How to Buy Retro Video Games? Tips to Avoid Common Pitfalls

The allure of classic video games and consoles is undeniable. They allow us to travel back in time and relive the excitement of the early days of playing video games.

From the pixel marvels of the 8-bit era to groundbreaking titles from the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 eras, these artifacts of video game history hold a special place in our hearts.

However, this quest comes with its own set of challenges that can baffle even the most dedicated collectors.

As the popularity of classic games continues to grow, so does the market for video games and used consoles. Whether you are a seasoned collector or new to the field, it’s important that you’re aware of the potential pitfalls of this hobby.

This guide aims to provide you with a roadmap to overcome these challenges, ensuring that your journey down memory lane is filled with joy and excitement instead of disappointment and frustration.

Before reading this article in-depth, here’s a glimpse at the tips you’ll learn later on:

  • When buying vintage games and consoles, authenticity is paramount to avoid counterfeit products.
  • Be prepared for technical glitches in older games and consoles and research common issues.
  • Limited availability means you may need to explore various sources to find your desired items.
  • Compatibility problems with modern equipment can be solved with the right adapters.
  • Research recent sales and trends to gauge fair prices and avoid overpaying.

Also, read the table below to see an overview of this article:

Authenticity ConcernsBuy from reputable sources and educate yourself.
Technical MalfunctionsResearch common issues and test before purchase.
Limited AvailabilityExplore specialized stores and online communities.
Compatibility IssuesResearch and invest in compatible adapters.
Price FluctuationsResearch prices and set a budget.
Risk of DamageChoose sellers with secure packaging practices.
Lack of WarrantyReview return policies and seek guarantees.

So, with that said, let’s start!

Some of the most prominent gaming consoles of all time.
Some of the most prominent gaming consoles of all time.

What problems might you run into when you buy second-hand video games and consoles?

Authenticity problem

The allure of owning a piece of video game history is strong, but it also comes with the risk of encountering a counterfeit. Counterfeit video games and consoles are becoming increasingly sophisticated, making it difficult to distinguish between the real and the clever imitation.

The last thing you want is to spend your hard-earned money on a fake copy of a favorite game. To solve this problem, it’s important to buy from reputable sources. Established vintage game stores, well-known online marketplaces, and trusted individual sellers with a solid reputation in the classic game community are good places to start.

Look for sellers who offer certificates of authenticity or detailed photos of the item’s unique identifiers, such as a serial number or a hologram.

Also, learn about the distinguishing features of genuine goods. Packaging details, labels, and disc printing can reveal telltale signs of counterfeiting. Join online vintage gaming communities and forums to learn from experienced collectors and enthusiasts who can share their expertise in identifying genuine products.

And if you want some tips in balancing your savings while collecting retro video games, here’s a video for you:

YouTube video on how to save money when collecting retro video games.

Technical difficulties

Enjoying the classic gaming experience often means running into technical issues along the way. Older video games and consoles are more susceptible to wear and tear, which can lead to a host of technical problems.

From complicated cartridge connectors that require a gentle touch to control panels that refuse to turn on, these issues can affect your gaming experience. It’s essential to research the particular model or game you’re interested in and familiarize yourself with its common technical problems.

When purchasing a control panel, inquire about its general condition and any known problems. For example, if you’re considering buying a classic NES console, be aware that the 72-pin connector is known to cause screen flickering and problems playing games.

Knowing what to expect allows you to make informed decisions and set a budget for what can be fixed.

If you’re buying online, ask the seller for a detailed description of the control panel features and any problems observed. Some sellers may even provide a video demonstration of the console in action.

When buying locally, schedule an in-person appointment to inspect and test the panel yourself before completing the purchase.

Limited availability

The world of classic console and video games is a treasure trove of nostalgia but also a field of rarity. With many of these items out of production, the challenge was to find the title and design you wanted.

To overcome the challenge of limited availability, you have to expand your search beyond traditional retail channels. While online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon can yield results, explore specialty stores for vintage games, local gaming conventions, flea markets, and garage sales. These places can hide hidden treasures that passionate collectors are willing to part with.

Additionally, participating in online classic gaming communities and forums can be invaluable. Not only can you connect with other enthusiasts who may have items for sale or exchange, but you can also access a collective knowledge base that can direct you to the sources you need you may not have considered.

