The Sega Game Gear was an innovative handheld gaming system first released in 1990. With its full color backlit screen and processing power approaching Sega’s Master System console, the Game Gear pioneered portable gameplay. However, limited battery life and a high original cost impacted sales. Today, the Game Gear remains a sought after collectible for Sega fans. But how much is a Game Gear worth?
This comprehensive guide will examine all the key factors impacting the current valuation and prices for an original Game Gear system on the secondary gaming collector’s market. We’ll see how variables like condition, included accessories, special editions and rarity determine values.
Table of Contents
Overview of Top Game Gear Value Considerations
When evaluating a Game Gear system for purchase, here are the most important aspects that influence pricing:
Condition – Cosmetic and functional condition greatly affects pricing. Scratches, screen defects, water damage all lower price.
Inclusions – Boxes, manuals, cartridges, cases raise values. Complete in box systems fetch much higher prices.
Special Editions – Rare color variants like the blue Game Gear are worth more to collectors.
Repairs/Mods – Replacing capacitors, screen covers help restore but lower originality.
Rarity – Uncommon late models like Game Gear Light and Pocket are highly valuable.
With these key valuation factors in mind, let’s do a deep dive into the Game Gear pricing landscape and what prices represent fair market value for both buyers and sellers.
Loose Game Gear Price Ranges
Loose refers to a Game Gear unit itself without any bundled games, power supplies, or original accessories. Here is the current standard pricing range for loose systems based on condition:
- Working Game Gear – $40-$70 is average for a functioning unit with some minor scratches and scuffs acceptable.
- Excellent Condition – $80-$120 reflects near mint clean Game Gears with minimal wear and tear on logos/stickers.
- Defective Game Gears – As low as $15-$25 for junk units sold just for parts or restoration candidates. Won’t power on.
- Rare Special Colors – Expect to pay above standard pricing for rarer colors like blue, red, yellow. Up to $150+ for specialty colors in exceptional cosmetic condition.
The key is aiming for used Game Gears that power on and play properly without major screen defects or sound issues. Some natural scuffing and yellowing comes with age, but extreme damage significantly hurts pricing. Test every button and directional input before purchasing.
What’s Included in Box for Complete in Box (CIB) Game Gears?
For collectors seeking a fully complete Game Gear setup with original materials, CIB systems command premium valuations over loose units. Here’s what defines a truly complete Game Gear package:
- Game Gear Console – The handheld system itself.
- Original Box – Cardboard box with styrofoam/inserts protecting the unit.
- Instruction Manual – The original instruction booklet and paperwork.
- Power Supply – Wall power adapter and cable specific to country.
- Packaged Game(s) – Game(s) included with box and inserts.
Any additional original accessories, overlays, promotional inserts etc further raise CIB status. The quality and completeness of the box itself also affects pricing. Crushed/torn boxes reduce CIB value.
What’s a Fair Price for Game Gear CIB?
Given the above components required for true CIB status, here is the current pricing landscape:
- Complete in Box (CIB) – $200+ on average. Can reach above $350+ for collector grade CIB examples with mint condition boxes and protective plastic seals intact.
- Box Condition – Worn, crushed, or water damaged boxes substantially reduce CIB valuation. Near pristine boxes raise prices higher.
- Manuals/Inserts – Full booklets, posters, and original insert paperwork improves perception of completeness.
- Original Accessories – Including the TV Tuner, Car Adapter, posters, and other accessories raises CIB value.
- Packaged Game(s) – Boxed games, especially popular titles like Sonic or Shinobi boost the package price.
Part of achieving proper CIB status requires verifying serial numbers match between console, power adapter, and original box. Mismatched or replaced parts drastically reduce collector appeal.
How Different Models Affect Game Gear Valuation
Over the Game Gear’s lifespan from 1990-1997, Sega produced a few different variations on the original hardware. Here are some models and their pricing considerations:
- Game Gear (1990) – The original launch model. Slightly larger form factor, darker tinted screen, mono sound. Very common.
- Game Gear (1992) – Slimmer redesign with brighter display and full stereo sound. The most abundantly available model.
- Game Gear Light – Japan only late model with built-in backlight and highly valuable to collectors.
