People collect a lot of things. From sports collectibles, to books and antiques; there are collectors for everything. Board games are no exception. There are a lot of people that collect board games, myself included since I own hundreds of board games. With collectors comes value so as board games have become more popular, the prices for rare board games have risen quite a bit lately. While most board games are worth very little, there are plenty of board games worth hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Being a collector of board games for quite a few years, I have run into a lot of board games. Many I have kept for myself but I have also sold off hundreds of games that either weren’t for me or the value was too enticing not to sell them to get some money to purchase other games. I have learned quite a bit about board game values from my years collecting them and this post is going to outline what I have learned. I don’t profess to be an expert on the topic but these guidelines should help you with what to look for in valuable board games. These are only tips as there are games that will defy these tips.
Condition Is Key
Like with every other collectible, condition is very important for a board game’s value. Condition is not going to make a worthless game valuable but it is big in determining the value of a rare game. A rare game in good condition can sell for multiple times more than the same game that is in poor condition.
Unopened/unplayed games generally sell for a premium. While I don’t really care if a game is new or not, many collectors like unopened games for a couple reasons. A game that has never been played before is guaranteed to have all of the components which is key for a lot of rare games since it is hard to find parts for these games. It can be a hassle to find the missing parts for a game and collectors will pay a premium for not having to find the pieces that a game is missing. Sealed games are also more likely to have boxes in good to great condition which is really important to some collectors.
It is really hard to find rare games in an unopened condition. Condition is still key even if the game is opened. The most important thing is that the game has all of the pieces. You wouldn’t want to play a board game that is missing pieces and collectors don’t want a board game that is missing pieces. A game that is missing non important pieces like dice or playing pieces are less likely to be affected as games that are missing key components. Missing even one piece, even a minor one, drops the value of most games by a significant amount but the games still have some value. Some collectors will buy incomplete games hoping to get the missing parts from other people. Game pieces for rare games can also sell for a lot of money especially if it is a game that is regularly missing pieces. For example I have sold individual parts for the game Fireball Island on eBay for $20 each. If you find a rare game that has a lot of the pieces but not all of them you can make quite a bit of money selling the pieces off individually to people that are just missing a couple pieces from their copy of the game.
Just having all of the pieces is not enough for some collectors though. The condition of the contents is important as well. If a person is paying a lot for a game they are looking for a game in good condition. Creases in cards or the board, broken pieces, and other imperfections in the components will affect the value of the game. The quality of the box in particular is really important since a lot of people like displaying their rare games so a good box is important. Poor condition doesn’t mean the game is worthless but you will get a lot less for a game in bad shape than a game in great condition.
Being Old Does Not Necessarily Make A Game Valuable
The first thing people think makes a game valuable is age. If a game is old it must be valuable right? In the world of board games that is true to a point. Being old rarely if ever decreases the potential value of a game. If you can find a board game from the early 1900s (1930s or earlier) or even the 1800s it is likely to be worth money. A lot of board games from the late 1800s and early 1900s were made of paper and wood. Through the years many of the games from this era have been destroyed, damaged, lost pieces, or thrown away. Thus finding games this old is quite rare and if you do find one they likely won’t be in good condition. Most of the copies still in existence are already in the hands of a collector. If you can find one though it will likely be worth a lot of money.
There are some exceptions though with a big one being the game Monopoly. You might own a really old copy of Monopoly from the 1930s or 1940s and think it must be worth a lot of money. Unfortunately old Monopolies are not worth nearly as much as you would expect. The main reason is that so many copies of the game were made that despite being really old, many of the older copies of the game are still in existence. The only old Monopolies that are actually worth a lot of money are the first copies made.
The odds of you finding really old board games is not particularly high so what about more recent games. In most cases if the game is newer than the 1960s or 1970s, the age is not really going to affect the value. There are a lot of valuable games made after the 1960s but they are usually valuable for one of the other reasons listed below. Starting in the 1960s and 1970s board games were starting to be mass produced and games made after the 1960s are new enough that a lot of copies are still in existence which drives down a game’s value.
