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Interview with Linda C. Watson, authoress of „Watson's 2007 - 2008 Price Guide for Vintage Electronic Games collectors”

Interview by “Gawaleus” (Patrick), “Collectorscorner” (Olivier) and “Fuzzi23” (Stephan), February 2007

The terms “Vintage Electronic Game(s)” and “Game&Watch” will be abbreviate for this interview in VEG and G&W.

Linda C. Watson's book 2007-2008 Price Guide for Vintage Electronic Games collectors is available at
(ISBN: 978-0-9790929-0-9, language: englisch).

Hi Linda. First of all we’d like to thank you for letting us interview you.

Since we know very little about you, we would appreciate it if you could introduce yourself.

Hello fellow collectors. My name is Linda Watson. I’m a collector from the USA. I loved electronic handheld games and video games when I was young and decided I wanted to be an Electrical Engineer. After finishing my BSE and MSE in Electrical Engineering, I began work at a major semiconductor company. I started collecting games again because I still love taking them apart and fixing them. Somehow it’s kind of relaxing and brings a smile to my face every time I look at that old technology.

Let us start with the questions. Please feel free not to answer if you don’t want to.

When did you start collecting VEG and what was the reason/initial occasion that made you become such a passionate collector?

I started collecting in 2003 after my brother came to visit me on vacation. We were up late one night talking trash about who had been the best player for various games we had as kids. (It was usually me.) Then he asked, “whatever happened to your tabletop Pacman?”

The next thing you know I was on eBay looking for the Coleco Tabletop Pacman. I wanted to see if I still could turn that baby over twice on one man… As I searched I saw dozens of games I always wanted as a child, but never had. I thought I’d be satisfied buying 2 or 3. Then it seemed silly not to have the whole series. Once I had the series I needed a better place to display them, the bookshelf I had seemed inadequate for such wonderful pieces of history. I bought a curio. Once I put them in the curio it seemed half empty so I HAD to buy more to use up the extra curio space, then the one curio seemed unbalanced in the room so I bought a second curio to set next to it and filled that one up. After that I decided to stop making excuses to buy games and to just give in to the madness. :-)

We admire the photos of your huge collection in your book. We imagine that your guests are stunned when they first see your living room and we wonder what usually their first comment is?

The children’s reactions are the best. They usually walk in and freeze, their eyes get really big, mouth falls open, and they forget how to talk. One little boy started shaking…that made me a bit nervous, but he was fine, just very excited. Some kids only stare at the games directly in front of them and others start slowing scanning the room. They may not be familiar with the games, but they definitely know a room full of toys when they see them. Surprisingly, they never run to touch the games.

Now, the adults are totally different. They usually stop in the doorway of the game room and let out some type of comment implying surprise. Then rush over to touch the games. There tends to be a discussion on the games they had and the games they wanted. Sometimes they bring up cool and interesting points I never thought about. For example, one guy started naming all the sports figures on some on the boxes. He brought up the fact that OJ Simpson is the player on the Bambino Football Classic game. I never noticed the player was #32 from the Buffalo Bills until he mentioned it. He later got into a 30 minute argument with two other guys about who player was on the Bambino basketball. I love that my collection can bring back old memories and generate so much discussion.

What opinion do your family and friends have concerning your passion of collecting VEG?

My family usually says I knew this would happen. I have been playing with handheld electronic games since I was about 8 years old, maybe even before then. I loved taking them apart, putting them back together, modifying them, and just learning how they worked. That’s why I became an electrical engineer. My nieces and nephews think it’s the greatest hobby in the world since I tend to give them new gaming systems and pass on duplicates of my vintage games.

Most of my friends are very supportive, even to the point of asking what eBay item I want for Christmas. I give them the auction numbers, but I always act surprised when I see my gift. :-)

We’d be interested if you could provide us briefly with some more details about your own collection than illustrated in your book (number of VEG, containing brands etc.).

