Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cleaning House

I periodically go through moments when I feel that I need to clear out my gaming collection of books and boxed sets I'll never use. I'm in the midst of one right now, but I've so far managed to keep it in check because of three things. First, I remember all too well having disposed of almost all of my Traveller stuff in high school (in the idiotic belief that Traveller: 2300 had "superseded" it) and I don't want to find myself re-purchasing stuff later that I thought I'd never need/want again. Second, deciding just what constitutes a gaming product I'll never want again for any purpose is a tough question. I mean, I'm pretty darn sure I'll never play Unknown Armies (to cite an obvious example), but will I never want to read it again for any reason? Finally, assuming I can overcome the first two hurdles, how do I get rid of all this stuff? Selling it seems the obvious solution, but I'm a fundamentally lazy person and dealing with the hassle of packaging stuff up and shipping it to various buyers may be more trouble than just leaving it all in boxes in my garage.

So, anyone out there have any experience with this sort of "problem?" If so, what did you do about it? How did you handle the various pitfalls I've discussed above? I ask because, truly, I'd like to pare down my gaming collection considerably, but the logistics of doing so in a way I won't later regret elude me.

38 comments:

  1. I take my stuff to Half Price Books. Which is only fair, since I raid their shelves regularly.

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  2. One of my cats solved a good portion of this dilemma for me by clawing at and destroying the spines of a number of game books I haven't read in years and probably never will read again. So those just went in the garbage.

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  3. I have spent a fortune in the last year on gaming material, most often of the out of print kind, and my strategy has been to find a pdf copy online first as a kind of preliminary review with a view to purchasing if I really like it. This is Illegal, yes, but I don't buy anything sight unseen. I have found that no matter how highly some material is recommended it may actually be worthless to me, in fact it is likely to be - personal taste and al that. In short I have spent a few thousand euros and the closest I came to throwing something out was Verbosh; I grew to like it in the end. So I have not wasted a dime. No purge impending.

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  4. As for the last one, maybe give them to a friend who regularly sells stuff on eBay to have them sell the stuff for you...?

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  5. Paring down your collection can be challenging, indeed. I go through those Spring-cleaning cycles annually, and often have to make tough decisions on what I'm going to keep and what I'm going to get rid of. I usually set aside 'unwanted' rpgs in a separate pile and rethink the decision over a couple weeks. No knee-jerk reactions.

    I have had the most success 'trading' my old rpgs to Noble Knight Games. They've offered me good prices (for store credit), and they usually cover shipping expenses. (When you send them your trade list they'll mail you shipping labels). Pack responsibly, throw in the labels, and then drop them off at your local UPS pickup center. It's quite easy.

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    1. I just remembered: you're in Canada. So, I'm not sure if Noble Knight will be as great an option for you. That would probably take some research.

      Or perhaps there are some Canadian equivalents? Valet de Couer? Sentry Box?

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  6. I did massive sales and a couple giveaways over the last few years. I still have too many games, but I've gotten rid of a lot of cruft, which makes me happy. If you have some less-affluent gamer friends, maybe give them some of the books.

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  7. I'd say take the stuff you like and give it to friends and others. We all have friends who don't spend as much as we do and might like to see some things they wouldn't have been able to afford. Maybe donate to a local gaming club (you can call them to pick it up). Of course, if any of your titles are real dogs, dispose of them before they become a burden on anyone else! ;-) I understand the idea of trying to sell/trade, and I have no issue with it. I only say these things as alternatives in case selling/trading is problematic. I mean, for the most part we don't buy these things as a financial investment anyway.

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  8. Thinking about it, I'd sell the valuable stuff and give away the cheap stuff.

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  9. I gave boxes of stuff I'd never use to a friend who sells stuff on eBay all of the time and told him to take 10% of whatever he makes.

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  10. Several years ago I Ebayed a small trove of my old treasures from childhood that I never actually got to run, and at the time thought my gaming days were done. So goodbye Empire of the Petal Throne, Bunnies and Burrows, and original late 70's Star Trek and John Carter of Mars rpgs'. Made a decent bit of change, even though they were all a bit beat up.

    In recent years getting back to gaming, briefly thought wistfully about them. But then realized I had too much going with the gaming group, and so many others things I wanted to run, I knew I would probably never run them if I had them. Not much of a collector anymore anyway, so maybe they at least got enjoyed more than they would be moldering away in my garage.

