How do you describe your collection?
I have a lot of older board games, mainly from the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. I probably have about 400 board games right now, which is down from 700. I’m trying to strip down to 200 games, which is challenging.
In addition to the vintage games, I also have some newer games from companies like AEG and Days of Wonder. I also have Kickstarter games in the collection. I love what some of these people have come up with, especially if it’s the first game they’ve ever done. I want to try to help them out by featuring them on my YouTube channel. It’s a big challenge to get a game out and sell it to the public. One game we have, the creators have been working on for 15 years. It’s called Zaberias. We’ve tried it and it plays well. The passion that these guys had to get their game out is pretty amazing to me.
When and why did you start your collection?
Well, my wife actually got me into it.
When we went on our first date, we were thinking of stuff we could do, and we decided to play Uno. That’s how the whole thing started — we played games on all of our dates. I was always looking for different games for us to play. That was 10 years ago.
One day, I went into a thrift store that sold games for only two or three dollars. We picked up a game called Football Fever that retails for about $30. I thought I could flip some of the different games I found as a kind of hobby. I tried to find information on some of these games that I was seeing. I couldn’t find much of anything about the older games. I had a YouTube channel that I wasn’t really using and I thought maybe I would go ahead and start a channel for the older games because I enjoy them. I started making videos to review the games I was finding.
There are a lot of people out there who love the older games. Those games bring back a lot of wonderful memories. They didn’t have the technology we have today, but there were games with record players — just incredible stuff — the gameplay is great, and they look great. They’re just a lot of fun. Those three-dimensional board games are amazing to look at. They catch people’s eye and many of these games they have never heard about, either.
I collected more games and reviewed more games. People started discovering the Board Game Museum YouTube channel and subscribing.
How do you display and store your collection?
I started storing my games in the closet but then the closet became too small. Right now, most of the collection is in the garage on five big, full shelves. It’s an explosion of games. We have a five-year-old, that’s why the games are in the garage and not the house.
I’ve been using BoardGameGeek to keep track of the collection. Users can create their own account to keep track of the games they have, what they’ve played, and what they’ve sold. It’s a great database because there are a lot of things you can do with it.
What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of your collection?
I did have a game called Dark Tower, which I ended up selling. That game was probably one of my Holy Grails. It was from 1981 and has a story all its own. Milton Bradley made it, but they were sued a couple of years later and had to stop making it. It was one of the first games ever to use a microchip — the electronic component was way ahead of its time. And, it’s just an amazing-looking game.
If I had to pick one from my collection today, it would be the older version of Fireball Island.
A game that I was finally able to get is called Space Crusade from 1990. It was only made in England. I finally snagged a copy for a really good deal, That game often goes for $250 or so.
One that has eluded me is Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit from 2000. I would love to get that game one day, but it costs about $500. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get it in the same way I got Dark Tower: I found it on eBay. It took a little while to get it because everyone outbids you at the last minute. I was finally able to sneak by one day.
I met a guy who told me about an online auction that featured games from the 1800s and 1900s. One of the games sold for $20,000 — there were only two ever made. I think spending $250 for a game is a lot, but someone out there is spending enough to buy a car. I feel a little bit better about my own spending on games to be able to say, “Honey, I didn’t spend $20,000 on a game today.”
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a vintage board game collection?
If you’re wanting to start up a board game collection, start small. You don’t have to get the most popular games immediately.
Find games that people will like to play and that are easy to learn. I had a friend start with party games. Those are games that people can learn and play pretty quickly. I think they’re referred to as “gateway games”. There are also solo games and battle games — all kinds of games. Buy whatever kind interests you and don’t feel like you have to get every single game.
As far as starting a YouTube channel, there are so many gaming channels out there, but I would never discourage anyone from starting one. To me, this hobby is all about spreading the word about how awesome board games are. Find your niche. There’s a guy whose channel features pirate-themed game reviews — he dresses and talks like a pirate. It’s great. Don’t be afraid to start a channel because you think there are already a lot of channels. Do your own thing and enjoy it. There will be an audience for you somewhere. Billions of hours of videos are watched on YouTube every day.
I’m part of a Facebook Group called Board Game Reviewers and Media. There are a lot of Facebook communities that you can join. It’s the same with YouTube. I’ve friended people through comments and online communities. There is a significant community there. If you’re looking for vintage board games, there’s a big group of people out there who love those kinds of things.
Visit the Board Game Museum YouTube channel for more of Norm’s vintage board game collection.
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