Culling the Collection: Is it Worth it? - Inside Up Games
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Culling the Collection: Is it Worth it?

Culling the Collection: Is it Worth it?

For many of us, acquiring new games is second nature. No more shelf space, not a problem. IKEA is more than affordable when it comes to new shelving options. Limited space? All good, we don’t really need a guest room, right? Some of us have an entire shelf dedicated to games we have yet to play (some still in the shrink) but getting more games will provide more options for that next game night, and let’s be serious, having more options is always better than fewer options. Afterall, we only need to play a game once to know everything there is to know about a game. And buying new games is kind of a game in itself, right? Will I pick the right game? Will the 17 hours of research pay off in choosing the perfect game for my game group? Will I be able to pick up this rare find from a limited print run? It’s all a game, and when we get down to it, we all love games (even if we don’t always win).

So, what happens when you’ve been in the hobby for years? I have been in the hobby since 2012 and currently have three shelves completely filled with games. When reviewing my collection, I had games sitting on my shelf that I had not played in over 3 years… I asked myself, why am I holding onto these games. I always talk about being an ambassador for the hobby, yet I am hording games that I don’t ever play. Certainly, these could be played by someone else out there. Clearly its not doing anything collecting dust on my shelf. As I continued to think about all of these games, I realized I was doing a disservice to many of the games on my shelf and the designer that spent hours upon hours developing the game. Games are meant to be played (Unless you are in the hobby as a collector rather than a gamer. If you just want to have games because they are collectable, I have no issue with that).

I began looking over my collection and began asking why I had connections to certain games. Was it a gift? Was it something I had researched, preordered, or backed on Kickstarter? Was it a game I used to play a lot, but have since grown out of? Was the game something I wanted simply because of the artwork or components? As I began asking these questions, I was led to start asking, “When will I play this game next?” This was especially helpful in coming to an understanding of the value certain games held/hold in my collection. I began making a list of the games I was ok with getting rid of. Something that is important to remember when culling a collection is that you can almost always get a game back on the secondary market if you really want to play it again. It might be more expensive later on, but if it does enough to make you want to play it again, you can most likely pick it up later.

As I comprised my list, I quickly began asking myself how difficult it would be to cull the games I wanted to get rid of. What options were really out there?  Was it reasonable to believe that I could get rid of everything I wanted to part with? Through some research, I found plenty of different options available. Some require more work but provide the greatest return. Others are easy to use, but don’t have as great a return for each game. If you do want to cull your collection, it is important to decide what it is you are actually looking for whether it is a monetary return close to what you paid or if it is more about moving games to get new ones in. So, let’s go through some of these options. I will start with the least work involved and work my way up to the most involved ways to cull the collection. I will do my best to include the pros and cons of each option.

  1. Trade your games with a major retailer – This is the option I have personally used the most. There are board game retailers out there that sell and trade used games. Some make it easier than others, but I have had a lot of success using Board Game Co (boardgameco.com) to trade games. Essentially, if you have a BGG account, BGC makes this super easy. All you need to do is mark games in your “collection” as “For Trade” and place other games in your “collection” as “Want in Trade”. From there, you can go to BGC’s website and provide your BGG username. From there it provides you with a point value for every game you have marked “For Trade” that BGC wants and then it also pulls up every game in BGC’s inventory that you have marked as “Want in Trade” (it can also pull from your BGG wish list) with a point value of their own. From there, you just match the points from games your trading with the points of the games you want, and then propose the trade. BGC then facilitates the trade through BGG. You are responsible for shipping your games out and they pay for the shipping on their end. They even offer their shipping discount to traders, so the cost isn’t too bad. BGC makes the shipping labels for you to stick on your box and then you just drop it off at your local FedEx.

Personally, I love this option. If I am being completely honest, you get the least value out of your games with this option, but for good reason. Retailers are covering the cost of shipping on their end and have significant overhead in storing all the games and paying employees to go through and inventory each trade. For them to be successful, they have to offer less for the games because they need to get a return in value from the games they acquire. That said, this is a super easy option and I am almost always able to find the games I am looking for. There are far less options when trying to facilitate a trade with non-retailers. Additionally, I have been able to find games that are rarer or niche through this process that I would not usually have access to. I recently picked up the second edition of Rum and Bones which I have had a tough time finding on the secondary market. I have actually been able to track down games with limited print runs as well like a first edition copy of Carnival Zombie from 2013. This game is one I have wanted since its initial release but couldn’t find it anywhere for less than $100. A trade made it easy to acquire this game.