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  11. My only experience is similar to your Traveller experience. Went to grad school, stopped playing, figured I'd never play most things ever again, and gave away something like 90% of my RPG and wargame collection to friends and acquaintances. Now twenty years later, it turns out I have started playing again and I sooooo regret what I did.

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  12. James, what about the U of Toronot don't they have an RPG section see if they'd be willing to take it. I know the Rochester Museum of Play does as well. They are pretty close contact them as well.

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  13. I made some mistakes. The only games besides D&D (and by that I include MERP, which I translated into D&D terms) I played were Gamma World, Traveller, and Top Secret -- and I threw those three out many years ago, thinking I'd never have any use for them. I don't regret tossing Top Secret, but in recent years I've been hit with some longing for Gamma World and Traveller. I wish I'd saved them.

    Never, of course, will I discard my D&D and MERP products. Though there's one series of modules I should make an exception for: Dragonlance. Just glancing at those makes my blood congeal.

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  14. When we moved to a smaller house in 2008 I got rid of a few dozen gaming books and wargames. My solution was to give them to my mother to sell on e-Bay (and keep the money). She needed the money more than I did, frankly, and it spared me both the trouble of selling them and the guilt of just throwing them in the trash.

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  15. Here's what I've done, maybe it'll be helpful -

    I keep a lot of stuff in my office, but about once a year I go through all of it. Anything I haven't touched since the last cleaning goes out to the garage.

    About once a year I go through all my stuff in the garage. If stuff has been out there for a year and I haven't thought of it, out it goes.

    The one exception is this: If upon picking up or opening a book I immediately recall a memory I might otherwise lose, it stays.

    I'm lucky in that working at a game company means I can just bring stuff to work and leave it out for people to take. Otherwise, I used to stack up all the stuff I didn't want, invite people over to game, and let them take whatever they wanted free of charge.

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  16. My FLGS just had a Used Gaming Auction. Anything you want to get rid of they will auction off and you get store credit for whatever it goes for. I don't know if this is something widespread or unique to my FLGS, but twice a year for a full weekend they auction off used RPGs, Games Workshop stuff, and board games. I scored a ton of goodies this time around.

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  17. I regularly sell old game items on eBay and the income from this more than pays for the purchase of new gaming materials and older vintage stuff that I am seeking. I have been in a recent mid-80s Games Workshop boardgame phase, buying up stuff like Rogue Trooper and Warrior Knights.

    The strangest games from my collection make money too. For example I just recently sold a almost mint copy of the Crossbows and Catapults clone Weapons and Warriors for over 80 dollars.

    This can become a cycle though...I often read about something then buy it and sell it again in a few months....oh well...cheaper than drugs I suppose.

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  18. I had a job offer in England a few years ago which, at the time, I intended to accept. In preparation, I started selling off everything I didn't anticipate taking with me. That included all of my gaming materials (books, modules, dice, miniatures, everything).

    Later I reconsidered taking the job and shortly after that realized how much I already missed me gaming stuff. Since then, I have spent an inordinate amount of time and money rebuilding my collection. Much of it cannot be replaced.

    As a result of this experience, I will NEVER get rid of any portion of my new collection. What I'm not using can sit in a box in the closet where it is safe in case I decide I want it again. A box or two (or ten) really doesn't take up that much room.

    In short, it doesn't hurt to be a pack rat. Keep your stuff!

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  19. If you don't want them the best place for them is in the used section of a Friendly Local Gaming Store!

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  20. I read an excellent book on decluttering called "It's All Too Much!" Really opened my eyes. Holding onto something on the vague belief that at some unspecified point in the unspecified future you might need it is a sign that it is time to get rid of that thing.

    With my own RPG collection, I had books and games I had hauled around for years and never used. There were several items that I actually had memorized. I was merciless in my triage. I kept only those things that I honestly enjoyed and had the possibility of being used in the near future.

    What I did was post in several places the list of things and the message that I would take just about any offer + shipping. Worked like magic. One book went for $65, a set of ten similar books went for $30. The idea was that since these were no longer of value to me, purchases could set their own value. We made close to a thousand dollars that way.