Sharing your wish list with these communities can lead to fruitful connections and unexpected discoveries.

A very old gaming console with controllers.
A very old gaming console with controllers.

Compatibility issues

The gaming landscape has evolved significantly since the days of CRT TVs and analog signals. Classic consoles are designed to work with the technology of the time, which can cause compatibility issues when connecting to modern audio and display systems.

When trying to connect an older console to a modern TV, you may experience problems such as distorted graphics, incorrect aspect ratios, or even no display at all. To bridge the gap between the past and the present, you need to explore compatible adapter options. These adapters convert the console’s output to a format that modern monitors can recognize.

For example, if you want to play NES games on your HDTV, an HDMI adapter specifically designed for the NES can ensure a smoother and visually appealing experience.

When looking for adapters, read reviews and seek recommendations from the classic gaming community to find the most reliable and effective solution. Some adapters can even enhance the look of older games, providing options to improve the graphics while preserving the nostalgic charm.

Price volatility

The classic game world is dynamic, with prices that can fluctuate wildly depending on factors such as:

  • Rarity
  • Demand
  • Item condition.

What might have been an affordable title a few years ago can be very expensive, surprising even experienced collectors.

To meet this challenge, do your research thoroughly before making a purchase. Websites and online platforms that specialize in tracking video game prices can provide insight into recent sales and trends.

Keep in mind that limited supply and high demand can lead to inflated prices for some items, especially those that are considered iconic or must-have classics.

When budgeting for classic game purchases, it’s essential to set realistic expectations. Prioritize the games and consoles that have the most personal value to you, and be prepared to wait for the right moment when the price is right for your budget.

Also, consider exploring lesser-known titles that can offer a similar gaming experience without the high price tag.

Risk of damage during transportation

The convenience of online shopping has revolutionized the way we buy goods, including video games and vintage consoles.

However, the journey from seller to buyer is not without risk, especially when it comes to fragile, sensitive items. Toner cartridges, discs, and control panel components can be damaged if not properly packed and handled during transit.

To minimize the risk of damage, favor sellers with a proven track record of safe packaging practices. When contacting the seller, ask about the packaging materials and methods they plan to use. Foam padding, bubble wrap, and sturdy boxes are essential to protect fragile items during transit.

Upon receipt of the package, inspect the package for any signs of mishandling or damage before opening the package. Record any visible damage with photos, as they can be used as proof if you need to submit a shipping or return request.

Also, consider choosing shipping options that offer insurance and tracking, providing an extra layer of protection for your investment.

SNES Nintendo system.
SNES Nintendo system.

No warranty

Unlike modern gaming products that often come with warranties, classic video games and consoles usually don’t come with any form of warranty. This means that after your purchase, you’ll be dealing with any problems that may arise on your own.

To meet this challenge, research the seller’s return and refund policies before making a purchase. Reputable sellers that guarantee the authenticity and functionality of their products may offer some form of return or satisfaction guarantee.

Pay special attention to the timeframe in which you can report any issues and initiate returns if needed. Remember that repairing classic consoles and games can be complicated and require specialized expertise.

While some problems can be solved with DIY methods, such as cleaning the cartridge connector or replacing the internal battery, more complex issues are best left to experienced professionals in vintage electronics repair.


Is there a particular type of game that is more prone to authenticity issues?

While the issue of authenticity can apply to all genres, rare and highly sought-after titles, especially those from popular series, are more susceptible to counterfeiting. Always research the specific game and its packaging details to spot potential duplicates.

How to test old console features before buying?

If possible, arrange a face-to-face meeting with the vendor to check the performance of the control panel. Check video output, controller responsiveness, and any unusual audio. If you’re buying online, ask to see a video demonstration of the console in action.

What should I do if I receive a damaged item in transit?

Record damage with photos immediately after receiving the package. Contact the seller and carrier to initiate a claim. If the item is insured, you may be entitled to compensation.


  • Venturing into the world of buying second-hand video games and consoles can be an exciting journey filled with nostalgia and unique experiences.
  • By being aware of potential problems and taking proactive action, you can make informed decisions and build a remarkable collection of classic game treasures.
  • Remember to research thoroughly, buy from trusted sources, and complete challenges as part of the adventure.

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