the Mouth of Madness:
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
What's new this week in loonygames? As our loony editor.
elcome back, kids…this week I'm off to Raven Software to check out their latest games, (look for a report soon) so regular loonygames contributor Jeff Solomon is handling the updating. I'll be checking my mail regularly, though, so don't worry…I'll be here to catch any major goofs. But if anything goes wrong, he's to blame. :)
Regardless, I wanted to share with all of you a little secret I discovered. Regular readers of this here column have no doubt realized that I've got a thing for classic games…more specifically, somewhat obscure classic games. Well, after my recent spree of columns detailing all those great games, I decided to see how I would go about actually purchasing some of them.
Hot diggity…I hit the jackpot. No doubt you've heard all the hubbub that's going around on the web these days about online auction sites…I've used eBay before, but then it was just because I needed MS Office 97 and couldn't afford the street price. I was able to pick it up for a mere $30, and this is the real thing, right out of the box. Pretty impressive. Regardless, it simply never occurred to me to try using online auction sites as a place to hunt down classic games.
Boy do I feel silly now.
Ladies and gentlemen…you simply are not ready for what awaits you. A warning: if you have a tendency to make rash purchases, don't even go near eBay. You will live to regret it.
I stopped by just to see what was there…and started browsing. And dear lord…there wasn't a thing I was interested in that I couldn't find. We're talking about whole systems here! The Jaguar, Saturn, Genesis, SNES, NES, Atari, Master System, Lynx, anything you can think of, you can find there. Not to mention the games! I discovered that with some hunting around I could actually purchase the Infocom games of my youth, games I still consider to be the best ever made, still shrink-wrapped. Damned, be you eBay! Why must you temp me so! It's really quite a spectacle, and I highly suggest checking it out. I also recommend Yahoo! Auctions, however those tend to be a bit pricier.
But, I do have some tips for those looking to buy classic games over online auction sites. Their biggest draw is also their biggest flaw…when you buy, you're buying from a person, and not a store. As such…buyer beware. The last thing you want is to buy a defective system. So here's the official loonygames guide to online auctions. Enjoy. :)
Rule #1: Read the descriptions carefully, and know your product.
I can't stress this enough. It's not uncommon for someone to sell a system with almost everything it came with. You can usually pick up systems cheaper if they don't have a game (which is good, since some systems had some genuinely lame pack-ins) but be sure you know exactly what was supposed to come in the box. Some systems don't ship with RF adapters, and you'll want one if you've got a TV that was made in the last five years. Always, always, be sure whatever you buy has an AC adapter! If you make the mistake of buying one without one, you can usually pick them up from another online retailer, but then you're paying for more shipping…and you've gotten about $10 tacked onto your purchase. It's not worth it, since you can usually find the same system, with the AC adapter for cheaper than that.
Also, pay close attention to the wording and phrases used in the description. If the seller uses all caps and horrendous grammar/spelling, do you really want to buy from him? Remember, this is the guy you're blindly trusting with your money. Not to mention the fact that you need him to be able to carry the system (in one piece) to the Post Office and successfully send out to you…try and find the most eloquent people possible. It's just a peace of mind thing to be sure…but hey…better safe than sorry.
Rule #2: Never buy a system over $40.
Bet you think I'm kidding, right? :)
Nope…I kid you not. Never bid on a system that's gone over $40, because you can always find it cheaper if you hunt around. Now granted, if a system comes with 6 games you're going to want to pay more for it…but for a base system with 1 game and a single controller, paying anymore than $30 is silly…over $40 is downright ludicrous. If a game's brand new, in the box, with all the manuals and factory sealed, go as high as $30…but then, understand that you can probably pay about $15 for a slightly used version.
Rule #3: Don't pay extra for games you don't want.
