Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games, by David Ellis
Review by Kevin Steele
As good as emulators such as MAME are, there’s still nothing quite like playing the real thing. Be it arcade games or classic consoles, nothing can give you the “genuine experience” like using the actual original hardware, be it a games console or a video game.
Because of this need for “the real deal,” many fans of classic games have sought out these relics of the videogaming revolution, building personal collections of classic gaming equipment much like any collector who wants to preserve a time gone by. But how does one know what to get, which arcade games or consoles are worth the effort to search for, and how much should you expect to pay?
You can acquire this knowledge two ways: your own personal detective work, or a copy of The Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games, by David Ellis. A detailed look at the “golden age” of video games (up to about 1985), this book is more than a simple price guide: it’s a price guide, buying guide, and history lesson all rolled into one.
How We Got Here
Covering arcade games, handhelds, and home consoles, The Official Price Guide provides a history of each console, a fascinating glimpse into why each unit succeeded or failed in the marketplace, and some of the unique features of each console.
I personally found the history of each console absolutely fascinating — this part of the guide alone made it worthwhile to me, as I strolled down memory lane remembering each of the gaming systems and their impact on the industry. Remember the Vectrex? I do. I dreamed of owning one, but never did get one, unfortunately. The MicroVision? Loved mine — I bought every single cartridge that came out.
The sections that detailed the history of each console brought back a flood of memories, and in some cases piqued my curiosity to find out more. This guide makes a great read, even if you’re not interested in actually buying or selling these gaming systems.
What’s It Worth?
Being billed as a “price guide,” you would naturally expect David’s book to include prices. And it does: page after page of prices, for everything from Atari 2600 cartidges all the way up to classic video arcade games. But the book provides more that just numbers: it also lists the rarity of consoles, cartridges, or arcade games, and any important details (such as the label color, believe it or not!) that may have a bearing on the item’s collectability and price.
The Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games not only covers the “run of the mill” games and gaming systems, it also covers the rarities: the prototypes, limited-run editions, and even modern “mods” to classic game cartridges or brand new games released for classic gaming systems (yes, there are still people releasing new games for the Atari 2600!)
For arcade games, David Ellis covers not only the most collected arcade games, but the rarities or “holy grails” of video game collecting (If you ever run across a Marble Madness 2: Marble Man, please let me know!) If a game was produced in more than one cabinet style (upright, cocktail, or cabaret for example), the price guide for arcade games includes prices for each cabinet style.
Tricks of the Trade
So you want to get a few classic video games for your gameroom. Where are you going to find them? How do you get the best deal? How do you get them home once you’ve acquired them? And how do you fix them up and keep them running? These and other questions are all covered in the book.
The section on arcade game collecting is particularly comprehensive, with a nice “anatomy of a video game,” a detailed overview of what to look for when collecting, even a collection of ideas on where to find arcade games for sale.
There’s a section on auctions: how to prepare, how to get the best price, even how to haul your prized acquisitions home. The Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games may be foremost a price list, but there’s a really good “how to” book hidden inside it.
The Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games may not be the “authoritative” price guide, as it only covers a specific range of time (pre ’85), and even then primarily covers game systems and games that would be available in the United States. This focus, however, does not mean the book is lightweight in its coverage — far from it. At 463 pages, this is an extensive and thorough look at a classic period of videogaming history.
Think of the book as a video gaming history lesson, “how-to” guide, and price list all rolled into one. David Ellis’ style is direct and straightforward, and the book is packed full of the kind of details that bring the videogame revolution to life. The book can be found at stores such as Amazon.com for less than $12, making the book a real bargain as well. If you’ve got any interest at all in retro gaming, even if you’re not a collector, this book will make for an intriguing read.