When the medium first became popular in the West in the late 1970s, video games weren’t considered to be collectors. Far from it, in fact—old Atari carts were so disposable that many players simply threw the boxes they came in away without a second thought. Today, rare commodities like that could be worth thousands of dollars, and there are some retro games that command tens of thousands at auctions or online.
While some fork over small fortunes for the privilege of playing titles like Little Samson or Stadium Events on an actual console, others luck out and dig up a once-forgotten copy at a yard sale. The likelihood of striking it rich via inadvertent yard sale windfalls is about the same as winning the lottery, of course, but it happens often enough to cause dedicated game hunters to get out of bed at five in the morning on a Saturday to beat out the other garage vultures.
Unfortunately, thanks to the ubiquity of sites like eBay, most sellers can easily look up any game and instantly know what it’s worth, so the unexpected rare find often doesn’t come all that cheap anymore. Yet, there are a few people out there who simply want to clear out some space in their homes and can’t be bothered to price everything out accurately. It’s in these situations that collectors have gotten insanely lucky and picked up handfuls of priceless games for pennies on the dollar. Here are 25 valuable garage sale finds that barely cost the buyer anything (and are worth their weight in gold).
When it comes to the world of video games, beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. It’s hard to judge a game objectively when there are so many different genres and tastes out there, and, so long as a game functions well enough, there’s bound to be a fan of it out there somewhere. Such is the case with the TurboGrafx 16, a 16-bit system which was crushed beneath the might of Nintendo’s SNES and Sega’s Genesis. While it may be little more than a side note in gaming history, this redditor managed to sang a complete-in-box console and a bunch of games for around $100. It’s hard to estimate exactly how much that would sell for, but the buyer could easily double his or her money on this deal.
Right now is a great time to collect for system’s like the GameCube and Nintendo DS; while dwindling on the twilight of their relevance, these consoles certainly aren’t new, but they also aren’t quite retro, either. As a result, most of their lesser-known titles are extremely cheap, and YouTuber Scottsquash was able to buy 30 games for less than a dollar per title. He didn’t get his hands on anything particularly noteworthy, but that’s quite a lot of playtime he’s bought for less than half of what a new release would cost. Of course, most collectors have gaming backlogs so large that they have long since given up on getting through them. For some, that's half the fun of the hobby.
When it comes to retro game collecting, thrift store finds can be very hit-or-miss. While some dedicated hunters can come up with some truly rare gems on the cheap, many would-be Goodwill plunderers often leave stores either empty-handed or with a few cheap copies of shovelware Wii and PS2 titles. That said, YouTuber CraigslistGameFinds lucked out when he stumbled upon a near-mint condition SNES for $40. The system came bundled with a handful of great, valuable titles like Super Mario World, Mortal Kombat, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. All up, he made off with what must be $250 to $300 worth of retro games.
In the modern era, video game console development has been more or less relegated to two or three select companies. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, however, that wasn’t the case, and tons of business wanted in on this new and exciting potential revenue stream. Unfortunately, most of these SNES and Genesis wannabes flopped, and some were so catastrophically bad that they took their producers with them as they crashed and burned. Panasonic’s 3DO certainly fell short of success, but it enjoys a cult appreciation today. While these old consoles are tough to come across in the wild, this redditor purchased a system alongside eight games for a total of $10. It’s hard to say what that’s all worth, but it could have gone for twenty times that amount.
Garage sale finds are typically a mixed bag when it comes to video games. While some sellers will be peddling the odd current-gen console title, a majority of wares comes as the result of someone’s kid moving out and leaving all of their old, unwanted systems behind. GameCubes, PS2s, and original Xbox systems are nearly a dime a dozen in some places, and, given the oft-middling condition of most of these second-hand items, they usually aren’t worth much. However, this Reddit users seems to have scored a major bargain when he or she picked up a ton of games for multiple consoles for around $90 after a weekend of garage sale scouring. From the Sega Dreamcast to the Xbox 360, they picked up a little bit of everything, and the lot is worth at least three times what was paid.
As previously mentioned, it’s often tough to come across mint condition, boxed copies of SNES games. Back when the system was popular, the concept of game collecting was still in its infancy, and, as a result, few bothered to keep those bulky, hard-to-store boxes on hand. Years later, most of these have become beloved, nostalgic finds for game hunters, and they often command eye-popping prices online. YouTuber SeeJayAre scored big when he picked up a set of four boxed SNES games for a grand total of $10 back in May of 2013. Nintendo’s 16-bit system came with the deal, too, and he easily walked away with a net profit of at least two to three hundred dollars.
Unlike the Nintendo Switch, a system which is often rather pricey and carries an annoying quasi-tax with each game purchased for it, the GameCube was designed and priced to appeal to everyone. Nintendo’s sixth-generation hardware was easily the most affordable of the lot. Naturally, it’s even more affordable today, and this Reddit user managed to find an extensive GameCube garage sale haul for the low price of $30. Scoring a console, four controllers, and twenty games—included coveted titles like Super Mario Strikers, Mario Kart Double Dash, and Super Smash Brothers Melee, this Nintendo enthusiast made out like a king, as this stuff could be worth north of $250 to $300 at least.
