It was a Saturday morning, and I was driving through the worst part of Long Beach, CA. Let me tell you, that's scary enough in itself. It was the middle of the day and I'm still scared. I find my destination, park, and walk up to a severely run-down townhouse. I knock on the door, and hear the most terrifying scream I've ever heard. Curious, I yell "hello?" and don't hear a thing. My logic is urging me to just leave, but my greed is hoping there's a long lost NWC cart in there and my twozies are just brave enough to wonder what's going on.
Why am I here looking for NES games? Craigslist. I respond to an add someone posted in the electronics section to sell NES games. The day before, I get a call that she's going to have a yard sale instead. I get there and am told that it was too much trouble to bring everything outside, so she invites me inside to look at the games. She and her husband were older people, and I'm fairly sure I can overpower them so I step inside.
If you're not familiar with Craigslist, it's a free online classified section. It has everything on it. There are no pop-ups, banner ads, or anything to distract you, just a giant classified section with a search tool. I cannot stress how exhaustive Craigslist is. You can find job listings, housing, community postings (events, musicians, etc.), real estate, discussion forums, and there used to be an "erotic services" section which is little more than listings for prostitutes and nasty massages [they had to take that down, but you really can get everything on craigslist!]. It's self-governed, meaning Craigslist users are responsible for filtering the ads. This is done through "flagging," when you tag an ad as prohibited, spam, etc. [People often wonder how craigslist makes money. Since hardly anyone seems to know, I suppose it bears mentioning that it costs money to post a job listing.]
Assuming you're new to Craigslist, this is how you find it:
1) Go to www.craigslist.org
2) Craigslist is done on a local basis; it will probably redirect you to your nearest city.
3) Check to the right of the screen to see if a different location is better for you. Mine defaults to orangecounty, but losangeles is best. You'll see "us cities", "canada", and "intl cities." Select the area that works for you. If you can't find one, you can suggest a new one, but if you live somewhere fairly populated you should have a hub.
For NES stuff, you want to focus on six (or seven) sections in for sale:
When I wrote this article a couple years back for nintendoage, this section didn't exist yet. There was so much gaming items clogging games, electronics, etc. that they made a section for it. It really helps narrow down the search, but there's still some gold sitting in the other categories, so check 'em all! In my area, it's mostly XBOX 360/PSP stuff, but the vintage is definitely hiding in plain sight, so browse the listings carefully.
I suggest browsing each listing, as a search may miss good listings with bad titles like "lots of old games." You'll find anything in this section from beat up old Playskool toys to adult novelties. In proportion to the other postings, there is very little vintage gaming offered, but I still see NES and other old-school games for sale on a daily basis.
This is where the search function comes in very handy. This section (again, in L.A.) is flooded with cell phones, T.V.s and stereo equipment. While this is all awesome, it's not at all what the Nintendo collector is looking for. At the very top of the page you'll see a search bar. Do a search for "Nintendo" and/or "NES" and it will narrow the results to what you're looking for. I also recommend using search language to narrow the result. In my area, a lot of people advertise PSP mods/emulators and sell Wiis second-hand, so my search for this section is "Nintendo -PSP -Wii" to weed out the stuff I'm not interested in.
One of the coolest spots on the internet. People literally give away stuff here. This is usually pretty lame stuff (e.g., "Free dirt, you haul") but you can occasionally find some great stuff, including NES games (but ya gotta be fast!).
In this section you can post looking for items, and the vintage gamer can find some great hauls posting that they'll pay cash for video games. Be sure to be respectful of the community rules, and don't over-post.
A lot of people advertise their garage sales on Craigslist. Use the search tool to your advantage. Search for anything NES related: Nintendo, NES, video games, games, cartridges, etc. In my area there are always a couple of sales with some NES games. Don't bother emailing them about it, they'll just take offense; your best strategy is to show up early.
People post trades here, and I've actually done a couple of cool NES trades with local collectors through this spot. I recommend posting as well as searching. There's not much video games, it's mostly weird stuff, but hey, it's fun to look through. (I just glanced quickly to get a good example and listing #10 is: "Amateur or Pro U Massage Me (long, slow) Trade adult DVD's." Yeah, someone jump on that quick, there's a perv that will give you his old porn if you rub him down. Told you Craigslist has everything!)
