Money in Boxes

Even before I had heard of minimalism I noticed that I had a tendency to hoard certain things. Let’s call it “collecting” to make it sound a little less terrible. The particular things I “collected” accumulated throughout the years, and when I got new ones I’d put the old ones in boxes. By the time I decided that I had enough of moving things around that I never even used, I had collected 16 of them.

Sixteen video game systems, and all of their associated games, controllers, and addons. And the mental clutter that went along with keeping up with all of these things.

Towards the end of high school and into college I got this idea in my head that it’d be a good idea to start collecting video games. I had money, so why not? Most of them I never played (Sega CD anyone?) so I don’t even know why I thought this was a good idea. I think I sold a game that I really liked to a store once, and regretted it almost immediately. The regret haunted me enough to decide that I’d never sell or trade a video game ever again. Hence the obsession.

Seriously though. I had sixteen systems! That’s crazy! Even if I still thought it’d be cool to have a video game room in my house with all of these systems wired up and on display, it’d be logistically impossible to hook them all up. If you don’t believe me, just try and hook up an Atari from the 70s to the same TV as a Playstation 3. Almost impossible.

So I started selling them off last winter. I’ve saved my favorite systems for last (mostly my Super Nintendo; I sometimes joke that I was put on this earth to pwn at Super Mario Kart). There’s no reason to have them around, and even the ones I like I can just emulate on a computer if I really really want to waste my time on a video game. Not to sound too much like an old man, but I’ve wasted a lot of time and money on video games that would have been better spent elsewhere.

There is a silver lining here, though. It turns out that some of the systems and games I’ve been holding were worth quite a bit more than I paid for them, and so far I’ve had over $1,500 boxed up in my closet for the past ten years.

As a disclaimer, I don’t advocate for video games as an investment. There’s too much storage space required, and they have to be held for a long time before they’re worth anything. For example, I came across a Virtual Boy about ten years ago and bought it for $20 from a friend who was selling a bunch of her stuff to help pay for college (at MIT, no less). I probably wouldn’t have bought it but it helped her out a little bit. Anyway, the Virtual Boy was a commercial failure, and Nintendo stopped making them about a year after they started, sometime around 1996. In 2005 when we were all about to go to college, the Virtual Boy hadn’t yet achieved the status of weird nostalgic collector’s item yet, and was still pretty much worthless. Now, in 2015, finding a working Virtual Boy is a lot harder and for this reason the costs have skyrocketed. But gameplay is still horrible, not to mention the fact that the system is downright unusable, so I put it up on eBay.

I wasn’t expecting what I saw though. I thought maybe, just maybe, someone would pick it up for $40 and use it for parts or just find it a curiosity of the 90s and want to see what it was like. But no. When I saw that they were going for $150-$200 I was just shocked. But I ended up selling it for $150, making 750% on my initial $20 investment. But I did have to haul a box around through 16-ish moves, which isn’t exactly suited to my current minimal lifestyle.

The Virtual Boy was a diamond in the rough, though, and not all of my systems had such great success stories. My first-generation Playstation only sold for $12, and I only bought it to play Final Fantasy 7. That’s a very popular game which can be played on a PC or an emulator very easily. I probably paid over $30 for the system alone, all for a game that I already owned on PC.

There were some other gems in my pile though. I sold six games for the Virtual Boy at an average of $20 each. Those are collector’s items too I suppose, and when you count those I made over 200% on my original $20. Not bad! I made some money on a Sega Dreamcast too, but I think that all-in-all I’ll probably lose money.

The worst of it is the brand new Playstation 3 I bought because I thought it would be cool to have a Blu-Ray player. I never used it, it was just part of my quest to get more stuff in a time when I thought that “more stuff” meant “more successful” or “more happy”. It doesn’t, it just means more stuff, more things to take care of. And ultimately, that’s why I’m selling all of these things. They’re just things, and they were taking up space in boxes. Maybe someone else will get value out of them, but I won’t.

It’s been a relief to get rid of them, too. Not only was the money nice, but they had been taking up an entire closet. As of this writing I only have my Super Nintendo and my Atari left (which are going to my sister and parents, respectively) and it feels like a weight has been lifted off of me. Which, I suppose, it has.

Photo: A man plays a Virtual Boy at a kiosk in a store. These things were ridiculous. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.