Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cleaning House

Geoffrey McKinney, creator of Carcosa, started threads at both the OD&D Discussion forums and on Dragonsfoot in which he listed and posted images of his entire RPG collection, which he's radically whittled down to a handful of books he finds both useful and inspirational to his gaming. I have to admit that I've often considered doing such a thing myself, as I have approximately two full bookcases of gaming products, most of them unused most of the time. Unfortunately, my resolve to get rid of many of these books is weakened by the painful memory of re-acquiring my Traveller collection after having sold it shortly before I graduated from high school, in the false belief that I'd never play it again. Likewise, I often need to know little bits of trivia associated with this or that game book and, since PDFs aren't available for most of them, I hesitate to get rid of them.

Still, I have to admit there is something very appealing about getting rid of the dozens of books I own and truly will never look at or use again, such as many D20 books or my Ars Magica collection. Of course, finding a good way to get rid of them all is the problem. I hate selling things through eBay if I can avoid it. Worse, I hate trying to come up with fair prices for these days. I figure, if I'm going to take the time to sell them off, I might as well make some money off of them, but, at the same time, how much are they really worth, especially since I wouldn't be selling off anything particularly rare or valuable?

I'll have to give this one some thought.


  1. When I moved away from college, I gave the unused portion of my RPG collection to a buddy of mine who'd DMed for our local group. I knew I wouldn't get much dollar-wise for them, so I figured they should go to someone who I knew would use them.

    You could always try donating your stuff through a FLGS, maybe to kids as part of some contest - maybe for bringing in a good report card or something? Just let your imagination be your guide.

  2. Every time I have whittled down my collection, I have ended up buying back what I had gotten rid of years later at much expense. Now, I have gotten rid of things that ended up being duds (the WEG DC Heroes set comes to mind, as does the Men In Black game) but I've learned my lesson and keep the majority of things now. 5 shelves and counting...

  3. Despite storage issues (and on-going 'discussions' with the wife) I will never purge my collection (which amounts to a few hundred books) as browsing through it when I have an idle moment is a continual joy.

    Besides I have seen to many threads on various forums where a poster regrets having got rid of a book or collection in the past and ends up paying a fortune to reacquire it. And there are too many other threads that spark in me a renewed interest in a book or game I already have.

  4. I've rediscovered stuff in my collection over and over again, so I wouldn't dare sell it off. Also, I have many different games for different occasions. I'm not a one system guy, and don't understand why you would like to be.

    Yes, I have re-bought some of my collection at higher cost a couple of times. No more.

  5. Andreas,

    I don't want to be "a one system guy" at all, but I also don't see a lot of purpose in keeping games or game book I know I'll never use, especially when I have so many books cluttering my shelves as it is.

  6. You could always entrust your collection to your devoted armchair-anthropologist reader who would love to get her hands on some original sources for research purposes. ;)

  7. Well make sure you get your copy of Dune RPG (if you have it) in a safe place. It is selling for ludicrously high prices.

  8. "Heresy!" he cries, running to stroke his wall of books. "There there, my children, the bad man wasn't suggesting that I do the same."

    <grin> Ok. So I'm a compulsive collector or rules and rule systems. At well over 12 metres of shelf space I still regret not having purchased some thing when I could, and still fume about the stuff that's gone walkies by itself. Although my predilection for collecting PDFs these days means my collection is growing a lot slower than it used to.

    But I don't mind if someone else gets rid of their collection. ESpecially if their courteous enough to tell people when they are doing so <wink> <grin>

  9. At my age, I've entered the "from my cold dead hands" stage of game collecting... completely irrational.

  10. I got rid of a bunch of RPG stuff a few years ago, just before I moved to Ottawa (we were trying to purge stuff).

    I was surprised by two things:

    1. how good it felt. I didn't get rid of any of the books that I had any interest in, or liked in any way. Still, I managed to get rid of 2/3 of my collection. Stuff that, apparently, I actively disliked seeing. :-) Maybe that's just me.

