Introduction to retrocollecting

copyright © 2017 Kalevi Kolttonen <>


The purpose of this document is to explain some of the basic ideas of retrocollecting. Some people collect just for personal fun, others are committed to more serious goals like preserving 8-bit games. It is clear that old media like tapes and floppy disks will not last forever, so collectors are in a notable role when it comes to preserving gaming history. As a matter of fact I do not know very many retrocollectors, so this document contains lots of my personal experiences.

I sold my beloved Commodore 64 a long time ago in 1987, but got back in the retrocollecting scene in January 2000. As of January 2017, I own about a dozen working C64s (brown breadbin models, I do not want or approve others) and perhaps a dozen of other 8-bit computers. However, my main focus is in hundreds of original games, the vast majority of which are C64 releases, but also include Atari 8-bit, VIC-20, Sinclair ZX Spectrum etc. These numbers are not meant to be bragging. In fact I do not consider myself to be an "elite" collector even though my collection is pretty big. I am sure other guys have more rare games and more complete collections. However, I have set myself certain guidelines and goals, and for the most part, I have reached those goals. At some point I even got fed up with searching for those long elusive releases and declared my retrocollection to be complete.

So how did I start? Well, I actually started by collecting Nintendo Game & Watch handhelds and tabletops and their equivalents from the 1980s. I am not sure, but I think I currently have 42 different Nintendo Game & Watches with several duplicates. Not all of them are boxed and I think I am missing the rarest ones such as the Silver Series. For a long time now, though, my main focus has been on the retrocomputer and retrogames collecting.

Mission Statements are difficult to formulate and tend to evolve

Collecting C64 games can seem like an especially daunting task because of the sheer amount of different software releases. Projects suchs as GameBase64 aim to catalogue every single C64 game ever released. On October 9th 2016 the project maintainers announced that their system now contains 25000 games. That is absolutely breathtaking, so I think that most of us will not choose to buy all C64 games.

So what exactly do I mean by a "Mission Statement"? Well, it is simply some kind of a definition of what one is trying to achieve. Personally, when I started out C64 related retrocollecting, it was my aim to get all the original games that I used to have in the 1980s. When I reached that goal, I expanded my interest to C64 cartridge releases. When I got enough cartridges, I expanded the scope of collecting further and included several disk and tape releases of the games I found fascinating.

As a rather experienced collector, I know it can be difficult to define an exact Mission Statement. I also know I have probably failed in doing so. Whatever strict rules and guidelines I used to have in the beginning have slowly evolved to include more and more software and hardware.

For example, when I started collecting, I only wanted to collect C64 related hardware. Nowadays my hardware collection has expanded from C64s to owning at least one of the each of the following computers:

  1. Atari 800 (48K)
  2. Atari 800XL
  3. Sinclair ZX Spectrum (48K)
  4. Spectravideo MSX 728
  5. Commodore 16
  6. Commodore VIC-20

Of course I also have peripherals such as disk drives, datassettes and joysticks.

As I already mentioned earlier, I have some games for those non-C64 systems too. Concerning my Mission Statement, my general focus is on 8-bit home computer games released before 1987, i.e. mostly years 1982 - 1986, primarily Commodore and Atari 8-bit. Of all game genres, platform games is my firm favourite. On the other hand, text-based adventures are something I like to avoid, since I do not like them. Despite that, I have allowed a few exceptions (i.e. I have a text-adventure called Aztec Tomb in order to have a complete Alligata Software clam shell collection of Antony "Tony" Crowther's games).

I am afraid I have reached the point in collecting where I can no longer obey clear and concise rules. Nowadays when I see a release that somehow interests me (perhaps because of a splendid cover art or simply a release's rarity) and I will try to buy the game. I suppose this is inevitable evolution as a collector. Having 99% completed my primary retrocollecting goals, I now feel more free to sidestep and buy something that does not exactly fit my Mission Statement.

Advice for beginning collectors

If you are a beginning collector, I would like to give you some ideas for inspiration. For example, you could limit your retrogame collecting based on the following criteria:


It is worth noting that some retrocollectors are not interested in getting physical copies of software (or hardware units) at all. Instead, they are content with using emulators and collecting disk and tape images copied from the Internet. Personally I like to use emulators too, but when it comes to retrocollecting, my focus has always been with original physical copies of games and, to a lesser degree, with hardware units.

In conclusion, whatever your collecting Mission Statement is like, I wish you happy moments while searching and finding.