I mention this last because it's basically a dud. People only put their old games here when they're trying to get a lot of dough for them. You know the type. More power to 'em if it works. I've never had luck here, but maybe a few well-worded lowball offers could do some good here.
By now you're probably saying, "this is awesome Johnny! There's like three or four great ads in my area! What do I do now?"
Now, I've responded to a lot of Craigslist postings trying to get NES games. I've found some great strategies and know what works, and I'm willing to share them here. But to go a step farther, I did some awesome armchair investigative reporting and posted a dummy Craigslist ad:
Here's my psychology: I posted some really fun games, some fairly rare/valuable games, and the sought-after NES2. I placed it all in a cardboard box to make it look like it was just chillin' in my closet, and gave it a story. I listed it in central L.A., so people in the northern and southern reaches of the county wouldn't be too put-off by distance. The obscure titles like Faria and Lolo 3 would only be noticed by collectors who know what they're looking at. Furthermore, I figured $80 would be enough of a cost to scare off the looky-loos and hipsters who would pick it up just to play Mario and Zelda again. It's a great resale lot or just one to pad the collection. The ad was up for about 60 hours, from 10:01 AM Friday to 9:42 PM Sunday.
Now, if you're reading this on RRR, this experiment was done awhile ago. But, based off what was then the current NA price guide (Vol. 2 Issue 7) and assuming a $70 value for the NES2 (from eBay completed listings), this lot had a value of $383 ($313 [games] + $70 [NES2]). [This would be a lot more in June 2012!] Assuming a $20 premium for selling a full Mega Man set and cutting out the shipping costs (approx. $2/cart and $8 for the console), there is further potential $86 upside with and from buying/selling online. This gives this listing a value between $383 and $469.
Beyond the thrill of posting an ad that clearly violates the terms of service, I got some really interesting responses. I told every respondent that someone has already claimed it, is paying $80, and will pick it up sometime tomorrow.
Here are some general observations:
People largely responded pretty soon after the ad was posted. I had a several responses within 45 minutes.A lot of people emailed asking about condition, where I was specifically located, etc. Responding to these emails and getting their response back took a lot of time. By the time we had a short email conversation, I could have sold it to the more direct and to the point collectors.Almost everyone low-balled. When I told them I had a buyer coming paying my full asking price, almost everyone offered $90-$100. I had one serious d-bag. He offered $100 and I told him thanks, but I had someone picking it up. He responded:"I guess ill be waiting it out but remember. The $100 only sticks so that i purchase tomorrow morning/afternoon, but if he flakes i will stick to original price. If u consider it giveme a call in the morning. I'm available until 3 tomorrow. Cheers" So, this guy tries to guilt trip me (I don't care if he has to wait, I'm selling something here) and then offers an ultimatum (that essentially reads "you have until 3 PM tomorrow to respond or I withdraw the offer.") I'm assuming this fellow is a used car salesman, mortgage broker or some other tool trained in taking control of the situation; his tone and response really put me off. If he said something like "Alright man, but I have an open offer of $100 any time you want to take it, give me a call," I would have been more open to deal with him.
To the upside: in an area of 10 million people, I got 11 responses. You have to assume a few hunters were out of town, but still, the relatively low number of responses gives us hope that there aren't that many people looking, no matter how tough it can be to be the one who gets a find. Most people sent one or two responses, one determined fellow sent twelve. He said he wanted the system for his brother. The most interesting set came from one guy who responded about 15 minutes after the ad was posted. This guy was quick. He offered $60 and said he'd pay and pick up the system "right now" and gave his cell phone number. It was obvious he knew what it was all worth and wanted to get it ASAP. I responded that I already had several $80 offers and thank you anyway. About an hour later (probably wasn't checking email but waiting by the phone) he emails back and simply says "I'll give you $100". Twenty-eight minutes later he responds with: "Hey Johnny, before you sell that collection for WAY under value, you should take a look at eBay prices or at least at videogamepricecharts.com. That NES console is a rare, hard to find top loader and worth at the very $50 all by itself. As for the games, many of the games you listed are worth a LOT more than $2 a piece, even if they are cart only. Megaman 1-6 are worth more than that, Bubble Bobble, Lolo 2 and 3, Dracula's Curse (I'm assuming that's Castlevania 3), Punch Out, Contra and Super Contra are all worth much more than that even cart only." I would really like to know his thought process for this, if he had a change of heart or the "if I can't have it no one will" mentality. After the ad ran it's course I emailed him, explained the experiment, and I asked him to speak anonymously for the article. He never wrote back.
