Caution on Craigslist

As a child, my mother and grandmother warned me about the dangers of deals that looked too good to be true. Initially, the inexperience of youth prevented from understanding their wise words, but as I aged, that advice never left me.

During my junior year of high school, I began building a computer as a replacement for the Acer desktop (our family’s first personal computer) my mother purchased several years earlier. As I neared the end of my PC building project, I searched for the final remaining piece of the electronic puzzle: a video card. I desired a 3dfx video graphic card for years, but ironically, 3dfx went out of business the same year of my computer build, making it difficult to find one of its cards in brick-and-mortar stores.

With few affordable options left in the brick-and-mortar retail market, I tried something new: eBay. Mind you, this was back in the early days of the eBay and eCommerce in general, so there were plenty of folks green like me. The words of mom and grandmother echoed in my head as I searched the website for deals, and sure enough, I caught wind of a scam. Someone who seemingly sold 3dfx cards for a dollar was only selling information on how to buy said cards. Thankfully, I avoided that seller’s nonsense and eventually found a good deal on a Voodoo card. However,that experience soured me on eBay, and it took almost a decade before I purchased something again on the site.

Since returning to eBay, most of my transactions go smoothly but problems do occasionally occur, mostly the result of poor descriptions or bad packaging. Fortunately, eBay does feature policies that make it easier for refunds in such cases. Sometimes these policies do get abused by unscrupulous people, but I’m glad eBay keeps these policies in place. Last year, however, I broadened my eCommerce horizon by searching Craigslist for some potential deals. Outside of one decent yard sale, the pickings often remain slim by my (cheap) standards, but one type of ad constantly caught my eye:

Beware.

Rarely do I browse Craigslist without seeing these types of ads. All of them promise video game products for incredibly cheap prices, and many of them say the seller is located in downtown Chicago. Initially, I almost fell victim to these ads, but on the advice of my parents (yes, I still consult them) I backed off and am glad I did. After doing some research, I found a 2016 Reddit post on the matter, in which user “illegalsandwiches” discovered how these ad scams work by using a decoy email address when contacting the poster of one these listings. What follows is illegalsandwiches’ account of the experience:

Ignore the “cash only” portion of the sale, the verbage is usually taken from another ad (as well as the picture). When you reply to the email address, they will tell you that they are too far away from you and they can ship the item next day if you Paypal them. You pay them, and just never get the item. I had replied to one a long time ago that said that they only take MoneyPak cards for payment. One of them replied with some type of form that I needed to fill out with my name, age, birthday, SSN, “as he was selling this for his business” and needed this information for his records.

Sound shady enough? Upon reading Craigslist’s tips on avoiding scams, the first thing appears on the list in bold letters is “Deal locally, face-to-face.” Immediately following that tip (also in bold type) is “Don’t extend payment to anyone you haven’t met in person.” Obviously, the requests of both posters violate Craigslist tips, so common sense is key here. No matter how good a deal looks, if it seemingly asks too much of you, pass.

Upon seeing these ads, do yourself and others a favor by flagging these listings and admonishing anyone you know who comes across them. Hopefully, we can dissuade people from posting these dubious listings and avoid future scams. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Big Money on The ‘Bay

Remember in the early 1990s when some of us collected video games hoping that they would be profitable one day? Back then, it was understandable if skeptics wrote off such a possibility; there weren’t many well known instances of video games selling at auction for high prices. Of course, the medium itself was just a few years removed from the North American video game crash of 1983.

My how times have changed.

Reading Gamespot earlier today, I saw this article about a recent eBay listing of video game items by a user named “videogames.museum”, who is from Milan.  It’s a massive collection–over 6800 video games (throughout PAL, NTSC, and NTSC-J formats), 330 systems, and hundreds of controllers and accessories– that reportedly took the seller over thirty years to amass. There’s a lot of cool rare items included, like a pair of Famicom edition Game Boy Advance SPs, the Hitachi Gamenavi Saturn, and both red and blue Biohazard (aka Resident Evil) Dreamcast systems. The starting bid for all this treasure? A cool $550,000.

Now, a starting bid like that may make some of you all judo flip. If you really want to get dizzy, know that if this auction were to end at the starting bid, it might be somewhat of a bargain (yes I used that word). Last year, a French eBay user sold a video game collection for  just shy of a million euros, which is slightly over $1.35 million. Appropriately, the collection’s location was listed as “Gaming Heaven”.

It’s still surreal to read articles about some of these game sales. It seems like only yesterday that I was waiting for the new Funcoland price listing to arrive, or shopping for Nintendo cartridges at Montgomery Ward’s Electric Ave. Now we live in a world where brand new black box Nintendo games sell for no less than three figures on the ‘Bay, and it’s not unusual to see some new titles or rare video game merchandise sell for tens of thousands of dollars. Just last month, a collection of the entire Super Nintendo game library sold on eBay for $22,000. Last August, a prototype of the original Legend of Zelda sold on eBay for $55,000, making it the highest selling single NES game.

I’m reminded of those adults from my childhood who thought video games were a waste a money of money and had no chance of being profitable. Good call, guys!

