A Console For Five Pounds… Part 1 – The Beginning

I’ve been collecting consoles and games since I was a child, right back to the 1970s. Even though I’ve collected a wide range of other things along the way – toys, comics, action figures and more besides – gaming has always been my one true collecting passion. Like most, I’ve tried to have some clear focus although over the years I’ve amassed quite a large collection of around 40 systems and around 5,000 games for them.

Along the way I’ve sold some – games and consoles I bought on a whim and didn’t really have any interest in – but in the early days there were others I sold as I moved from one system to another or sold software to fund hardware purchases and a lot of these I regretted deeply and I’ve spent the last few years trying to rebuild these old collections. None have been regretted more so than the sale of my Commodore 64 Games System.

Photo (c) copyright Evan Amos

I’d owned the console since it was launched and despite it being a failed system, it was my return to the Commodore 64 after selling my original one to help fund my first Amiga. It brought back so many fond memories of my early days with the C64 that it wasn’t too long before I ended up buying a cheap second-hand C64 and started collecting all over again from scratch but the C64GS was another thing altogether. Being a cartridge only system I was limited to just a handful of games yet it still got plenty of use thanks to the great choice of bundled games. As space at home was at a premium I also didn’t have the room to keep it set up all the time so each time I’d finished with it back in the box it went, preserved in pristine condition.

Until a decade later when I was forced to part with it. I was exhibiting some of our work at a computer show in the retro computing area next to a display from a Commodore user group. They had a C64GS on display but it wasn’t complete or in working order. After talking about the condition of mine, I took it in the following day for the second half of the show. I was made a generous offer (at the time) for it and unfortunately I was in urgent need for funds to pay a few bills so the console found itself a new home as part of a touring display.

Time has passed and despite amassing a large collection, I do miss the console and I’ve decided that it’s time to get one back but it’s not as easy as it used to be. Originally they were a commercial failure, dropping in price to a tenth of their release price at retail before disappearing completely. Now, one in the same condition as my original will cost me well in excess of £400 but it’s a challenge I intend to rise to.

I started thinking about how I could manage to afford it and then I remembered the story of Kyle MacDonald who shot to fame for trading just one red paper clip, and through progressive trades repeatedly in the space of just one year managed to work his way up to owning a house in his native Canada. Okay, my plans aren’t quite as ambitious but I thought what if I could apply the same principles to retro gaming so the challenge is set. I’m starting out with a modest budget and my goal is to buy games and then sell or trade these, working my way up to eventually either raise enough money to buy a fully boxed C64GS or get a comparable retro gaming bundle that someone will find appealing enough to want to trade for one.

So my starting budget? The grand sum of five pounds

At this stage it may seem like my goal of owning a C64GS is doomed before I’ve even started but I’m quietly optimistic. There are a lot of charity shops local to where I live that get a steady supply of retro games in store, as well as numerous second hand stores. I’ve picked up some incredible bargains in the past with some games worth 20-30 times the price I’ve paid for them if not more, and combining that with deals on local sales groups online and I think I might just be in with a chance. Over the next few months I’ll be documenting my journey to see if I can manage to get anywhere close and the sort of deals and bargains I find along the way.

I needed to get things started though and I felt quite brave and made my first purchase with a single PlayStation 2 game – Spyro: A Hero’s Tail for £1 from a local charity shop. After a check to make sure it worked and looking over the condition to see that it was okay, I was fairly happy with it, safe in the knowledge that I should be able to more than quadruple my spend within a few days.

While waiting for that to sell i still had £4 remaining in the “pot” so I was left wondering what to do with that until inspiration struck… I’m a member of a large number of retro gaming groups over on Facebook and a large number of these run raffles for them members (as do many other non-gaming groups). I don’t know what made me do it, but on a whim I took the plunge and used the remaining funds to grab a few tickets in a raffle for a few Nintendo DS games. While I was vaguely interested initially in one or two of them for myself, I thought that if I was lucky I could maybe recoup the ticket costs if I were able to sell one of them on. If not then I was sure that selling Spyro on the PS2 would still get me back to my original starting point.

Well, it turned out that luck was on my side and I won a nice bundle of four Nintendo DS games. After they arrived I decided that they weren’t for me so it left with with four extra games. Now was the time to start turning things around but my priority now was to start building funds rapidly so I could work on reaching my goal so I needed to cash these in as soon as I could. eBay had potential but I wanted to shift these as quickly as I could so I made the decision to take them down to CEX where I was offered the healthy sum of £18 cash or £27.60 in trade-in value. At this early stage it was actually a tough call as I needed fresh stuff to re-sell to build funds up again so I went for the easy cash option getting me back up to £18 and still having a game in hand to sell!

Spyro is going to make his way to eBay in the hopes that he can take me over £20 but things are certainly looking good right now and I might just make this crazy scheme work afterall!

Obviously as I track things throughout this challenge, I’ll have to make notes of all my postage and packing costs as well as PayPal and eBay fees that I may have to deal with so funds might not always be as great as they first seem, but only a few days in and things are obviously off to a flying start…

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