Confessions of a Wannabe Gamer: Buyback Woes

Gaming ain’t cheap.

If you haven’t discovered that, you will soon. I discovered that truism when I was 12 and bought the first game I ever purchased by myself, Samurai Swords from Milton Bradley. I still have it, by the way. A fun strategy board game in the tradition of Risk – part of MB’s “Game Master” line – it set me back a cool $35 or so. Then I discovered the Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game from Decipher, and all of my money was locked up in that for the next, oh, six years – at $3 a pack and $45 a box, I’m lucky I still have any money left to this day.

More modern games aren’t cheap either – in my last post I discussed the monetary vagaries of playing Magic: The Gathering, but that’s not the only pricey game by far – a Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder RPG book will set you back a cool $25-$45 easily, and booster packs of HeroClix and the now-defunct HeroScape will run you $10-$15 at at stretch. If you’re a tabletop war-gamer playing things like Warhammer 40,000, you may as well take out a second mortgage – minis, paint, terrain, and other ancillaries add up fast.

And don’t think I’m neglecting video gamers! Consoles still run between $250 and $300 – even for the newer handhelds, like the Playstation Vita, which retails at $299.99 on Amazon – and then there are the games, which are often $30-$50, depending. If you’re a computer gamer, playing something like World of Warcraft can get pricey once you’ve gotten addicted and started paying a monthly fee.

So, the issue becomes, how do you recoup some of these staggering financial losses? Well, first off, I need to point out that we as gamers (or, in my case, wannabe gamers) love this hobby, and while we watch our pennies, we do buy these games because we love them and love the thrill of rolling the dice and competing with friends. But still – we do want to get SOMETHING back after we’ve shelled out hundreds of dollars for the hobbies we love.

The main way? Buybacks.

Gaming buybacks can be tough. The first example that probably comes to most minds is selling your old games and consoles to GameStop, the great-granddaddy of gaming buybacks. This can be frustrating because you never seem to get your money’s worth when doing a video game buyback – and I’m not just ragging on GameStop here.

The issue is, they are a business trying to make a profit. So, to maximize profit they want A) games that people will buy, and B) not to pay too much for them so that they can sell them at a price point that is attractive to their bottom line. That’s capitalism, and I have no problem with it, as long as I don’t feel embarrassed selling my games back to them for a pittance. I once sold an original Nintendo DS back to a store shortly after the DSi came out, as well as a couple of games, based on a circular I’d seen in the paper offering high buyback. I didn’t get it, though, because I apparently failed to read the fine print indicating exceptions and caveats to the circular. Argh!

I recently took in a stack of games to one establishment – a couple of Wii games, DSi games, and some Sony PSP UMDs – and hoped to get about $15 for them. I was offered $4.80 in cash, or $6 in store credit. Ugh. I took the credit and left with my tail between my legs. To add insult to injury, the story wouldn’t take a Game Boy Advance game I brought in; luckily I was able to sell that at another establishment for $3 – also a pittance, considering the store specialized in vintage and outdated systems.

There are also buyback systems for other gamers: Magic card buyback is probably the most popular. It seems like almost every site online selling Magic cards also offers to buy them. Finding myself in need of some more cash to fund my gaming habit, I recently sold some Magic cards to a local site, and was actually pleased with the experience. They bought my cards for about less than half of their worth (not great, but c’mon) but then gave me 25 percent more in store credit. I sent the cards in, and my credit was posted the next day. That’s service.

If you’ve got too many minis, some places do accept mini buyback for games like D&D Minis, Star Wars Minis, HeroClix, Mage Knight, and so forth. Minis can get to be expensive, and if you have any rare ones that you just plain don’t ever use, you can actually make bank on them. I’m prepping some minis for sale in the future.

One of the best buyback experiences I’ve ever had comes from an unusual source – a gaming auction. This isn’t unusual – places like eBay often auction more gaming items than you can shake a stick at, but I mean a real, honest-to-goodness auction. With an auctioneer.

At BASHCon, a gaming convention held annually at the University of Toledo, one of the highlights of the con is the Gamers Bazaar and Auction. This event, which lasts for hours, in an opportunity for gamers to bring in all the games – and related ephemera (heck, people sell DVDs, paperbacks and comics at it, too) – they just don’t use. I’ve seen it all sold at this auction – everything from a bag of old keys, to sets of D&D books, to model railroad equipment, to original RPG modules (Queen of the Demonweb Pits from 1978!) to Napoleonic-era tactical games, to boxes of Magic cards.

The bidding can get competitive, as I’ve found out since I started attending. Some people will bid on anything (with the intent, I imagine, of re-selling the items online at a markup) while others are, like myself, very selective and, when they see what they want, adamant. This year I brought a bunch of different things for auction – an old D&D book and some dungeon tiles, some Alternity RPG stuff, old Dr. Who CCG cards – and was gratified that they all sold  at good prices. Now, that’s what I call a buyback.

Of course, I ended up bidding on – and winning – some nice gaming items myself (Gamma World 4th Edition, anyone?).

The cycle of gaming and selling continues…

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