November showed up suddenly and then disappeared just as quickly, but as it passed on, it bequeathed to me a slew of beautiful treasures called videogames. This month rocked the stripes right outta my socks. From attending a convention with friends, to hitting up a multitude of yard sales, to driving 45 minutes west in order to snag an absolute market failure of a gaming console, November treated me pretty well as far as collecting is concerned. Let’s start from the beginning and I’ll unravel this skein one length of yarn at a time.
Friday, November 2nd, 2018
Two of my best friends—Joe and Dustin—showed up outside my house somewhere around 8 PM. I received the text and jetted outside hastily with my suitcase and two empty backpacks ready to be filled to their brims with videogames. The guys and I were off, heading to RetroGameCon 6! Leaving from my hometown of Islip, New York, we were set to travel roughly five hours northwest to Syracuse to meet up with Dustin’s girlfriend Zoey and her friend Shandra, who were driving southeast from Buffalo. We would drive separately and smooch in the middle like our own version of the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp, except that the spaghetti would be several miles of dimly lit New York highways and the two dogs would instead be five dorks eager to get some videogames at lower-than-retail prices. Our place of smooching would be at our pre-booked Airbnb in the suburbs of Syracuse, found at an immense discount by Zoey, whose connections always mystify me.
After a lengthy drive supplemented by dumb jokes, puns, and a lot of bodily gas, we arrived, thoroughly exhausted, at our Airbnb and greeted Zoey and Shandra heartily. I don’t remember who, but someone suggested procuring food, and we made haste to hit up a nearby Denny’s, as it was too late for us to care to find anything else. I ate a meager meal, as I tend to do whenever I go away to conventions; my money is better spent on what I came here for in the first place. I want videogames.
Sleeping arrangements were simple. With three rooms afforded to us, two of them being bedrooms, we divvied ourselves between them as such: Zoey and Dustin together in the master bedroom, Shandra in the living room on the futon, and Joe and me in the other bedroom, which could sleep four, as it had two bunk beds. Since I am a grumpy old man, I opted to sleep on a bottom bunk, and luckily Joe opted to do the same, so we slept in separate beds instead of running the risk that someone would wake up with a crushed face and a second mattress for a comforter the next morning.
Saturday, November 3rd, 2018
Day one of RetroGameCon 6 commenced. After a quick breakfast at a gas station Dunkin’ Donuts (which, it turns out, was not a standalone Dunkin’ Donuts as Google had suggested), we took our two cars—Joe’s and Shandra’s—to the location of the convention, the OnCenter in the heart of Syracuse. I’m typically not a morning person, but if videogames are on the line, I’m getting up early, and so a 7 AM wakeup for games at 9 AM was no issue on this day. As always, when going away to conventions, we made sure to preregister, as it’s generally cheaper to do so than purchasing tickets at the door (and, of course, there’s always the chance they’ll sell out if you don’t do so). I prepped for the convention by affixing various videogame-related pins to my lucky orange Pokémon cap, which I try to wear as often as I can when going out collecting. And that’s exactly what I was here to do.
We hit the floor immediately after picking up our lanyards from the ticket booths. I’d been to tons of conventions prior, but this one would prove to be the largest yet.
They whispered to me from the alleyways: “Buy us…”
The first booth we visited specialized in handheld games, mostly Nintendo ones. The proprietor had a larger-than-normal stock of Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 for Game Boy, which I already owned, but my copy had seen better days. I gladly picked a copy up off the table and bundled it with a miscellaneous item from his booth: the Sega Control Stick, a strange, right-handed arcade-style controller for Sega Master System. Together, I paid only $12 for the two, and serotonin overtook my body. While I was doing my deal, Dustin was busy lending his Game Boy Advance SP to a wary buyer who wanted to test this booth’s games before buying but didn’t have his SP on him. What a guy, that Dustin!
Immediately moving to our right, Joe spotted a bin at the next booth over, labeled “$1 each”. I typically don’t sift through dollar bins at conventions because the games inside are usually incredibly common titles that I could get anywhere, or for even cheaper than a dollar if found in a large lot or at a yard sale. But Joe spied and grabbed a copy of The Powerpuff Girls: Battle Him for Game Boy Color and held it up to me.
“Aren’t you looking for these?”
“Oh, my God, yes!” I said, snatching it from him greedily. “Was this in the dollar bin?”
“Sure was,” said the proprietor of the booth, noticing my excitement.
