Ok, you know you want to be a collector. You even have a half-way decent idea of where to collect them. Now what? Where do you possibly expect to find these games?

The difficulty level of this task is entirely dependent on whether or not what you want to acquire is still in print or relatedly had a very large print run. If either is the case, you’re on easy street.

At that point, it’s just a matter of money and an internet connection. Direct order is the simplest way or if you are lucky enough to be one of the few who still has a neighborhood gaming store he or she can buy from, you can just waltz in there and pick up your gaming crack.

If, more realistically, what you want hasn’t been in print for years, possibly longer than you’ve been alive, then you have a problem. By the way, older gamers let that sink in. There are games you played that are older than most of the youngest current crop of gamers. *Shudder*

Still, the neighborhood game store might not be the worst idea in the world. Many of them have strong and often restocked used sections, especially if they buy collections (and most have through my memory). Generally speaking, unless you’re dealing with a real jerk, the games won’t be marked up terribly high. They’ll be sold at used prices and that works to your advantage.

As an aside, an important lesson I’ve learned over the years is, when you’re collecting, always have a list not terribly out of reach to go over exactly what it is you still need. It’ll save you buying duplicates of things you already own. Believe me when I say this. If your collection gets big enough, this will become a genuine concern.

Ok, so you’ve raided the local stores and still there’s no information on a missing supplement or magazine. What next? The obvious place most people will think of is Ebay. There’s reasons why you should think that and reasons why you shouldn’t.

First, Ebay is far too vast for it to be used as a genuinely effective tool to search for games, unless they are extremely common ones. The nature of its search engine is that unless the seller was exceptionally clever at naming and categorizing the item in question, it may not be readily found by those that want it. Second, it is the rare Ebay auction that tells you much about a given product or its condition when you buy it. So, if you don’t know exactly what you need, you may not notice that maps, handouts or counters that were supposed to come with that product are no longer with the one you’re bidding on. Setting aside the simple lack of ability to get steady and assured quality ratings from most sellers, not being for certain if the object is complete or even knowing what you’d need to know that the object wasn’t complete is something that should keep most novices away from Ebay. Go there only if you know what you want and where it typically gets posted.

An expected source would also be on-line game outlets. While their prices tend towards the higher sides, you’ll at least be assured of quality (something Ebay lacks). Titan Games (now owned by Noble Knight), Crazy Egor (recently closing up I think or at least restructuring), Noble Knight and Dragonstrove are all companies I would readily recommend, any single day of the week. Naturally, I get nary a dime for endorsing them, but at one time or another (and through one owner or another) I’ve done business with all of them. These companies live and die by their reputation and these I consider to be the Big Two (formerly Four). A lot of online retailers have come and gone. These guys have stood the test of time. You will be able to find what you’re looking for at least at one of them, and although its price might be a bit higher than you’d like, if they say it’s Near Mint…it’s Near Mint.

Oh, and those things I said about Ebay, the one area they don’t necessarily hold true all the time is when the online retailers put some inventory up there, but that’s not necessarily everything they have nor what you’re looking for. Still, it’s an exception to my general Ebay rule.

There are some other retailers who are “online”, but I personally haven’t dealt with them. The new GenCon Auction boss, Troll & Toad, I haven’t personally dealt with outside of Auction. I can say with a great deal of certainty they were buying up everything in site on the RPG sessions, but I can’t say why other than they saw this as a great “cheap game buyback” opportunity. I really can’t fault them for that considering that’s what everyone thinks of it.

Speaking of the Godfather of all used game sales, the GenCon Auction is THE place to pick up some great collectibles. Conventions in general that exhibit RPG retailers or 3rd party distributors are decent, if erratic sources of used books. The GenCon Auction is itself a little erratic, but due to the sheer volume, you can usually find most anything you’re looking for if you’re diligent enough. You do have to really hit the store at the right times to be certain about that. You’ll always come out with a good price at Auction (almost always), but quality is mixed. At least in these cases you can see before you buy and if you’re buying direct in the Auction and not in the store you can get the barkers’ evaluation of the product perhaps along with some choice info on it.

As another aside, if D&D/AD&D is your collection crack of choice, you have another, critically important resource. Where almost no web sites exist independently for the average expected pricing and product descriptions of used and out of print games other than D&D, D&D has the best and most thorough I’ve yet encountered and it is the Acaeum. This site has scans of module and box set covers, some basic description information, version and printing information as well as condition and general pricing data. Want to know what a copy of the RPGA tournament module of Bigby’s Tomb went for recently? They have it (incidentally $600 NM at the GenCon ’04 Auction). This is the Kelly Blue Book of the TSR gaming world.

The Acaeum even has a solid user forum with some of the best experts in the gaming world on collectibles (mostly focusing on D&D obviously) as well as helpful tips on the proper care and preservation of your books. Any true collector will care about that.

These are just the primary resources for you to tap. There are others and you’ll learn them as you begin your search. Given the “cottage industry” nature of much of RPG’s, it’s not unheard of to track down writers or owners of old gaming companies and buy old stock off them. I’ve seen it happen, but I wouldn’t expect every such person to be as “receptive” to communication for such a purpose.

Remaining sources would be everyone from Steve Jackson Games’ online store (which carries a lot of material these days) to peripheral stores that carry a handful of RPG products here and there. In most cases, these will not have much, but occasionally a gem can be found.

Armed with this information, any new collector could easily get started and get to gathering all the items for his or her new treasure trove without near the effort as those of us who started from scratch often without any indirect or direct input from other collectors.

Should you start, I guarantee it won’t be easy to start, but consider by paying to keep and gather these books, you’re playing your small part in ensuring a system or two survives the ages and that RPG’s will be around for, hopefully, another generation.