Collector – Rob MacBride
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What got you started collecting on/around the area of games?
A number of things really, I’ve lived my life in gaming; From the earliest time all I could think about was playing video games. First console was a 2600, and as I grew older I often had to sell my current console & cart library in order to raise funds for fancy newer consoles I simply had to have.
Eventually I got to an age where I was able to hold onto my collected consoles & games, then in my twenties the first few decades of video gaming had officially become retro, which fed my obsession in all new unhealthy ways. Before long I had a small museum in my house, consoles behind glass on perspex plinths etc. it was a brave new world for game appreciation.
Can you tell us what you collect?
At one point I was collecting anything and everything I could safely store, cart or console, now I’m far more picky and exclusive. If collecting for long enough, you develop a mental encyclopedia of all the rare stuff and begin an exclusive long term hunting expo.
Nowadays I’m restoring & reselling large packages from my collection in New Zealand. My attitude has changed for a number of reasons; partly because a great deal of it is either uninteresting junk or hasn’t made the cut due to poor cosmetic condition, and I need to keep the addiction at bay to avoid flooding my war chest back in the AU. I also know the marketplace now, I know how to get a great package to sell for decent bunt, so you condense down and refine your collection, once I would have rescued a PS1 copy of Who Wants to be a Millionaire from the Salvation Army, but soon you have ten copies and its time to offload (I feel I should clarify that I’ve never owned Millionaire for PS1).
What do you find pleasurable/enjoyable about it?
The most important thing to remember about retro game appreciation is the solid-state media generation has died out, the gratification of holding something precious like this in your own two hands is an extinct tactile pleasure, being upheld only by the big three console devs and even those arenas are sparse in solid state media. Thus the intoxicating nostalgia trip of a well preserved retro game collection is now tantamount to the pleasant atmosphere of a personal library, filled with stately hardbacks, or a collection of framed fine art. Its an environment rich with nostalgic culture and ripe with unique conversation for everyone you share it with.
Do you have any items that hold a special significance for New Zealand/Australia?
Well I have the Japanese Megadrive port of Taito’s New Zealand story… discounting my genuine collector’s items, I’ve got these uniquely kiwi items:
Super Skidmarks is an Amiga game later ported to the Genesis/Megadrive by Codemasters and packaged in one of those bizarre 3rd party Codemasters cartridge shells with the additional two control pad sockets built into the front, for simultaneous 4p support. The game was developed by an oft forgotten Kiwi powerhouse by the name of Chris Blackbourn, look him up and see how his post-Skidmarks talent has taken him all over the games industry. Bit of a powerhouse.
I have two Sega SC3000’s:
So its is a PAL port of the SG1000 released back in 1983, which pre-dates all domestic Sega consoles released in the west. Its a strange transitional period release from the 2nd gen of regionally branded home computers and the 3rd gen of 8-bit cartridge driven consoles. It connects to the television and has keyboard commands / coding with its own basic language, and additionally supports cart based games in a side socket. The black PAL version had a limited release in New Zealand, Australia and select areas of Europe with only 23 titles from its library localized for western release, making it a tidy number for collectors to aspire to as a complete set. The games are surprisingly enjoyable too when considering their age, Star Jacker for example, seems to be a widely cherished fave.
Since arriving here I’ve also been collecting 2nd/3rd gen game consoles exclusive to New Zealand, they’re regional versions of internationally common hardware. I enjoy the rarity of the NZ variations and hope to restore/resell some internationally. Among the clone Pong machines I have a couple of Grandstand Video Master’s and a couple of Monaco Tunix consoles, both with a healthy crop of their own oddball looking cartridges
I also have a fleet of Fountain Force 2 consoles, in cream and black varieties, these are about to ship back to the AU to be restored and introduced to a collector marketplace who’re hopefully fascinated by Kiwi console apocrypha. Much like the Sega computer, the Fountain console has a finite number of 32 released games and the manufacturer has even given us the benefit of number branded cartridges, so collectors have a tangible goal!
What are the biggest challenges you face as a collector?
Any serious collector will give you this answer; semi professional re-sellers are recognizing booms and exploiting trends in the marketplace. This means a particular title or platform becomes highly sought after, then re-sellers new and old attempt unrealistic and insulting price hikes on these and related items. The inflated items never sell to collectors, which means they remain in the marketplace where they’re observed by other hopefuls, who decide to hock their own similar items for even more exorbitant prices.
The worst is when financially well off tourist-collectors put up the dough, usually unaware of the inflation, which only encourages more inflation… Often these trends don’t last and the items previously perceived as rare become a glut in re-seller communities, debunking their scarcity. Meanwhile other cases see the official value of certain retro items permanently raised, It takes away from the magic of finding little gems when you’re on the hunt, and reminds us that only a finite number of solid state games are still in the wild, few buried treasures are left, the bulk are trapped in collections… like mine…
How do you select what you collect?
Selecting what I get is based on identifying a bargain, or picking up cartridges from other regions like Japan or non-english speaking regions of Europe. often these are less sought after by mainstream western collectors, and still rare to the west in their own unique ways. buying in bulk is a great way to collect because often the best deals are bulk, you’re getting a higher quantity of potentially valuable gems, and the seller is often unaware of individual market value, just looking to offload some old junk they found in the crawl space. If you’re buying internationally then you’re also gonna make a saving on the shipping cost when buying bulk.
Professional re-sellers will often create bidding wars over dilapidated junk because they’ve seen an individual item in the lot of rare value, the tricky part is re-selling all the other junk they accumulated in that same lot. Rookie re-sellers will often greatly over estimate the value of items and attempt to auction them individually at unrealistic prices, this is always the worst way to go about reselling games, people aren’t prepared to pay exorbitant mark-ups unless the title is of individual completionist value to the buyer. All this factors into my own selection criteria.
Are you “completionist” do you want everything for a certain platform and all its assoc stuff?
All collectors are working toward completionist goals, consider HD console cheevos, golding your smart phone game rankings, buying asinine plush toy idols of developer mascots; completionism is at the core of gamer-life. Though I don’t see myself turning into one of those hoarding collectors with piles and piles of stuff they’ll probably never glance at twice. I have set criteria for the items behind my crosshairs, I have an excess for many platforms but as time goes on the excess is always selectively thinned down to worthy titles.
Some people aim to collect every title ever released on a range of platforms with significant nostalgic attachment, its a bit gargantuan in scope and often results in a surplus of frankly terrible games, James Rolfe/Pat Conti are a good examples of this kind of ambition. In recent times I’ve been working toward complete release collections from developers like Data East, Technos, SNK and Treasure; these are devs I’ve enjoyed my whole life, though its a lofty goal in terms of rarity and value when you look at some of the titles under those devs.
Photos by Bern Stock.