As a child, I’d always wanted to own at least one of the three Powerpuff Girls games on Game Boy Color, but I was never able to procure enough money to buy one for myself, and other games were always more important to request as Christmas, Hanukkah, and birthday gifts. As an adult collector, I was lucky enough to come across the other two games in the trilogy at flea markets, but finding the final one here for only a dollar topped those finds threefold. A single dollar was well worth it for the last game in this small series, and I breathed a sigh of relief at having completed a very minuscule part of the Game Boy Color library.
In October, my buddy Ben was kind enough to give me seven Nintendo Entertainment System titles that I didn’t previously have, but the lot he gave me also included Monopoly, a title that I did have, and an NES Game Genie, which I also already owned. When visiting conventions, I always bring along doubles in the rare event that a vendor will be willing to do a trade so I can get some new games in my collection without breaking the bank. During my foray at RetroGameCon, I was lucky enough to be able to trade those two doubles for a copy each of Kung Fu and Captain Skyhawk for NES.
After scanning the booths up and down, I came across a vendor who was selling complete-in-box (or CIB) common NES titles and some loose ones as well. I whipped out my phone and started scanning my to-buy list on Google Sheets—the trusted companion of any collector who bites off more than they can chew. Luckily, I noticed I hadn’t yet obtained NES Open Tournament Golf or the SNES classic Eye of the Beholder, and so I bundled them together for $11 total, a steal. As I awaited my change, Joe motioned for me to pose for a picture and the vendor noticed. She smiled and asked if she could be a part of the photo and be snapped handing me my change. Joe and I both laughed and agreed immediately.
Thank you, Kim! Sorry I look so doofy here!
Kim and I spoke for a bit about our favorite games before I made a motion for my backpack to deposit my newly acquired spoils.
“Wait!” Joe shouted, taking out his phone again and readying the camera. “Act as happy as you can, let’s get a good photo for your, uh…what is it called again?”
“My column on GameCola,” I said, and then followed Joe’s instructions.
One happy boy.
Moving onto the next booth, I snagged a copy of Adventures of Lolo for NES, along with its manual, and a copy of Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi for SNES, the last game in the trilogy and the only one I was missing. The pair ran me only $18 total, an incredibly worthy deal.
As the day progressed, our collecting party grew hungry, and we left the venue to wander the streets of Syracuse in search of a restaurant. We settled on Kitty Hoynes, an Irish pub and restaurant just a few blocks from the OnCenter.
I didn’t want to spend game money on food, but you can’t collect games from the grave.
When we returned to the convention, we spent a hefty amount of time checking out the various gaming sections. Zoey purchased a couple of card games in their alpha stages so she could be part of the test market. We passed a few hours just playtesting and arguing about game rules and card events. You know, the usual.
After cutting our teeth on those games, I spotted a vendor selling an officially licensed garish periwinkle-blue Nintendo Entertainment System carrying case from 1988. I’d seen this carrying case in an episode of TheNESPursuit and, after doing some research, had decided I wanted it. And here it was, only $5. I more than happily shoved a fiver in this vendor’s pocket.
Joe and I broke away from the others for a few moments, during which time we found a booth selling games with a sign calling all gamers at the convention: “All Video⭐️Games Buy 2 Get 1 FREE!” The booth was saturated with people, so I followed suit and squeezed my cash-carrying butt into the crowd.
At any convention, I do my best to pick up at least one Sega Master System game because my current SMS collection is rather scant. At this booth, I was lucky enough to spot two decently-priced complete SMS games (I only buy SMS games complete), Penguin Land and Out Run, which I scooped up with unparalleled celerity just in case the bearded gentleman to my right had the same idea. Now to find that third free game…
I spent a full twenty minutes looking for a game to add for free to this bundle. Sometimes choosing a free game is harder than choosing one you’ll be paying for.
I settled on Little Nemo: The Dream Master, a staple of the NES library, and a game I was unhappily lacking. Altogether, I paid $30 for the lot.
As the sun began to set on the first day of the convention, we headed for the doors, but the fun wouldn’t end there. We had also purchased tickets to the RetroGameCon Day One Afterparty, and were eager to attend. Fun, drinks, and merriment on top of videogames? Sign me the heck up.
Of course, on the way out, though, I spotted some Intellivision games being sold for a dollar apiece. I whipped out Google Sheets once more, and snagged seven of them, but the vendor was nice enough to accept my offer of $5 even. I walked away with good-condition copies of Frog Bog, Space Hawk, Bomb Squad, Dragonfire, Astrosmash, Space Battle, and Atlantis.
