Sunday, December 4, 2011

Whats in a dream?

We've all had those dreams, the ones where no matter how long ago we may have had them, they're still as clear as the day we awoke from them. I have a handful of those dreams, most of which are merely a combination of chemicals recessed within my memory awaiting me to recall it for some unknown reason.

One dream has me walking into a lone, tiny pawn store on a hill and falling in love with a bass guitar, which had obviously been set ablaze and setup to be playable. Another involved walking through an abandoned basement video game store, with the only source of light coming from the basement windows, and sifting through tons of dust covered bins and glass display cases. But as vivid as these dreams are, they don't compare to the one that haunts me the most out of all of them.

It was a sunny, clear day in what I assumed to be some kind of an old 1930s district of Chicago. All the buildings were brick and abandoned. One building in particular caught my attention, and something within myself told me that a Nintendo NES top loader was inside.

The inside of the building looked as though it was an old hardware store. The building was tall and narrow, the walls were brick and there were some broken wooden stairs, as well as broken glass everywhere. The standard dust and cobwebs were present too.

Even though I had this dream the better side of 8 years ago, this dream is still as vivid as ever. I still remember feeling the cool weather, the sun at my back and smelling the dust rustled up from searching through the abandoned building. I never found anything inside, and much like this dream I have yet to find a Nintendo top loader.

Is it a sign that I will find one within a brick building? Will I find a good deal on one from Chicago, or will I find one abandoned for free? What this dream means is anyone's guess, but I know that I will eventually find one, no matter where I have to find it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The mystery continues...

As a collector there are quite a few things I actively keep my eyes open for, yet most of them always seem to elude me. There is the NES top loader and there is also the Sega Master System, among many other things. Now I've seen a couple Sega Master Systems, albeit behind glass, and they generally seem to run the same price as other systems that are considered rare. Perhaps the SMS is rare, but I just assumed that since it wasn't as popular as the NES it wouldn't be as highly sought after as it is, I was wrong.

Like any other collector, I'm always keeping my eyes open for systems, games, controllers, etc. that I don't already own or want really badly, but the problem is that I feel that I can't keep my eyes open long enough to get the things I want. I've had to accept the fact that I've undoubtedly missed out on some super deals when I couldn't be at any given thrift store. But most of the time I try to live by the philosophy of out of sight out of mind, or it simply wasn't there.

Yes I've bought a lot of really great stuff at really great prices, but there are still things that I haven't even held in my hands, both items mentioned above are tops on that list. I've passed up good deals and kicked myself later, but at least I've seen it. But it really drags on me that I have never in my life held an NES top loader or Sega Master System and had to debate whether or not I wanted to buy them or not. Obviously if I found them, it probably wouldn't be much of a debate.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart, and not just because its a holiday filled with eating and sleeping. When I was a kid my NES was inside my parent's room, as they had the only other TV in the house that wasn't in the living room, so I spent a lot of time in there playing my NES and one particular Thanksgiving was no exception.
It was a cold Thanksgiving and I was keeping warm by huddling on the floor with my Advantage controller, while playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game. I remember having a blast, but I wanted more so I went to and spent the next 10 minutes trying to get the Advantage to enter the codes properly.

Once I entered the codes correctly I skipped all the way to the last level with a large number of lives. After a short while I had beaten the game and although I didn't beat it the proper way, it still felt like a victory to me. The smell of the cooking turkey and the excitement of beating the game, no matter how, all mixed and gelled within my mind as a great moment in both my video gaming history and Thanksgiving day history.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Flea Markets, Dirt Malls, whatever you want to call them!

In my hunts I often find myself at thrift stores, but I also spend a good chunk of my time sorting through indoor flea markets. Over the course of time, I've learned there are a few different types of flea markets. There are ones where all the vendors seem to have meetings, so they all have the same insanely over the top prices on video games. And there are the ones that have some seriously clueless vendors who either don't browse the other booths or just don't give a damn, which can be both good and bad.

With the first it seems like an idiot disease, spreading like wildfire from booth to booth. Everyone watches everyone and makes sure they don't undersell their products, possibly giving someone a good deal on their unwanted items. (GASP!) You can tell this type of flea market fairly easily as you'll notice more than one booth that has any spare video game cartridge thrown in among their doilies and trinkets. All of these games, no matter which booth, will be marked at generally the same price.

Locally there is a flea market with a handful of booths with NES games, all $5, but they're just tossed in among CDs, DVDs, Dolls, etc. I'm not saying SOME games aren't worth what these people are asking, but for argument's sake the fact is vintage games don't always equal CHA-CHING! The main problem is some games are highly sought after, so collectors will pay almost anything just to say they own one, which as a collector myself I can kind of see their point. This causes the untrained vendor to think they may be missing out on cash by not knowing what they have. To rectify this, they simply mark all their games at a set, and often times insane, price and hope they're not losing any money. The truth is the fact that true hunters, like myself, will NOT pay those prices unless the game is an absolute steal, even at the set price they're asking. Although rarely to never the case, I've honestly seen(!!!) the occasional person who has a childhood flashback right in the store and picks up the game simply based on that, paying no attention to the price tag.

On the flip side comes the clueless vendor, which as I said before is sometimes good and bad. This type is the type that I like, vendors playing against each other in an all out war of who will sell their games first. With these vendors who have games, one will generally be fairly reasonable, while 2 or 3 will be completely out of their minds, not taking a hint that the other booth has the exact same game for $2 and it hasn't sold in the 5 weeks it has been there.