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  21. Board Game Geek has a sister site (another tab really) just for RPGs: http://rpggeek.com/

    You can put your collection online, sell, and trade for other stuff. I think the big plus is getting the stuff to people who are looking for it--and you send it straight to them.

    I'd not sell it to Half Priced Books. I shop there too, but you'll get a pittance for stuff and the oftentimes the stuff gets manhandled.

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  22. James, we're friends and so I hope you will forgive me for letting the cat out of the bag on my own solution to this problem:

    I shipped them all to you.

    Mea maxima culpa. ;)

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  23. I donated some of my collection to the local library, and witnessed some kids reading through them. Hopefully those books become their gateway to role-playing games.

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  24. I have extreme difficulties getting rid of things, escpecially books, so I really don't. Nowadays I try to only buy games I will play, and that has lessened the inflow of gaming books to the apartment, but I also have some game lines I want to support, so I buy them even if I don't see myself playing them.

    Fifteen to twenty years ago, I sold a couple of games I though I wouldn't play anymore: the original Finnish D&D boxes, and Star Frontiers. I have regretted selling them, and I did acquire the D&D boxes (and the Cyclopedia) later, but I still long for the Star Frontiers cardboard chits. Having the books from the internet isn't that much fun.

    I won't buy Star Frontiers boxes, even if I could, because, well, too many games to play anyway. Now I just should get this Thousand Suns Star Frontiers game going... or at least the one-shot.

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  25. I gave some of my books away to the town's public library. Other things I'm giving away to the school where a friend teaches and runs a D&D club. I'm not concerned with getting any of my money back at this point--I just want to be rid of the piles and piles of books I likely will never use anymore.

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  26. Having recently been through a drastic reduction of my gaming shelves I know how you feel. I have only sold the most sought-after items. I've given away the rest for free (something like two huge boxes) to the local rpg club.

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  27. Just reading this thread is giving me palpitations.

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  28. I've been struggling with this for years...

    When I got engaged, I needed to move stuff fast, and needed some cash, so I posted a list of stuff to my local RPG listserves, selling collections for entire games for $25, $50, or rarely $100. Bargains for sure, but I think I raked in $500 or so in short order. The more recently, I have taken stuff to Powells Books and got gift cards which supply most of our book purchases. And I still have 6+ milk crates of stuff identified to be gotten rid of, and several more crates worth of stuff that I will probably get rid of.

    As to deciding what to get rid of...

    There are some games I have historically returned to over the years. I will never get rid of that stuff (RuneQuest and Traveller fall in that spectrum). My OD&D boxed set will be kept (and actually I did even return to it). There are various other games that I have strong attachment to and will keep.

    For the rest of the stuff, well, what I had been finding was that it was not unreasonable to re-purchase game books. That may not be holding so well now, there is stuff that is getting freaking hard to replace. But in general, my theory is that if you get rid of say 100 game books, if sometime in the future you repurchase 10 of them, you will probably come out ahead, even if you give them away (consider the cost of storing 100 books, and especially if you move every few years). More likely you will only repurchase 2 or 3 of those books if you are the type to purchase lots of stuff on spec.

    I have also chosen to examine my gaming interests very carefully. Honestly, probably even half the stuff that is in my "I'll probably keep this" will never get used again. These days I have a pretty good feel for what I am liable to be interested in again, or material that is good inspirational material.

    I've also given thought to what I would do if I had to seriously shrink my gaming collection. I think I could shrink it into my great grandfather's tool chest (which probably is about the size of 1.5 milk crates) and never really regret anything I let go of. That chest would hold:

    OD&D, Traveller (and a bunch of supplements plus the CD-ROM collections), RuneQuest (and all the supplements, though only one copy of most of them, and maybe not the RQIII material), Burning Wheel (and supplements), and a few other things (probably my original Chivalry and Sorcery, Bunnies and Burrows).

    I might have to discard some boxes. And maybe the board games wouldn't fit.

    If I had to squeeze supper hard:

    OD&D (boxed set and supplements in the box), Traveller (and as many supplements as fit in the box plus the CDs in sleeves), Burning Wheel (and supplements), RuneQuest II rule book, Cults of Prax, Apple Lane, and a few other bits, perhaps fill my RQII boxed set box).

