UPCOMING EVENTS

  • 06/23/17 - Carl E. Ocker...   06/23/17 - Witman Auctioneers, Inc....   06/22-23/17 - Bird In Hand Auction...   06/24/17 - Rene Snyder...   06/24/17 - Rentzels Auction Service, Inc....   06/24/17 - Milestone Auctions Gallery...   06/24/17 - Zettlemoyer Auction Co. LLC...   06/24/17 - 3 Seasons Auction...   06/24/17 - Bodnars Auction Sales...   06/24/17 - Goodrich Auction Service Inc....   06/24/17 - Horst Auctioneers...   06/24/17 - Tom Lorah Auctions, LLC...   06/23-24/17 - Miller & Siegrist Auctioneers LLC...   06/24/17 - Wiederseim Associates, Inc....   06/24/17 - Leaman Auctions Ltd....   06/25/17 - Costea's Auction Gallery...   06/25/17 - Ron Rhoads...   06/25/17 - Cordier Auctions & Appraisals...   06/25/17 - Earl Macilwain...   06/26/17 - Toomey Auction Service, Inc....   06/26/17 - Robert H. Clinton & Company, Inc....   06/27/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   06/28/17 - Delaware Estate Sales...   06/28/17 - Allen & Marshall Auctioneers & Appraisers...   06/28/17 - Martin's Auction Service...   06/28/17 - Embassy Auctions International...   06/28/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   06/29/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   06/28-29/17 - Barry S. Slosberg, Inc....   06/29/17 - George Miller IV Auction Co....   06/30/17 - Bostwick Auctions and Gallery...   06/30-7/1/17 - Chesney Auction...   07/01/17 - Cordier Auctions & Appraisals...   07/01/17 - Horst Auctioneers...   07/01/17 - Wagner Auction Service...   07/01/17 - Blums...   07/02/17 - Cordier Auctions & Appraisals...   07/02/17 - George Gibney...   07/04/17 - Doug & Vickie Hardy...   07/05/17 - Diefenderfer Auction Company, LLC...   07/05/17 - Wilson's Auctioneers & Appraisers...   07/06/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   07/08/17 - Howard B. Parzow...   07/08/17 - Kimberly Hemingway...   07/07-08/17 - United Auctions & Antiques & Rentzels Auction...   07/11/17 - Hartzell's Auction Gallery, Inc....   
  • 06/23/17 - Carl E. Ocker...   06/23/17 - Witman Auctioneers, Inc....   06/22-23/17 - Bird In Hand Auction...   06/24/17 - Rene Snyder...   06/24/17 - Rentzels Auction Service, Inc....   06/24/17 - Milestone Auctions Gallery...   06/24/17 - Zettlemoyer Auction Co. LLC...   06/24/17 - 3 Seasons Auction...   06/24/17 - Bodnars Auction Sales...   06/24/17 - Goodrich Auction Service Inc....   06/24/17 - Horst Auctioneers...   06/24/17 - Tom Lorah Auctions, LLC...   06/23-24/17 - Miller & Siegrist Auctioneers LLC...   06/24/17 - Wiederseim Associates, Inc....   06/24/17 - Leaman Auctions Ltd....   06/25/17 - Costea's Auction Gallery...   06/25/17 - Ron Rhoads...   06/25/17 - Cordier Auctions & Appraisals...   06/25/17 - Earl Macilwain...   06/26/17 - Toomey Auction Service, Inc....   06/26/17 - Robert H. Clinton & Company, Inc....   06/27/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   06/28/17 - Delaware Estate Sales...   06/28/17 - Allen & Marshall Auctioneers & Appraisers...   06/28/17 - Martin's Auction Service...   