Or for a real example, an Xbox. One booth wants a reasonable $50 for a fairly good looking Xbox with everything needed, as the other wants $180. This is the old, black Xbox and not an Xbox 360, most of which aren't even $100 used either. Or an Atari Flashback, one vendor wants $20(fair since it was CIB) and the other wants $75.

Simply clueless vendors can however be a good thing as they just want to make a little profit off the things they offer for sale. I enjoy flea markets quite a bit, because vendors will pack their booths with anything they think they can make a profit on. If they find it in their attic, closet, basement, etc. they will put it up for sale and just see if it goes. Often times I would love to make an offer for a lot of video games, but since the vendors setup their booth and leave, there is absolutely no haggling to be done with these people, so their products just sit there and take up space.

My principle is simple, I refuse to pay $5-10 for the one or two games that are worth it, simply because if I do the vender will see their stock moving and think that price must be ok! I would much rather take the chance and see if the vendor will lower the price just to get things moving. If I see a game for $3 or less, most of the time, if everything checks out, I will buy it. I found Casino Kid 2 for $2.50 at a flea market, originally priced at $5 the vendor was having a sale that day and just wanted to get rid of their games. Sadly, they moved out of that flea market before I could buy up all the games I wanted, but hopefully they'll return.

Almost every flea market I've been through has vintage video games, most of them are games I don't want to buy due to lack of interest or the price they're asking for them, and for one reason or another nobody else buys them either. If nothing else I've learned that even though there are more video games at the flea market than their are in the thrift stores, the vastly varying minds of each different vendor causes finding a deal to be just as much of a crap shoot as the thrift stores.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Almost not worth mentioning!

I know better, I do! But it always shocks me to go into a Salvation Army that has given me video games for 39 cents and a Gameboy Color for 59 cents, to see a WALL of NES games for $3 each. Call me spoiled, call me crass, but I almost refuse to pay more than $1 for cartridge based video games anymore. I will, on occasion, buy a game I really want for more, but that is from a resale shop such as Disc Replay or something like that.

Salvation Army literally had a wall of NES games today, maybe 30 or 40 games, all lined up on a shelf. Most of them were mint, in the black sleeves and most had their manuals. But $3 each!? Come on! Sure there were great titles, and I snagged most of them, but still they have no overhead on these. They didn't buy them off Frankie five fingers and need to earn the profits before the fuzz show up.

Today though, was my mistake. In my haste to make a deal I settled on $1 each if I bought more than 10. I should have asked if I bought them all could they do it for $20, if there were really 40 games.

I searched the building for an NES and came up empty handed, probably mostly due to my desire to cut and run with the deal I had gotten! I'm not sure how many other game hunters or maybe resellers go to that store, but it seems that systems and games that I pass up don't last long. I truly hope that I can get more of those games, as I was mainly picking through and just taking what I wanted right away.

If I can't find them again, at least it was a good experience to have, and I got a great deal on some really good NES and SNES games. Though I can hope that I was the first to pick through them, I probably wasn't, and I can assure you that I won't be the last. What games did I miss, I'll never know. Hopefully more things like this will occur and I will get more and more games.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Funny how that works out, huh?

When I bought my Nintendo Gamecube I only had 3 games; Mario Kart Double Dash, Donkey Konga and the Gameboy Player boot disc (sans the actually Gameboy Player), which isn't even a game. The first of which was too scratched to play and the other, well its Donkey Konga! I really had nothing to play so my Gamecube sat dormant in it's box for quite a while.

There was a copy of Madden 05 sitting in a Salvation Army for what had to be 4 months, untouched, but only recently did I decide to check it out. The game was complete and everything looked great, until I turned the disc over. The disc had a noticeable scratch on it, so I was afraid it wouldn't work. Even though it was $1, I passed it up.

After a week of sitting and wishing I had a game to get my Gamecube up and working, I decided I would just pull the trigger on the Madden and get things rolling. What happened next may amaze you but its a simple fact of life for myself, the game was GONE. I've seen this happen with numerous items I've picked up, pondered over, placed back down and walk away from. It seems no matter how long the item(s) in question sits on the shelf, after I pick them up and later decide I want them, they're gone.

Now there are a few different outcomes of this that I have personally experienced. First, I will probably find the item at a better price somewhere not long down the road. Second, I will never find the item ever again. Or the third and final outcome is that will free up money for me to make another purchase.

Funny how that works out, huh?

So after missing out on Madden, which didn't break my heart in the least to be honest, I decided that I wasn't going home empty handed and headed to Disc Replay. The first one had barely any Gamecube games, so I went to another one. This one had just what I was looking for... Animal Crossing! I popped the case open and there was the manual! I figured for $3.99 I would just go for it and cut my losses, just to give my Gamecube something to do!

So in this case outcome number three came into play, so all wasn't lost and I've been playing the hell out of this game. I will be writing another article soon about Animal Crossing, with a little backstory to why I wanted it. Keep your eyes peeled!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Here we go again...

I have a love hate relationship with thrift stores. This may be due in large part to the fact that thrift stores never cease to amaze me with their seemingly endless supply of either don't give a fuck, or don't know their ass from a hole in the ground. You may already be able to sense the anger, and trust me it probably won't get any better!

My Tuesday, as many of my Tuesdays are, was filled with thrift store hopping. What did my eyes happen to see inside one Salvation Army but a Sony Playstation 3. The box was pretty damaged, but it otherwise looked to be closed. After I saw the price tag I didn't care to continue looking at it to see whether or not it had been opened.

