From oddballs to awesome, here is a look at some of the most valuable consoles from the past
Console investment is a whole different ballgame than game investment. You can’t grade a video game console, so the market will never be what the game market is. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in consoles. I wanted to take a look at valuable vintage video game systems, but not the usual suspects. Nintendo’s, Super Nintendo’s, and Game Boy’s almost always sell if they are functional. No, the focus today will be on consoles that consistently move, but are not as well known. Some are well known and actually sold well, they are just cherished and folks want them. Others were failures that are now valuable due to low production runs.
On paper, this seems like a good idea. A mobile platform to play Sega Genesis games. Unfortunately it was the ’90’s and the tech wasn’t there to make this a practical application. The Nomad had a (small)built in LCD to play games on as if it was a handheld. If you don’t know, Genesis cartridges are not exactly portable, so playing it as a handheld was a cumbersome affair that devoured batteries. It could be plugged into a television and used a regular console, controllers and all. Trying to create a console that is a handheld as well didn’t really work well until the Wii U and more so the Nintendo Switch. This idea was ahead of it’s time but was released towards the end of the Genesis lifecycle and was poorly received at the time. Sega also pushed resources towards developing the Sega Saturn. Those factors combined resulted in a lower manufacturing run and now makes for a valuable console.
Gameboy Advance SP
Let’s hear it for the boys…specifically Game Boys. Almost all Game Boys will sell well as they are the gold standard of handheld gaming. I have picked this specific version of the venerable gaming machine because every time I see these go up for auction, they sell. Working, not working, it doesn’t matter, people want these. It was the first Nintendo handheld to have a backlit screen, and combined with an AC adapter plug-in, has become a sought after piece of gaming history.
Atari’s last gasp in the console gaming market ended in disappointment. The gaming world was dominated by Nintendo and Sega by that time and there was just no room left for Atari. It’s too bad as the Jaguar was the most powerful system at the time of its release. Atari’s refusal to allow third party companies to develop games along with terrible marketing meant that the Jaguar never had a chance. As with any doomed final console, this baby has attained big value. It is rare to see a working one out for auction and when you do, most likely it is going to have multiple people angling for it.
An 8-bit contender with a misleading name, the TurboGrfx 16 was the third wheel in the Sega Master System vs. Nintendo Entertainment System battle of the mid-eighties. With cartridges that look like giant SD cards, this console stood out from it’s competitors and actually boasted superior hardware specs. The console was hugely successful in Japan, even selling more than the Nintendo at one point, but it never caught on in the North American market. This was the only generation of TurboGrafx we would see though, so that makes this a valuable system if you can get your hands on it.
Speaking of last gasp systems, this was the final haymaker from a gaming console giant. Sega had been going head to head with Nintendo for a decade and a half by the time the Dreamcast came out. It was powerful for the time, really the first of the next generation of consoles to be released, but by the time it came out it was clear that Sega was not long for the console market. The success of Sony’s Playstation and the arrival of the massively popular Playstation 2 and Gamecube would herald the end for the Dreamcast. With the lowest manufactured amount of any of Sega’s main release consoles, this has become a favorite of collectors. It holds a special place in my heart as I was a Dreamcast owner when it was still relatively new. The console and the games hold good value due to the fact that there are just not many of them out there.
I loved the Nintendo 64 as an acne covered adolescent punk. The first home console to really display what 3D gaming could be, I mean the Playstation tried, but it didn’t quite have the hardware muscle to make it work the way the N64 did. I am not the only one who has these feelings about the console, because it can move for good money almost every time. Adding to the collectability is the fact that there were many different types of N64 consoles released. Mainly composed of brightly colored plastics and unique controllers, these variations add a level of collectability that other consoles from the era can’t touch. There are a lot of these out there, so I don’t know if the value will hold as well as some of the more rare consoles on the list, but folks seem to love N64’s, so it would not surprise me.
Sega’s entry into the handheld market was epic at the time. The Game Gear’s main competitor was the Game Boy, whose green monochromatic screen had nothing on the vibrant, full colors that the Game Gear produced. Though not the first backlit handheld on the market, that nod goes to Atari’s Lynx, it was much more successful. There was a drawback though, and that was the fact that unless you owned a battery factory, you were going to be spending some money. The Game Gear devoured batteries and took 6 of them to power up. This did not stop it from selling well and being a sought after item nowadays. Whenever I have pursue one of these on eBay, broken or not, I am always outbid. These tend to sell pretty well and now that some folks have retro-modded rechargeable battery adaptors, you can play them without using your life savings on batteries.