Peace & Pixels

Update: Apparently the Super Nintendo library mentioned in this article did not sell; it has been re-listed on eBay.

Fun & Foibles in Game Collecting

Ugh! This blog is nearly two weeks into its existence and it is abundantly clear I still have no clue what I’m doing. Whining aside, I’m going to switch up the focus a bit and cover video game collecting. Although I’ve been a gamer most of my life, it wasn’t until recently that I became serious about video game collecting. I’ve taken a few lumps here and there in my endeavor, and I’m going to share with you all some tips to follow that might be helpful should you decide to get into the action. For many, this is probably the basic math, but some of the rookies might find it generally helpful. Let’s get to it!

1. Do Your Research

Research is a collector’s best friend. Before purchasing anything, learn all you can about the product(s): what it’s worth, how rare it is, where can you find it, and who has it. Knowing the value of a game can be tricky at times, since there really isn’t a standard guide for it. However, web sites like videogamevalue.com and videogames.pricecharting.com can be good sources. Both sites have an extensive selection of games, and include some pricing trends. For prices of old arcade cabinets, www.arcade-classics.com can help. If possible, always check the vendor’s history, not just the seller ratings (i.e. the approval percentage). Although seller ratings are helpful, they don’t tell everything, so make a habit of checking the vendor’s customer/seller comments. Look for anything that might be suspicious; remember, this is your money and your time. The best person to ensure you get the most for your efforts is you, so be thorough and investigate.

2. Ask Questions

Take the word “assume”, put “never” in front of it, and you’re good. It’s never safe to assume anything in business, so if there is something you don’t know or unsure about, ask. Here’s an example. I was looking for a brand new N64 on ebay, and I came across one with a gold controller. After reading the item description a few times, I became suspicious and contacted the seller. Turned out the system itself was not actually new and had been played several times. The only thing new about the system was the gold controller itself, which had never been used. Fortunately, I hadn’t bid on the item, so I thanked the seller for the info and moved on.

3. Know Your Item Conditions

To segue from the post above, be familiar with the definitions of item conditions on any website or at any store you deal with. If you’re looking to buy new items, this step is especially important because you need to be sure what you’re buying is actually a new product, not something resealed or “like new”. Actually, it’s quite common to see resealed games sold as new. To prevent being tricked, familiarize yourself with the official seams that games are sealed with. Always inspect the pictures thoroughly, and if there are no pictures immediately available, request some from the seller. When at a store, definitely inspect the game from top to bottom. If possible, try to test the game before purchasing it to make sure it works well.

4. Be Patient

Sometimes it pays to just hold fast. I say this realizing there will be times that you find a rare (and legit) item you want, but have limited time to get it either for a good price or just at all. Remember, make sure that what you’re trying to get is exactly what you want. Here’s another tale. Last year on ebay, I was looking for a new copy of an old out of print wrestling game. I came across the title on a listing that included six other supposedly new games. I ordered the full set, only to later (much later) discover that only one of the games was not resealed. Unfortunately, that game was not the wrestling game I was seeking. Thus began my education on what “new” can actually mean online.

Earlier this year, I found the title again on ebay. This time, the game was actually new, as indicated by the official seam its plastic covering was sealed with. The title was listed at a very low starting bid, about an eighth of the highest cost I’d ever seen it sell for. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the scratch for the game and of course, hardly anyone saw the listing and it sold for peanuts. Hindsight is king here, since there was obviously no way I could’ve known I’d see that game again, nor know the price and condition it sold for. However, if I had just displayed a little restraint, I might have positioned myself to get a better deal than before.

5. Keep Records

Game collecting is business, so always keep a written record of what’s happening to your time and money. This is especially important if you are using an online payment service; you never know when the thieves will hit. If you ever suspect that something is amiss, having your own records can allow you to check anything that might be suspicious. Additionally, written records can provide a starker visual of how you’re spending you money, which could prevent you from having those surprising “Did I really spend that??” bills.

Beyond finance, written records can be useful for tracking things such as seller conversations, item pictures, tracking numbers, and the like. All of the above and then some were needed when I had trouble returning an item to a seller last year. I purchased a video game console online, but decided that I needed the money more so I contacted the seller about a possible return. I didn’t get an immediate response, but since I had only one day left on my policy, I sent the item back. Unfortunately, the seller told me she never received the item. It took several phone calls, two aspirins a day, and a whole lot of paperwork before I was finally compensated for the item. If I hadn’t had all my records handy, I definitely wouldn’t have gotten anything but a migraine.

6. Have Fun!

Really, isn’t life better when you have a smile on your face? Not to be homiletic or stupidly obvious, but doing something you enjoy just makes it easier to do. Why choose a pastime that feels like jail time? There will probably be moments when you will be frustrated, fed up, and frankly just won’t want to see another game when collecting. Then you’ll take a deep breath, regroup, and get back with it. If that doesn’t work, there’s always spelunking.

There you have it! A few tips to get started in the wonderful world of game collecting. In the future, I’ll probably write some more game collecting related articles, Until next time.

Peace & Pixels