06/28/17 - Embassy Auctions International...   06/28/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   06/29/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   06/28-29/17 - Barry S. Slosberg, Inc....   06/29/17 - George Miller IV Auction Co....   06/30/17 - Bostwick Auctions and Gallery...   06/30-7/1/17 - Chesney Auction...   07/01/17 - Cordier Auctions & Appraisals...   07/01/17 - Horst Auctioneers...   07/01/17 - Wagner Auction Service...   07/01/17 - Blums...   07/02/17 - Cordier Auctions & Appraisals...   07/02/17 - George Gibney...   07/04/17 - Doug & Vickie Hardy...   07/05/17 - Diefenderfer Auction Company, LLC...   07/05/17 - Wilson's Auctioneers & Appraisers...   07/06/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   07/08/17 - Howard B. Parzow...   07/08/17 - Kimberly Hemingway...   07/07-08/17 - United Auctions & Antiques & Rentzels Auction...   07/11/17 - Hartzell's Auction Gallery, Inc....   
  • 06/23/17 - Carl E. Ocker...   06/23/17 - Witman Auctioneers, Inc....   06/22-23/17 - Bird In Hand Auction...   06/24/17 - Rene Snyder...   06/24/17 - Rentzels Auction Service, Inc....   06/24/17 - Milestone Auctions Gallery...   06/24/17 - Zettlemoyer Auction Co. LLC...   06/24/17 - 3 Seasons Auction...   06/24/17 - Bodnars Auction Sales...   06/24/17 - Goodrich Auction Service Inc....   06/24/17 - Horst Auctioneers...   06/24/17 - Tom Lorah Auctions, LLC...   06/23-24/17 - Miller & Siegrist Auctioneers LLC...   06/24/17 - Wiederseim Associates, Inc....   06/24/17 - Leaman Auctions Ltd....   06/25/17 - Costea's Auction Gallery...   06/25/17 - Ron Rhoads...   06/25/17 - Cordier Auctions & Appraisals...   06/25/17 - Earl Macilwain...   06/26/17 - Toomey Auction Service, Inc....   06/26/17 - Robert H. Clinton & Company, Inc....   06/27/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   06/28/17 - Delaware Estate Sales...   06/28/17 - Allen & Marshall Auctioneers & Appraisers...   06/28/17 - Martin's Auction Service...   06/28/17 - Embassy Auctions International...   06/28/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   06/29/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   06/28-29/17 - Barry S. Slosberg, Inc....   06/29/17 - George Miller IV Auction Co....   06/30/17 - Bostwick Auctions and Gallery...   06/30-7/1/17 - Chesney Auction...   07/01/17 - Cordier Auctions & Appraisals...   07/01/17 - Horst Auctioneers...   07/01/17 - Wagner Auction Service...   07/01/17 - Blums...   07/02/17 - Cordier Auctions & Appraisals...   07/02/17 - George Gibney...   07/04/17 - Doug & Vickie Hardy...   07/05/17 - Diefenderfer Auction Company, LLC...   07/05/17 - Wilson's Auctioneers & Appraisers...   07/06/17 - Alderfers Auctions & Appraisers...   07/08/17 - Howard B. Parzow...   07/08/17 - Kimberly Hemingway...   07/07-08/17 - United Auctions & Antiques & Rentzels Auction...   07/11/17 - Hartzell's Auction Gallery, Inc....   
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Collecting Vintage Computer Games Of The 1980s
Collecting Vintage Computer Games Of The 1980s