Has the Average Person Heard Of It
One of the first things you should ask yourself about a game is if the average person has heard of the game. If you asked random people on the street if they know a particular game and half (or more) of them have heard of it, it is unlikely to be worth anything. Your copy of Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Sorry, etc are not going to be worth anything. Outside of rare special editions or editions made with expensive components, popular/well known games aren’t worth anything because they have been printed so many times in the past. With so many games made, anyone who wants the game can find a copy for cheap.
This doesn’t mean that a game no one has heard of will be worth something. If no one wants a game because it is bad or everyone who wants the game already has a copy, the game will have no value. Hundreds to thousands of games are made every year so there are a bunch of games that no one has heard of before. It is more likely that a game that people haven’t heard of before will be worth more than a game that everyone has heard of.
The Theme Is Key
Quite possibly the most important factor in determining value (outside of supply and demand) is a board game’s theme. A board game’s theme is key for a lot of collectors.
The themes that do best for older board games (can be the opposite for new games) are movies, television shows, cartoons, singers, sports stars and anything else from pop culture. Games about wars and other specific events can also be sought after by collectors. The reason these games are valuable is that there are multiple types of collectors interested in the item. Board game collectors are obviously interested but fans of the theme will also be interested in the game to add to their collection of that movie/show/character/etc.
The theme is most important for games made in the 1960s/1970s and earlier. It doesn’t have much effect on more recent games because a lot of these games are mass produced so most copies have survived. In the future more recent games may go up in value based on their theme as people become more nostalgic for the theme.
The Publisher Matters
A board game’s publisher can have an impact on a game’s value. Some publishers are well known for creating fun games or games with great components which drives up the prices of their games. Other publishers generally mass produce their games so their games usually aren’t worth much. If you have heard of the game’s publisher and the game is a newer game, it is likely not going to be worth mush. Milton Bradley, Hasbro, and Parker Brothers games in particular are rarely worth anything unless they are quite old. If you find a game from any of these companies that was made prior to 1940 though they could be worth money (except for Monopoly).
Most really old board games are worth money especially if they were made by companies that no longer exist. Games made by the McLoughlin Brothers in particular are worth quite a bit of money. They were actually one of Parker Brothers biggest rivals until Parker Brothers bought them out in 1920. A lot of these old board game companies went out of business a long time ago (many during the Great Depression).
Since a lot of these really old games are already owned by collectors, there are more modern game publishers that have made a lot of valuable board games.
One company in particular is Avalon Hill. Avalon Hill is still around even though they are currently a subsidiary of Hasbro. Before joining Hasbro, Avalon Hill was well known for their war games and detailed strategy games. Avalon Hill’s war games in particular are usually pretty valuable. A lot of their games were never massively produced because a lot of their titles are gauged towards specific audiences. Their fans love their games though so some collectors are willing to pay quite a bit of money for them. Most Avalon Hill games come with a lot of cardboard components though so they can be missing pieces.
3M mostly made simulation and strategy games. Their main line of games were the bookshelf game series which featured board games the size of books that you could fit on your shelf. Some of 3M’s more popular games aren’t worth much but some of their games can be worth quite a bit.
TSR is another board game publisher that has made a lot of valuable board games. TSR mostly made tabletop RPGs like the original Dungeons and Dragons. A lot of their games didn’t have large production runs and were never reprinted so if you want a copy of the game you need to purchase one of the original copies.
Some board game genres tend to be more valuable than others.
One genre in particular that creates a lot of valuable games is the war game. War games are one of the oldest genres and have a dedicated fan base. The fan base isn’t huge though so a lot of these war games weren’t mass produced. A lot of these war games are highly detailed and some can be based on very specific wars/battles. Generally the more specific/obscure the battle/war, the more valuable the game will be. The more detailed the game is (number of components) can be a good indicator of value as well. Avalon Hill is probably the biggest and most well known war game publisher.
Miniature games are also generally quite expensive. Miniature games are games that use a bunch of little figures for gameplay. An example is Warhammer 40K. The figures generally feature a lot of detail which means they cost a lot when they were originally sold and usually hold their value over time.
