Retro Video Games – A Collector’s Guide

Image from Pixabay

Retro Video Games and Consoles are one of the new collecting fields being celebrated at auction, with Surrey auctioneers Ewbank’s being the first UK saleroom to launch a dedicated department in 2022. Senior Partner Andrew Ewbank oversees sales and has just shared his expertise with listeners on BBC Radio Four’s You and Yours.

Andrew splits his sales into three categories: Vintage, Retro and Modern. This guide shows what defines them:

The Vintage Era (1970s-1980s)

This is the golden age of gaming that began in the very early 1970s with the likes of Computer Space, Atari’s Pong and The Oregon Trail, before moving on to Space Invaders, Galaxian and Asteroids. The 80s started with Pac-Man, Frogger and Donkey Kong. Many of these were only really available at the time through commercial video arcades in the high street, where eager youngsters would hang out and play.

Even in the earliest days of the 1970s video game consoles were available, including the Odyssey series, Atari Home Pong and the Coleco Telstar series, but by the mid 1970s these began to make way for a whole new generation, when handheld consoles also joined the party as micro-processing led to the introduction of game cartridges, later replaced by optical discs.

Rarities from this era include the RDI Halcyon, introduced in 1985 to support laserdiscs – a technology that led to a dead end, with the console withdrawn. Only a handful survive.

Sealed Nintendo Game Boy – UK/PAL/European Red label console – Sold by Ewbank’s for £4,030 in November 2022

The Nintendo PlayStation (Super NES CD-Rom System) is another, created in partnership with Sony but never actually released. Only one is known to have made it onto the market, a prototype that sold in 2020 for $360,000.

Atari’s Commodore 64, the best-selling computer, was able to operate dozens of games and the Nintendo Entertainment System. Rarities include Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, 3DS, and Super Mario Bros, among others.

Ewbank’s also offer associated memorabilia and marketing items, such as magazines and advertising posters.

The Retro Era (1990-2000s)

The retro age offers a wider variety of products from the Atari, Nintendo, Sega, and Sony console and handheld ranges, including Nintendo 64, Sony PlayStation One and Sega Dreamcast.

Rare games include the grey and gold editions of the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, Air Raid, Stadium Events and Red Sea Crossing, whose original form dates back as far as 1983.

Sealed and graded retro games from this period are very popular, with several reaching over half a million in recent auctions. Memorabilia from this era includes figures, figurines and statues, as well as art books and strategy guides

The Modern Era (2010 to present)

Ewbank’s are also interested in offering fully working consoles, games, and oddities from the current generations, including everything from full/complete sets to fully boxed, sealed consoles.

Also included in their sales are bundles or small collections of games from one specific console, such as the Xbox 360 or PS3. And, as with the other eras, they are looking to augment sales with promotional material such as standees, signed posters and games.

Although the collector fair market for Retro Video Games and Consoles is maturing nicely, the auction market is young, so pricing can still be unpredictable so estimates must reflect this. 

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