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Interview: Video Game Collecting’s Pricing King

JJ Hendricks knows the costs of video game collecting better than anyone. As owner of PriceCharting, Hendricks manages a free service tracking the prices of thousands of video games, covering titles from the very first game consoles through modern releases. When we last spoke with Hendricks, we received tips for game collecting.  In today’s talk, we discuss his platform, gaming endeavors and his own collecting preferences.

How PriceCharting Makes Video Game Collecting Fun

PriceCharting is a fascinating website to use even for casual video game fans. PriceCharting is the Google Finance of video games, graphing the price of games over time, whether new, used or complete-in-box (CIB).

Video game collecting prices for Mega Man X3
Video game collecting prices for Mega Man X3

PriceCharting also offers tools like LotBot, which prices the value of buying a full lot of games listed on eBay, and eBay Game Sniper, which will notify you when games are selling for much less than their real value.

Searching for game prices is a free service, and Hendricks notes 98% of users use the site for free.

The company also offers premium services for businesses and video game collecting’s biggest fans, including downloadable pricing data.

Collectible Games Don’t Just Sit on a Shelf

Hendricks believes collectible video games have more value than other collectibles because they can still be used and bring new experiences.

Testing Station
A photo from Hendricks’s offices.  Games are played and tested on these consoles.

“It’s something that I can collect, and that I can actually still play and enjoy,” said Hendricks. “It’s not like collecting baseball cards or coins where you have it and it just sort of sits there. I can put this into my Nintendo and I can still play Super Mario.”

“A lot of those things came out when people were kids and we now have some income to buy them,” said Hendricks. Noting the distinction for game collecting,“But they’re fun to play rather than just sit there. “

How Nostalgia Impacts Video Game Collecting

“I think nostalgia is a big factor in why people collect stuff and why people get into video game collecting,” said Hendricks.

“I have three kids and the eight year old, even now, is just started to get little glimpses of nostalgia for like, some YouTube video he remembered watching when he was a little kid,” said Hendricks. “He likes playing it. Even though it’s childish for him now, he loves going back to it, it sort of reminds him of his childhood, even though he’s still a child.”

Nostalgia from one’s youth can help you “remember your childhood and what it was like when you’re sort of more innocent, with less to worry about.”

But why does nostalgia wait to kick in when someone’s in their 20s and 30s?

“When you’re a kid and nostalgic, you don’t have any money to spend on [the hobby]. But once you’re out of college and have money to spend on the nostalgia, I think that’s when it starts happening, and it’s probably about twenty or thirty years after something comes out that nostalgia sort of hits.”

The Impact of YouTube and Podcasts

As someone who built tools that monitor daily changes in video game prices, Hendricks is the first person to notice when prices change drastically. Lately, the reason for price changes is coverage by Youtube or podcast personalities.

“If the Angry Video Game Nerd mentions [a game] or a very popular podcast mentions the game, prices shoot up the roof,” said Hendricks. “Everyone all of a sudden decided to start buying it in the course of a couple of days, and that sort of shot through the price through the roof. “

Video game collecting prices for Stunt Racers
The unexplainable price hikes in retro games is often attributed to coverage on Youtube or popular podcasts.

Running an Online Video Game Store

Hendricks also runs a video game store with a focus on retro games. All products on the store have free domestic shipping and quality guarantees, and international buyers will find significant shipping discounts compared to elsewhere.

The store began with humble intentions. In college, Hendricks purchased some old video games off a college bulletin board, and began his retailing experience by selling those titles on eBay. Over time he hired a friend to make an online store, and after graduating, doubled down on game sales as a career.

“After I graduated it was like: I can either try and go for a real job, or I can just keep on trying to do this and make it a full time deal,” said Hendricks. “I started hiring employees and getting warehouse space, and sort of kept on growing.”

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So I never set out with like, that as my goal in mind, but was blessed that it kept on doing well.

“The business itself is fun because you have all these video games around that you can play and you can try out,” said Hendricks.