There are a lot of factors that go into this, and to be honest I don't care! Was it new or used? Was it a fat or slim? What size hard drive was it? Was it a refurb? Was it factory sealed? How did Salvation Army acquire it? I have no answers for any of those questions, but they wanted $200 for it.

Ok, I understand that Salvation Army is entitled to ask whatever they want for their products and they deserve to make a fair profit, keying in on fair. There is a reason Salvation Army is a thrift store, you never go into the place and expect to walk out ready for a magazine photo shoot wearing Salvation Army clothes, although I'm not saying that is impossible. You go into a thrift store and expect to get a good deal because they have no overhead on products, all profits are 100%.

Lately I've noticed that quite a few local Salvation Army stores have a plethora of laptops and cellphones in the glass cases, I'm assuming these are probably overstocks. But what warrants Salvation Army to ask retail prices on all these items? Even if these items are brand new and never used, Salvation Army really shouldn't be asking these prices for these items.

Salvation Army should learn to cut someone a deal. It isn't like little Timmy saved up his lawn mowing money all summer and went to Salvation Army to buy himself a PS3 and 10 games, he would go to an electronics store for that. In this economy some thrift stores have decided to up their prices (on everything!) to make more profit off the demand for lower priced goods, that just seems like a greedy business practice to me, but I digress.

Keep in mind that with that price tag at other places you get a guarantee that if the product is bunk in any way, you can return it for an exchange or refund, not so with Salvation Army. The Salvation Army policy is, in short, once it leaves the store, you can't bring it back anymore. (Clever rhyme there huh?) So while you're paying $200 for a PS3 at Best Buy or where ever, if it craps out you're not out of luck. With Salvation Army you just have to fork over that much cash and take it on the chin of it breaks down.

I've made quite a few good deals at Salvation Army stores, more so than any other thrift store, so I can't be too harsh on them. But from time to time I notice a shift in pricing, sometimes they just tag it for small change and put it out, while other times they'll mark everything for way more than it's truly worth. Oddly enough most everything sells, I've went back looking for overpriced items just to own it and it's gone!

I guess this is a supreme case of taking the bad with the good. While I can pickup video games for anywhere from $2 and under, the PS3 that I don't want to own, but still feel offended by their asking price, has to sell for $200 with no promise of it working and no return if it doesn't.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Since the release of GTA IV everyone has been looking forward for GTA V. As events such as E3 come and go without so much a sneeze, cough, burp or even fart from Rockstar or Take Two about a new GTA, the rumor mills still spin wildly out of control. With rumors abound ranging from cast lists to release dates, only the developers and distributors know the truth behind any of them.

I'm a massive GTA fan, as I'm sure many of the people who play GTA are, because the game draws you in and holds you tight. With each installment we're treated to a bigger and better world, which only stands to reason as they've taken their time to get things right. With the absence of a Grand Theft Auto for anything other than the handheld consoles in over 3 years, the fans are getting restless. I don't count the DLC, even though released on disc as well, as a GTA release because they were simply adding on to the base of GTA IV.

Fans are in a hurry to see GTA V and rumors say they may be holding GTA V for the next generation consoles, whatever those may be. At first I was pretty upset thinking we may have to wait for the Xbox 1080 to come out, break down within 2 weeks after people shucked out $700+ for it and go through this whole fiasco again before we see another GTA. But I was simply reading what was written and not between the lines.

To say they're holding GTA V for the next generation consoles makes perfect sense! We're due a modern Vice City and San Andreas, which hopefully we'll be allotted before we're forced to suffer through another money grubbing system scheme from Microsoft and Sony.

I'm hoping we see something soon from Rockstar, if nothing more than to cool the embers of rumors still burning up the internet. Their silence speaks loud and clear, they're working on the next biggest thing. Whether it be GTA San Andreas 2, Vice City Returns or whatever they're cooking up, we know for sure they can't afford to let the GTA series die.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Not again!

It seems to be a recurring theme with this one Salvation Army of how they over price stuff so drastically that it just frustrates me to no end! I can understand a few things here and there, nobody knows everything about everything, but it is almost always a consistent issue with them.

To be fair, I have scored some things from that Salvation Army at pretty low prices, but not nearly the same as I have other Salvation Army stores. Which brings me to another point; I've never paid over $1 for NES games at ANY Salvation Army store, ever! They usually range between 50 to 99 cents, but this one wanted $4.

$4?, you may be asking yourself, yes $4! Whats wrong with that for NES games!? Just as I said, I've never paid more than $1 for NES games at any other Salvation Army, including a CIB Fester's Quest (yeah yeah!).

I wouldn't be so pissed off if they were more open to accepting the fact that they over priced the games, but I know they'll just look at me like I'm trying to make trouble. Again, Salvation Army is a thrift store, it isn't retail and all profits are 100%. So why can't they accept the fact that these games are $1 at most and let me buy a handful of them?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Go out and buy a new one!!!

In the world of "My NES works every time, but my Xbox 360 stopped reading discs 4 months after I bought it!", we tend to get complacent about how long things will last anymore. When searching for clues of what to do when something breaks down, I've found the most popular answer has become "Go out and buy a new one!!!". Have we become so lazy that instead of expecting top performance from an item we paid top price for, we're just willing to toss another chunk of cash down for the instant gratification of knowing we own one that works now?

