The Modern Scalper

The scalper (also known as the reseller) ruins collecting for everybody.

Historically, a scalper is a slimy individual who stands outside Rolling Stones concerts selling tickets. Typically these individuals buy as many tickets as they can, and then they resell them to desperate individuals for a profit. It’s sleazy, and the entertainment industry took action by limiting the number of tickets sold to any individual. After this policy, the profit margins just aren’t there, and ticket scalping has become a more minor problem.

Flash forward a few decades. We, the plucky nerds of the 70’s and 80’s, are buying machines. We’re desperate to reconnect with our glorious childhoods. We buy lots of stuff. Game collectors, in particular, buy lots of old stuff that most people don’t want anymore. The forefathers of game collecting blazed trails one flea market at a time. Their Saturday mornings started early, and the game pickings were bountiful and cheap.

Those days are long gone. Enter the modern scalper. The typical flea market trip these days will yield but a single table stuffed to the gills with old console games. These new breed of scalpers will get to the market long before anyone else, and snatch up every game they find for as cheap as they can finagle. Once acquired these games will be held hostage by high prices, and they will endure a tortured life under the unrelenting damage of the sun. These people will not make deals, and their prices are such that they only need one sale to keep themselves afloat for another weekend.

This sucks for the console collectors. Many of us PC collectors buy console games as well, but our main focus is on those tasty big box games. Why should we care what these modern scalpers do?

Actually, resellers can be worse for us. Resellers buy games in bulk; they buy all the games available so they can get the lowest price possible. Often these lots will include PC games, which resellers believe are unsalable. Most retail game sellers shy away from any PC games for fear of selling something that is missing the all important “registration code”. They don’t differentiate between old or new PC games, they just know that in the past they have been burned selling PC games. The PC games they acquire in these lots get thrown away, or in the best case scenario they end up on ebay for top tier prices.

The Nuka Cola Quantum promotion was botched by everyone involved, including scalpers.
The Nuka Cola Quantum promotion.

Ebay has become a modern scalper’s playground. Any collectible that comes out is snatched up by profiteers and sold to desperate collectors for high prices on ebay. Take, for example, the recent Nuka Cola Quantum promotion at Target. Jones Cola produced these drinks, and shipped criminally few bottles to stores. Plucky collectors everywhere rushed to stores only to find not a drop of Nuka Cola anywhere. In most cases, the employees of Target bought the lot, and turned to ebay to sell them for upwards of $100 a bottle. Since these assholes are scalping everything from collectible cola to popular Christmas toys, it creates a culture of unnecessary inflation.

The modern scalper does a great job of sucking all the fun out of collecting (anything). How do we combat this? The obvious answer would seem to be “don’t buy from them”. This isn’t such an easy answer. Once the game collecting market was established these enterprising entrepreneurs have been snatching up merchandise in bulk. They’re controlling the game, and we either suck it up and buy from them, or we get nothing. If we refuse to buy, they’re content to let these out-of-print games rot under the unrelenting sun. They’re holding our hobby hostage, and they’re charging a premium for it.

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