At the afterparty, Dustin was kind enough to buy a round of drinks for everybody, and as we sat and talked, an older couple and their son asked to sit at our table. We quickly made their acquaintance and talked about our experiences at the convention. But our discussions were cut short by the appearance of Super Thrash Bros.; a videogame-inspired metal band who absolutely rocked our socks off with several VGM classics, like “Vampire Killer” from Castlevania and “Trainer Battle” from Pokémon Red and Blue. Though we sat at our table for the first half of their set, I had to get up and start dancing in the crowd when they pumped up the jam with “Big Blue” from F-Zero. The guys joined in, and we headbanged and fist-pumped all the way through the rest of the show to their final song, “Bob-Omb Battlefield” from Super Mario 64.
As the evening wound to a close, the band’s hype man ran around the room, caterwauling and shouting about free swag to give away. Of course, this caught the attention of the guys and me, so we stuck around and were lucky enough to each be pelted in the body by an officially licensed PlayStation 4 cinch bag. Day officially made.
Sunday, November 4th, 2018
After yet another speedy breakfast, we drove back to the OnCenter for the second and, sadly, final day of RetroGameCon. As we walked in, I immediately spotted a sign at a vendor’s booth that read, “AAA PlayStation 1 games—cheap!” Before Joe and Dustin could ask me where I was going, I was already gone. From that booth, I picked up a green-label (or Greatest Hits) copy of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and a copy of Syphon Filter. The couple running the booth offered me a bundle deal before I even suggested one myself, and I walked away $11 poorer.
As I walked up and down the various alleys of games, I noticed an unmanned booth with some uncommon pre-NES era accessories strewn about in cardboard boxes. Among them was Expansion Module #1 for ColecoVision: a ballsy add-on that allows you to play Atari 2600 cartridges on your ColecoVision. Back in the day, things like that were shady, but were completely legal. You’ll never, ever see anything like that today. Companies would engage in knife fights over it.
I picked up the dusty and forgotten peripheral and looked around the immediate area for a vendor of any kind—even one whose booth this wasn’t—just so I could get some information on where to fork over my money. I rounded the nearest corner in my search and was surprised to bump into Suff, a seller friend of mine from Long Island Retro Gaming, a Facebook group to which I belong and from which I find a lot of deals (including one this month).
Not expecting to see each other, we spent a few minutes chatting before Suff noticed the ColecoVision add-on in my hands and asked, “I see you’ve found my Coleco stuff.”
“This is yours?” I asked, delighted.
“Of course. You want it?”
Suff pondered for a moment and smiled, edging out the words, “30 bucks.”
But I’m a cheap loser, so I smiled right back and said, “25 bucks?”
He laughed and said, “Yeah, sure, since we’re buds.” Score. He even gave Joe a great deal on some PS3 and Wii games at his booth. I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed him there the day before!
I broke away from the party for about an hour, just roaming about and looking for vendors who had discounted their prices heavily in anticipation of the impending journey home. My tip to you: If you’re at a multi-day convention, try your best to hold out for some of the games you spot on day one. They may get taken by others, but if not, chances are they’ll be discounted by the vendors as the event wanes because they plainly would rather have money in their pockets than have to carry games back to their vans to drive home. Wait until the final day for most of your good deals. But of course, feel free to splurge if you really, really can’t risk losing a good game to another event-goer. I know I do it all the time.
I happened upon a booth selling only import games from Japan, and spotted For Frog the Bell Tolls, a Japan-only Game Boy action RPG developed and published by Nintendo. It was marked $20, but the seller happily did $15 (probably because it was the last day of the event; see?). Remember, kids: The Game Boy family of games are region-free! Import away!
Before meeting back up with everyone, I spent the remainder of the cash I was willing to part with on a bundle deal consisting of the Sega Dreamcast classic ChuChu Rocket! and Cruis’n USA for Nintendo 64.
I closed my wallet for the last time at the event and decided to hit up a couple of panels and meet a few of the special guests. I was enchanted to meet and shake hands with Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario, and got to take a photograph with Mike Pollock, the current voice actor for Dr. Eggman.
For an evil villain, he sure is a chill guy.
After our photo, I thanked him not only for the opportunity, but for all of the voice work and memories he’s given me over the years. He responded, “It’s my pleasure! I love doing the voice, I love hearing people try to do the voice, and I love people asking me to do the voice.”
I laughed, “Should I ask you to do the voice for me?”
“Sure, look at me! I’m doing it right now!” he said as Dr. Eggman. I fanboyed hard and probably turned a Virtual Boy shade of red.
