Thursday, June 21, 2012

How to Find Great Video Games Deals

Video game collecting can be an expensive hobby as you add to your collection and find new games you want to buy. But there are ways to save money and find some amazing deals. Each location you might find games has its own secrets for finding fantastic prices. Below are insider tips and secrets to finding great deals on video games no matter where you shop.


eBay is probably the largest market for video game collectors because there are millions of users, a large number of listings, and lots of unique and rare items for sale on a regular basis.

Use Saved Searches

eBay offers a feature called Saved Search where they allow you to search for something on their site and have eBay notify you whenever items matching that search come up for sale. You can use them to buy games at below market prices before others can snap them up.

For example, you save a search for "Earthbound Super Nintendo". A seller doesn't know exactly what they have so they list it for $50. You get an email from eBay notifying you of the sale and can buy the game, hopefully before anyone else sees it.

Buy Items with "Bad" Listings

Some sellers use "bad" listing techniques when listing their items. You can take advantage of this by bidding on these auctions. In general, you will get a much better price on these listings then "good" listings because fewer people will find them and bid against you.

Things to look for are: short titles, no picture, or mis-categorized listings. The example to the left used the title "Playstation 1 Lot". It didn't mention the number of games, or even use "games" in the title. The listing had about 100 games in it including Tomba and several sealed games. To learn how to find these "bad" listings read below.

Find "Hidden" Gems with Keywords & Images

The "bad" listings can be hidden gems for the people who do find them. To find them use these three tactics:

Search "Games" & "Lot": Use the system you are looking for with "games" or "lot" added on the end, ie "super nintendo games" or "gamecube lot". This will bring up listings with lots of games. If you are just starting a collection this is the fastest and cheapest way to jump into a new console.

Search in Description: Don't search just the titles, search the descriptions too. Rare video games might not be listed in the title if there are multiple games included. The classic example of this is a woman who listed an "NES-001 with 5 games" not realizing one of them was a boxed Stadium Events. Searching by description would have found this auction and other gems.

Look at Images: Some sellers selling large game lots won't go to the trouble of listing every game individually. Instead they just take a picture and buyers have to look at the individual games. These games won't show up on any searches but every now and then you can find a great game that others will never notice.

Goodwill/Thrift Stores

Most people do not know what their video games are worth so they are often given away to Goodwill or other thrift stores. The employees won't always know what they have either. You can use this to your advantage and find some great deals with a bit of effort.

Look in Music Section for Disc Games

Many Goodwill worker think these items are the same thing, a music CD. Because of this you can often find PS1, Dreamcast, and PC games in the music sections of thrift stores. They will usually be priced like music too with $0.50-2.00 price tags.

Look in VHS Section for Cartridges

Just like CD's above, most NES or SNES games with the original case look like VHS cases. You can sometimes find complete, classic games for $1 in the VHS section.

It only takes a minute or two to rummage through the stacks, but could be worth hundreds of dollars depending on which games you find.


Craigslist takes a lot of time hard work on your computer to find the best prices and rare games. You are much more likely to find a rare item at an amazing price on Craigslist then you are on eBay though.

Search by Gaming Keyword

Don't just search Craigslist by generic keywords like "video games". Use "video games" but also search with other terms like "Nintendo", "Playstation", "Game Boy", "Xbox", etc. Sellers will use different terms when referring to their items and often times will have no idea what it is but remember their kids referring to it as "playing Nintendo".

Contact Garage Sale People Before Sale Starts

Craigslist will usually have hundreds of garage sales every weekend in a large city. Most of these garage sales will be listed a day or two prior to the date the garage sale actually starts. If someone says they have video games for sale send them an email asking if they will sell it to you before the sale starts. Most people will be more than happy to start clearing out their closets before the official start date.

Be Willing to Buy Game Lots to Save

The best deals will be from purchases of video game lots with 10+ games. Be willing to buy a whole bundle of games for the one or two that you actually want. Then sell the other stuff on eBay or put it back on craigslist yourself. Sometimes you can even make a bit of money with this method if you are willing to put in the effort required to sell pieces individually.

Flea Markets & Garage Sales

Flea Markets and garage sales will usually have some gaming items thrown in with the other nik-naks. The sellers are less likely to price out their items, especially at garage sales, so good deals can be fairly easy to find.

Bring Pricing Data with You

You never know what games you might find at a flea market or garage sale and unless you've memorized current prices for 26,000 games it is helpful to use a mobile tool to price the items you find. Our website has a mobile version, which lets you price out items on the go. You can even use a barcode scanner to speed up the process.

