Join 3,363 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Labor of love, or profit?
April 2, 2011 12:49 PM   Subscribe

How do independent used stores price things? Particularly, video games?

I've gone on a slight obsessive streak pricing out my video game collection and posting for sale the ones I can part with for a surprising sum of money. One thing I've noticed is that no online trade-in prices are identical, though one or two sites dominate the best offers list.

I haven't gone browsing the local retail stores, but a question occurs to me: how do these (presumably) lower volume stores set prices? Especially for the independent stores, there can't be a lot of transactions with which to price out the more obscure titles. Is there a popular price database calculate from? Are there wholesale places stores go to when they can't move stuff locally?
posted by pwnguin to Shopping (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know about games, but I used to patronize a local independent new/used CD store, and sometimes bring stuff in to sell. The buyer would flip through them and offer me a price on the spot. I think they had a pretty good idea of what would re-sell in the local college town market.

Books are different, I usually leave boxes at different stores and they get priced up later. Maybe they look them up on Abe. I think that the only people I've seen getting cash are scruffy types with carrier bags full of new coffee table books.
posted by carter at 1:18 PM on April 2, 2011


It varies greatly from store to store. As a buyer, you can find lower prices at larger independent locations in major cities, and I'm assuming that's because they attract more buyers and sellers, so they have a greater volume change hands in the same period as a smaller place with fewer customers.

An anecdote: I overheard an employee telling a new hire how to price gauge prices at a small place in my mid-sized to smaller community, and was saying to look at prices on eBay, but realize that listed prices don't mean the actual prices paid. In short: find some online equivalent, and guess what that might mean for actual sales.

In my random wanderings online, I've come across sites that keep track of items sold on eBay (because eBay doesn't really do that for the general public). Some are fansites (I think there is/was a Depeche Mode fansite that tracked prices paid), while others are sites you subscribe to or pay for access.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:26 PM on April 2, 2011


I overheard an employee telling a new hire how to price gauge prices at a small place in my mid-sized to smaller community, and was saying to look at prices on eBay

Certainly, completed ebay auctions would be one good source, and I've seen a site that reputes to factor that in. Ebay does have a completed auctions data source, but it's clearly imperfect.

I've seen price guide magazines for collectibles like baseball cards and MtG, and I was kinda hoping something similar existed for what I assume is a much larger market.
posted by pwnguin at 1:51 PM on April 2, 2011


When I was selling my Wii collection via Kijiji, I checked ebay, and a few of those sites that consolidate used game prices. I aimed to price things at a bit less than what someone could get it for off of ebay, but still a lot more than I'd get selling it to EB Games.

I ended up with $450 instead of the < $250 I'd have got for selling the whole whack to EB. It was right around xmas so the games just sold like crazy :)
posted by utsutsu at 2:54 PM on April 2, 2011


For a few years, I worked at a small independent used record/video game/CD/DVD store. Most of the time I was head buyer, which meant I was in charge of making offers on the things people brought in. (For specialty items, like old Playboys or collectibles, I called in one of our specialty guys.)

For items that were still in print, our rule of thumb was to offer 25% of what the item was going for. We'd price it out at twice that for resale. If we already had several copies of an item (like the Breeders' "Last Splash" or "Waiting" on DVD -- it seemed like *every person* who brought in stuff to sell had those two items), we offered a fraction based on our backstock, all the way down to a quarter per item.

Out-of-print items were trickier. We would usually look through the recently completed eBay auctions to get an idea, but like pwnguin said, it wasn't our main source.

This is also where each employee's expertise was valued, because our video game nerd might say, "Secret of Mana is a classic -- offer ten and we can sell it for twenty before the week is out." Serious face was lost if someone vouched for the value of an item and it turned out to be worthless. (Travelling Wilburys CDs are a good example of this. They were OOP and we offered a lot for them, until one of us discovered that a reissue was in the future, making the old ones no more valuable than an old Abba CD.) We all took it upon ourselves to keep up-to-date, by reading Video Watchdog and the like.

I was the PC game expert for the store, and I didn't just factor in current selling price, but how good a game was. I offered a lot for "Planescape Torment" even though it was old, because I knew someone would snap it up.

Anyway, no, we had no outside price guide. All of my coworkers were geeks about some niche area, and the managers trusted our judgement if we proved correct enough times. We had huge books of lists of DVDs and video games and they were filled with notes from the employees, and every year the managers would take the books and update them with our recommended prices.
posted by Toothless Willy at 2:57 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Especially for the independent stores, there can't be a lot of transactions with which to price out the more obscure titles.

You'd be surprised. I manage a used bookstore that also sells cds and dvds, and it's relatively easy to get a sense of the value of even very obscure used titles. We're not perfect, but years of watching things come in and go out at various speeds settles into your brain and creates a fairly decent "pricing out" mechanism. We supplement our personal perceptions with the used prices at Amazon, Bookfinder and AbeBooks for similar-condition copies of books, cds and dvds, which we think gives us a pretty accurate indication of the general market value of those items.

One thing I've noticed is that no online trade-in prices are identical, though one or two sites dominate the best offers list.

Yeah, we notice that as well, and consistently remind folks the values at the lower end of the scale are what the item is actually selling for. Out of all the available options, Amazon has enough eyeballs to make it one of the best general price guides for electronic items (but not so much for books, interestingly; Bookfinder routinely finds cheaper copies). Completed eBay auctions are also useful (folks without an eBay account can use sites like Collectors Frenzy for LPs, and there may be similar ones for games), but we've seen things sell on eBay for a lot more than what they're available for at Bookfinder or Abebooks, simply because eBay-ers don't know about or don't bother checking those other sites.
posted by mediareport at 7:39 PM on April 2, 2011


« Older Can we replicate the Chicago H...   |  Is he a commitment phobe, or i... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.