
for even unrare carts, and I would suggest you do so. But if this resource
is not available to you, here are a few alternatives.
Some collectors swear by it, live by it, dream about it, bid snipe it,
etc...which is all fine and good, if that is your game. And I see carts go
cheap all day long (videomation, $0.95 near end of auction), but those are
few and far between, with all you ravenous, NES hungry bastards having bid
wars on "Sealed" copies of link that some asshole just re-wrapped. But
seriously, even if you do find a couple good carts for $3-$4, you are still
looking at shipping, which can be over $4 a cart. I would only use Ebay for
that stuff that you just can't find ANYWHERE else, or if you are in a
geographical black hole where there are no nes carts to be found.
Ahhhh....the open air. A little kid puking up a corndog. And a vast open
area of people's old, useless crap sprawled out as far as the eye can see.
This is where NES dreams are born, true believers. Far and away, the vast
majority of my collection comes from this resource, and I rarely pay more
than $4 a cart here! And I am always finding hard to find gems here (Zombie
Nation, anyone?), and 25 copies of everything from 10 Yard Fight to Zen -
Intergalactic Ninja. I got Double Dribble for a quarter for crying out
loud. The best part is that you can usually talk the seller down a few
bucks if they think you are actually going to buy some of their worn out
crap, and if you spend $15 or $20 they will usually hook you up with
Video Game Shop
If there isn't a privately owned video game store in your area dealing in
new/used games for most systems (Odyssey on up to Xbox) then I am horribly
sorry. These places have a constant flow of games going in and out, so the
variety is usually good, but if you see something sweet, you better grab it
quick! What people do is take their old games in, get ripped off by the
shopkeeper, and buy newer games. The shopkeeper then turns around and sales
the games for market value. The store I go to has over 800 NES carts, and
all are priced in a guide similar to a rarity list. Now, the carts might
not come cheap, because these guys usually know what their inventory can be
sold for, but if you bullshit with them, are a regular, and they know
are a collector, they will usually cut you some kind of break. At the store
I go to, the guy is always giving me cart storage and not too great looking
carts (Thrilla Surfari and North and South for free...?), and I usually walk
out of there with 8 or 9 games at about $4-$5 a cart. Some have bargain
bins as well, so you can stock up on those common carts you are always
passing up on because of all of the other cool carts you are going to buy.
Hit and Miss. Some stores will have all kinds of games, and some will only
have a bunch of old lady stuff. The cool thing here is that if you talk with
the manager, you can usually get them to set aside all of their carts and go
in every couple weeks and swoop em up. The crappy part about this is that
you will end up with 8 copies of Commando and the Legend of Kage. Goodwill
stores will usually do this, as will privately run thrift stores, but the
Slavation Army generally will not, which is a shame. I found Dragon Warrior
1, 2, and 3 there, along with G.I. Joe, Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu, metal
Gear, Jeopardy 25th, Swords and Serpents, Harlem Globetrotters, Willow, and
Dragon Spirit, total price $15. (Take that, Ebay...)
Not exactly a flea market, but the same idea, and I do pick up the faint
scent of carts here. There events are usually just held for a day or the
weekend. A community or usually a non-profit group will get together and
rent a parking lot (usually by a grange hall for some reason), clean out
their garages and sell the crap for their charity. You never really know
what you will find here (if anything) NES wise, but the more vendors, the
better your odds.
Not usually a good bet, but always worth a look for you true cart junkies
out there. Who knows, you might find that copy of Stadium Events that was
locked up for 12 years in some jerk's closet. Hell, I found a ROB, Little
Samson, and a Slew of other carts at one for $20 (An uh-huh, what now bitch
to Ebay). Just check the yard sale classifieds in your local paper and call
around to every last one and ask them if they are selling any old video
games. Just don't go asking normal everyday people if they "are selling
cartridges for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System", or you will
probably just confuse them enough to hang up on you.
And that's about it. So if Ebay is your thing and it works for you, then
great. But if you want to get it done and done right, don't be afraid to
get out there and pound pavement. If you collect purely on Ebay, you are
missing out on one of the most rewarding treasure hunts of your life. When
you go out cart hunting, you never know what you might stumble upon, and
it's usually much, MUCH cheaper than Ebay. I guess it really just depends
on what kind of collector you are.
Anyways, happy hunting, and if you have any additions, please feel free to
drop me a line.