March 9, 2017

Collecting Vintage Computer Games Of The 1980s

By Shawn Surmick

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Some of the fondest memories of my youth center around the fun experiences I had with my first computer. Looking back, I can still remember the day I got it. I was 10 years old, and my parents took me to Hess’s flagship department store, located in the heart of Allentown, Pa. It was there where I was told they would be buying me an Apple IIc home computer. The reason that particular machine was chosen was due to the fact that the school district I attended at the time used Apple computers in its classrooms and learning centers. Truth be told, I had very little intention of doing any kind of school work on that machine. I wanted the computer due to the complexity and variety of computer games that could be played on it. At that point in time, in order to play some of the most graphically involved games, you had to have a personal computer instead of just a home video game console. Some of those computer games looked incredible in the advertisements that graced the pages of my favorite video game magazines of the time.
In the 1980s, would-be computer owners had a plethora of options from which to choose. Casual computer owners could simply choose one of the many Atari home computers that were popular thanks in part to the rise of the Atari 2600 video game system. Meanwhile, Atari competitor Commodore would hit massive success with its line of Commodore 64 and Commodore 128 machines. More dedicated computer enthusiasts would opt for an IBM DOS-based machine or one of the Apple computers that my parents chose to buy for me because most school systems used Apple at that time.
By the time the 1990s would arrive, home video game consoles would wrestle massive amounts of market share away from home computers and become the number one way to play some of the hottest games. Meanwhile, both Atari and Commodore would face severe financial woes and exit their respected computer markets in tandem. Apple would be left as a mere shell of its former self thanks to the board of directors’ infamous decision to replace famed rock star CEO Steve Jobs with businessman John Sculley. This decision would leave Steve Jobs returning to the helm a little more than a decade later and outing Sculley with the praise and full support of the computer company he founded. Unfortunately, thanks to the rise of Microsoft and the success of the Windows operating system, Apple would face tough competition, while the PC would enjoy ongoing market dominance to this very day.
Today, with all the media attention being paid to classic video games and high value Nintendo games, classic computer games that came packaged on 5.25 inch floppy disks are often forgotten. Ironically, it is much harder to find complete and near-mint computer games from the 1980s than it is to find classic home video games from this era. This is because while a mass-market Nintendo game could sell upwards of several million units, the average computer game would be considered a mass-market success by selling just a few hundred thousand units. Most computer owners at the time did not purchase a computer for the sole purpose of playing games, and sales figures further supported this. As a result, a tremendous amount of classic and highly sought-after computer games were released during this time. Unfortunately, the amount of classic video game collectors far outweighs the amount of classic computer game collectors. As such, some of the most incredible computer games released in the 1980s can be had for a fraction of the cost of some rare video games. Speculators be damned.
This brings us to the question of value. Computer game collectors are in the minority in an age where home video game collecting is all the rage. Most of the early and highly sought-after computer games were made by companies such as Electronic Arts and Interplay - companies that still exist today and are quite successful. A lot of the most popular computer games of the day were very intricate pieces of art that came packaged in over-sized boxes and easily lost pieces like cloth maps and metallic tokens that brought the game to life. This is why finding working and complete vintage computer games from this era can be quite challenging.
Some of the most popular games are based on either early text-based adventure games that have little to no on-screen graphics or beautifully crafted graphical powerhouses of their day that were set in a mythical world containing complex role playing elements. Collectors of this era readily look for mint and complete copies of games from the ever popular Ultima series, “The Bard’s Tale” series of games, and the classic “Zork” series of games. Even in near-mint and complete condition, most of these titles will sell for about $30 to $80 each on auction sites like eBay. Some exceptions do sell for the few hundreds, but those are exceptions and not the rule. Ironically, even though a lot of these titles can easily be considered somewhat rare and very hard to find, few will ever sell above their original retail price from when they were first released. Most of these games are a textbook example as to why something considered “rare” does not always have a lot of monetary value (speculators, take note).
Outside of the many hardcore Dungeon and Dragon-like role playing games made for early computers, enthusiasts are also seeking out popular home versions of some of their favorite arcade games of the time. Sadly, most of these are only worth a few dollars each, with some obscure titles selling for $30 or more, complete in their original boxes. This type of collecting is a very niche market because most of these games are easily emulated on modern day home video game consoles and play so much better in modern form. As such, a lot of these earlier translations are left forgotten in the tales told by nostalgia-filled enthusiasts who remember gaming on a computer rather than a home video game console.
Collectors looking to get into classic computer game collecting need to understand that this is not a market for speculation or financial investment. The generation of enthusiasts who grew up loving some of these titles and seeks to collect them has already acquired them or has no desire to do so. Still, I am always drawn to seeing vast collections of mint and complete computer games from this era. In an upcoming article, I plan to look at another niche trend that has developed in recent years - collecting computer games from the 1990s. Until that time, for those of you who, like me, still remember classic games like “The Bard’s Tale,” this one’s for you. Game on!