Friday, September 11, 2009

Video Game Museum: 10,000 Games & Every Console

Syd Bolton runs a PC museum in Canada and has a huge video game collection with more than 6,000 games. The museum has thousand of boxed PC games and dozens of computers covering the whole history of PC's. I had a chance to interview Syd about his museum and get some photos of the collection as well.

Xbox and Xbox 360 games. All complete with box and instructions.
Xbox Games
A Vectrex System with tons of vintage games behind it.
Vectrex System
Arcade games in the tiny cabinets
Small Arcade Cabinets
Tons of Playstation 2 games.
Every Playstation 2 Game
Video game memorabilia and signed pictures of a couple G4 hosts
Video Game Memorabilia
Sega Genesis Games
Gamecube Games
Tons of Video Game Consoles
Boxed Nintendo 64 Games
Boxed Nintendo NES Games
Boxed Atari Games
Boxed Atari Games

Thank you Syd for answering these questions for us about your video game collection and Personal Computer Museum.

Where do you live?
I live in Brantford, Ontario, Canada and have all my life. Brantford was a
primary home to Alexendar Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone and
home to the first long distance phone call (between Brantford, Ontario and
Paris, Ontario, only a few miles away).

How did you get into video game collecting?
Growing up I bought myself a computer because I knew I could play games on
it AND learn programming. However, a buddy of mine had an Atari 2600 and I
will admit I was jealous. I loved going over to his place to play Pitfall!
and some of the other great classics. In time, I started collecting
computers and because people thought I was into "that sort of thing" one day
somebody brought me an Atari 2600 with 20 games for $20. At first, I'm
thinking "what the heck do I want this for?" but as soon as I saw Pitfall!,
the good memories started flooding back. I said "Yes, I want this!" and
picked it up. I realized I could amass a pretty good collection quickly and
inexpensively by placing ads in local newspapers as "Wanted to buy: video
game systems". I just got hooked on it and then wanted everything because I
can't just seem to do something part way. It's my greatest strength and
weakness. I think my collections could be stronger on more rare titles if it
wasn't for the fact that I focus on "anything I don't have". Most collectors
concentrate on one or a few systems. With me, I have weeks or months (or
years) where I focus on one but then my attention shifts.

How many games do you own? How many systems?
It's a bit of a tough question. I know I have over 6,000 console games but
I'm still in the process of cataloging all of them. When it comes to
original, boxed computer software games I'd have to estimate several
thousand. With systems, I basically own the majority of consoles released in
North America. I have the early originals like the Magnavox Odyssey 1, the
Fairchild Channel F and of course multiple variants of the Atari 2600. In
addition to all the "standard" consoles I've also got some odder items like
the Amiga CD32 (and CDTV), the Leisure Vision (a version of the Arcadia
2001) and even a Tandyvision One (Intellivision compatible).

What are your favorite items in your collection?
Lately my Pac-Man table has been the coolest and favorite thing but it's
very difficult to choose. Sometimes the favorite things are the ones that
people find interesting like the mini arcade games I have (the Frogger and
Pac-Man ones for example) and I have a very extensive Dragon's Lair
collection that I'm proud of. My PS2 collection, which currently has over
1222 individual titles in it is the proudest thing I have.

Tell me more about the video game and personal computer museum you run?
So I started collecting computers when I was 12 -- which was just over 25
years ago. I had 3 of them, which for the time was pretty unusual (I had a
VIC-20, a Commodore 64 and an Apple II clone that I built myself). I really
didn't have any gaming systems until I turned 16, when someone offered me an
Atari 2600 for $20 with a bunch of games. At first, I was like "why the heck
would I want this? It's old now and crappy" but then I saw Pitfall! sitting
there. I remembered loving going over to my buddy's house and playing his
2600 (he had everything back then, it seemed). I had opted on getting a
computer instead of Atari because I could play games AND learn how to
program. Turns out I made the right decision, as I am still programming
today and make my living from it.

Are most items part of your personal collection or the museum collection?
All of the computers and software that started out as mine are now the
property of the museum. It's too difficult to separate what was mine versus
all of the generous donations we've received over the years. The video
games, however, are all mine. However, I am going to loan them to the museum
when we get a bigger building and have the space to display everything. That
is the main focus right now, getting consistent funding and a larger

What is the most expensive game you own?
Well you know that Steel Battalion for the Xbox is up there but the value of
some of the others I'm not too sure of. I never really worried about getting
some of the more super expensive individual titles because I would rather
spend the money on building a broader collection overall. I have a ton of
PS2 RPG's that I know will grow in value over time so that is probably my
most expensive area of collecting.

