Saturday, July 12, 2014

Retro Game Collectors: Why Don`t We Collect Rookie Games?

Something kind of odd I have been noticing about retro video game collectors is the fact that, unlike other types of collectors, we don`t seem to place much importance on the `rookie games` of major characters.

By `rookie game` I basically mean the game in which a major character made his/her/it`s first appearance.

In baseball cards, for example, a player`s rookie card, like this 1951 Bowman Willie Mays, is considered really valuable and everybody wants it.  Willie Mays is of course a popular player so all his cards ae popular, but his rookie card in particular is the one that everyone places the highest value on
In comic book collecting too the first issue that a major character appears in is always sought after and way more valuable than other issues.  Like issue 27 of Detective Comics here featuring Batman`s first appearance
In video game collecting though we don`t really seem to attach a great deal of importance to the question of whether or not a game features the first appearance of a major character or not.  Value seems to be determined solely by how rare a game is and how popular/fun to play it is.  We don`t even  have a word in our collecting vocabulary to describe the concept (`rookie game` is just something I made up and probably doesn`t work too well).

Its a bit odd given that we can easily identify which carts feature the first appearance of a given character.  Like Antarctic Adventure here features the first appearance of that penguin:

 Probably the most impressive `rookie game` would be Donkey Kong, which featured the simultaneous first appearances of both Donkey Kong and Mario, arguably the two most famous video game characters of all time. 

I have pictured the Donkey Kong Famicom cart at the top of this post, but if we are going to be strict, I don`t think that would count as a rookie game.  The Colecovision cart was the first home port of Donkey Kong, so I think the Colecovision Donkey Kong would be considered the true first appearance cart of those two characters (I find it kind of interesting that Nintendo`s two most famous characters didn`t make their home debut on a Nintendo console).  Technically of course the game was featured on Arcade cabinets first, but I don`t think those count (or, more accurately, they do count but would fall into a different category since collecting arcade cabinets is a whole different ballgame from collecting carts).

Anyway, those are just some thoughts I had about that.  I wonder why we don`t collect video games in the same way that comic book or sports card collectors do.  I guess part of it might have to do with the fact that video game carts are tied to specific consoles and most of us collect games for whichever systems we have or like rather than just collecting carts for collecting carts` sake (which is kind of what baseball card collectors do).

It would make for kind of an interesting approach to collecting.  Some systems definitely have a lot of important characters first appearance, like the Famicom (Zelda, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest characters, etc). 


  1. Mega Man/Rockman seems to be a pretty big exception to the phenomenon. His first game is the most valuable of the original six, next to Mega Man VI/Rockman 6.

  2. Thats true, Rockman is worth more than most of the others. With the Famicom version at least I `ve always had the impression that it was due to it being the hardest to find (along with Rockman 6) rather than because it was the character`s first game though.

  3. It is a great post, what you said is really helpful to me. I agree with you anymore. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here. Thank you for sharing such a useful post.

  4. Hey there, Sean! You make an interesting point here. That said, I have a feeing at least a few folks *do* collect games in the manner you shared in this post, but obviously you're wondering why *more* people don't collect them in that way. Sadly, I can't come up with any sort of acceptable reason as to why that may be. I will say, though, that it seems to make pretty good sense to me that most people ("collectors," especially) would focus on rare games or those that are considered the most fun to play, as both of those methods likely are more appealing to your average person than the method discussed here.

  5. That is a good point Bryan, I suppose what I meant to say was that the hobby in general doesn`t put much emphasis on it, even though some people do collect games in this way.

    You are probably on the right track with people focusing on rarity and how fun games are to play with. Actually I think the latter is probably the better reason - baseball card and comic book collectors just keep their valuable ones in plastic rather than having fun with them, whereas video game collectors actually use their games to play.

  6. I may be wrong, but I think the examples you gave of baseball and comic rookie items also gain their interest to a large degree from their rarity. They are sought after because they are rare, rather than rare because they are sought after - if that makes sense. I expect these rookie cards and comics where released (or kept) in relatively small numbers, before the subject became popular. In video games, there are no real examples I know of of popular characters that had a slow start. It is quite the opposite: a character gets the chance to feature in multiple games when the first one is a big success. If the first game does not become a hit, usually there will not be a sequel. As a result, most (all?) rookie games are very common, and this makes these very much less attractive to collectors.

  7. By the way, great topic for a discussion. I also like to muse about the motivations and psyche of collectors.

  8. I think that is part of it, but not entirely. Even when baseball cards or comic books aren`t particularly rare they still command a premium over similar cards/comics due solely to their being a rookie/first appearance one.

    On the other hand, I think you are correct about most or even all rookie games being common since they had to be a big success the first time.

    I agree, it is an interesting topic for discussion :)

  9. Erik V have a point. Also, in the case of Colecovision being the first home version of Donkey Kong, sometimes collectors choose to ignore the "true rookie". Case in point, 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays are more sough after and valuable than the 1951 Bowman versions.

  10. That is a goog point. Mind you, the 52 Topps Mantle and Mays are kind of exceptions, coming from a super popular and hard to find set, rather than the rule.