    With my super hard squeeze, I think I could fit what I would need to live happily into that chest and a suitcase (clothes in the suitcase). Assuming that things like furniture and kitchen stuff will be acquired when I find a place to settle (such a squeeze means my LEGO hobby comes to an end - what I need to really be happy with that hobby is too incompatible with such a small volume of stuff, and I'd have no way of deciding what to keep in order to shrink my collection, even if I ditched gaming and filled that chest with LEGO).

    Frank

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    1. Hmm, also wanted to comment on Mike Mearl's thoughts.

      The idea of a staged discard process definitely has a lot of value. And I like the idea of "if you pick something up from the discard pile and it triggers a memory consider keeping it." I have a thought on that...

      Bring the item back into the house, but put a postit in it describing your memory. Then when house cleaning comes along again, read that postit and evaluate the memory. Is it something that's just a fond memory, or is it valuable nostalgia, or is it more than that. If it was just a fond memory, perhaps there's a better way to maintain the memory. Or maybe it's time to let that memory live or die on it's own without a mnemonic reminder.

      I will keep my battered copy of Chivalry and Sorcery for as long as I can because it played such an important part in my early gaming. The copy was actually my best friend's. He finally sold it to me. It is battered because I spent some $20 photocopying pages from it (a $10 book...) to run a game. Will I ever play C&S again? Probably not, but it is an artifact of my gaming.

      On the other hand, there is definitely stuff that has held fond memories that I have chosen to let go of, or at least should let go of.

      Frank

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    2. I like the post-it idea (I have a hard time letting go of stuff!) It also reminds me of that old exercise of mentally emptying your "knapsack" and filling it only with those things you need. A sure way to figure out your priorities.

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  29. Add me to the list of compulsive collectors that can pry my game or book collections from my cold dead hands (and that is only if I don't work out how to become a lich when I die*).

    Although admittedly I tend to collect PDFs these days and only get physical books when it's a game I already want to play at the tabletop, or when the game itself is a work of art or has dedicated physical components. They are easier to find, make use of, and reference. And a lot cheaper, especially with international shipping.

    I will never get to play most of my acquisitions either, although I would love to have been able to do so. But then I tend to cannibalise/steal good ideas from anywhere, and never really run any game true to form, so it all becomes a wonderful resource for snippets of ideas.

    [* Admittedly this looks like the best possibility for ensuring that my games find a good home when I do die. needs must drive, I suppose. I suspect it will be more likely that there will be an orgy of great eBay sales by my heirs in the near future, which will sadly undervalue many of the games, even when you add the high shipping costs to it.]

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  30. Scan, store on DVD or big server in the sky (or basement), sell the dead tree editions.

    I've done it for various items (music, rpgs, novels, texts, etc.) and do not regret it at all.

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  31. When I got married (years ago now) I entered into a Faustian Bargain with my wife. I could keep whatever of my childhood collection of RPGs and comic books would fit in a closet in a guest bedroom.

    Some of the remainder (comic books, mostly) i donated to a local children's hospital. Much of the RPG material I gave to my wife to sell on ebay, which she happily did. My proviso was that, once she had made a specified amount of money that way, we would use some of the proceeds to go out to our favorite restaurant and a have a big meal over multiple bottles of wine (and take a cab home). Which we did.

    Every so often when you mention here one of the games that was sold that way ("Lords of Creation" comes to mind), I reflect on that Faustian Bargain. But I still don't regret it.

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  32. RPGNet, http://www.rpg.net/, has a very healthy trading community. When I have stuff I no longer want or think I will ever use, I make a post to the "Sales! Auctions" section of the forum or there's a "Swap Your Unwanted RPGs (v2)" thread in the "Tabletop Roleplaying Open" forum section. I've had tremendous success swapping the unwanted for the wanted there for years now.

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  33. When I had this problem, I mailed all of my stuff to xxxx Richmond Ave. Houston Texas xxxxx, c/o Derek Tal...err...um, nevermind....

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  34. I've lost stuff and moves and once to a water leak. Now store everything in sealed totes in my basement. Once a year or so I'll dig through my boxes and drag a few upp to read. Stuff I haven't revisited in years I sometimes give away to interested players. Keep telling myself I'll eBay someday.

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  35. Jim,

    I've done it twice now and — like you — both times found I'd gone too far. Currently I'm in the midst of a hard reboot of the house, and decided to instead focus on *better storage* and archiving this time around.

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