When my friend gave me his RROD Xbox 360, I had no clue that the controller needed a constant stream of batteries, so I started researching my options. I either bought an official rechargeable pack or I kept replacing batteries, I decided I would spring for the rechargeable pack. After doing some research, I bought a rechargeable pack from an online Chinese vendor because the reviews were basically the same as the official pack, "Lasted 6 months, now it won't hold a charge." and I only paid about half of what they wanted for the official pack.

After I got the 360 fixed, I never played it for more than a few hours. Honestly, I didn't even play it for more than a stretch of maybe 3 weeks before packing it away in favor of one of my retro systems. When I packed the system away I always removed the battery from the controller, and when the system was in use I never used the controller without having the charger cable hooked into the system.

So after a long stretch of 3 or 4 months, I was shocked to find the battery wouldn't work anymore. I wasn't sure how long it would last, but I was expecting a little longer than I got from it, considering it's non-constant usage. But since I didn't pay much for it, I think it would be safe to say I may buy another one. I don't expect much from China, when its presented as such, but when I see a big named item, I expect that company to back it up no matter where it was built!

I live under the delusion that there is almost always a way to fix something, you just need to pinpoint the problem and fix it. I'm not scared to take something apart and tinker around inside with my soldering iron in hopes that it will work again, because usually it does! I've fixed systems and games alike using this method.

So why have we become so quick to just toss the old things that don't function or don't function as well as they used to, just to go buy a replacement and end up in an endless cycle of buying things that break down?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Strange Score!

Can you tell me what exactly is going on in the image you see above? There is a perfectly logical explanation, and that is why we're here today! This is an extremely rare find. NO! Not Madden 11, but the fact that I found Madden 11 in a thrift store!

If you'll notice there are two price tags on the front of the case, one ($24.99) is from a local game and DVD resale store called Disc Replay. The other (purple $.99) is in fact from my favorite Salvation Army. There may be a few of you who still don't quite understand just why this has become such as find, so let me explain even further.

I'm not a huge fan of Madden, although I do play them and still prefer the earlier SNES/Genesis versions to their modern day counterparts. I understand that the Madden series is released annually and that the numeric of each Madden is a year ahead of the actual year in which it is released, so that is to say Madden 11 was release in the year 2010. Also, Madden 11 is, as you'll noticed, an Xbox 360 game, which is an extremely rare thing to find in a thrift store, at least around here.

Given that Madden 11 is barely a year old, originally cost someone $25 at Disc Replay and was found (COMPLETE) in a Salvation Army thrift store, I have to say this qualifies as an extremely odd and rare find. Again, I am not saying the game is hard to find, I'm merely saying that under these circumstances, this item wouldn't normally be found.

The game does have a noticeable scratch where the previous owner had put their Xbox 360 up vertically, and the laser moved up and scratched the disc. I'm unsure if the game even works in it's current state, but I am sure it can be resurfaced to work for a couple bucks at the same store the game was originally purchased from. So you think I paid a measly $1 for this game? No! As it was my favorite Salvation Army, I got the senior discount, total $.52!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

PS2 Review: The Getaway

As I've said, and as I do, I challenge myself to try out games that are in the ilk of GTA. I won't be calling The Getaway a GTA clone, I will simply refer to it as an open world game. The reviews for this game looked good, which I've found that generally good reviews mean the game is good and poor reviews are blown way out of proportion, but some games do genuinely suck. Here we have a game that doesn't live up to all the hype I was prepared for.

The Getaway is set in London, and since I've never seen the movie of the same name I can't tell whether the game is based on it or not, but my guess is probably so. The game is meant to play like a movie (complete with a ton of cut scenes you can not bypass!), so you have no maps, health bar, ammo count, nothing on screen other than the action, which can make playing through the game a headache at times. While playing the game, you'll notice the overall stripped down, simplistic feel to it, but it isn't a completely loss.

The game is split up into 2 sections of 12 missions, making the game 24 total missions, that intertwine with each other as the story progresses for both characters you'll be playing. The story seems pretty movie plotty and overplayed with that "seen it before, seen it done better before" feeling. The missions themselves are challenging, coupled with the drastically different gameplay aspect, sometimes the missions take more tries than are even necessary! The standard missions structures are used here; driving, stealth and run and gun. Although that seems to be the main structures for every open world game, much like the rest of those games the story seems to push them along and make them feel unique.

A large part of the game is driving, which is the main reason I wanted to try this game in the first place. The driving control layout leaves much to be desired in comparison to the GTA series, but there is a good selection of cars to drive and they are enjoyable. Without an in-game map, driving directions are handled via a turn signal system, when you need to turn left or right the corresponding turn signal will light up and remind you that you need to go that direction. My only gripe with the vehicles are that you blow the engines way too easily, forcing you to find another vehicle without being hit by traffic (which is an instant death).

The stealth missions are very straight forward as all you have to do is run around and hide behind things to avoid being detected by NPCs. However, when you need to shoot you'll notice there is a lock-on targeting system, but it gets a little confusing when you need to shoot foes that are closing in in a hurry while your character just flails about and you have no clue who you're aiming at without any target marker.

Health is another issue as the only way you can tell if you're about to die is the amount of blood on your clothes, as well as the way your character stumbles about. The only way you can regain health is to find a wall to prop yourself up against and rest, which becomes a serious issue when foes pop up from seemingly nowhere while you're regaining your precious health.