    2. how much money I got. I grabbed it all (and there was NOTHING of any value, I thought - old Dragon magazines from the 90s, odd systems and strange books. Nothing rare or valuable. I took the whole box to my FLGS and dropped it on a gaming table. The guy went through it. I was figuring: if I get $20 or so for the whole lot, I'd be doing good. The guy gave me close to $200!

    FWIW. Your milage may vary. :-)

  11. Take a look at You can email them a list of what you want to get rid of and wether you want cash or store credit. If you accept their appraisal they'll send you pre-printed labels from their Fedex account and you just drop the boxes off @ any Fedex shipping place. You could probably get more on ebay if you want cash but this way is much less hassle. Don't take just my word for it though, there are multiple threads about them over on the forums...

  12. Instead of selling then, you can donate them. Prisons, orphanages, US soldiers, etc... Take the tax write off.

  13. James,

    even knowing your fondness of OD&D I don't consider you to be in the dangerous zone. I know of your Traveller and Wolfie habits. ;)

    Some people do purge down to one system, and that makes me go frowning, but I know I am obsessive.

  14. James, divide your collection into, a regular referance library, an occasional referance archive which you box up and store, and list the extras and orphans here on Grognardia for your regulars to bid on.

  15. I got rid of my 2E D&D collection through a local gaming store. I made a bit of money, which I spent on more gaming books. :)

    As a collector of gaming products I don't have any books I consider really 'useless'. The 2E were redundant though. I kept the 1E books out of nostalgia and I use the 3E and consider them valuable.

    Just drop us a note when you find a means of getting rid of your books. You know, in case I might be interested... :)

  16. I once gave away Phoenix Command and Living Steel to an FLGS, which took some talking to overcome resistance. That just seemed the best way at the time to get them into the hands of someone who might appreciate them, but I think the proprietor suspected some ulterior motive (although I'm not sure he actually imagined any specific peril).

    Maybe some things would be fit for the shelves of an independent bookstore? You would not get the most money that way. If it's something the shop can profitable sell, then that's a little help for an institution I would like to see survive. It seems also a good way to increase the likelihood that someone new to the hobby will come across the book(s).

  17. For the ones you are getting rid of, I'd recommend Noble Knight Games. They'll give you more in store credit, then when something rare from D&D or gaming's past comes up there, you can use it on that. I've found NKG to be one of the best gaming outfits I've ever dealt with.

  18. Sell them on Amazon - it doesn't cost anything to get an Amazon seller account, and then you can offer them used on the amazon page for the books in question.

    Amazon takes a cut, of course, but they handle all of the transaction details - the money magically appears in your bank account, and all you have to do is ship the book to the indicated address when Amazon tells you to. Which is a lot better than dealing with the flakes and idiots who increasingly infest ebay.

  19. I don't like selling through eBay either, so I simply took to running auctions directly on my website.

    I've been whittling down my collection over the last two years myself, mostly out of necessity rather than desire for simplicity, but sometimes, the simplicity feels good. I'm now down to three six-foot tall bookshelves, though many of the shelves are a quarter to half empty, with two additional shelves on another book shelf for my Dragon Magazine collection (everything from #52 on to the start of 3E).

    I sold all of the less-than-collectible stuff to a local retailer; sure, I might have gotten a bit more through eBay, but it was much simpler to sell that ton of stuff (literally, likely a ton of books over two years) to a guy who I knew would give me a fair price.

    Now I'm down to stuff with moderate to high collector value, so I'll be auctioning them off my blog for some time to come. I might not get the best price, as I would from eBay on a good week, but then I also won't have to deal with eBay...

  20. The suggestion of donation to, e.g., an orphanage or the USO is one that I would second if it's compatible with your considerations.

    If any RPG material remaining in my collection has not more than amortized its cost, delivering over the decades a profit in pleasure, then it is something I would just as well toss into the trash without a second thought (except perhaps that saving others from exposure to it would be a good deed).