As the second and final day of RetroGameCon 6 came to an end, I visited a panel for con-goers to join in on a few games in The Jackbox Party Pack 4 for Nintendo Switch. Winners of each game would be awarded prizes, and though I hoped to win something, I didn’t. As the dimmed lights returned to their standard fluorescence, suddenly one of the hosts of the panel asked the crowd, “Uh, does anyone in here have an Intellivision?”
Thanks to fellow GameCola staff writers Nathaniel and Shannon Hoover, I do. I slowly raised my hand and the host who had asked hurled a small black object at me. I caught it haphazardly, but was happy I had caught it at all; it was a copy Carnival for Intellivision! Nice!
And thus, RetroGameCon 6 finished up and we headed back to our Airbnb for one last night in Syracuse. The next day, we saddled up and rode home, satisfied and overloaded on gaming goodness.
The complete haul from RetroGameCon 6. You’d better believe I’ll be at the next one!
Sunday, November 18th, 2018
While I love to buy new games at launch just as much as the next guy, I spent the launch day of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! in Brooklyn with my friends for Joe’s birthday, as we attended a Silverstein concert. The constant moshing destroyed any motor abilities of mine for the next full day, so I had to wait until the 18th to hobble to Target with my friend Ally to finally snag a copy of Eevee. It’s a retail purchase, so no real deals or stories here, but hey! It’s still a pickup, so there you go!
Friday, November 23rd, 2018
As stated much earlier, I’m a member of Long Island Retro Gaming on Facebook. On this day, I sadly spied that a fellow member was selling off his entire Dreamcast collection to aid with financial difficulties.
I honestly hate it when I hear that a fellow collector is forced to sell their games. I totally understand financial troubles, but to give up something you absolutely love just to pay your bills? That cuts really deep, man. I felt immense sympathy for him, but even still, I offered to give a good home to one of his cheaper games to help both of us out. I drove out to his place to pick the game up later that day and, after shelling out $10, walked away with a pristine copy of Sonic Shuffle. Yes, I know. Stop laughing at me!
Saturday, November 24th, 2018
During the week of Thanksgiving, my longtime friend Shawn, who currently lives in Florida to follow his dream of being a videogame designer, came up to Long Island to be with family. The following Saturday, the 24th, I woke up early to go out yard saling (hey, look at that!) and asked him if he’d like to join. He said he’d let me know after he showered and had breakfast, so I left him to it and headed out to snag a few deals alone first.
The first three houses I visited were completely barren of any videogames. The next house I visited was a large estate sale. When going to yard or estate sales of any size or kind, despite the apparent items on sale, I still always, always ask the host(s) if they have any videogames for sale. You never know what they’ve got sitting in the attic or basement that they never even once thought to bring outside because they assumed nobody would be interested. At this estate sale, most of the items on display were furniture, audio media, video media, and clothes, but nothing relating even remotely to videogames. Even still, I inquired of the host.
“Excuse me, you wouldn’t happen to have any old video games that you’d be willing to sell, would you?”
His face contorted to show thought and he then blurted, “Oh, yeah! Lemme go get that for you real quick.”
He disappeared for roughly fifteen entire minutes, and when he finally showed himself again, he presented to my now disenchanted face a LeapFrog Leapster. With no stylus. With no battery door. With no battery. With no games. With scratches all over the screen. I mentally vomited.
“Whaddaya think? 35 bucks?” was his initial breath.
I handed it back to him slowly, retorting, “No, thank you. I’m not interested in this sort of thing.”
But he pushed it back toward me. “30 bucks?”
I smiled wanly and waved him off gently, repeating, “No, thank you, sir. I’m not interested.”
I hastily said, “No thank you,” and turned to walk away before another offer could be proffered.
As I walked through the front doors of the house and headed back to my car, I heard him call, “Come on, man! 20 bones? That’s a steal!”
Shawn called me soon after and I swung by to fetch him. We headed to another nearby estate sale, where I was finally able to find something worth picking up: a PlayStation Portable copy of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2: Remix in the case (no manual, though) and a copy of Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse on CD-ROM for Windows 95 and 98. Before we could pay and head home, though, Shawn and I noticed a woman attempting to carry a couch that she’d purchased from this sale down the stairs all by herself. The young hostess of the sale sped there to help her, and Shawn did also. I wanted to help, but three people on a single couch was plenty, so I instead yelled, “Pivot!” as law dictates one must do during this kind of occasion. They laughed. I laughed. I’m not funny.
Roses are red, violets are blue.
