Retro gaming has been trendy for a long time now, whether we’re talking about vintage board game sets, old arcade cabinets, or out-of-commission consoles from eras past. There’s just a certain appeal that lingers around the things we (or past generations) once used to entertain ourselves. And today, a lot of items that would fall under this wide umbrella can be found at flea markets, through online marketplaces, or even at an auction. So without further ado, we want to highlight some particularly fun retro gaming finds to keep an eye out for, from playing cards to full-fledged arcade systems.
1980s Game & Watch
Nintendo’s first portable game console, the Game and Watch was released in 1980 in Japan and quickly became a success. It was declined in no less than 60 versions divided into 10 series until the end of the 80s and the arrival of the Game Boy. Among the most famous titles of the brand, we can mention Mario Bros, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Parachute, Oil Panic, Bomb Sweeper or Octopus. Nowadays, some games like Balloon Fight, Super Mario Bros. and Egg are trading between US$500 and US$2900 (new). Most of the other Game and Watch games sell for around US$120 on average, so the next time you see one of these iconic consoles in a local flea market or a yard sale, don’t hesitate: buy it! Especially if the selling price is around US$25-$30 as it is often the case.
1935 Monopoly Board
As you’re undoubtedly aware, the game of Monopoly has gone through countless iterations and editions over the years. But it all started in 1935 with the first version of the classic game board — and these boards are still out there! In fact, because there were a great many of them manufactured, they’re even surprisingly affordable, typically selling for less than $100. This original board makes for a great bit of gaming history for a collector, though if you’re more interested in rarer and valuable finds, there are other editions of Monopoly that are more rare and expensive. Specific versions of the ’35 board labeled “patent pending” for instance can sell for close to $1,000, and some vintage boards that had limited releases in the early decades will fetch more than that.
Vintage Playing Cards
Here we won’t point out a single, specific item to look for. But if you’re a fan of card and/or casino games, nothing on the gaming front quite beats coming across a rare, vintage deck. There’s almost a whole separate retro collector culture that’s built up around playing cards, and in fact some of the most valuable ones on the market are more modern. But there are still some incredible vintage decks that are thrilling to find. Dating way back, Andrew Dougherty’s Civil War decks hail from the 1860s and are still out there at auctions — worth anywhere from $500 to $1,000. And if you’re more into the modern gaming era, the Nintendo 87 playing cards represent a terrific find.
Vintage Bingo Wheel
Here again, we won’t highlight a single product, but rather an idea — and one that’s particularly intriguing given how much the game of bingo has changed of late. As part of the larger ecosystem of online casino games, bingo has been transformed into a digital experience for younger generations, full of the bells and whistles of slot machine arcades. In some cases, there are even themes drawn from pop culture, with “Deal Or No Deal” and “TV Specials” bingo rooms on Gala Bingo looking to represent a new frontier in this respect. There’s virtually no resemblance to the tactile, in-person bingo games of old — which is why such games make for such fun vintage finds. A true, ornate antique of a bingo cage and/or board is a treasure whether it’s used or gaming or even held onto as a decoration. The wooden set from Royal Bingo Supplies is perhaps the most available option out there that has some vintage quality (and can be had for about $40). But you can also find true, used antiques worth well over $1,000.
Namco Pac-Man Pixel Bash
Moving into the video game arena, some of the most exciting vintage items to find are always actual arcade cabinets of the sort that once populated cinema lobbies, mall arcades, and so on. Now, we’ve discussed arcade machines in the past and noted that a lot of the older ones will look pretty out of place in a modern home of any kind. But if you fancy yourself a collector and/or gaming enthusiast, a true classic is hard to pass up. That’s essentially why we’re highlighting the Namco Pac-Man Pixel Bash machine out of so many options. For many, it was and will always remain the gold standard of arcade-style gaming. And while you may well find it at a given gaming auction or in some alternative market, it can also be purchased online — for about $3,200 USD.
Prime Arcades Cocktail Arcade Machine
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include at least one other arcade find to keep an eye out for, and it’s hard to do much better than the Prime Arcades Cocktail Arcade Machine. While many will be partial to machines that focus on one specific game or another, this beast comes with more than 1,000 titles, including a number of classics. It’s also a different type of machine than the Pac-Man one discussed above, built like a table for seated gaming. It’s not a particularly common find out and about in the world, but you can get it online — and for about $1,000 USD less than the Namco Pac-Man Pixel Bash. If you have deeper pockets (I’m talking $5500+ here), the Pixelkabinett 42, an aesthetic arcade machine for modern interiors conceived by Swedish designer and obsessive-compulsive craftsman Love Hultén, is something that will definitely set your home apart from the rest while providing hours of fun. Each unit comes loaded with more than 800 Golden Oldie hits like Donkey Kong, Mario Bros, and Dig Dug.
Pikachu N64 Set
Concerning in-home, console, or handheld gaming, there are almost too many vintage options to choose from. This is a loaded category full of consoles that were either phased out or never got off the ground for one reason or another — but which still hold a lot of appeal among gaming enthusiasts and tech collectors. Among the options are several different variants of the beloved N64 console — most of them simply coming in different colors. But at the top of the list among these variants is the Pikachu set, designed in blue and yellow with a 3D Poké Ball and a 3D Pikachu popping out of the surface. To a fan of the iconic Pokémon franchise, or to a Nintendo historian, this console itself is a work of art. If you can find one, it’ll probably cost you somewhere between $300 and $800 USD.
Finally, we’ll include the Holy Grail for retro gamers: the Nintendo PlayStation. Calling it the Grail is appropriate not just in the general sense that it represents a rare, sought-after treasure, but also in that there is — to the best of our knowledge — just a single prototype out there. According to an Engadget write-up from March of 2020, said prototype sold for $360,000 USD at an auction, which was actually a lot less than some had predicted. The Nintendo PlayStation essentially represents a failed partnership from a past era of gaming, but it’s also a functioning console. It’s not something you actually have much chance of acquiring, but at that price — for what it is — it’s actually a bit of a bargain!
These selections may cross the spectrum of retro games of all kinds, but they also barely scratch the surface of what can be found out in the world. If you’re a retro gaming enthusiast or a general collector, it’s a category you can have a lot of fun in.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in other vintage items, collectible categories, and rare finds, we encourage you to continue exploring our site!