Bubble Bobble was a quirky, well-loved title for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Though it didn’t see many subsequent iterations, the game did see a sequel in the form of Bubble Bobble 2. However, the game was released at the very end of the console’s lifespan, which meant that carts weren’t produced in mass quantities. The game can sell for more than $300 these days, so it must have come as a shock to this Redditor when they discovered a copy of the game hidden among a bundle of NES games they bought for $90. It’s a collector’s dream, and few fans of the original Bubble Bobble even know that there was a sequel on the NES.
Released late into the PlayStation 2’s lifespan, Rule of Rose was a unique and slightly bewildering horror adventure centered around a mysterious zeppelin run by a group of orphaned girls. Few can claim to have played it on an actual console since it didn’t sell very well in North American and few copies were printed. Those who still want to experience this hidden gem will need to fork over somewhere around $300 for the pleasure unless, like YouTuber ThatZombieGuy, they manage to dig one up at a garage sale. Sure, the case may have been missing, but it only set him back $1 when it could have cost him hundreds.
Collectors often end up with major bargains at yard sales because the party doing the selling isn’t quite aware of what they have. Such was the case when YouTuber Retro Plastics Lab made off with somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 worth of SNES items including a mint-condition boxed console. There aren’t many SNES boxes lying around these days—especially not in such quality condition—and this gaming fanatic must have been beside himself when he forked over the $20 for which the seller was asking. The system also came with a smattering of cartridges, most of which were recognizable titles like Super Mario World and The Lion King.
Spending upwards of $300 for one seemingly out-of-date video game may seem ridiculous to some, but what’s even crazier is spending that much on a single cable. In our modern era of 4K and Ultra HD, the humble component cable may seem a bit unnecessary. However, this is probably the most coveted item for GameCube collectors, and it usually goes for insane and ever-increasing amounts of money. Fortunately for this Reddit user, he or she managed to pick one up from a garage sale for a total of $10. That one cable could single-handedly fund the purchase of a Nintendo Switch, but, if the person posting this values their GameCube collection, they won’t be likely to sell it.
This may be the Goodwill find to end all Goodwill finds; while coming across even semi-valuable games can be a rarity in these stores, YouTube uploader Mr. Tight White stumbled upon the greatest gaming score of all time during this 2014 thrifting excursion. This store had one of the most robust gaming sections of any thrift store anyone has ever seen, and he quite literally made out like a bandit, pilling increasingly-rarified game on top of hard-to-find gem on top of coveted collector's item. Most of the games he bought weren’t ultra-rare, but, at $5 a pop, he easily made off with what must have been at least $100 to $200 worth of games, and the envy among the video’s commenters is palpable.
According to this Reddit contributor, they were offered a flat fee of $50 for their coworker's seemingly innocuous collection of old video games. This would pique the interest of any serious collector, as out-of-the-loop sellers very rarely know what they’ve got on their hands. As it turns out, the buyer ended up walking away with somewhere around $1500 worth of SNES and Sega Saturn paraphernalia. Among these items is a complete-in-box edition of Earthbound, a game which alone can go for over $1000. Had they simply done a bit of research, the seller would have come to realize the variable gold mine they had been sitting on. That said, it’s nice to see such a hearty bundle of rare gems go to someone who knows what it’s worth.
Most collectors out there seem to prefer console games, but there are a few dedicated individuals who have managed to keep their Commodore 64s running long enough to make collecting for outdated computers worthwhile. Loose retro PC games are often pretty cheap, and there are tons of obscure ones out there most would be willing to give away. However, certain big box PC games—so called thanks to the glossy, oversized boxes in which they came packaged—can run up quite a debt. Fortunately, well-known video game collector and YouTuber MetalJesusRocks managed to snag an amazing deal on Craigslist; nearly 600 boxed PC titles for a total of $75. It’s hard to say exactly how much that collection would be worth, but it’s certainly hundreds if not thousands.
Game trades are usually tough to pull off unless both parties know exactly what their games are worth. There’s usually a much greater chance of getting ripped off in a one-for-one trade, and, as a result, it seems like most people usually opt for cash instead. That wasn’t the case for YouTuber and collector MaximusBlack when he made a deal for the insanely rare SNES game Hagane, and his trade was about as one-sided as they come. He traded a few GameBoy titles, the total worth of which couldn't have been more than $100, for a game which regularly sells for more than $1,000. It could be that the other party simply wasn’t interested in going through online middlemen, or perhaps he or she really didn’t know what the game’s true value was.
NES game boxes are extremely rare these days; cardboard doesn’t keep all that well and is susceptible to all sorts of damage, of course, so mint-condition cases for certain games can be incredibly rare and extremely valuable. However, a Destructoid poster going by Niero claims to have picked up near-mint boxed copies of classic NES titles including Metroid, Contra, Cobra Triangle, and Ninja Gaiden for $2 a piece at a thrift shop. In his or her own words, the condition of these games was so good that it felt akin to stepping back through time to the NES’ heyday. Depending on the condition of these games, prices could range from one or two hundred to several thousand dollars, so Niero definitely got a deal.
