In every video game collectors live’s (careers?), there is that one pickup that will be remembered forever. Maybe they found that incredibly rare piece of gaming history. Perhaps it was about volume, an unimaginably large amount of games. Or possibly it was that they met some really cool people along the way, shared some great conversation, and developed fond memories.
For me this week in Japan, it was a combination of all of those things. Quantity, quality, value, nostalgia, and an overall unforgettable experience.
I had lived in Osaka, Japan previously in both 2010 and 2012, and have always enjoyed hunting for retro games. My previous apartment was in a working class neighbourhood not far from the city centre and right next door to a pretty run-down looking shotengai (shopping arcade). Down one of the small side alleys, I had previously visited a toy store that caught my eye for having one or two old arcade cabinets out front. On my previous visit, the only real games they had for sale included some new old-stock N64 games that still retained their original price tag from their release, around $70. That was way too heavy for me, and besides that the old guy running the place was giving me the evil eye. I left, but made a mental note of the shop’s location.
Last week I found myself in the same neighbourhood, and figured it would be worth a shot to check it out. Perhaps after years of not selling his merchandise, the old guy had decided to finally lower his prices. Upon arriving in the store I was disappointed to find no arcade cabinets out front and not a single game on display. Pokemon cards, Digimon figurines, and random board games of all variety filled the shelves and the cabinets. I noticed that the ceiling was covered in vintage posters of Sega Saturn and N64 games, so I knew I was in the right place, but where were the games?
Instead of the old man, there was a (only slightly) younger woman working the shop on this occasion. I asked if she had any video games, and she said that they didn’t. I had mentioned my previous visit, noting how they used to have video games. She said that they had since stopped selling them, focusing on toys instead. Bummer.
But then something caught my eye in one of the cases; it was a Nintendo Gameboy Pocket Printer, brand new since the day it left the factory. I asked how much, and she said 1000 yen (about $10). Not bad, but not life changing. I saw at the bottom of the display case a stack of old Sega Saturn display cards. I asked to take a look, and she didn’t mind at all. She explained that these were retail display cards that shop owners could display instead of the actual product, used to curb theft from little Japanese kids with sticky fingers. Pick a few that you like, she said, they were a gift.
Free video game memorabilia; I liked this lady.
For whatever reason, I had a hunch and asked if I could just look deeper, inside some of the old storage cabinets and behind the shelving. And it was then that I knew I had found what I was looking for.
Box after box of old games, consoles, promotional items and more. She seemed as surprised as I was, and was twice as curious to find out what was inside each one. We both pulled up a seat and begin digging through each box, pulling out anything gaming related. A Super Famicom here, a Sega Saturn there, and some of those N64 games I saw on my last visit – it all came coming out. She was having just as much fun as I was, and then we reached the end of the supply. That was fun, but now it was down to business. The only thing left was to negotiate.
What did she want for this stuff? Was she as stingy as her dad? And would she even part with some of this stuff?
I asked her how much for the Super Famicom, yellowed with age. She said she didn’t know and asked me. Not wanting to come on strong, I said I didn’t know either! She settled on 500 yen (about $5), and I knew I could get the rest for cheap. While it wasn’t the cheapest price ever for a Super Famicom, I was happy with it and knew that the rest of the lot was worth much more.
We settled on a price and she began to box it all up for me. It was fascinating watching how meticulous and organized she was boxing up the old games, it definitely reminded me of myself packing up my old apartment in Vancouver. I began to admire the posters on the ceiling as she was packing, returning to what had caught my eye originally. She noticed my interest and offered me another one of those as a present. She handed me a ladder and told me to take my pick.
I decided on a poster for a Super Mario Golf Tournament held in 1999 – I’m a sucker for all things Nintendo, so couldn’t pass it up. It was almost comical watching her wipe it off before packing it up , the cloth turned black with filth. The poster, like the rest of it, had seriously been there for the last 15 years untouched. If I hadn’t shown up, who knows how much longer it (and the rest of all of this stuff) would have stayed there?
I’ll be following up this post soon with a detailed breakdown of what was in the boxes, so stay tuned! I’ve also added some of the items to my eBay store, as I will be leaving Japan at the end of the month and unfortunately cannot take anything with me. If you are interested in anything else you see, don’t hesitate to contact me as well.
What was your most memorable gaming pickup? What made it so special? Share your memories below!