Even with the difficulty curve brought on by the game's simplicity and demand to be a controllable movie, this game didn't take long to beat all 24 missions. Then, and only then, will you unlock the free roaming mode (unless you use the cheat code). Remembering that there is no in-game map to guide you around the city, free roam isn't as fun as it could have been. There are a variety of hidden cars to be found, although there are no open doors like within the missions to explore, but there is the whole of London to explore.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sam's Newfangled Scores: First Edition

My last entry inspired me to start up a cousin series to my Sam's Scores over at TVG. One that I can fill with more modern scores that don't fit the criteria of vintage gaming, but are still things that I found at cheap prices and were excited to have found. With all the being said, this version will be further and fewer between than the original, because I don't purposely seek out modern gaming items, but if I run across them I will pick them up, if they're cheap enough.

In the inaugural post will be a lot of Playstation 2 games that I picked up at varies Salvation Armies. At one store I found a huge stack of PS2 RPGs, with titles like Shadow Hearts, Wild Arms, Suikoden and many more. I went through the stack and sorted out which ones had their original slips, manuals and games and which ones didn't. Naturally I lean toward buying the complete games rather than the ones missing manuals and having fake Shamestop cover arts, as I just prefer it that way! After sorting through them and doing a little price checking online against what Salvation Army wanted for them, I picked up a handful of them (Dawn of Mana, Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, Tales of the Abyss and Xenosaga 3). If I had the money, I would have snagged them ALL at the price they were asking.

Part two is some miscellaneous PS2 games that I picked up at the other Salvation Army I frequent. It wasn't much, but I saw them and decided they were cheap enough that I may as well pick them up and see if I could use them. First was Backyard Baseball, child's game yes, but still a video game none the less. I also found Mafia, which I have for the Xbox but was missing the map, since the PS2 copy had the map I have since made a complete set for my Xbox and have just the game and case for the PS2.

But then one of the guys from Salvation Army asked me if I was looking for PS2 games and ran back to grab some he had just found. In a melted Gran Turismo case, there was Midnight Club Street Racing all by itself, in the wrong case! The cashier was just going to throw the game away if I didn't want it so Midnight Club, which I know I love part 3, was a freebie!

Backyard Baseball -$1
Mafia -$1
Midnight Club Street Racing -$Free
Dawn of Mana -$2
Kingdom Hearts -$2
Tales of the Abyss -$2
Xenosaga 3 -$2

What I bought (left) and the stack that I passed up, but someone ended up with (right).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Well this is odd...

Normally I post all my scores over at TVG, but today's score is a bit too modern for that. Let me first start out by saying at least 75% of the gaming items I have bought within the past year have been due to (in no small part) 2 men who work at a local Salvation Army. I won't tell you their names, in case their superiors are busy working and happen to find my blog.

These guys understand the fact that although Salvation Army is a business, they're a resale shop and not some over the top boutique of pre-enjoyed wares. I've managed to haggle, which is an extremely rare feat these days, and get a lot of good stuff. Its simple fact that if you please a customer by giving them a good deal, in the long run, you're going to make more money because that customer keeps coming back for those good deals!

Twice a week, and sometimes more if I see something that keeps me awake at night telling me to go back and pick it up, I do my thrift store rounds to keep tabs on what they have and what I might want. As any hunter will know, it all depends on the day. Sometimes I go in and find absolutely nothing, while other times I go in and wish I could buy everything and have to walk away disappointed that I couldn't afford to purchase it all.

Most of the time I keep an eye out for the vintage stuff, but I also keep an eye out for the more modern stuff as well. Today, I thought the whole day was a wash until I walked into that Salvation Army. The very first thing I do is I always check the main glass case for systems, wires, controllers,etc. I saw a couple N64 style RF adapters and a Gamecube power supply, nothing special so I went about my bric-a-brac hunt and found nothing.

I asked the usual guy what they had and he told me they had some random wires and nothing much else, when he picked up a Nintendo Gamecube and said it all came with this, but the system doesn't work. Being the hunter I am, I had to prove it to myself so he plugged it in and the light popped on, but the door wouldn't stay shut. After analyzing what all might need fixed with the system I asked him how much he had to have for the whole bundle (Gamecube, AC brick and AV cables). After a bit of haggling I felt secure with a price.

After I got the system home, I thoroughly cleaned the inside tray where the disc goes to make sure that wouldn't later become an issue with gooing over the reading lens. Then I took a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol to the lens and simply hoped that it would work, not knowing whether it would or not. I popped in the closest Gamecube disc I had, a Gameboy Player boot disc (which I also bought at that Salvation Army!) and it worked, although it told me no Gameboy Player was attached to my system.

I took a moist cleaning scrub to the whole system and made it shine like brand new, despite its few battle scars. Overall the system works (for now at least) and I tested it as thoroughly as I possibly could with Donkey Konga and Mario Kart Double Dash, which itself needs resurfaced. Other than the door release button being stuck everything else was well worth the price! I used to own a Gamecube that needs the laser replaced years ago, but after many failed attempts at adjusting it myself, I toss it in the trash, sadly throwing the AC brick away with it as well.

I wished I had kept the 2 games I had for my old Gamecube, but I sold them to get more vintage games a while back, I did however keep the memory card! I don't have a Gamecube controller, but I do have an adapter that allows me to use a Playstation controller. Want to know how much I paid for the Gamecube? $4+tax! It even came in a Shamestop Gamecube box, which is kind of cool.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thrill of the hunt and the murder of the hunter!

