Confessions of a Car Boot Addict – Part 1

I have read so many articles and viewed a whole load of YouTube videos on “Finds,  Rants and Tips” on retro game hunting in the wild i.e. car boot sales and charity shops (flea markets and thrift stores for any American readers), that I thought maybe I should share my experience of this matter, as there seems to be a lack of opinion from the UK hunters.

First of all I must make it clear that this is my first attempt at writing anything that will be viewed by anyone other than myself, bar the odd social media post, since I left school some 15 years ago, so bear with me as I go… So where to start?

My name’s Dana and I’m a 31 year old guy and I am based in the West Midlands. My on/off flirtation with retro gaming began when I got my first home computer as a child – the Amstrad CPC 464 and moved on through the years, like many others to the the present day machines. It was then I felt that after the hype of buying the next generation console wore off I would decide I’d rather be playing something from two or three previous generations, which is where it all began. Luckily for me, my partner has now allowed the games room at our home to exist.

One of the main buzzes I get from retro game playing and collecting is the whole hunt involved in finding them. Although there are two great retro gaming shops in my local area, and more and more starting to pop up on local markets along with good old Ebay, I feel that I am somewhat cheating myself in building my collection. That’s not to denigrate people who do, as I on occasion I have purchased from said places and often getting really good deals, but I’d say at least 80% of my collection has been acquired by the good old car boot sale. I think it’s that bit of gamble where I could go and find very little or I could just stumble on something great at unbelievable prices that makes the process more enjoyable.

I’ve been hunting regularly, attending at least two boot sales a week, for around 18 months, and after seeing what people have to say and show on various online collectors groups I’m a part of, I’d say I do quite well;  if you’ve got someone calling you the ‘Car Boot Master’ you must be doing something right. I’d like to add I’m not someone who just goes and buys everything video game related regardless of what it is, I mean who needs 20 copies of Fifa 2009?  I’m also not a reseller. Most the stuff I buy is solely for my own collection, some I use to trade or if I know one of my fellow retro gaming enthusiasts would be interested in an item I’ll pick it up… Ok,  I guess that kind of make me a reseller, but who wouldn’t walk past Frog Bog without knowing someone who would kill for it in their collection?  I suppose the difference is the amount of markup on an item as a seller on eBay, you can always spot someone who does it as their full time job, but I’ve always found if you cut someone a good deal in the retro world it’s nearly always returned.

The most frequent comments I see posted in retro forums and groups are “I never get anything good” or “There is never anything left – all the resellers get everything”. My view is on this is yeah it’s half true – there are tons of resellers who are buying retro, they aren’t stupid, they can see we are in a boom for nostalgia and they can often make good – I’m not knocking these guys, I’ve learned with a lot of these people it’s actually their livelihood doing 3-5 car boot sales a week as income, anyone who can get up at 4am to stand in a wet freezing field with a lukewarm cup of tea and a questionable burger deserve some sort of recognition… I do however disagree with a lot of the tactics these guys use to get their stash in the first place. I’d say the main things that not anger so much as make my heart sink is what I call the ‘Boot Vultures’ people literally hanging around waiting for the next new car to pull into the spot they have been allocated by a random local in a hi-vis that has seen better days, and as soon as their engine is off and the seller’s boot is open, heads are in rummaging through the now ‘loot’. It’s just not in my nature to do this, I know people who do and good luck to them, but as someone who has sold on a boot sale before it bugs me. I go by the rule of if it’s on the table or sheet it’s good to go, the sellers rarely like people in their faces, in their boxes and in their cars before they’ve had time to unpack. The more unscrupulous characters know this, and use it as a confusion tactic to get cheaper deals, but as I said, that’s not my style. The other thing that gets me is the people who just see a whole bag/box of games and without even looking through just sweep up the whole lot as cheap as possible, like I said earlier who needs 20 copies of Fifa?

So is there any chance for the collectors out there? My answer to that would be a big fat YES! Don’t get me wrong you have to put in the leg work and it’s no good rocking up too late, but if you really want to have the buzz of the hunt it’s out there to find it’s not just going to come to you, but car boot sales are far from the waste of time people seem to make out. If you’re not just after something with Sega or Nintendo on it you’re even more likely to find something good as that seems to be the stuff swept up in bulk fast. I usually turn up to my 1st sale of the day about 6.30 -7.00am, at this time it’s usually quiet, mainly people setting up and the re-sellers are out so I just go for a quick sweep of the place, overtaking anyone I know is after the same things as myself – after a while you’ll know their faces, this usually take me 30-45 mins. Then my next port of call  is the tea and sandwich place for a cuppa and a sausage sarnie, I sit down and take in what is going on usually watching the vultures swoop on a pair of middle aged women who haven’t even set their wallpaper table up yet in or on occasion folks falling out over something or arguing over a pair of 50p shoes. After my morning intake of food I then make my way back to the start of the boot sale, this time I intend to do a more steady thorough sweep making sure to go up and down the rows of sellers without missing anyone unless it’s just another stall selling knock off UGG Boots or e-fags. After the first sale is complete, I then move on to my second and third of the day yes I often do three a day, although the sandwich stop is only ever at the first one. Honest. I attack my second and third boot sale the same way as I do round 2 of the first sale – up and down the aisles, no thanks I don’t need any DVD’s filmed on a Nokia in the local Odeon. I’m not writing this article to brag about my past finds but if any of you care to see what a good boot sale game hunt looks like I regularly update my finds on Twitter @Dane83 and Instagram @danameddings.

So that’s it – A brief snippet into what a fellow retro head does to boost his collection and feed his addiction. If you feel the need to leave comments below I’ll try to reply when I can and also if any of you have any suggestions on future write ups you would like. I’m currently playing with the ideas top finds of the year, funny boot sale stories and top things you hear from resellers that you know are not true…. But that’s another story. Keep it real, Keep it Retro.

Author: Dana Meddings

Plasterer, Leisure Centre Attendant, Football Manager and lover of Games and Toys from his childhood (AKA 80's). Collected at various points in his life only now has space to have a games room. Can be found most weekend frequenting local car boot sales in the West Midlands. Started with an Amstrad CPC 464 moved on to a Master System then SNES before becoming overawed by Sony's various PlayStation Consoles. Remembers: Psycho Fox. Plays: CoD, Tomb Raider

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