So here's what the Craigslist deal hunter needs to take home from this:
Be fast! The quicker you get a reply in after the post is made, the better. I would recommend setting up an RSS feed (or similar tool) so you can easily keep tabs on the sections and searches you frequent.
How to close the deal:
Include your cell (or home/work) phone so people can get you right away. You can lose the deal playing email ping-pong. If you're worried about item condition and/or location, cover that while you're on the phone so you don't waste any time. If it's a good find and you're willing to pay more, beat the other folks to it. Most everyone low-balled and no one offered more immediately. If this were a real ad, and one guy offered $90 off the bat while others were coming in with $60, that first guy would have had it, no contest! If you have something attention-getting for the seller (like a higher offer), put it in the subject line. The seller will open their email to find several responses, and will see a number of subject lines. That subject line is your chance to edge out the competition before the emails are even opened. If they open an email they get excited about before even opening yours, your find can fall through. Not one person did this and it would have made a big difference (see picture below). Low-ball within reason. Don't read my observations thinking I condemn low-balling, because it's a great way to get good deal. Craigslist is like a giant online flea market. Of course you should low-ball! Even though this was just an experiment ad, the people that extreme low-balled my stuff kinda pissed me off. Also, make the deal based on the item and it's value. I had one guy ask to come down on the price because gas is so high. Dude, I'm not going to buy you gas. Be a nice guy (or gal). Be the guy people want to interact with. A few people offered dumb stuff to trade. Stress you can pay cash. If you want to see if you can get rid of your old VCR via a sweet trade, sure, put it in there, but state it something like this: "Will pay $80 at your earliest convenience. I also have a VCR if you're interested, but cash works too." One guy offered me XBOX 360 cables or something. I'm not sure if he would have paid cash or not; he didn't make that clear. The time taken to clear that up would have given other people time to come in and buy the lot.
In this situation, an ideal e-mail response would have looked like this:
email@example.com RE: $90 CASH TODAY FOR ORIGINAL NINTENDO SYSTEM
Call me to set something up. Will buy today, call my cell anytime 310-555-3825 - Johnny
Look how well it would stand out of 10 responses:
Now that you're ready to use Craigslist, please know this: There are a lot of scammers on Craigslist, so protect yourself! Only pay with cash, and meet someplace public, like a Starbucks. Also, beware of flakes! They're not dangerous but I wouldn't drive far unless it was an awesome find. You'll get a lot of people flaking when you meet. Sort of expect them to at least be late (though I hope this is just a Los Angeles thing).
There are other online classifieds out there which some NA members have had great luck with. These are:
*It's worth mentioning that Kijiji is an eBay company. They're real sore about Craigslist cutting into their profits, so they started this as a free service. When it gets popular, it will be ad-based (including sponsored classifieds, banner and pop-up ads), as it already is in some countries. For this reason, I don't use it; it has a poor user base anyway.
What happened at the end of my scary buying experience that started this article? I bought Dinowarz, Rad Racer II and a gold Zelda for $5. I sold the Zelda and ended up getting Dinowarz and Rad Racer II (essentially) free. That scream? It was this half-dead mangy parrot that screamed like a little girl. Not worth the scare but at least I came out okay in the end. On the other hand, I've also snagged a CIB NES2 for $30, some more sought after titles like Mega Man (1 and 4), TMNT III, pirate multi-carts, good SNES games, etc. for dirt cheap. I've gotten a system with a CIB Excitebike for free. I've found lots of great resale lots (i.e., Mario 3) and the profit from that keeps my collection growing. However, I am by no means a Craigslist ninja; there have been better finds! Our own ArmageddonPotato found a Ninja Gaiden II prototype! May you have great success.
> Special thanks to MetalEggMan (for explanation of RSS feeds) and the poor Angelinos who thought they found gold. Couldn't have done it without you guys. If you'd like to respond to this article or contact me personally, feel free to email me at NESJohnny at gmail (or, just message me on the RetroReviewRevolution forums!).