Lessons in Creating Wargame Valuation

Wargame Collection Valuation

I offered to help a new Boardgamegeek user a month or so ago with selling his collection. The first step was creating a market valuation for his games. Today, we’re going to be looking at how I created a wargame collection valuation and what we can learn about the perceived versus actual value of the games on our shelves.

Wargames are not investments

Repeat after me: Wargames are not investments!

Seriously, the market tends to fluctuate and just in the past year we’ve seen many longstanding “grail” titles with outrageous prices show a steep decline in value. Notably, the reprints from Compass Games LLC for the Fleet series and 1985: Under an Iron Sky helped drive down prices on the Victory Games Fleet series and Next War titles.

Hobby prices always fluctuate and collectibles, unless truly rare with decades of established value tend not to retain their longtime value. This is particularly true for nostalgia based hobbies. Things like Watt Pottery and many collectible toy lines have all had dramatic price inflation and sudden deflation over the years.

Consequently, it’s important to separate what we WANT these games to be worth from what they’re actually worth in the marketplace.

But I see a copy going for $100!

Far too frequently people evaluate the value of a game based on how many are for sale and for what price they are listed. While this provides a general sense for how many copies are in the market (supply) it does not evaluate demand in any way shape or form.

Demand is reflected most easily in how desirable the game actually is right now. There are many factors that drive the price of games down related to this desirability:

  • New versions getting released
  • People who wanted the game already have it
  • Prices have chased people out of the market for that title
  • New game with a similar topic is available and better liked

These are, of course, just a few of the factors. Critically, there is no way to underestimate the influence that desirability has on the market value of a game. Other factors might include condition, edition, publisher, or even whether the owner was a smoker or non-smoker!

What did it actually sell for?

While there may be a game that’s on the market for $100 or even a few others hovering right around that price, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Games can easily be worth $100, $200, or even significantly more. That the prices in the marketplace advertise these rates does not signify their value!

Instead, we have to look at what the games actually sold for and there are many ways to do this.

BoardGameGeek offers buyers and sellers a look at the price history of a game in the marketplace. This serves a few purposes such as showing when the lost copies were purchased (desireability), how many are currently for sale and at what price, and finally what the price range was for sold copies. I frequently see games that sell for half of the price that marketplace sellers are trying to get. Many of these sellers have abandoned their listings. New sellers, not investigating this, simply list their games for slightly less than what they see thinking they’re being competitive.

eBay, offers the ability to see SOLD listings as well. This serves as a potent negotiation tool and should be used in conjunction with BGG’s tool to calibrate pricing for the savvy boardgame buyer market and for the general boardgame population who may be more or less informed than your average BGG user.

How motivated are you?

The next question a seller has to ask themselves is how motivated they are to sell. They can, of course, undercut the price on every game in order to unload games quickly. This works surprisingly well on BGG and generally results in sales times of less than 30 days in my experience. That said, you aren’t going to get what the game is actually worth.

Instead, consider floating a starting price and and including quality photos. People like to see what they’re buying and will often pay more for a game they’ve seen the condition of from a reputable seller. This is a great way to create a market differentiation or advantage for yourself when selling.

Sales ARE a function of valuation

Games on your shelf have only the sentimental value you place on them until someone else hands over cash. That’s just how it works. Your motivation and sales strategy are as much a part of your collection valuation as the games you’re selling. This won’t upset the value of games, but it has maybe a 20% effect overall on your sales strategy and total collection value.

In my case, I’m willing to take 20% less in some cases for tough to sell games in order to get them into the hands of someone else. In other cases, I like to hold firm on high value games that are in demand right now. Either way, I’m making a judgment call on each title that will affect the total collection valuation.

The same is also true of bundling games for sale. You can pair a game that’s less desirable with a more desirable game or attract a certain type of buyer (vintage collector, publisher fanboy, etc.) using this strategy. Be creative in the way you look at how you want to sell your games in order to find buyers for tough-to-sell games and to maximize profits on the true gems of your collection.

So…what does this look like in action?

Here is a basic collection valuation I did for Michael on BGG after he provided me with the games he had to sell.

As you can see, this collection is about 50 games. The total value of Michael’s collection is about $1,300. So, roughly $26 per game. That’s probably about right. The problem, however, is that many of Michael’s games have low desirability from the standpoint of demand. There are a few gems in there to be sure, but overall this is a collection that’s going to appeal most to a vintage wargame collector.

The valuation notes I provided, give Michael a sense of what he might do and the ranges in which these games are most likely to sell.

A word on insurance riders…

You can work with your insurance company to get an insurance rider for a valuable collection. There’s even some dude selling his own insurance for wargame collections I believe. The biggest thing you need to do whether or not you actually buy such an insurance rider is document your collection.

You will want to get photographs of the games, condition, any proof of ownership (something showing you own the game compared to just snagging a photo from the web). You can do this in a variety of ways, but you want to do it however your insurance agent provides! Make sure you speak with your insurance to get the right kind of documentation and that this documentation is safely stored.

My only final thought here is that our wargame collections mean a lot to us. They don’t define who we are, but our hobbies are an important part of our leisure time. The value of your collection should never be solely about the dollars and cents that they represent either in the amounts you paid or the value the games hold now. Instead, it’s the memories and time spent with friends, books, or alone enjoying the games that matters most. There’s no way to put a price on that!

Have your say!

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