Tabletop RPGs can also be quite valuable especially if they are more obscure and had only one printing. TSR RPGs in particular can be worth quite a bit of money. The tabletop RPGs that are worth the most are usually the games that feature specific/strange themes that aren’t your typical RPG adventures.
If a game originally sold for over $100, it is likely to still be worth quite a bit of money even in a used condition. Special editions of board games usually include higher quality components which lead to higher prices. A lot of collectors are looking for the special editions of their favorite games because they want the higher quality components. Some special editions originally sold for hundreds to thousands of dollars. These special editions can be worth a lot more than they originally sold for because many times there is more demand than supply.
Two ways to tell how much a game originally cost is to look at the quantity and quality of the components.
Quantity is a good way to indicate the original cost of a lot of games. If the game comes with a lot of components (outside of cards) it was probably pretty expensive when it was originally made. Games that include a lot of figures in particular are usually expensive and usually retain their value if all of the pieces are included.
Quality is also a sign of the original cost. Obviously the special editions made with expensive materials like gold or jewels are going to be valuable just based on the materials used. Quality is also shown in the detail put into figures and other game components. If the game has a lot of custom components and it looks like a lot of time was spent creating the components, the game was probably pretty expensive.
The Forgotten Gems
For every Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, etc. there are many board games that failed to ever grow an audience. These games never became popular enough to be re-released. Since these games were never re-released there aren’t a lot of copies of the game in the world. Even if the games never became popular, these games do have their fans. People remember playing these games and are longing to play them again or they just heard about them and want to try them out. Since these games are rare due to their limited popularity, people are willing to pay quite a bit of money for them.
Most games from the 1970s to mid 1990s are generally worth very little. A lot of these games were mass produced and the games that were popular have been reproduced many times over. This time range is ripe for these forgotten gems though. From the 1970s to the mid 1990s companies like Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley made a lot of children’s games. A lot of these games bombed and were never made again. People enjoyed some of these games though and are willing to pay more than you would expect to relive childhood memories. In particular children’s dexterity games and games that use electronic components seem to be a lot of these forgotten gems.
Some examples of forgotten gems include Fireball Island and Dark Tower. Both of these games were made by Milton Bradley in the 1980s. Usually Milton Bradley games from the 1980s are not worth much but both games regularly sell from $200-$300 and parts from games like Fireball Island regularly sell for $20+. The reason these games are valuable is because a lot of people really like these games despite not being very popular when they first came out. Players have lost their copies of the games over the years or people have just recently heard about the games and want their own copy of the game which drives demand for the games.
This doesn’t just apply to children’s games. There are a lot of teen/adult games that just never took off despite being good games. A lot of people purchase these games because they want to play a game that they missed out on when it was first released. These cult games can really grow an audience which drives up the price. The only concern with these types of games is that they sometimes get reprinted if the demand reaches a certain level which can significantly reduce the game’s value.
These are the valuable board games you are most likely to find because it includes more recent games which are much easier to find since more copies were produced and they are newer so more copies are still in existence. Most of these games aren’t worth hundreds of dollars but you can somewhat easily find games worth $60-$100.
Adult Games Over Children’s Games
Usually a game gauged towards teens/adults will be worth more than a game that was made for children. Children’s games are usually not worth a lot for a couple reasons. Children’s games are more likely to be mass produced than teen/adult games. If a children’s game was not memorable, an adult is not going to want to buy it to relive their memories or play the game with their children. Most children’s games are not very fun for adults so nostalgia is usually the driving force for children’s game prices. There are a lot of children’s games that people are nostalgic for but board game manufacturers know this and they usually reprint games that were popular. The children’s games that are worth money are the games that were somewhat popular but were never reprinted.
Adult games are usually a better bet to be valuable. I think the main reason is that they are more enjoyable for collectors to actually play. While some collectors might be fine with just putting the game on the shelf, most people want to play their games. While you might have fond memories of the games from your childhood, it is likely that they won’t live up to your memories of them.
