15 August 1997

Thrifting: A Definition (originally for Suite 101)

[Suite 101 articles introduction]

thrifting (thrift' ing) vi. 1. To visit many thrift stores during a day in search of certain items, particularly classic video games. 2. To regularly visit thrift stores in search of certain items.

In the United States and Canada, there are stores called "thrift stores," "thrift shops," or "those smelly places with a bunch of junk." They sell used items (primarily clothing) and are often run as money-makers for charities. Perhaps two of the best known organizations that run thrift stores are Goodwill and the Salvation Army. The items they sell are usually donated by individuals. They also tend to be a good source of classic home video games.

Hard-core collectors will visit as many local thrift stores as possible daily in search of new games. This is not entirely unreasonable, since a) thrift stores get new donations daily, b) competition for classic video games seems to be increasing as the supply decreases, and c) it will please Bira Bira, the guardian of the Reef Store and patron little-wooden-icon of classic video game collectors. Collectors who either have lives or are no longer in college are more likely to go semi-weekly, weekly, or just whenever they can. Making a round of local thrift stores is called "thrifting."

The two most common uses of the word are illustrated by the following typical conversation between collectors:

Collector #1: "I went thrifting yesterday and found [long list of unbelievably rare items]."
Collector #2: "I haven't had a chance to go thrifting lately."

In this case, Collector #2 has actually been thrifting regularly, but hasn't been finding anything. The one day he decided not to bother going, Collector #1 went. If it weren't for the fact that Collector #2 actually met him, Collector #1 might be "Sum Guy." Sum Guy has been reported all across the country, buying every classic video game in sight. Other collectors never see him, but always hear about him. Visit a thrift store or yard sale and ask if they have any old video games. There's a good chance you'll get the reply, "We did, but Sum Guy was here 15 minutes ago and bought 'em all."

If you don't let this discourage you and you begin thrifting, you'll discover that thrift stores come in a wide range of types, from "clean and organized" to "smell funny and things strewn everywhere in no recognizable pattern." The best stores for finding things, of course, are the latter, assuming a) you have time to dig for them and b) you don't let the smell get to you. It is recommended that you slowly work up your tolerance before spending a long time in such a store.

Here are a few helpful rules to remember when thrifting:
  1. Cartridges are priced by size. Therefore, a 5200 cartridge might cost three times the price of an Intellivision cartridge.
  2. Never let the employees send an item back to be priced. You will never see it again.
  3. The less money you have when you go, the more items you'll find.
  4. The nicer the cartridge label, the more grease pencil marks the store will have used to price it.
  5. If you only find part of a group of items, you will not find the rest of them that day. Either come back next week (or even next month) or look in a thrift store on the other side of town. That is where the other half is.
Good luck!

Copyright 1997, i5ive communications inc. Used with permission.

[April 27, 2013: Ah, Bira Bira.  That's kind of a long story.  The short of it is, it was a small tiki carving that became a meme among collectors on rec.games.video.classic and was believed to bring good luck when thrifting.  Robert Batina, who ran the page the Bira Bira link used to go to, is still around, but unfortunately the Bira Bira pages seem to be no more.  "Sum Guy" was another meme that developed there; you can find more details on it at the bottom of my August 5, 2003 post.

Sadly, with the rise of ebay and just the general march of time, thrift store have become less and less a source for classic video games.  Sure you can still find PlayStation 2 games and such, but Atari 2600 cartridges, not so much.]

05 August 1997

Supercharger Tapes Brag

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

I was doing a quick thrift run Monday. Second stop was a pawn shop where I'd spotted a copy of Destructor Friday, but didn't have the two bucks for it. After I got home, I discovered it's actually a Super-Action Baseball in a Destructor case. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. The title screen comes up, and then when it should go away, it just blinks and comes back. (Do I have to have Super Action controllers in order just to get the game up?) It really doesn't matter what it is since I don't have a driving controller (exp. mod. #2) or Super Action controllers.

Anyway, I was at my last stop, not expecting to find anything. Wandered by the cassette tapes to give them a glance. That's where I used to be able to find cartridges. None have appeared there for a long time now. Giving them the once over, I quickly decided there weren't any carts. Then I noticed, "hey, there's a big six on the side of that cassette case. Could it be?" It was! Dragonstomper for the Supercharger!

An immediate and thorough search of the tapes ensued. I came up with these for the Supercharger:
  • Fireball (R)
  • Suicide Mission (R)
  • Dragonstomper (ER)
  • Killer Satellites (R)
All were just the cassettes in their cases (with cassette overlay...or whatever you call it). No instructions or game boxes. Unfortunately for me, I already have all of them but Dragonstomper. (And of course I have Stella Gets a New Brain, so I actually have all the games, but it's more fun to have the original format.) Oddly enough, I found just the manual for Dragonstomper last year, so it will go well with that.

While looking through the tapes, I also found these Adam Data Packs:
  • Buck Rogers (x2; one was even shrinkwrapped)
  • Donkey Kong
  • blank (x2)
So I finally get to try out the Adam DK. It's better than the normal Colecovision version, but still not as good as the arcade.

I scoured the store looking for the Supercharger that went with the tapes to no avail. I also saw no hint of an Adam or Colecovision. I figure A) they haven't put them out yet, B) they've already been bought (But who would buy a Supercharger without looking for the tapes?), B') the Supercharger went in one of those stupid grab bags and someone bought it, or C) they shipped it off to a Birmingham store. Eventually I'm going to ask why they don't seem to get many video games in any more.

BTW, I forgot to mention the price. Twenty-five cents each! Apparently I went the right day, because today I went back in case the Supercharger appeared. I found another blank Adam Data Pack, but there was a different lady behind the register who charged me $0.50 for it.

[The letters after the games indicate their rarity based on VGR's Atari 2600 rarity list. R is rare and ER is extremely rare.]