As an avid video game hunter, I enjoy watching other people make videos of what they've found during their hunting adventures. Its something I wish I could do for both TVG and just for my own personal finds that don't really fit the criteria for TVG. Youtube is rife with people uploading weekly, monthly or just the occasional video of what they've found in flea markets or thrift stores. Even Gamester81 seems to have caught the bug and now has his own finds videos.

But last night, while on my usual youtube "finds" rounds, I saw a video that made something clear that I had never really thought about before. PenguinNintendoAge said he found an SNES game at Goodwill, but it had been a long time since he actually saw a video at Goodwill since they started using their online auction site, because they send all their games to be sold on there. His sentence only sat on my brain for mere seconds before it completely clicked. Goodwill has dried up because they do send all their stuff to be sold online!

I've found very few and far between deals at Goodwill and extremely rarely have I seen vintage games. Recently I bought some NES games from one Goodwill, some Gameboy and GBA games at another, and even a Genesis game at another! But for the most part they are over run with overpriced PS2 and Xbox/360 games. I do understand that it all depends on what is donated, and trust me throughout my adventures I've learned that no matter what you find on a shelf that doesn't mean you're going to find anything more than just that (such as an N64 controller doesn't mean the system or games were donated as well, etc).

Here is where this turns from frustration to anger. Goodwill gets all the good stuff! I'm not even joking, when I started watching there wasn't a single week go by that they didn't have at least 1 NES 2 (aka Top Loader) listed and sold it for an insane price. So it breaks down that people just dump boxes off at Goodwill and Goodwill makes a huge amount of money off of these things. (100% profit, remember?)

I am dying to get my hands on some pretty rare things that just don't show up in places like Disc Replay or even flea markets, without there being a hefty price tag alongside them. I thought Goodwill was going to be my ticket past this nightmare and I guess I was wrong. In life there are no free rides and nothing comes cheap, Goodwill is really proving that everyday with their business practices.

I have no choice but to keep my eyes open and go to as many Goodwills, and other thrift stores and flea markets as possible, in the hope that I can find what I'm looking for. Now when I look at the lack of video games I'll browse through and wonder how much of that stuff (sold locally) may have been at my finger tips, had it not been for money hungry Goodwill and their ebay rip off.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Travel, through video games.

I take it as a personal challenge to try any game labeled as a GTA Clone. It is true that I love the GTA series, and that may be a large portion of why I try these games. I also feel as though there is a deeper connection within myself that these games expose and utilize to make themselves more fun. I am a complete sucker for an open, expansive environment in a video game, because it taps into my desire to travel and explore different places.

Outside of gaming I love to travel, and nothing compares to a good road trip. There is nothing like getting in a vehicle and hitting the open road, listening to music, slurping down a cheap gas station soda and just watching the miles pass. And maybe I'm the only one, but I think video games offer forms of travel not too much unlike real travel. Obviously games have new lands, whether or not they're inspired by real life locations, to explorer and many different things to interact with.

I can remember as far back as the Sony Playstation there were a handful of games that got me started. While normal gamers might play through the missions and explore the game's landscape later, I would spend all my time literally following traffic laws, stopping at stop lights or stop signs and doing the speed limit. I loved pulling into random drive ways and just pretending I was getting out of my car and going into my house. Sound crazy? Yeah, I know!

With the leap from games like Driver, The Italian Job, Auto Destruct and naturally the original GTA games (all PS), the first 3 of which only offered car exploration and GTA was merely top down exploration, to the era of being able to get out on foot to explore seemingly endless scenery. I've spent countless hours walking around in games like Driver 2, GTA 3 (VC and SA), Scarface, Total Overdose, Driver: Parallel Lines and even The Great Escape and Prisoner of War! These games just open a door to places I've never seen before. It just seems that no matter how many times I've been somewhere within the game, if I push back the boundaries just a little more I always find something new.

Some games such as Total Overdose and Scarface have terrible handling cars, so sometimes its just more fun to get out and explorer places on foot. While games like Driver 2 and Driver 3 have terrible walking abilities, so I try to keep walking to a minimum and take more advantage of the bounty of cars these games offer. GTA San Andreas is one game that even after years of playing that game, I'm still finding new places.

Even when GTA uses the same name for a city but changes the landscape (Liberty City/LC Stories and Vice City/VC Stories) they do it in such a way that it stays fresh and even though I've seen 90% of that city before, I still enjoy exploring it all over again, just a few years before my last visit (or was it first visit..?). As I said before some cities are modeled after real places and others are fictional and this really adds to the overall excitement of exploration.

From time to time I get the urge to pop in these games and travel through the worlds they offer as if I were going back to visit an old friend. Sure its fun to play bumper cars with the vehicles and see if pedestrians can outrun you before they become roadkill, but each game gives off an enveloping feeling to suck you into the environment and bring you into it's world. The sandbox style of game has a deeply rooted place in my heart and I will always try them out, because no matter how bad the game play may truly be, I am a sucker for a city waiting to be explored!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A collector's nightmare!

Remember the childhood memories of opening up the box and pulling out that brand new NES game, popping it into the system and playing until your thumbs hurt and your eyes bled? How about when you grew away from the NES and took all your old games and systems to your local game resale store to put the credit into a more modern game or system? Remember them giving you an ultra low (often times insulting) offer, and when you told them you would rather not sell any of it they handed you a receipt and shoved you out the door? I do!