Nintendo’s biggest failure has become the stuff of legend. Ambitious, flawed, and ultimately overshadowned by the N64, the Virtual Boy sold far less than any other gaming systems that Nintendo has released. Only 770,000 of these were sold, and to give some context, Nintendo’s next worst performer was the WiiU which sold over 13 million units. So yeah, this was a bust. The great part for collectors is the fact that with a tiny sales number like that, working units are quite rare. These sell well right now and I have a feeling they will only increase in collectability as VR becomes more prevalent since this was the first meaningful attempt at creating a VR gaming unit.
The PSP is a bit of an odd duck. Sony, well known for mainstreaming the use of CD’s as a game storage medium, decided to keep with the format for it’s handheld. Thus the PSP and it’s mini-CD’s were born. Though not quite as collectible as some of the older handhelds on the list, the PSP is a neat little machine. With solid graphics output and the ability to play some of the best games in the Playstation library while on the go, this handheld moves at a steady rate. Sony also released movies for this, and it’s successor the Vita is a sought after item too.
Prototype’s will always hold value unless the system is a total stinker. A prototype of one of the most successful consoles of all time will definitely hold value. The problem with prototype’s is that there tends to be almost none of them available to create a market with. This piece of gaming history now resides in a museum after being purchased for over $350,000!
See it on eBay(yeah, right)
Sega’s “other” console, the Saturn was a big deal when it came out. Sega was still in the midst of the console wars, though it was clear with this release and the subsequent success of the Playstation that Sega was in trouble. It was hard to choose between this or the Dreamcast on the main list, but since there are just more of these around and the games do not sell as well as Dreamcast games, it made it as an Honorable Mention.
Out of left field, you say? Exactly. There are many examples of companies trying to get in on the gaming industry but not being able to pull it off. This one sticks out because it was CD based before the Playstation but never really caught on. When it came out, it was much more powerful than anything else on the market. Unfortunately it had a sky high price tag at the time, which scared casual gamers away. Now that gaming has moved into collectible status, rarity will equal value, though I have not seen people pursue this system with the same gusto as others on the list.
Nintendo DS Lite
This is more of a prediction than a current reality. Nintendo’s handhelds tend to move well no matter what they are, but I selected this for a very specific reason. It can play both DS and Game Boy Advance games. Cross compatibility is always a sought after feature and besides the bulkier original DS, the DS Lite is the only way to get this functionality.
Playstation 3(reverse compatible)
This one is a bit too new to be considered vintage or retro, at least to me, so it made it on the honorable mention list. I could write a whole article on the different variations of this console, but if you are looking for one that can move, you need to get the reverse compatible version of the PS3. Only certain releases of the console can play both PS1 and PS2 games. Later iterations removed the ability play PS2 games, which takes away a massive game library to access. That being the case, those that can play all 3 generations will be worth money. Within this are variations, as you need to choose between native or emulation functionality, but any of them seem to sell pretty well.
Fairchild Channel F
In my opinion, this system should be worth big money any time it appears for sale, yet I’ve seen them on eBay for a fair price with not a bid in sight. Why is this important? It was the first system ever to employ a cartridge based game delivery system. Cartridges spawned the home gaming revolution and were an important part of the industry for almost 30 years. Really the only things more important are controllers and cords. That alone makes this system important.
Consoles are not going to be the same type of investment as a video game. It’s a machine, which means it can break and stop working and while this can happen with games as well, that is why grading exists. You can get those slabbed up and have no problem keeping them in pristine condition. The same cannot be said for a console or handheld. There are ways to get involved with this type of collecting to make money. You can repair vintage consoles and sell them on eBay. I dabbled in this and may write about it at some point, but I’m not ready for another 1WC at this point since the last one ended in disappoint due to the COPPA fine leveled at YouTube and it’s ramifications.
These valuable vintage video game systems are a blast to own and could make you some money too, so as long as you buy smart, this can be a fun and lucrative side hustle.