In 1993, Nintendo put together a massive marketing campaign which was meant to promote the upcoming release of the SuperFX chip-aided fully 3D space combat-themed StarFox SNES game. A competition was held in retail stores and malls across North American, and the grand-prize winner was given an international trip to a location of their choice. 2,000 lucky contestants also got to go home with a special copy of the competition cart, which was dubbed Super StarFox Weekend Competition. More than a quarter of a century later, these cartridges are extremely rare and highly coveted. That said, one collector was able to snag five copies of this ultra-rare game and sell them for around $1000 total.
Games frequently release in buggy, unfinished states these days—in fact, putting out unfinished projects and patching them later has more or less become the norm. However, that wasn’t the case back in the NES and SNES days. At that time, it was extremely uncommon or outright impossible to sneak a peek at a game before it was completed. That said, beta builds intended for developers eyes only sometimes made their way onto the market, though that occurs so rarely that happening upon one of these demos at a garage sale is almost impossible. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to Jacob Christopher, who found himself in possession of an ultra-rare, ultra-valuable NES Earthbound demo after a quick trade at a yard sale. The product has since been authenticated, and, though it’s hard to put an exact price on such a rare item, it’s certainly worth north of $1,000.
It can be tough to determine the value of games found in the wilds of garage and community sales when there are so many differing factors in play, the condition usually being the most important to consider. That dusty old Amiga 32 may look like nothing more than a waste of space, but it could be a goldmine if cleaned up and sold the right bidder. YouTuber CraigslistGameFinds initially passed up on this massive collection of TurboGrafx 16 games which came bundled with both the console and its NEC CD addon. Though he originally considered $80 to be too high a price point, he later reconsidered and grabbed what he thinks could amount to around $1500 worth of retro gaming gear.
Game collectors often crawl out of bed early on Saturday mornings to peruse garage sales in the hopes of coming across some truly rare times. Though the almost never happens, there are enough yard sale success stories floating around on the internet to perpetuate the near-myth that someone could come across a copy of Duck Tales 2 or Little Samson for less than a dollar. In fact, that exact thing happened to a member of the Atariage forums. Back in 2013, he or she came upon what might be one of the most impressive garage sale hauls of all time. While the whole collection is impressive, the pièce de résistance was a set of ultra-rare NES titles worth nearly $1,000 a piece.
Any NES collector worth their salt will know that Stadium Events is the rarest and most sought-after title to ever see release in North America. Only 200-some cartridges are thought to have been produced and distributed, and, as a result, the game goes for thousands and thousands of dollars in auctions and online. The probability of coming across an authentic cart at a garage sale is almost nothing, but that’s exactly what this Austin-based gamer Michael McCaskill did back in 2016. He originally bought the game for $2 without knowing the value of his purchase, but, after a quick Google search revealed the item’s worth, he flipped it to a local retro games retailer for $7,500.
Essentially the first successful mainstream home video game console, the Atari 2600 is still a beloved piece of retro-ware which older gamers still enjoy playing forty-odd years later. That said, the console's library is a mixed bag, and some titles are tremendously valuable while others aren’t even worth the plastic in which they are housed. Still, a few games are so incredibly rare that most collectors aren’t even aware of their existence. One such game is Red Sea Crossing, an independently-developed game which was so unheard of that no physical copies were thought to exist until one was uncovered at a garage sale in 2007. Bought for pennies on the dollar, the game later sold for $10,400 on GameGavel.
Goodwill stores aren’t usually known for their terrific video game deals. While some tremendous bargains can indeed be found at this charity thrift shop, that’s certainly more of an exception than the rule. However, most of the time, employees don’t bother to check the going rate for most games and simply price them out according to corporate policy. This can lead to such headline-worthy stories as that of North Carolina-based shopper Wilder Hamm who happened upon a copy of Stadium Events at the bottom of a dusty box full of old nick-nacks that she bought for $8. After finding out what the game was really worth, she managed to sell it for 25 grand. Hopefully, she donated some of that money to the charity which gave her such a great deal, albeit unwittingly.
We’ve already mentioned that Atari 2600 games often varied wildly in terms of quality. While it’s hard to differentiate the good from the bad nowadays thanks to the primitive nature of most of the console's titles, gamers grew so tired of the oversaturated, underwhelming market at the time that it almost capsized the industry entirely. However, one 2600 owner managed to buy the infamously bad Air Raid for around $10 back in the mid-1980s and held on to it because he couldn’t even manage to trade it away. In 2010, he discovered that he owned one of only thirteen copies of the game known to exist, and it later sold in an auction for a whopping $31,600.
When it comes to gaming garage sale finds, it doesn’t get much better than this; in 2009, video game enthusiast Rob Walters snagged a box full of old NES cartridges for a total of $40. Among the titles found in his garage sale windfall was a copy of Nintendo Campus Challenge 1991—a title so rare that it was never officially sold in stores. Instead, it was given to select winners of Nintendo’s 1991 college campus gaming extravaganza. While that single cartridge later sold for more than $20,000, the total contents of that one dusty box eventually brought in a sum of $50,000, which constitutes one of the most tremendous yard sales finds in recent history.