- Game Gear Pocket – Extremely rare final 1997 mini Game Gear sold exclusively in Japan. Hard to find so very expensive.
For affordability and game compatibility, sticking to the common SMS-001 models is recommended. But late production short-run variations like the Game Gear Light and Pocket command huge premiums upwards of $500+ if found intact due to scarcity.
Best Game Gear Games to Bundle For Added Value
For loose or bundled Game Gears, including quality game titles alongside the system can improve overall valuation. Here are some of the more desirable titles to include:
- Sonic Series – Sonic the Hedgehog 1-2 are must haves. Sonic Chaos, Triple Trouble, Drift and others also popular.
- Shinobi – A graphical showcase demonstrating the Game Gear’s impressive arcade port capabilities.
- Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse – Smooth platformer port of the Genesis classic.
- Columns – Packed in Tetris clone showing off vivid graphics and addictive puzzle gameplay.
- Dragon Crystal – Excellent early era action RPG release.
- Shinobi II – Superior sequel to Sega’s arcade ninja series with enhanced visuals.
Even common games like Sonic Triple Trouble complete in box can alone sell for $60-$100. Bundling desired titles with the core system boosts overall asking prices.
Refurbishing and Restoring Game Gear Hardware
Given their age, many Game Gear units require some degree of refurbishment, maintenance, and replacement of aged components for optimal performance. Here are some common restoration fixes:
- Recapping – Replace bulging, rusted or leaky capacitors on the main boards to avoid imminent system failures down the road. This prevents crashes and glitches.
- Cleaning – Complete disassembly to thoroughly clean exterior plastic and interior PCBs. Re-grease worn out d-pad and button gears for smooth controls.
- Screen Replacement – Install new aftermarket glass screen covers to protect the delicate original LCD display. Helps visibility.
- Battery Optimization – Maximize playtime by using modern high capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries. Or perform lithium-ion battery mods.
- Buttons – Replace the silicone button pads under the d-pad and buttons. This restores tactile feel and input sensitivity.
Refurbishing well extends the useable lifespan of Game Gears by decades. But collectors want 100% original parts, so restored units lose some resale value. It’s a trade-off between playability and collecting purity.
Recapping a Game Gear – Why and How-To Steps
The Game Gear contains many electrolytic capacitors on its main boards responsible for handling and smoothing voltage delivery. After decades, these components bulge, leak, and cause crashes/glitches. Preventatively replacing caps through “recapping” restores reliability.
Here is an overview of the recapping process:
- Why Recap? – Avoid future failures and instability as caps wear out. Restores component tolerances for solid power delivery and clock speeds.
- Tools Needed – Soldering Iron, Solder, Flux, Desoldering Braid, Replacement Caps, Magnifying Glass.
- Accessing PCB – Fully disassemble the Game Gear down the main boards. Sometimes requires cautiously prying them loose.
- Cap Removal – Carefully heat and desolder aged caps one by one, using braid to thoroughly absorb old solder.
- New Caps – Solder in new replacement capacitors of the proper values and voltage tolerances. Note polarity.
- Reassembly – Clean, double check work, then reassemble the Game Gear. Power on and test for any glitches. Enjoy stable voltage and clean audio.
Take your time and work cautiously when recapping. Rushing risks lifting PCB traces or damaging components. But revived stability is worth the effort.
Game Gear Display Modification Options
The Game Gear’s original low contrast LCD screen with dark backing struggles with visibility issues in modern lighting conditions. Thankfully, a variety of display mods exist to improve playability:
Aftermarket Glass Screen Covers – Drop-in replacement glass screens add a clear protective front layer over the original LCD, greatly enhancing visibility. Affordable and easy to install.
McWill Screen Mod – Favored high end display upgrade featuring a modern full color LCD with configurable scaling options. More complex installation.
Hand Held Legend Kit – Simpler pre-configured LCD kit focused just on improving visibility. Lower cost alternative to McWill for entry level mods.
Backlight Mods – LED backlights allow adjustable screen brightness for low light gaming. Some soldering and case trimming required. Cheapest option.
Choosing a display mod involves balancing cost, complexity, and your goals – whether just improved playability or maxing out state of the art hardware capabilities.