Negotiate on Price

Like going to some international bizarre, the price quoted is not the price you should pay. Everything should be negotiated down. If you see a game that seems reasonably priced at the list price, negotiate the seller down and you can get a good deal.

Many flea market sellers will knock off 25-30% without much of a fight and most garage sale people just want to get rid of junk. Offer to buy all their game stuff at once and many people will take you up on it.

Pawn Shops

Pawn shops come in all types ranging from huge national chains with online prices for almost every item, to small independent chains with no expertise in games at all.

Try Different Stores

Find a list of pawn shops nearby using Google Maps or similar services. They usually group together in pockets, which makes this easier. Visit as many of the shops as possible and see which ones have the types of games you want, which have decent prices, and which are willing to negotiate.

In my experience, chain pawn shops are less likely to carry older titles and they usually subscribe to services that will tell them how much games are worth. But many independent pawn shops will not. Independents are usually the best bet.

Come Back to the Best Shops Regularly

Once you find the pawn shop that has good deals and decent selection of games , continue to come back on a regular basis. If you found a great deal before, it probably means this shop doesn't know exactly what they are selling and you can find more deals in the future.

Good luck shopping for games! Please let us know in the comments below if you use any of these tips to find a sweet deal.


mndrix said...

Excellent article. I learned a few good tips in there.

Anonymous said...

....and if you find a great site keep coming back too. Love this stuff

Unknown said...

Word of advice: Goodwill is not as great as it's been. Employees are encouraged to put potentially valuable things aside (and even do the amateur 'durr, I'll check ebay' move) and ship them off to be sold on, what is basically the bane of existence for any collector.

Browse that site and be annoyed that you could have possibly found this stuff for sale for cheap at your local Goodwill. I know I am.

Anonymous said...

@Unknown I have to agree with you. It's not really impossible to get a good deal but they've made it harder to get the great stuff. The most recent find I've had that was semi-big was Sunset Riders and a wavebird controller with reciever for like 10 dollars total. But shopgoodwill is the bane of thrift store hunting

JJ Hendricks said... has definitely changed the shopping experience at the stores because rare stuff is much less likely to slip through the cracks. You can still go to other thrift stores like Arc, Salvation Army, etc.

Shopgoodwill does bring in a lot more money for the non-profit organization though so it is hard to fault them for doing it.

Anonymous said...

I have known of since 2004 and over the years I have never seen a "deal" over there. I had brought over 12 items from them over the years and 7 out of the 12 items have defects or broken junk.

Anonymous said...

I've never had much luck finding rare video games. Usually it's games like contra/battletoads for nes that people want to get rid of for 6 or 7 dollars. Not bad, but not great. The best deal I ever got was a sealed copy of suikoden 2 with the guidebook for 30 bucks on craigslist no less. I had to borrow the 30 dollars, but it was well worth it

Jeff Smith said...

It's still possible. I came across a Turbo Grafx 16 for $20 complete with cords and controller this week at Value Village. So deals are still out there.

Anonymous said...

GBA for 15 with games and case and PS2 with guitar 3 controllers and 16 games for 50.

yay for craifslist!

Adam484 said...

I decided to try my local Goodwill for games and came up with an excellent find on my first visit. I found a like new complete copy of Intelligent Qube (PS1) in the CD section for $2.97. This title in very good condition goes for $40+ on E-Bay. I really thought I was on to something, but sadly, I haven't found anything since so I chalk it up as beginners luck. Its still fun though.

charles jacoby said...

Trust me, if you read this article and put in the work its very possible. I went to a goodwill on a whim one day and bang right in front of me a big old box used nes and games 20 bucks. I figured what the hell, didn't even see what was inside I got home and almost fainted! It was a old, great condition full nes system, 2 controllers had megaman, megaman 5, contra, mario 1 2 and 3, metroid, and like 4 more ok games. Also, there was a old snes with 2 controllers! Had s metroid, castlevanalia 4
About 5 other ok games and MEGAMAN X and X 3!!! My greatest find ever and this was 3 weeks ago. I'm still gleaming.

Anonymous said...

Ps1 games in the CD isle?! This happens at goodwill? At essex nearly everything is sorted out. I need to check this out next time!

Anonymous said...

Retro video game stores aren't too bad sometimes. Just don't go for the big ticket items and you can find most stuff reasonably. The only problem is finding one in your area if you don't know where to look. Maybe you guys could add a directory to the site.

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