I was always late into the console wars, except when I was 16. With my summer job money I bought a brand new Sony Playstation about a year or so after it's release... that was new to me! (The PS later became my down payment for my first guitar!) After playing some games I borrowed from friends, I wanted to start building my own collection and since my NES and Genesis were just sitting there collecting dust, they were the keys to getting credit for my new collection. I did what any other absent minded teenager did, I took everything in a large box to FuncoLand (now ShameStop) and awaited the fortune they were about to offer me so I could clear out all of their Playstation games.

What really happened was a lot less exciting. The store didn't even want my Genesis simply because I didn't have the OEM power supply, however they didn't have any problem offering me pennies for the games, controllers and everything else. During the "think it over" time they allotted me, I was busy pondering whether I should take the credit and buy Resident Evil or just take everything home and save up to buy RE on my own. I decided I didn't want to part with my goods, but as I turned around they shoved a long receipt in my hand and told me to have a nice day. I didn't even get the chance to open my mouth and say what I planned on saying!

I remember trying to correct him and telling him I'd rather not sell my stuff, as he handed back my Genesis, to which I was quickly shot down with a "Too late man!". All that was left was to just go ahead with what I came there to do, buy Resident Evil. I can remember the game was used and it was $14. To tell you how bad it honestly was, I still had to pay almost half of that out of pocket! That day I walked out of FuncoLand with a Genesis deck and Resident Evil, in the wrong case.

Most of the NES games I lost weren't brand new, but they did have their boxes and manuals because I bought them from a local video rental store that was selling off their old games and systems. I had games like Wayne's World complete in the box but since the game sucked I didn't worry (at that time) about passing it off to get a game I would rather play. To be honest, I love Resident Evil. I played it all summer and didn't give a single thought more about being completely and totally screwed over by FuncoLand, it was over and done with as I was shooting Zombies and solving puzzles through a giant mansion out in the middle of nowhere.

As time went on I never really cared about what games I kept and what games I let slip through my hands, all in the pursuit of something I wanted or just the fact I'd forgotten what I had. Many times I sold games to help buy a new guitar and other times I lost games through no fault of my own. An example of  this would be my first Atari 2600 and games (including Harbor Escape!), which my dad forgot was stored inside an old truck he owned and he sold it with everything still inside!

Today I wish I had a tighter grasp on the games I let go, games that I can never get back in the condition I parted with, without shelling out a small fortune. Recently I was just messing around online to see which of my current games might be the rarest, as suggested by an online rarity guide. While going through the guide, I noticed many of the games I had lost; the CIB Wayne's World (NES), Harbor Escape (2600), CIB Final Fantasy 3 (SNES) are now worth huge bucks, and that is just to name a few.

Through ignorance of my own as well as other's, I've lost a ton of games. Whether or not most of those games had any value beyond the pleasure they brought me as a child, I'm not sure but I know that from here on I'm going to make sure I keep a tight grasp on what video games I own. I've learned my lesson, and even when adding to my modern game collection I want it all to be as close to complete as possible or I'll just pass it up. I know someday I will look back and be glad I had saved them in the condition I did and never sold them off. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sports and their video game counterparts.

With lockouts threatening both the NFL and NBA seasons, I've taken it upon myself to play more sports games on my classic consoles. Most collectors will know that there is absolutely no shortage of sports titles for the classic systems. In fact, some collectors even hate the bountiful plethora of sports titles because they often get in the way of finding the good games, out numbering them by quite a large margin. I could personally take them or leave them. If I find a sports title I don't already own for a good price (a couple bucks max), I'll buy it.

Recently I've found myself playing a lot of NBA Jam and NHL games for my Sega Genesis. This is probably due mostly to the fact that I know I can use my Genesis 3, and it now has sound! Since my living space is kind of cramped, I need to put everything away in boxes and I find myself putting my Genesis 3 in a box right on top, along with everything I need to pull it out and plug it in straight away.

Lets talk about sports. You see all the superstar athletes doing their job and living their high paid lives in the limelight, then when it becomes about money they throw a tantrum. I don't fully understand why there is a lockout and to be quite honest I don't care! As a kid you played sports because they were fun, not because you drove your pimped out Hummer H3 to 3rd grade everyday and ate your lunch off silver platters. Why is it so different when you're a grown up?

I understand we all need to make a living, and sports stars are considered celebrities to some, but lets be honest about the payment ratio here. As my brother said to me, who is more important a trash man or an NFL MVP? Does your trash man get much camera time? No. Does your trash man live a glamorous life? Probably not. If the NFL MVP went on strike would you be stuck with mounds of rotting and decaying trash in your front lawn? No! Do we see an issue here?

Sports are suppose to be fun activities and somewhere along the line they were transformed into careers. Not to say I don't like watching a good sporting event, but I would rather know the player is having a good time instead of worrying about what diamond studded, golden chain necklace he is going to buy after the game. With everything being said, I've decided that regardless of whether there is an NFL or NBA season, I'm not going to get caught up in it. Instead, I plan on playing out my own season with my classic video game systems, they don't run crying to lawyers when money becomes an issue.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oh thrift stores..

Thrift stores and I used to have a wonderful relationship. Back when they all smelled like moldy cheese under your 400lb Uncle Lou's fat rolls and I was too young to understand the value of a dollar, everything was great! Thrift stores personified the old saying "One man's trash is another man's treasure!", but over time they've lost touch with reality and think they're bigger than they truly are.