  21. My first reason for selling 95% of my RPG collection was to raise some cash. I'm a real estate agent, and anyone who has so much as read the headlines will know that the real estate market is in the tank.

    Second, just having less stuff in the house is liberating.

    Third, I decided it was silly for me to keep RPG books that I never even touch, so I sold those first.

    Fourth, I decided against keeping even awesome items (i. e., Gary's AD&D manuals, monochrome AD&D modules, Eldritch Wizardry, etc.) if I never used them in play. In being honest with myself, I realized that I never had and never would play AD&D with all those segments, complex initiative, and all AD&D's other aspects that are more complex than OD&D. I play just OD&D, so that's all I kept.

    I have all I need for a lifetime of gaming with OD&D, GREYHAWK, CARCOSA, the Random Esoteric Creature Generator, the Wilderlands, and a few other choice items.

  22. Funny,
    but I got rid of my gaming collection when I graduated from college by UPSing to a friend of mine who was the DM. He said he threw out 2/3rds of the stuff. I re-acquired all D&D books through Compleat book of series in 2004.

    I am trying to find time to read it all and whittle down the useless stuff (into attic this time). Don't throw out your collection, ye shalt miss it!

  23. I am in the "keep it or die" camp. However, I fully support people who want to live a hippy lifestyle of simplicity and all that - that means more for me to buy! The current economy has done wonders to my Dragon Magazine collection. I have been working on the earliest two dozen back issues for a decade and have picked up more in the last 6 months than the five years before that (I am really cheap and very patient).

  24. When I had the same issue, I had a great time swapping games over on I got rid of a lot of stuff I knew I would never use and got a bunch of other new stuff to enjoy. I also reduced my collection and made more shelf space by swapping many less valuable books for a few more valuable books. If there's other gaming stuff out there that you might want, you can always see if anyone on has the it and would be willing to trade it for the stuff you no longer want.

  25. You guys that dump your game collections at the local gamestores or bookstores for a fraction of their worth are what keep me in business...from the bottom of my heart, thanks for the last 15 years!!!! :)

  26. James, let me first say that I've been enjoying your blog for several months, so much so that I've been reading your blog from both ends and have been inspired to start writing again after many years of frustration. Thanks very much for the inspiration!

    Speaking as someone who's done precisely this, including selling on eBay (which I can't recommend), I can say in all honestly that I highly recommend thinning out your closet for one simple reason - less is more.

    There's a really big difference between being a game collector and being a user and you seem to be a very dedicated user. If you're a user then a large collection can be a huge distraction and unlike elves we have a limited life span. :)

    Here are some things I just don't miss from my whole game closet, in general:

    1. Alternity (Development went south in the mad dash for cash which soured the milk for me.)

    2. Star Fleet Battles (Rules heavy frustrating game. I suffered John McEnroe lycanthropy every time I played it.)

    3. Pre-2E Dragon Magazine (CD-ROM replaced the need for paper and 2E was my game of choice at the time.)

    4. AD&D Dragonlance (Gifted by a friend, made my disarm trap roll and dumped it.)

    5. Undesirable 3rd party potpourri of questionable and widely varying quality (Role Aids, thieves world boxed set, hard to read typewriter written thief 'scenarios' (tomb-robbing mostly), old dungeon tiles, crappy miniatures and loads of gifted stuff).

    6. Judges Guild (Please don't anyone 'get a rope'; the main reason was the newprintish quality about them.)

    Here are some things I did or do miss and have either bought back or want to because I want to play them with my kids:

    1. Star Frontiers (Re-bought - I met Mr. Cook when I interviewed with TSR so some 'cool' factor is involved.)

    2. FASA: Interceptor (Re-bought); Centurion and all supplements for both games (*sob*).

    3. Al-Qadim Soft Cover (I missed the elemental style spells; also, given to me by Collin McComb, my tour guide at TSR, as a 'freebie'.)

