02 December 1996
How to Start A Classic Video Game Collection Part 1: Picking a System (originally for Suite 101)
[Suite 101 articles introduction]
If you're new to the hobby of collecting classic video games, you might be wondering how you should start a collection. If you're lucky, you still own your childhood system. If you're not so lucky, I'll give you some advice in this first series of editorials. Future editorials will cover a quick comparison of the systems, where to find them, and what prices you can expect to pay. For now, let's get started by trying to choose a system to start your collection.
You have lots of choices, but you're probably better off starting with something relatively easy to find with a large library of cartridges. By far, the easiest system to find (and find games for) is the Atari 2600. Next would be the Mattel Intellivision. After that, it depends on where you live, but likely choices are the Magnavox Odyssey², Coleco Colecovision, Atari 5200, and Atari 7800. There is one special case: the GCE/Milton Bradley Vectrex. If you see one, buy it! (If it's reasonably priced, which for a Vectrex is $30 and under.) If you don't like it, you'll be able to sell it or trade it for nearly any other system because of its rarity.
Of course, there are other factors to consider. You might want to collect for the system you used to have so long ago. You might even go searching at thrift stores and yard sales and just start with the first system you find. If you're particularly wealthy, you might just go out and buy everything you can find. All of these choices are fine. It's just a hobby, so there is no right or wrong. I would encourage you to start with a system you know or suspect you would enjoy playing. That's the reason most people start this hobby; they simply enjoy the games.
If you're still uncertain which system would be best for you, I'll briefly discuss each in my next editorial. Meanwhile, I encourage you to use the classic home video games resources here at Suite 101 to start learning on your own.
Copyright 1996 i5ive communications inc. Used with permission.
[April 26, 2013: Actually, I think anything under $100 was pretty reasonable for a Vectrex back then. Today, under $100 would seem to be a really good price for one in good shape.]