Once the couch was down the stairs, out the door, and into the back of this woman’s pickup truck, she thanked Shawn, and so did the hostess of the sale, laying her hand on his shoulder and giving him a sly smile before saying, “Thanks, you’re real strong,” in what I determined to be a semi-flirtatious tone. I paid for my items and we hit the road. As we moved on toward our next stop, found via courtesy of my go-to Android app, Yard Sale Treasure Map, I brought up the hostess’s physical contact with Shawn.
“Say, I thought she was kind of flirting with you, dude. Why didn’t you say anything to her?”
Shawn leaned back in his seat and said coolly, “She touched my shoulder, man. I’m all good, I can ride that high all the way home.”
The next four sales we visited were unfortunately also dry of any video games, and the day was starting to wane toward mid-afternoon, so I suggested a stop at our local Savers thrift store, and Shawn concurred. We were lucky enough to find a couple of common PlayStation titles, so I picked up MLB 2000 and Dance Dance Revolution Konamix for $4 and change after tax. I dropped Shawn off afterward and went home, disappointed in the day’s turnout, but happy I picked anything up at all.
Thursday, November 29th, 2018
I spent the majority of this evening helping my grandmother decorate her Christmas tree, but after our work was done, I sat back and opened LetGo, an Android app that serves as a Craigslist-esque marketplace for people to sell their old junk. Usually there isn’t anything to write home about and I just pick up common games from people using the app, but I nearly spit out my iced tea (thanks again for making it for me, Grandma!) when I noticed someone was selling a CIB Tiger Game.com in Lynbrook, about 45 minutes west of my home in Islip. I got in contact and the seller noticed my location based on my LetGo profile and offered to lower the price to $40 as compensation for the gas it would take to hike out to pick the unit up.
Of course, I’m a cheap doofus, so I asked if he’d consider $35. His stern response was, “Yeah, if you come pick it up tonight.”
Let’s just say I left right away. Grandma understood! She wants me to follow my passions, that’s why I love her. Besides, we were all done with the tree!
I drove out to this gentleman’s home and he came outside into the cold, wintry air to meet me. He didn’t shake my hand, but instead said, “Hey, it’s in the car here,” and sure enough, walked past me to the car, where he produced the Game.com and blew some dust off of it.
He added, “So it’s got some Sharpie on the box but other than that, it’s in great condition. I tested it and it works fine. Comes with two copies of Lights Out, also. I don’t remember how I got the second one. First one came with the system back in the day.”
“Did…did you get this when it was new?” I asked, startled. The Game.com wasn’t exactly a hot-market item when it came out in August 1997. It was Tiger’s belated answer to the Game Boy and failed miserably due it its lackluster games, large size for a portable console, and reliance on PDA features to push units. No gamer cares about PDA features on a handheld, I assure you.
He responded, “Well, yeah!”
I quickly blurted out in jest, “What’s wrong with you!?” and laughed.
He continued, “Well, when I was a kid, I didn’t have a Game Boy, I just had a ton of those Tiger handheld games. And I loved ’em. When I found out they were coming out with a whole Tiger console, I had to get it. My mom got it for me that year for my birthday.”
“Wow. I think that’s the only time I’ve ever heard of someone buying it while it was at retail,” I said, laughing.
He said, “Yeah. Well, I kept it all these years, but now I’m a collector, so I’m selling off old, dumb stuff so I can collect the cool stuff I want.”
I said quickly, “I’m a collector, too. That’s why I’m here to buy your old, dumb stuff.”
We both laughed and I paid him the $35 we agreed upon and left after we shook hands and said goodnight.
When I arrived home, I busted out the cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol to clean the Sharpie off the box. After a matter of minutes, it looked good as new. Well, good as “good condition”, anyway.
I have a special kind of sickness.
The month in review:
Wow. I wrote a lot, didn’t I? I sincerely hope you stuck around to read my videogame drivel. I mean, that’s what I’m here for. Were you expecting anything different?
All in all, I’d say November was incredibly lucrative for videogame collecting. Getting to attend RetroGameCon 6 with Joe, Dustin, Zoey, and Shandra was a blast, and going yard saling with Shawn was pretty radical, too. Oh, and I sold my soul and drove almost an hour for a failed handheld console. It’s whatever, let’s not talk about it.
It’s December now, and I’ve already gotten a few things I’m ready to drone on and on about next time, don’t you worry. If you’d like to see a video about my November 2018 pickups, laden with facial hair and profanity, check it out here. Other than that, be on the lookout for the next installment of This Yard Has Saled!