Game Gear Case Painting and Customization
The Game Gear’s lightweight plastic shell naturally picked up scuffs and faded over decades of use. With some careful prep work, repainting the case restores the vivid colors using hobby paints and supplies:
- Disassemble down to the bare case halves and thoroughly clean with soap and water. Scuff lightly with fine sandpaper for paint prep.
- Apply 2-3 thin coats of plastic-adhering primer spray, allowing proper dry time between applications. Lightly sand again.
- Build up light layers of color coats in the original hue or a custom color. Allow proper curing time.
- Finish with 1-2 clear coats for glossy protection. Wet sand then buff/polish gently when fully cured for sheen.
- Reassemble the freshly painted Game Gear and enjoy your refreshed custom console.
With care, reused original screws retain authenticity over new replacements. Creative case painting breathes new life into worn shells.
Helpful Game Gear Hardware Accessories
A few optional accessories can improve Quality of Life when using and maintaining an original Game Gear system:
Carrying Case – Protects screen and provides storage for games and batteries while traveling. Avoid loose games getting lost.
Glass Screen Protector – Additional barrier to protect LCD display from scratches and scuffs.
Rechargeable Batteries – High capacity NiMH AA rechargeables reduce waste and cost vs disposable alkalines.
AC Adapter – Play at home with steady power delivery and avoid burning batteries. Just be sure adapter meets voltage requirements.
Headphones – With stereo sound support, headphones let you experience Game Gear audio immersed away from TV speakers.
While not required, these handy accessories provide convenience and preserve original Game Gear hardware when on the go or hooked up at home.
Joining the Game Gear Collecting Community
Connect with fellow Sega fans online to buy/sell, get repair tips, find rare games, and share your Game Gear collection:
Reddit – /r/GameGear – The best Game Gear subreddit. Features collector showcases, modding and repair advice. 17,000 members.
SegaAge Forums – Sega forums with dedicated Game Gear sections for discussion and marketplace. Also covers homebrew scene.
SegaBase Forums – UK Sega fan forums with collectors across Europe. Game Gear subreddit has buying/trading focus.
GameGear Group on Facebook – Casual trading and showoff group with nearly 5,000 members. Not as active for repairs.
Sega Collectors United on Facebook – Larger Sega collector group covering all systems but a section for Game Gear posts.
Enjoying Game Gears is best as a shared hobby. Fellow fans provide technical knowledge, rare game leads, showcasing opportunities, and more.
The Game Gear’s relatively short early 90s lifespan compared to long-running rivals like the Game Boy means systems in great condition continue to become rarer. As one of Sega’s early revolutionary portables, prices for loose and complete Game Gears are climbing steadily for collectors.
Whether trying to reacquire your original Game Gear from childhood, or explore this innovative piece of Sega history for the first time, understanding the key factors like condition rarity, and model differences provides realistic insight into the Game Gear’s collector value.
For retro gaming fans, the Game Gear rightfully deserves a spot in any portable collection. Just be sure to thoroughly inspect, test games, and research fair pricing using the guidance here before making any purchase. When well restored and maintained, the Game Gear delivers amazing 16-bit gameplay and vibrant graphics that impress even today.
Game Gear Pricing and Value FAQs
Q: How much more are rare special color Game Gears worth vs standard edition?
A: Special colors like blue, yellow, red tend to sell for $100+ over the regular grey model if condition is equivalent.
Q: What are signs of a fully working Game Gear in good condition?
A: Clear screen, sound in both speakers, responsive controls, games load properly. No power issues, screen blinking, blurriness when played.
Q: Do modified or refurbished Game Gears have less collector value?
A: Yes, all original is ideal for collectors. But repairs like recapping, screen covers, battery mods make units far more usable long term.
Q: What are the rarest and most valuable Game Gear models?
A: The late production Game Gear Light and Game Gear Pocket are highly prized rarities that can sell for $500+ since so few were produced.
Q: What accessories are worth bundling with a Game Gear?
A: Official accessories like the TV Tuner, Car Adapter, Game Gear to Genesis Converter, Master Gear Converter, and fishing controller add bundle value.