What is the most rare game you own?
Again, defining rare is tough here. I have several Atari 2600 games that I
treasure for their difficulty in obtaining like Chase the Chuckwagon, Condor
Attack and Gas Hog. But when showing my collection to the average person,
I'm going to point out things like my shrink-wrapped Pitfall! for the 2600
and sealed Pac-Man because it's something they might actually recognize.
Newer games that I'm proud to own that are getting really hard to find
include Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (both Xbox and PS2) but I also know that rare
doesn't necessarily mean valuable.

Why start a gaming museum?
Gaming is one of those areas where most people play a game and then get rid
of it at some point. To be able to go back and look at that game, even just
the box cover and hold that in your hands, brings back a flood of positive
memories for people. It's this sense of joy, that I see all the time in
people that is the primary reason for doing this. It was much more difficult
and much more expensive to game in the "early days" and so people spent more
time on it, they received more joy from it (even when the games weren't
nearly as good as some are today). It's that personal sense of
accomplishment that people have and love revisiting years later that makes
the difference. It's also important, from an educational standpoint, to
preserve this stuff. Companies that have come and gone and the people behind
them all deserve to be remembered for their contributions.

How much have you spent over the years on your collection?
That's a tough one because I didn't really keep track of it before like I do
now. Clearly, it's a small fortune. I would say more than $100k and less
than $250k? I'm a fairly frugal shopper when it comes to games (one has to
be). I don't like buying used on the newer stuff because I know it hurts the
industry, so when it's a big game title that I know I will play right away
I'll buy it new to support the developers and publishers. Obviously, on
older stuff I don't have a choice but to buy used or trade.

What do you want to add to your collection but haven't been able to find?
Obviously I'd love to get a hold of Panzer Dragoon Saga on the Saturn. I
certainly have had the opportunity, I just have a hard time spending that
much on one game when I know I can get an armload of other games for the
same money (the biggest problem with being an 'everything' collector). On
the Playstation, I'd love to get my hands on Suikoden II and Tactics Ogre.
And of course, on the older stuff, Bounty Bob on the Atari 5200 would be a
must have because I also love that game!

Any interesting stories about how you got some items in the collection?
Several years ago, I printed out a Nintendo NES rarity list and noticed these "Aladdin" game carts were on it. This was when the web was still
fairly new and eBay was not a strong place to sell goods (around 1995 I
think). I had never seen one of these carts before but noted the "ER+"
rating in the list. I went to a flea market type place about an hour's drive
from my home. I walked into this one area where this guy had a bunch of
video games and I was not sure what these were--turns out they were boxed
Aladdin carts. They had a price of $10 each. I asked for the manager,
because once I realized what they were I was going to try and make a deal.

They said he was back the following weekend. So, I bought a set of what I
could find, at $10 each (there were the six separate games) and went home.
The following weekend I came back and found the owner and asked him if I
bought every single one of those games he had - how much they would be. He
hummed and hawed and said "Well...umm...listen, I gotta get at least three
bucks for each of them". Putting on my best poker face, I sighed and said
"that's ok I guess". Meanwhile, I'm jumping up and down on the inside. Keep
in mind - this was also in Canadian funds! Even better, as we were packing
up the games he comes from out back and says "Oh, I found some more!" and I
see over ten sets of the Aladdin cartridge itself with the pack-in game.
Trying to hide my excitement, I asked how much for those. "Oh, same price!".
All told, I ended up walking away with over 15 complete sets of Aladdin
decks with the seven games. I kept two sets for myself and sold the rest for
$125 US a set. Being fair of course. Later, with the extras I had of the
single games I managed to sell some for as much as $45 each on eBay once it
became more popular. I am not sure how much of my game collection that
transaction financed, but I can tell you that it was one of the best scores
I've had in collecting.

Thank you Syd. If I'm ever up in Canada again, I will be sure to stop by and see your museum and personal collection. The museum is open to the public too so anyone else can see this collection too, be sure to look up the visiting hours though first because they change frequently.


Anonymous said...

man your collection is a collector of all nintendo systems and games some sega stuff and playstaion but your collection makes mine look like a tiny ant lol if you ever fell like getting rid of any nintendo items please email me

Grim The Jester said...

i'm looking for the name of a sci-fi adventure rpg i played sometime around 1995. and i can't remember the name for the life of me... i figured if anyone could help you'd be my best bet... i've been trying to remember for about 5 years now. I'm losing my mind cause i can't remember. if you think you can help and are up for the challenge please e-mail me.

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