But it's no huge secret, I buy Shoppe stuff from other people who no longer want it (preferably in large quantities). These can be dealers who have ancient stock they don't have time to deal with but want to get something for it rather than just throw it all out... ex-dealers who still have a bunch of it stacked in an attic or basement... ex-players who've just cleaned out their closet and rediscovered all their old stuff... resellers who are willing to move it for a decent price. I check the thrift shops, the phone books, sift through the newsgroups. I ask dealers, co-workers, people running garage sales and flea-market booths. I take out the occasional classified.
So the short answer is, I get this stuff from everywhere.
Granted, the Shoppe seems to attract a higher percentage of such people than many other places: I've lost count of the number of people who've surfed in from a search engine or other classic gaming pages, seen the list and said, "Hey, I have some of that stuff! Want to buy it?" And granted, I do have a few secret sources that I speak to no one about, but it's really just a matter of looking everywhere. This stuff was all mass-produced at one time, remember, so there's bound to be someone out there who has a few boxes of it still lying around.
For instance, just last weekend, I was up in the Chicago area searching through...
The Mage's Treasure Room
Anyone out there looking to get started in the old software business in a big way? Fellow collector and pal Tom Hlavaty (aka TomMage) bought a huge lot of old software from a guy in Pennsylvania awhile back and is now looking to move it all at once, or possibly in 2 or 3 lots. He's got about 100 boxes of the stuff, averaging 40 - 50 pounds each, and totalling somewhere around 6,000 - 10,000 pieces. He's asking only $1700 minimum, which equates to just $17 a box, roughly 17 - 28 cents per game.
The two of us have gone through all of it already, so don't plan on finding a bunch of Infocom or Ultima rarities, but there are some budget text games and a butt-load of good arcade, sports, graphic adventures, and lots of duplicates. For just about any system too -- a good percentage is PC, but he's also got Commodore, Apple, Amiga, Atari ST, a little of everything. This is a great opportunity for anyone looking to start up a retail or online business for vintage software -- with a quantity this large for such a low price, you're sure to make a profit if you have the storage space and the time to sell it all individually.
If anyone's interested, please e-mail TomMage for more information, and the two of you can work out the details such as delivery (there'll definitely be a rental truck involved). I know he'd like to sell to someone in the Chicago area if possible, but his primary goal is to move this stuff soon.
And who knows, maybe we both missed something buried in all that?
Wrapping It Up?
Can everyone stand just one more article about shrinkwrap? I had an interesting discussion with collector Volker Lanz (visit his Border Zone, a new addition to the links page), and he raised some points I wanted to address and get some other opinions about.
One of the more annoying habits of software resellers, both real-world and net-based, is to put shrinkwrap back over games that have already been opened. While their intentions are understandable (keeps shoplifters from opening the box and pocketing the disks, plus people who want to use the software tend to feel much more comfortable buying a title that's wrapped), it raises the classic shrinkwrap dilemma with collectors: What guarantee do you have that it's the original?
Granted, a lot of the time you can spot a used package by wear, missing stickers on the front of the wrap, stickers the reseller puts under the rewrap, a "harder" wrap as opposed to the soft plastic used by most manufacturers, etc. And you can sometimes unmistakably identify a genuine shrink by the special stickers Infocom put on the outside, the famous "air hole", and so forth. But what about the boxes that aren't obvious rewraps, but are neither clearly originals? What about that so-called "shrinked" package you've held onto that could be either the real thing or simply a very well-cared-for rewrap? Until the collector physically opens the box to check for sure, its shrinkwrapped status remains uncertain. It hangs in limbo. It's Schrödinger's Cat. And what if you open it and it turns out it was the original wrap all along and you're now out the value of the wrap job with nothing to show for it? And but if you don't open it, you'll never, ever be absolutely certain for the rest of your life. (Is it any wonder serious collectors tend to be a bit... quirky?)
Compounding this problem is the fact that not all Infocom greys were pre- wrapped. Some titles were shipped to retailers with shrinkwrap over just the props, with the "browsie" (I hate that word, but a lot of collectors use it) left open. Some retailers wrapped the outer package, while others left the package the way it was so customers could inspect the manual to get an idea of what the game was about and to see if it was something they'd enjoy. This accounts for the difference in shrinkwrap styles and the fact that the famous "air hole" isn't always there, but it also raises another question. How exactly is "original shrinkwrap" defined?
Think about it: One game comes out of Infocom already wrapped, a second is wrapped by a retailer before being placed on the shelf. Both games are new in the sense that no one has opened and played them. But the game wrapped by the retailer has been vulnerable to slight wear from being packed into a box, jostled around a bit during shipping, maybe flipped through by a few people working in the store, maybe accidentally dropped. So it's in slightly less pristine shape than the game that came out of Infocom with the wrap already on. But still. The retail wrap was the first shrinkwrap ever put on that particular game, and if that's not "original shrinkwrap", what would you call it? If you don't count this as original wrap, a few titles may not be available at all in shrinked condition, and we collectors don't like that sense of incompleteness. But. Even at Infocom's packaging facility, there's that slight chance of a game falling off the conveyor belt, or getting just a teensy bit scuffed as it's jostled along.