Now, I'm sure we all know how a thrift store operates, but let me quickly refresh your memory. All items within the stores are donated at no cost to the desired thrift store and priced to sell to help keep the store afloat and help a worthy cause. Goodwill used to boast they were helping the mentally challenged and these days the only mentally challenged people I see in Goodwill are the ones who are mentally challenged through faults of their own. Throughout the course of this entry you will need to constantly bear in mind, no thrift store ever pays a cent for the items they sell, this is resale and not retail.

Locally, there are three main choices of thrift stores, I assume only two of which are big names throughout the rest of the United States; D.A.V., Goodwill and Salvation Army. As often as possible Goodwill and Salvation Army will use their causes to get you to donate, and as long as these causes are in fact being aided I see no problem with helping them help the cause, as long as prices are fair. Oh, but fair pricing shouldn't be a problem, after all every single sale is 100% profit, so why wouldn't pricing be fair?


Goodwill is seemingly everywhere! I frequent about 5 or 6 Goodwill stores locally and on occasion possibly up to 7 or 8. Goodwill offers a weekly 50% discount on all items with a certain tag color, as well as every first Saturday of the month everything is 50% off, this is a great idea to help clear the shelves to make room for new items. Now, Goodwill has a complete and utter lack of knowledge of what they sell and nothing is tested, it simply gets priced and tossed out on the shelves. This can play into and out of some people's favor, as you might find a great deal on something that was way under priced, yet you're most likely to find items are extremely over priced.

With Goodwill, there is absolutely NO bartering, they will simply refuse to sell you the item, so you either pay the price or take the chance on waiting for it's discount time to come around. I've personally found quite a few great deals in Goodwill, but there have been times I have just flat out refused to pay their prices for some beaten down, broken, over priced junk. The tag it and shelf it policy really annoys me, because it shows they take money more importantly than they do trying to help the consumer and give them the best value possible.

Goodwill also offers their own version of online auctions. Most of the time these auctions are packed with really great items, yet everything starts at $5 and there is also a handling fee tacked on for them simply touching the item, the most literal sense of handling. If your local Goodwill's auctions are different, that is because I only check my local Goodwill's auctions because shipping is always twice as much as it should be, plus the handling fees, causing most auctions to exceed, beyond a reasonable amount, what those items should be worth.

Through my frequent trips to Goodwill I would say they're hit or miss with their value, but I can't say it has been all bad because I have gotten quite a few good deals there. Goodwill is trying to become the Macy's of thrift stores and it may be only a matter of time until their prices reflect just that. Goodwill does offer a return policy, but it is so stringent that its almost not even worth the effort to get a Goodwill gift card with your money on it (no cash back FTW)! The careless attitude and letting uninformed employees go wild with a pricing gun really brings down my respect for Goodwill, nothing in Goodwill is the holy grail, no matter how much they wish it were.

Salvation Army

It seems Salvation Army does do a lot of good for communities and that is something I can respect. Sure the stores aren't as brightly colored and tidy as Goodwill, but that means lower overhead and more reasonable pricing. Much like Goodwill, Salvation Army also offers a weekly colored tag discount as well as miscellaneous holiday discounts on certain types of items. Overall, Salvation Army is my favorite thrift store, even so that isn't to say they're not without their own set of problems.

There are only a handful of Salvation Army thrift stores that I frequent, and they all vary wildly from store to store. Generally there is a religious undertone, different to my own, that gives you the sense of a friendly, painless thrift store experience. Most of the time I find my trips to Salvation Army to be a very good experience and everything is quite hassle-free, but at one particular Salvation Army it has been nothing but a waste of time. This store refuses to offer much leeway in their prices, even though any profit is 100% profit (did you remember?)!

Salvation Army doesn't check their donations, so they too have the price it and shelf it policy I hate so much. But sadly, Salvation Army goes one step further and doesn't offer any guarantee on their items, nor will they allow you to return the items! Once you've finished paying for your items, they're your's and your's for good! No backsies!

I can't let just one store ruin my whole view on the company, and I don't! Salvation Army has been fair to me and offers extremely good prices on most items, as well as friendly staff (all but that one store!). I highly recommend Salvation Army out of all of the thrift stores around here, obviously with the exception of the one store every visit has been fun, even if I didn't buy anything.


DAV is a tiny thrift store (only 1 left open locally) but they still offer great deals. DAV offers 2 discount colors per week, one is 50% and the other is 30%, so you have an even better chance of finding a good deal. There isn't much bad I can say about DAV, they've always treated me well and I've never seen anything in their store that made me want to shout "WOW! THATS A HIGH PRICE!". Although I did hear directly from one employee they rent the name, which probably means they're not so much associated with the Disabled American Veteran organization.

DAV offers a lot of holiday discounts like Salvation Army and with each trip it is either hit or miss in the manner of finding anything worth buying. Sometimes I wait for things to go on discount and end up losing them, but that doesn't mean they were overly priced. To be quite honest, DAV has some things that are over priced, but it is a rare occasion that I am shocked at how much they want for something.

I'm not aware if DAV offers a return policy, so I assume that once again your purchases are now your's. Even so, the pricing tends to be fair enough that you don't sweat the whole way home hoping you're not stuck with a broken pile of junk.

In conclusion, I love shopping at thrift stores. Most of the time thrift stores are my only outlet to finding the vintage gaming items I really want to own, or else I could just pay an arm and a leg to find them online. I've found great deals, I've found ok deals and I've found total and complete rip offs, but usually I find things that I want to own and that is why I still search thrift stores. The thrill of the hunt!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Getting Started

I figured I would open my own blog, apart from the other project I do over at