Something important to note is that BGC utilizes an algorithm to provide the point values for all games. This means that the point value a game changes as the market changes. If you don’t feel like you would be getting the return you would like on a game, you can easily wait and see if it’s value goes up later. It works the other way too. If you think a game is valued at too many points on BGC’s end, it might lower if you are patient.

  • Find a Math Trade to participate in – Math trades are a great way to get rid of games to get games you really want. With no conventions taking place, it might be more difficult to find a math trade, but they are still taking place digitally. Board Game Barrage (a board game podcast group), for example, has facilitated three math trades this year. You can listen to their podcast, connect to their discord, or visit their website to find out more information.

So, you might be asking, “What is a math trade?” A math trade is a giant trade that attempts to make everyone happy through multiple trades. Here’s an example: Conor has Game A. I really want Game A and am looking to trade Game B. Conor doesn’t want Game B at all, but does want Game C. Chris has Game C, but doesn’t want Conor’s Game A. Rather, Chris wants Game B. In a normal trade scenario, I would be able to give Conor Game B for Game A. Then Conor would be able to trade Game A to Chris to acquire Game C. In the end, we each have the game we want, but we had to make multiple trades to make it happen. When conducting a math trade, the software instructs each individual to send their games to their trade end point. In other words, rather than having me trade with Conor and then Conor trade with Chris, I would just send Game A directly to Chris, Conor would send Game B to me, and Chris would send Game C to Conor. Now imagine this happens with hundreds of games and potentially hundreds of people. It might take 15, 30, or 50 trades to get each person the game they want in trade for their particular game, but all that is communicated to the trader is the end point.

Luckily, there are robust software options out there to maximize the number of trades that can be facilitated through the user inputs. Users simply fill out a grid by checking off trades they would be willing to make. Essentially, all of the users games that are available for trade make up a column in a spreadsheet and every game available in the trade market is available in a row. From there, the user just checks off all trades they would be willing to make. This needs to be completed by a specific deadline. Then, users receive information about where they are shipping their games to and what games they will be receiving. Then you just play the waiting game.

Math trades have some serious pros, but also can have some serious cons. They are great because they everyone is happy with the trades they make, and more trades are feasible given the process required to facilitate the trades. If you have a large number of participants, the number of trades that can be made increases making it more likely that you’ll be able to get that game you really like. That said, if you lack participants, the math trade can be pretty lame. It requires a good number of participants to be successful. Another con with math trades is that you have to ship a lot of individual games, making it a more expensive shipping process. When working with a one stop shop, you only have to ship one box filled with board games (depending on how much you’re are culling) rather than a box to every individual that traded with you throughout the math trade. This can add up really quick.

  • Buy, Trade, Sell Board Games Facebook Group – A few years ago I joined this Facebook group hoping to acquire more games. As the years have passed, I have realized that this is probably the best option if you are looking to get the best monetary return on the game. You simply post games you have for sale and the price of those games. If you want, you can include items you would trade for. You can easily require buyers to pay for shipping, so you end up not having to absorb that cost which is rare for most trading or selling options. The audience is pretty large as well, so there are often people interested in the games you are parting with.

That said, this option also requires a lot of time. Potential buyers often have multiple questions that require answers prior to purchase, and you will need to continually update your posting as games sell. Managing this can take time, but often results in the biggest payout. If you are willing to take the time to do this, it will probably result in the highest return. Be careful of scammers out there though. This option has the least security. At least most math trades are connected to a BGG account so it is easy to flag someone that doesn’t follow through on a trade as a bad trade partner. In this option, you need to trust the individual on the other end. I recommend not sending anything until a payment is completed.

And there you have it. Three accessible ways to cull your collection to get games into the collection that you will actually play. Three easy ways to get games collecting dust to people who will actually play and enjoy them. Remember, a game culled isn’t gone forever. You can pretty much always get it back on the secondary market. If you are not planning on playing it anytime soon, wouldn’t it be better to get it to someone that will play it?

Have you culled your collection? I would love to hear what methods you use to keep your shelf fresh. Please comment below.

Thank you for reading and, as always, keep on gaming,

Matt Pioch

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