Growing up, I didn't treat my video games and consoles with care. I cut up my Final Fantasy III SNES box for a school project. I scribbled in my NES instruction booklets. I banished old systems to the bottoms of closets and toy boxes when I received upgrades.
It's because of people like me that the secondary games market is thriving. There's a big demand for old, neatly-boxed games accompanied by instruction booklets that don't feature characters screaming swear words in red crayon. Unfortunately, since most people treated their collection with the same lack of reverence I did (we're #1!!), hale and hearty games are hard to come by – especially games released in limited quantities towards the end of a system's lifespan.
In other words, collecting retro games is an expensive and complicated hobby, but too many people believe old games are extraordinarily valuable, period, regardless of what condition they're in, or how common they are.
That's why a recent episode of Storage Wars has some retro game collectors rolling their eyes. A buyer named Rene Nezhoda secures a locker full of what appears to be vintage game stuff for $1500. He brings in notable retro game collector Phillip "Fluffy Gamer" Braden to sort out the trash from the treasure, which is a good move. They paw through the collection, and a few noteworthy finds get a bit of screentime, including Bubble Bobble 2 and S.C.A.T. for the NES (what an unfortunate acronym), and M.U.S.H.A. for the Genesis. Bubble Bobble 2's loose cartridge and S.C.A.T.'s cartridge go for around $150 - $200 on eBay. M.U.S.H.A.'s cartridge goes for about $300.
Not bad. The final haul is estimated at $45,000, though we really don't have a good idea of how the crew reaches that number. We just see boxes of random stuff with numbers ticking up and up – including a box containing an NES and some old VHS tapes. The camera also flashes by some interesting finds, like a Vectrex vector-display console from 1982. An in-box Vectrex can earn you $600+ on eBay, but the Vectrex we see in Storage Wars is loose and dusty. We don't know if it works.
There are other brief flashes of "treasure," like a box full of Game & Watch systems. This could be another potentially decent find, but the word here is "potentially." We don't see the names of the Game & Watch handhelds Nezhoda and Braden find (some units are worth more than others), nor do we receive any indication that they're even working. Jumbled boxes of Atari games are valued at thousands of dollars.
You can see footage of the find here, though the sound's been turned way down to avoid a copyright strike.
I don't doubt Nezhoda made back his $1500 without a problem, but I'm skeptical about the final tally of $45,000. Career retro game trader Pat "The NES Punk" Contri is certain Nezhoda's supposed treasure trove isn't worth anything close to $45,000. His friend Ian Ferguson, who helps run a used game store, concurs.
If you feel like putting some numbers together, Nezhoda shifts through some of his finds game-by-game, each one marked with an asking price. As some of the commenters on his videos point out, many of the games are well above eBay prices. Nezhoda has also called out Contri for saying the games aren't nearly as valuable as Nezhoda believes they are.
Retro video games are serious business.
I'm not deeply involved in the collecting community; I just have a passing interest and a general knowledge of how things work. Nezhoda may have scored $45,000 worth of games in a dusty storage room. If he did, good for him! But if I had to guess at a number or forfeit my life, based on the info we're given in the episode, I wouldn't say his find is close to $45,000.
However involved you are (or aren't) with used game collecting, however, there's a lot to take away from all this hot drama. For starters, approach Storage Wars with a pocket full of salt: The show is currently entangled in lawsuits for allegedly rigging "big" finds.
Second, approach all stories about how "thousands of dollars worth of video games might be in your basement!" with a dumptruck full of salt. Your yellowed SNES isn't worth much, nor is your library of childhood NES games – unless you happened to collect the likes of Dragon Warrior II, III, and IV. And if you have a box full of Atari 2600 games, for what they're worth you may as well carry the cartridges into the woods and take pot-shots at them with a BB gun.
If you read this site on a regular basis, this is all probably review. Just be sure to educate well-meaning parents and grandparents who watch programs like Storage Wars, then call you excitedly to say you should sell your "Nintendo tapes" to pay off your student loans.