RETRO video games and consoles are one of the new collecting fields being celebrated at auction, with Send-based Ewbank’s being the first UK saleroom to launch a dedicated department.

Video games is a young market of collecting but one which is growing in popularity.

An auction of Nintendo games, all from one owner, will be staged online by Ewbank’s next month.

Andrew Ewbank, partner at Ewbank’s, splits the retro video games and consoles sales at the Burnt Common Auction Rooms into three categories.

The Vintage Era (1970s-1980s)

This is the golden age of gaming that began in the very early 1970s with the likes of Computer Space, Atari’s Pong and The Oregon Trail, before moving on to Space Invaders, Galaxian and Asteroids

The 1980s started with Pac-Man, Frogger and Donkey Kong

Many of these were only really available at the time through commercial video-game arcades, where eager youngsters would hang out and play. 

But even in the early 1970s, consoles were available, including the Odyssey series, Atari Home Pong and the Coleco Telstar series.

By the mid-1970s these began to make way for a new generation, when handheld consoles also joined the party as microprocessing led to the introduction of game cartridges, later replaced by optical discs. 

Rarities from this era include the RDI Halcyon, introduced in 1985 to support laserdiscs – a technology that led to a dead end, with the console withdrawn. Only a handful survive. 

The Nintendo PlayStation (Super NES CD-Rom System) is another, created in partnership with Sony but never released. Only one is known to have made it to market, a prototype that sold in 2020 for $360,000. 

Thousands of games were made for the Commodore 64, the best-selling home computer.

There was also the Nintendo Entertainment System. Rare games include Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for 3DS and Super Mario Bros

Ewbank’s also offer associated memorabilia and marketing items, such as magazines and in-store advertising posters. 

The Retro Era (1990-2000s)

The retro age offers a wider variety of products from the Atari, Nintendo, Sega and Sony console and handheld ranges, including Nintendo 64, Sony PlayStation One and Sega Dreamcast. 

Rare games include the grey and gold editions of the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, Air Raid, Stadium Events and Red Sea Crossing, whose original form dates back as far as 1983. 

Sealed and graded retro games from this period are very popular, with several reaching over $500,000 in recent auctions. 

Memorabilia from this era includes figures, figurines, art books and strategy guides. 

The Modern Era (2010-date)

Ewbank’s are also interested in offering fully-working consoles, games and oddities from the current generations, including everything from full/complete sets to fully boxed, sealed consoles.  

Also included in their sales are bundles or small collections of games from a specific console, such as the Xbox 360 or PS3. 

And, as with the other eras, Ewbank’s are looking to augment sales with promotional material such as standees, signed posters and games.  

Although the collector-fair market for retro video games and consoles is maturing nicely, the auction market is young, so pricing can still be unpredictable and estimates must reflect this.   

For the moment, genuine prices are largely in the hundreds of pounds or below.

But sell-through rates show that demand is strong and climbing, perhaps aside from the graded-games market which has shown falls recently, with some controversy, in particular  at auction in the US. Inevitably, this means that prices will rise again – and are likely to do so quickly. 

Add to this the fact that as gamers age they become more nostalgic and generally have more disposable income to invest in this sector – and that as time goes by, surviving games in fine condition are harder to find – and you have the perfect conditions for a promising collecting field.  

Andrew said: “At Ewbank’s we believe that developing new expertise and getting in on the ground floor with new collecting disciplines is vital to the long-term health of any auction business.

“Equally important is ensuring that we give our clients what they want, which is why we prioritise areas like this. 

“They are as important to new generations of collectors as fine furniture with a premium patina has long been to those who came before.”