The Downside For Collecting Retro Games – Cleaning, Organizing, and Cataloging

I don’t think anyone would try to say the world of game collecting is sexy or exciting for most people.  A few minutes ago I was cleaning a copy of Madden 93 for the SNES.   It’s almost a why bother scenario.   The game isn’t worth anything.  But, shouldn’t it be given at least a minimum amount of love?


As I’ve been pulling my games out of drawers and placing the on display, the grimy games stand out.   Even worse than a small amount of grime – stickers or sticker residue.  This is literally the bane of collectors when it comes to cleaning up games.   It takes skill with your fingernail and Goo Gone.   Seriously, I would rather have to clean up names done in marker on cartridges than sticker residue.   

It’s a matter of pride though.  Before things were tucked away, the last time I did a full collection clean was over a decade ago.   The heavy work on that was for my NES games so you didn’t have to blow on them to play them.   I also learned to change the pin connectors in the NES at the same time.   Since the collection has grown in those years it was time to start a cleaning project from scratch.  

Here are the steps I follow.   First I inspect each game and clean off any marker using nail polish remover.   Then I move to seeing how easily the stickers come off.   If it takes a bit of effort to remove the label cleanly, I then wipe it with Goo Gone.   After a little bit I then manage to clean the sticker from existence. For cartridge based games I then work on cleaning up the contacts to make sure they are read without issue.   


After a set is cleaned, it’s time to set them for easy accessibility and visibility.  I will admit I have a failure in the past when it came to organizing games.   I usually placed them randomly on the shelves.   However, as I’m trying to track what I actually own and need, it’s time to actually alphabetize the collection.  It’s best if you have enough shelf space for all your games in a single area.   The SNES games at the top of the page are a portion of my collections.   I have a mixture of great and dredge, but it’s mine.   

Because of the unique room layout for my office, not all of games can be displayed in the same area.   When you have hundreds of games for over a dozen systems it becomes a bit of work out making everything work together.   You also have the challenges of small games that take up quite a bit of space.  

Games like the Turbo-Grafx Hu-cards, Gameboy, or Gameboy Advanced games are difficult for finding space for.  From a size perspective, if you display them in any angle other than label side out you are digging to find out what you have.   When you display label side out they take up quite a bit of space on the shelf.  This is something I’m still struggling with in my room.   I’m sure I’ll figure something out – but that doesn’t take the annoyance out of it.   Nintendo 64 games have the same problem, but I’m debating getting one of the third-party top labels for those.  


Catalog has been a bane of mine for a long time.   While you always have a rough idea of what you own, it’s annoying when you start seeing duplicates of games you shouldn’t have.   A few copies of Mario/Duck Hunt – that’s to be expected.   A few copies of Taboo or Gyromite, not so much.   I know why I have Gyromite (hunting for a Famicom adapter about 15 years ago), but I have no excuse for Taboo.   

It’s always been a battle for having something portable and accessible.   When you are at home, whatever method works fine.  When you are mobile, you want quick accessibility.   I haven’t found a solution yet that I like.  It either works for on the go or for at home.   I’m not happy with any choices I’ve found so far to work with both.  

I wish I had better information on this for you.  Since I’m not happy, I don’t feel comfortable about throwing out a product.   In the interim, what I’ve worked on is my want lists.   I went through the lists of available games for the main systems I collect (Nintendo and Sony mostly) and put them into a document.   I then have this document saved to Google Drive. 

By having the list cut down to direct wants, it stops me from just randomly spending money on games that I don’t have a specific interest in (trust me it happens).   It also let’s me see at a glance if I’m actively looking for it.   I can assume it it’s not on the list that it either doesn’t meet my criteria or I already own it.  My two shortest lists at the moment are for Gamecube and Nintendo 64.   I’m hoping to knock those out by the end of the year.  

I recently did some Ebay purchases so I’m trying to keep any purchases down for a month or so.   This will be focusing on specifically on Gamecube, setting my price limits and trying to get the game alphabetically.  This scenario makes it a challenge and forbids me from spending money collecting what is randomly available on Ebay on a given day.  Though if I hit the lottery, I will just knock out the collection in a week.