Let’s Talk About a Backdoor Collectors Buyers Club
Written by Sam Rizzo
Within a small group of people and I mean a VERY small group of people, I’m known for being able to spot fake and refurbished cartridges. As a game collector I’ve also become friends with the owner of a local retro gaming store. The owner himself is a collector like most of his customers, his employees are as well. One of his employees I have been acquaintances with since the 8th grade. As time has gone on, we’ve become pretty good friends. He asked me a few days ago to come by the store after closing because on a certain day of every month he has a few collectors come by, hangout, and sell their doubles and collectibles. He likes to pick up games at this little backdoor sellers/buyers’ club but has been burned before and would like me to just take a quick gander at games he’s interested in and make sure they aren’t fake. The owner is there as well so none of this is done under his nose. The interesting thing about this get together is since no one is signing any legal papers, anything bought here is not sold in the store. It’s one of those classic “you get what you get” situations. After I was told this, my immediate image of the whole scene felt very shady.
The big day comes around and my wife and I find ourselves at my local game store right before closing. I’ve brought 100 bucks of cash I intend to spend and an extra 50 as “just in case” cash. I was told it would be best not to bring anything to sell. I was new and no one would really trust me enough to buy anything off of me. Right there is the theme of the night apparently, Trust (and awkwardness). The employee and I spend our time waiting for it to start by playing Kirby’s Dream Course, while my wife scours the stores Pokémon collectibles. It rolls around thirty minutes past closing and its finally set up, it’s interesting to say the least. All of it was set up in backroom I was expecting about twenty different collectors and instead there was about seven. Not nearly as shady as I had expected, everyone seemed pretty swell. Except for two guys, both of them are Game Boy Color collectors. I’ve never met a collector who only collected for just one system. We all have our favorite system to collect for but we collect for others as well. Not these guys, as well these are collectors of a much higher tier than I have ever met before. The most popular of the guy’s selling was offering more Neo Geo games than I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m looking at prices that would be laughed out of a convention center.
I’m not sure if anyone reading this has ever worked at a mom and pop type game store but if you have, you’d know how little room is in the back. It’s often loaded with games that the store can’t sell for so many days and console guts laying around that they’ve been using for refurbishing consoles. This is a very cramped, hot, and awkward scene. Besides the owner, employee, and I, everyone else is selling but also buying from each other. The fan boy-”ism” is through the roof here as well. As nice as some of these people were, it all changed when they find out you don’t have any interest in what their selling. We come up to the Game Boy Color “sellers”, both small tables are right next to each other and these guy’s clearly know how to show off what they have. The weird thing, absolutely none of their prices made any sense. Take Godzilla: The Series for instance, both of them have an out of the box good condition cartridge. One is selling it for 3 bucks, the other is selling his for 27 bucks. What? Why? Also just don’t buy it because I eventually did and it’s absolutely terrible. It was like this with almost every game they had except for Pokémon Red and Blue weirdly enough. They both thought 65 was a good price for each. It’s not, you can pick up either of them for 15 to 30. I’m clearly not these dudes clientele. The friend of mine picks up a game he wants but thinks is suspicious, I take a look at it. Seems alright, the seller claimed it was “mint” but “mint” it was not. A lot of yellowing and a bit of sticker tearing. It’s acceptable at best, I tell my friend that exact thing. The seller didn’t pick up what I said but what he did pick up was that I was inspecting his game to make sure it wasn’t a fake. This did not go over with him well.
A quick “what you don’t trust what I have to sell” flung out this collectors/sellers mouth at a force that damn near slapped me in the face. This guy is pissed that I would have the gull to look over his cartridge without blindingly trusting him. “I don’t know you from Adam man, I’m just checking them out”, that didn’t go over well for me either. My friend picks up a Game Boy Color and asks for the price, “35 and it is yours”. I’m thinking “Well shit, I would really enjoy a Game Boy Color and there is another on the table.” So I pick up this classic purple Game Boy Color, look it over, and as I’m doing that I hear “It’s 90 for you”.
Okay, I get what’s going on, I’m being openly snubbed because I can’t trust a bunch of people who wouldn’t trust me if I just set up shop. Now most of the time I would walk away and forget this hot sweaty buyers’ club even exists. Except I really now want a Game Boy Color and some of the games on both of these tables are really well priced and dammit I really want a Game Boy Color for 30 or so dollars. So my friend picks it up and asks how much that would be for him, the seller say’s 30 and my friend talks him down to 25. He then turns to me, say’s “Here, its 25 bucks” and then I pay my friend and get my GBC. We do it without leaving the table, the seller sees us do this and for some reason takes a weird bit of satisfaction from making me take an extra step. As I stated earlier in the article: What? Why? I see that his Godzilla: The Series is 3 bucks, growing up I was a big fan of the cartoon and that specific Game Boy game. I pick it up, “30” slithers out of the greasy snakes lips. My friend grabs it, “3 bucks for you”. He buys it and I buy it from him. Again, this guy gets a weird half smile by making me jump through one more hoop. Is this his form of petty revenge? Making me go through my friend who’s actually very good at haggling and got himself a lot of games for much lower then what they are priced at on at VGPC, good for him. I watch him haggle and check more cartridges for him and everyone else is quite cool about it. We make our way back around to everyone's favorite GBC seller and move on to GBC seller number 2. This guy’s prices are great. Links Awakening for 10 bucks, I just bought a Game Boy, I! NEED! THIS! So I pick it up and “70” is thrown at me. I retort with a “For a loose Game Boy game? I get its Zelda but it’s not worth that” and I’m only met with “its 80 now”. This guy has no beef with me, hell the other guy didn’t either but he felt like he did. I haven’t even dealt with this guy yet.
So we do the same thing as before, my friend picks it back up asks how much and is offered “15”, he haggles the guy down to 10 bucks. Hands it to me and I pay him 10 bucks. Both guys now really seem to enjoy this. Why all the snickering? Did they rub their junk on these or something? How can it possibly be this pleasing to them to make me go through my friend instead of dealing with them? We do this a few times because when I get a new console of any kind, I’m walking away with at least a handful of games. I came away with so much more though. I grabbed 11 different game, one boxed, a new GBC, and an original Game Boy over the shoulder case. All for 120 dollars. I felt pretty good about it, considering some of the games were some awesome classic Game Boy games.
At the end of the day I was happy with what I walked away with, I got to watch the owner of the store drop over 5 grand on a Neo Geo and a couple of games (I’m talking TWO games and a console for a bit over 5000 dollars, this makes my soul weep for some reason), and walked away with two video game specific energy drinks. It was a weird night, I’m never doing this again. I’ll stick to local game stores, eBay, and Amazon for now on.
For those of you who are wondering what kind of games you could possibly pick up at one of these super-secret back door things:
So the same stuff that could be found at any mom and pop game store, just with more fan boy obsessiveness and a whole lot of awkward sweaty dudes. Except for all the Neo Geo stuff of course. To be fair, the energy drinks were given to me by the store owner. If you’re wondering what it tastes like, imagine if Surge, radioactive sludge, and Monster had a wild threesome and this is the outcome of it all. I love it, it’s a really dumb pandering product but damn if it isn’t delicious as all hell.