Another big one. Quite often people sell systems with a number of games so they can get higher bids for it. Which is a great tactic if you're planning on selling, but eBay is a total buyer's market. Buyers rule the place with an iron fist…never forget that. Especially when dealing with obscure systems like the TurboGrafix 16, Lynx, and Jaguar, where there are some really horrible games out there. (Especially the Jaguar!) Why spend $60 for a system with six games if they're all god-awful? Better to spend $15 on just the system and worry about the games later. Which brings us to the next rule…
Rule #4: Games are cheap as all heck.
Your average cartridge game (used) will go for about $5 - $10. If you don't feel comfortable buying them used, you can find new ones for about $20, but more often than not there's no reason to do that. If you hunt around you can find used games that come with the box, manual, and are in perfect condition for a third of the price. And buying a system with games is usually a sucker's bet…but, if you can find a system with decent games that's not overly inflated, take it. Note the next rule…
Rule #5: Never forget about shipping.
Shipping can take a genuine bargain and make it less attractive. Always plan on spending $10 extra for shipping on systems, and $5 for games. That means that the $2.50 you just spend on a game has suddenly gone up to $7.50. That's pretty good. On the other hand, if we're talking about a really popular game, that number could be as high as $25…$30 for a used game isn't too attractive…chances are that you can find an online retailer that sells them for $20 new, so I wouldn't suggest bidding that high on a single game.
Rule #6: Use the maximum bid.
The maximum bid option can really be a wonderful tool, and can make your life much easier. Here's how it works. Let's say you want to bid on that swanky Jaguar system that's currently going for $10.50. You've read the rules above, so you're sure this is the one you want. Now then…if you place a bid at $11, you'll get your bid in there, but if someone makes a higher bid while you're away…you could possibly miss out on the chance to outbid them. Not good. Here's where the maximum bid comes in. Instead of placing an $11 bid, do it for $20. Then you can see just how serious the other bidder is. If he places an $11 bid, it'll automatically make yours $11.50. He places $12, it'll go up to $12.50, and so forth, until your maximum bid is reached. You might come home to an InBox full of e-mail saying that you got it for $16.50, but hey…at least you got it. Nothing sucks more than a last-minute outbid.
Rule #7: Always look for the oldest auctions.
When an auction gets down to the last few minutes, you can snag quite a few incredible bargains…especially since that usually means that there isn't enough time for anyone to outbid you. When you're looking for something, factor in the likelihood that you're going to be the highest bidder on an item. If you have the choice between a rock-bottom priced system that has two hours left, and one that's got two weeks left, go with the first one. There's still the chance that someone will outbid you at the last minute…but that's what rule #6 is there for. :)
Rule #8: Reserve prices are a no-no.
Like I said before, eBay is a complete and total buyer's market. Never waste your time on an item with a reserve price unless it has already been met. For the uninitiated, reserve prices are instituted by a seller who doesn't want to let go of his item for less than a certain amount of money. This is a bad thing to the buyer, since reserve prices are usually fairly high…if you're looking to sell a system, I'd say by all means go with a reserve…but avoid 'em like the plague if you're buying. The whole fun in eBay is that you can actually pick up great stuff for prices that are simply baffling…reserve prices make them more reasonable. Eww.
Rule #9: Browsing is evil.
Yep, it's true…browsing is evil. Don't do it unless you know what you're doing, and have serious willpower. You think I'm kidding? eBay can be seriously dangerous to anyone on any sort of budget…heck…it takes some incredible strength on my part to keep myself from buying everything I see. The fact that I have nowhere to put any of it is what I use to hold myself back…but it's tough sometimes.
Rule #10: Compare, compare, compare.
Don't ever be too quick to bid on anything. Take your time and search around for similar auctions…and don’t be afraid to check other sites…there are a number of bargains to be found on Yahoo! Auctions…and it's better laid out, to boot. Impulse buying can result in less-than-stellar merchandise…so take your time, and you'll do fine.
Happy hunting…and I'll see you on the auction block!
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames. He really, really, really, wants a Dreamcast. And a PSX2 would be pretty swanky as well.
Credits: From the Mouth of Madness logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. From the Mouth of Madness is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it...or we'll just forget about you. Let's see how you like it.