    4. A precious few AD&D modules even though the only one I can remember ever playing was 'Ghost Tower', which even then I thought kinda sucked.

    Free free to drop me a line. This post has gone on way longer than intended and I'd be glad share my experiences with thinning things out.

  27. I moved from Italy to UK three years ago, and I could only bring with me some books. Most of the collection I left at my sister's home, but I have recently begun to sell things which I bought out of curiosity in the past, and I never used, and don't plan to due to many changes in my life (marriage, a child coming, and sadly, no one to play with). As someone said above, I am not a collector, just a user, and...well, as weird as it seems, it actually feels *good* when you do not have to think about all of the games you have and which you will never use. So, I kept only the ones I have played mostly through the years: AD&D, BECMI, Mechwarrior, Battletech, Call of Cthulhu, Jovian Chronicles.


  28. I recently went through this process, working through my logic (and the occasional lack of it) in a thread at

    I found the process to be rather freeing, though a number of people disagree with that, and can't stand to let anything go. It was an interesting and ultimately profitable experience to go through.

  29. I spent years putting my collection of adventures and 1e modules together. Tossing them out, selling them would be like getting rid of my left foot. Now some of the 3rd edtion cruft I could use to part with as most of it is scanned as PDF and easily accessable, if I need something I'll just print it out.

    I've built a very nice 3 shelf gaming library. What I need I know where it is, what I don't will stay on the shelf and if one of my gaming friends is over they can look it over and read it. After all a library is not just for the librarian but the other guests as well

  30. I'm in the process of thinning my game collection. A couple years ago, I sold a bunch of it at firesale prices just because I had to get rid of some stuff FAST. There are one or two things that I slightly regret getting rid of.

    The strategy I am taking is consider each thing.

    Traveller I'll keep, at least my collection of pamphlet sized books (even the Striker boxed set) because it's actually quite compact.

    RuneQuest I will keep all the RQ II era stuff and perhaps some other stuff, because I have returned to RQ periodically, but my most recent binge included purchasing a ton of the fan generated Hero Quest material, and I have come to realize that too much detail of the world was not compatible with how I play.

    Wilderlands and Judges Guild stuff I will keep because it's all stuff I had, let go of, and then re-acquired (fortunately all at quite reasonable prices).

    Even when I decided I would never play D&D again, I kept my OD&D books and my BECM books. Plus I kept most of the modules (I have often ported modules to other game systems). I re-acquired the core AD&D books and will keep those. I will also keep the core 3.5 books and all the Malhavoc Press stuff I bought, plus perhaps one or two other D20 supplements. I will also keep my complete run of Dungeon Magazine, though if it ever becomes available electronically, I would consider selling it off.

    I will also keep the indie RPG's I have collected. They are generally small, and I have most recently run Burning Wheel (which probably accounts for close to half my indie RPG volume). Riddle of Steel is one of the things I somewhat regret letting go of, on the other hand, I'm really not sure I would have ever played it.

    Beyond that, anything else needs a careful and honest evaluation. I have tons of stuff I bought because it looked cool, and perhaps I just "needed" to buy something. If I realistically don't have any thought of ever playing it, I'm better off getting rid of it.

    One thought on having to re-purchase stuff. If you sell a ton of stuff, and say get $1000 for it (I easily cleared $500 or more from my fire-sale), the fact that you end up having to pay $200 five years later for something you suddenly wish you still had is pretty minor (in fact, with those numbers, $1000 invested over five years would easily net you $200 in gains, and other ways you used the $1000 might easily generate at least $200 in subjective value gain). And consider that MOST of the stuff you sell will not appreciate much if any in value. A tiny bit of it might be almost impossible to replace.

    In the end, why not effectively delay investing in a game until you're actually ready to play it? The cash you get along with the space freed and the other benefits of having less stuff is worth it.


  31. I find that donating bad RPG books to charity gives me warm snuggly feelings.

  32. Whatever the reason, I find my three shelves (and growing) collection just as important as having as little of it as possible at the table during a session.