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  The 8-bit NES Rules of Acquisition    

The 8-bit NES Rules of Acquisition

January 10, 2005
By spitlord

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 wait.

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.

Flea Market
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 freebies.

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 you 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.

Thrift Store
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...)

Rummage Sale
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.

Garage Sale
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.