The point of all this is-- (God this is fun, but aside from that) --games are not made with the shrinkwrap on them. All wrapped packages, at some point, have had the wrap off. So the question then becomes: Where exactly is the cutoff point? Is it still "original shrinkwrap" if it's put on by a retailer or distributor prior to its first commercial sale? Is that still "new" enough to satisfy the collector? Or does the potential for slight wear occurring in transit effectively nullify the guarantee that the item is "mint", and thus obviate the whole purpose of seeking a shrinkwrapped copy?
C'mon, let's hear some thoughts. Surely Volker and I can't be the only ones who think about this stuff?
A few new options to bring the Shoppe into the Year 2000 (we're all sick of the "M" word by now, so I won't use it):
I also found some software recently that makes it possible to get around most of those irritating disk keys ("please insert the original 5-1/4 disk for verification"). One thing to remember, though, is that there are still programs I may be unable to move to a 3-1/2 disk... the Infocomics come to mind. These require you to boot off the floppy, and I have neither a workaround for this nor the time to sit down and find one. Not saying I won't try a straight copy with my new program if you ask, just saying if that doesn't work, you're pretty much out of luck, since I haven't got the time to dig any deeper.
By the way, for those of you surfing in from eBay, have you noticed my descriptions reading, "on 5-1/4 disks, but you could copy to 3-1/2 if you need to"? Just so you know, by "you", I mean "me". I'll gladly copy them for you if you ask. I'd just rather not say that on eBay, since they tend to frown on including backup copies of software in a sale, even if you give them away for free (which mine are, I never charge for the 3-1/2 copy), and since there are a number of weasels out there reporting such things.
Unfortunately PayPal currently only handles transactions within the United states, but until they change this (later this year) I recommend a service called BidPay that allows buyers in Europe to purchase a money order with a credit card. There's a fee for this, but it's another option and I've had good experience with it. They do have the restriction of only doing auction-related transactions, but we'll work something out for that. (For example I can initiate an auction at an agreed-upon price, then once you bid I'll close the auction early. May have to look into Yahoo for this, as they don't charge for listing. Anyway, we'll see what we can do.)
"Oiceberg, roight ahead!"
In case you haven't picked up a copy yet, I'd recommend you try to get ahold of Douglas Adams' latest computer adventure game Starship Titanic, by Simon and Schuster. It's actually been out for quite some time now, but I don't follow the modern computer games market very closely.
The reason I mention it is that it's the first mass-market commercial game release in years to use a text parser. The game itself is graphical, point-and-click, but when talking to characters you type sentences in conversational English.
In addition to the normal retail box, there's also a First Class Cruise Kit, a deluxe package with a copy of Terry Jones' novelization and some other goodies you can't get anywhere else (kind of like the Dragon Edition of Ultima: Ascension, except in this case the software loads and runs). This will probably start getting hard to come by soon, but there are a few on eBay this week, and I think Amazon.com still has it.
It takes guts to publish a game that requires actually typing these days, when most people won't even pay for a shareware text game. Show your support for Douglas and company by picking up a copy. (Besides, I sense a future collectible here.)
I'm a busy guy these days. Let me know what aspect of the Shoppe you'd like me to focus on the most. I've added a short survey -- let me know what you'd like to see.
New This Month
I know, I really ought to consider changing the name to "Ye Olde Nonne- Infocomme Shoppe. Got a few Infocom greys in, but for the most part this update is other text games and non-IF. Truth is, I haven't found all that many Infocoms I can get at a price that makes reselling worth the time and trouble. I still pick them up when I can find them for around $10 - $12 apiece, but I just haven't come across any lately. I need to have somebody sell me a whole trunkload again, is what I need.
Still, don't overlook the non-Infocom text stuff. I have some very nice unopened Scott Adams pieces from the Questprobe series, couple of DataSoft Alternate Reality titles (which I keep hearing are good), a number of the original British Level 9 packages, shrinked Penguin stuff and Activision Tass Times, Demoniak by Pure Fiction (a PC version, no less), and a repackaging of Sierra's Mission Asteroid and Wizard and the Princess. Lotsa good stuff, proving you don't necessarily need Infocom to have something to collect.
And, you're not going to believe this, but I've finally updated my want-list, at the bottom of the for-sale page. Got a whole buncha titles to choose from now, so those of you who've complained (and legitimately so) that you never know what to trade to me, now you do.
Oh yeah, one last thing: Anyone out there interested in designing a Shoppe
logo? If so, by all means LMK!