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Vintage and retro technology has seen a huge resurgence in popularity in recent years. From vinyl records to Super Nintendo games, people are nostalgic for the gadgets and games of the past. Collecting retro tech is a fun hobby that allows you to relive childhood memories and own iconic pieces of history.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll give you tips on how to start your own retro tech collection. We’ll cover everything from deciding what to collect to displaying your finds. Let’s dive in!
- Choose a focus like vintage video games, computers, or audio equipment
- Search local thrift stores, flea markets, eBay, and specialty retailers to find deals
- Store finds properly to prevent damage and maintain value
- Catalog and track your collection with photos, spreadsheets, or collection apps
- Display your collection proudly for enjoyment and conversation
- Connect with other collectors to trade finds and share knowledge
Choosing a Focus
The first step is deciding what type of retro tech you want to collect. Here are some popular options:
- Video games – Atari, Nintendo, Sega, PlayStation
- Computers – Apple, Commodore, IBM
- Audio – Vinyl records, boomboxes, Walkmans
- Telephones – Rotary phones, cell phones
- Cameras – Polaroids, 35mm film cameras
- Televisions – Wood panel, cathode ray tube
- Portable devices – Pagers, PDAs, early mobile phones
- Vintage electronics – Radios, speakers, turntables
- Gadgets – Calculators, electronic toys
Choose an area that aligns with your interests and nostalgia. Focusing on one category makes it easier to build a meaningful collection. You can always expand into other areas later on.
Now that you’ve chosen a focus, it’s time to start hunting for retro tech deals! Here are some of the best places to search:
- Goodwill, Salvation Army, Savers, Value Village
- Check electronics and media sections
- Inspect items closely for damage
- Look for untested electronics at discounted prices
- Outdoor markets with various vendors
- Ask sellers if they have vintage electronics or video games
- Arrive early for best selection
- Weekend garage sales can have retro tech treasures
- Look for signs mentioning electronics, video games, vintage
- Don’t be afraid to haggle on prices
- Search for specific items or browse related categories
- Filter by used condition to find deals
- Read seller reviews and check ratings
- Don’t overpay – watch for overpriced “Buy It Now” items
- Stores like Goodwill Auctions and Retro Gaming Treasure
- Higher prices but convenient shopping
- Often fully test and restore electronics
Tips for Getting Deals
- Check sellers’ other listings for bundle deals
- Be polite and build a rapport with sellers
- Check items early at yard sales before crowds arrive
- Don’t impulse buy – price check expensive items
- Bring cash to pay sellers directly
- Offer to buy multiple lower-priced items for a discount
Safely Storing Your Finds
To keep your retro tech in working order and retain its value, you need to store it properly. Here are some tips:
- Keep items in a climate-controlled room away from sources of heat, humidity, and direct sunlight. Temperature swings can damage electronics.
- Store loose game cartridges in cases lined with foam to prevent damage. Universal game cases are inexpensive online.
- Use resealable plastic bags and silicon gel packs to guard against moisture. Change the gel packs a few times a year.
- For vinyl records, store vertically in crates or boxes. Avoid stacking horizontally as this can warp records over time.
- If possible, place very delicate items like portable music players in protective display cases.
- Don’t leave batteries in devices – they can corrode and damage internals.
- Wrap and store cables neatly to prevent dust buildup and loose cable connections.
- For items being displayed, keep out of reach of pets, children, and high traffic areas.
Cataloging Your Collection
Cataloging your collection makes it easier to track what you have and look up key details. Here are some options:
- Take photos of each item and label with details – easy but time consuming
- Use Excel or Google Sheets to log each item in a database – add columns for name, category, price, condition, etc.
- Apps like CLZ Games let you catalog and track your collections – great for large collections
Tips for Cataloging
- Assign a sequential ID # to each item
- Note any damage or missing pieces – good for insurance claims
- Backup your catalog regularly to avoid losing data
- Add new finds within a week of purchasing before you forget details
- Store manuals, warranties and receipts together with the item
Displaying Your Collection
One of the best parts about collecting retro tech is proudly displaying your finds. Here are creative ways to show off your collection in style:
- Bookcases or wall-mounted shelves work perfectly for displaying smaller items
- Arrange by category, era, or color scheme for visual appeal
- Lighting: Use LED strip lights to spotlight items
- Glass cabinet with internal lighting ideal for pristine condition high-value items
- Use risers or stands inside to better showcase items
- Keep valuable items locked and install smoke detector as a precaution
- Dedicate space for a retro game room to play and display your collection
- Hang framed classic console advertisements
- Display boxed games on wall mounted shelves
- Arrange consoles on TV stand with controllers and carts nearby for quick access
Tips for Displaying
- Dust regularly when displaying open items
- Keep high traffic areas organized so items don’t get damaged
- Limit light exposure for rare items when possible
- Have fun arranging and rearranging your displays!
Connecting with Fellow Collectors
Joining retro tech collector communities is a great way to exchange knowledge and trade. Here are places to connect:
Local Collector Groups
- Find clubs on Facebook for collecting in your city
- Attend meetups to browse collections and trade
- NintendoAge – for games and consoles
- DigitalPress Forum – covers multiple categories of retro tech
- Events like the Midwest Gaming Classic are paradise for collectors
- Attend panel talks led by experts in your hobby
Tips for Connecting
- Follow collectors with similar interests on Instagram
- Always be fair when trading and establish trust
- Share finds and seek advice in forum discussions
- Split high value lots with other collectors to get best deal
- Make friends who can alert you to upcoming sales
Starting a retro tech collection is an enjoyable hobby that lets you re-experience classic devices from the past. Choose a focus that excites you, hunt for hidden gems, care for your finds, proudly display your collection, and connect with fellow collectors. As your collection grows, the fun memories will keep you motivated to keep searching for that next great find.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if retro tech is valuable?
Factors like age, rarity, condition, and demand determine value. Very early models of consoles and games often fetch high prices. Mint condition items in original packaging are ideal. Popular games like Mario and hardware like the Apple I are in high demand. Do research online to price check rare items.
Is it better to buy retro tech already restored or as-is?
It depends on your goals. As-is items are riskier but far cheaper. Already restored pieces cost more but work immediately. Try buying some as-is deals to get bargains, then also splurge on key restored items you really want.
What are the best places to find retro tech deals?
Flea markets, thrift stores, garage sales, eBay, and specialty retailers like Goodwill Auctions can all yield great finds. It takes time and persistence searching to find the best deals. Go often and look hard!
How do you clean and maintain retro tech?
Use microfiber cloths and isopropyl alcohol to gently clean plastic and metal. Avoid getting moisture in cartridge slots. Clean games and discs with a dedicated cleaning solution. Replace batteries before they corrode. Store items properly in a climate controlled room.
Is it okay to mod or repair vintage electronics and games?
As long as you don’t permanently alter or damage an item, light mods are generally fine. Upgrades like new capacitors for old electronics can be good. Mod at your own risk and keep original parts. Over-modding can hurt value.