The Stranger The Better
If you ask yourself the question “Why was this game ever made?”, it could be a sign that the game could have some value. Some collectors, myself included, like weird games/topics. Games based on strange themes are rarely ever mass produced so there aren’t many copies available. This usually leads to more valuable games. Generally this applies more to older games than newer games since companies are starting to make games based on stranger themes as the hobby continues to grow.
Some collectors buy board games to be able to play them while other collectors buy board games for display purposes. For these later collectors it doesn’t always matter if a game is good if the box and/or gameboard have really cool artwork and the components are in good shape. Just like some people collect records for their cover art, the same applies to board games.
Collectors who are interested in artwork want colorful and interesting artwork. A box with generic artwork is not going to be that interesting to collectors. Is the box something you could see someone setting up in their home for decoration/art? If yes the game could hold some value if some of the other factors are true as well (age is pretty important for box artwork). In addition to the boxes, collectors are also interested in games with really colorful and interesting gameboards. People like to display gameboards that have really nice artwork.
Just like people have their favorite directors, a lot of people have favorite board game designers. These people will buy almost every game made by the designer. This means that every game made by that designer has demand. There aren’t many designers whose whole collection of games are valuable though. Most well known designers have some valuable games but most of their games are not that expensive. The designers whose whole collection is valuable are those designers that make high quality games in limited runs. Some designers know that their games have a limited audience and thus their games aren’t mass produced. This means their games can get quite expensive.
The Game Is Actually Good
While pretty obvious, if a game is good it is likely to be worth more. Who wants to buy a bad game? Most good games are actually pretty cheap because they are mass produced to meet demand. A good game that isn’t mass produced though can be worth a decent amount of money. These games regularly get reproduced in order to capitalize on their popularity which drives down prices. A good place to check whether a board game is good is Board Game Geek.com.
Where to Check Board Game Values and Sell Them
So you think you have a valuable board game? You now have to do your research. Checking sites like Board Game Geek can give you an indication of whether a game is rare. The best way to know if a board game is valuable though is to just look it up. The two main places to buy and sell board games are Amazon and eBay.
Of the two I personally prefer selling games on Amazon. I prefer Amazon for one simple reason, you can usually get more for a game on Amazon than you can on eBay. Amazon also has the benefit that you don’t have to pay any fees until the item sells. Since most expensive/rare games don’t have large markets, you need to be willing to wait for the right person to buy your game. You might incur a lot of listing fees relisting an item on eBay over and over again waiting for the right person to find the item.
Amazon and Amazon buyers are a lot pickier than eBay though. If your game is in poor condition, you might not want to sell it on Amazon. If the game is missing pieces I would highly recommend selling it somewhere else. The other issue with Amazon is that a decent amount of rare games won’t be found on Amazon and therefore you can’t sell them on the site. If the game doesn’t currently have a product page, you have to create your own listing page for the item and that can only be done if the game has a UPC code. To sell on Amazon you need to read the selling guidelines closely and follow them or Amazon can revoke your selling privileges quickly.
eBay is a good choice for selling a game if your game is rare and is likely to create a bidding war. In general if the game is not really rare it probably won’t sell for as much on eBay than it would on Amazon. eBay sellers are generally not as picky though so you can sell games in worse condition and even games that are missing pieces. Be sure to be thorough in your description of the item though because collectors expect the item to arrive in a condition similar to that of which you described. eBay is also better than Amazon since you can list any game you want (with a few exceptions) and don’t have to worry about finding a product page for the item. If the game is not in high demand though you might have to pay listing fees every time you relist the item.
The third place I would look to sell a game is on Board Game Geek. Board Game Geek has a marketplace where people can list games for sale. The good thing about Board Game Geek is that it could be much easier to find someone who wants your game since Board Game Geek caters to board game fans. Items in the marketplace are displayed on the page for the game that you are selling so anyone who is interested in that game will see your listing. The one problem is that Board Game Geek doesn’t get the traffic that Amazon on eBay get so you might not get as many people to see the product listing.
Do you currently own any valuable board games? What games do or did you own? Am I missing any tips on spotting valuable board games? Share your thoughts in the comments section.