I try to focus on handheld sports game or tabletop games with joysticks. Those are the types I had most as a child. However, I probably have at least one of every style of game made. Currently, I think I have about 800 games. My favorites are probably some of the rare tabletop Tiger/Orlitronic games. I need more of those. I also like the joystick versions of the Actronics/Hanzawa/Ludotronic games.

Are there any VEG that you don't collect or which aren't interesting for you? Do you set special criteria like the "year of manufacture" or "brands" for your collection?

I only actively collect games manufactured from 1976 -1986 since it is the time when I was most often playing them, but sometimes if I buy a game lot I get games manufactured after 1986. Sometimes I keep them other times I give them to my friends’ children.

Can you estimate how many different kind of vintage electronic games have been produced worldwide? Which kind of VEG are still missing in your collection?

It would be a total guess because it seems like each year a new VEG is rediscovered. I would guess there are probably 1200 – 1600 for the time periods I collect. If you add in the late 80’s and early 90’s I think it would definitely be over 2200 games.

What am I missing? We could be here all day if I told you my complete want list. Here are the ones I really really want. Maybe you can help me. I just made an excellent buy from a dealer in Germany. There seems to be some very rare games there.

Rosy Space King
Eurosonic/Romtec Pucki & Monsters tabletop Boxed
Tiger space invaders tabletop
Tiger Star Castle tabletop
Tiger Jawbreaker tabletop boxed
Tiger King Kong pop-up
Conic Ice Hockey Boxed
Conic Soccer Boxed
Cardinal Basketball Boxed
Toytronic Soopa Doopa
Toytronic kick n'pass
Gakken Space Galaxy boxed
Konami Tutankham boxed
Entex Black Knight Pinball boxed
Caprice- Pro Action Hockey
Caprice- Pro Action Soccer boxed
Caprice- Star Command Space Probe
Sportron Nose to Nose American Football
Any Hanzawa/Actronics game (small version) with a joystick
Any Tiger/Orlitronic/Virca game I don’t already have.

Do you think that living in the States is an advantage for collectors because there “may be” or “is” a much bigger market for VEG than in Europe?

At first I did think living in the States was an advantage, but now I think it depends on which stage of collecting you are in and what type of games your are collecting. Once you get the popular manufacturers like Coleco, Mattel, and Tandy I think it could be more advantageous to be in Europe, Australia, or Japan. I can’t count the number times I’ve wanted to bid on items and the seller refused because they did not want to ship to the USA and the prices are definitely lower in Europe for several types of the games.

In your book you mentioned that your mother bought your first handheld which was “Conic basketball”. Do you still own this game and if so, do you also possess the corresponding box and instruction booklet?

My childhood home burned down in 1996. I lost my whole game collection, but my family all made it out safely, so I can’t complain. I have found the same red basketball game under an unknown manufacturer with the box and manual, but not the conic brand.

Did you preserved all your VEG from your childhood or did some of them disappear for some inexplicable reason ;-) ? Ever regret that you lost or threw away a handheld in your past?

My collection was lost to fire or was given to family. The ones I regret most are those small Tandy/Tiger LCDs like King Kong. I found a ton of those in a Radio Shack outlet back in the early 90’s. I bought some for my nephews and nieces and didn’t even consider getting any from me. They are long gone now. I checked.

Do you play with your games as well? If so, which games do you like most regarding the technology (3D games, games with mirrors, magnifying glass etc.)?

When I first receive them I play all my games unless they are new in the box. If I really like it I get two or three so I can play the extras. I like all of the types for different reasons. I love the ones with mirrors because it seems so innovative. I love the ones with joysticks because of their ease of use. I love the CLCD’s because of their bright colors.

What is your personal opinion about unboxed VEG and did you set some personal priorities regarding the completeness of those games in your collection?

I started collecting only unboxed games. They were cool and displayed well. Then I noticed some of the beautiful boxes these games came in and they started generating almost as many good memories as the games themselves so I started buying mostly boxed games. If a game is extremely rare I will buy it in any condition broken or unboxed. However, if the game is not rare or not high on my want list I typically wait for it to show up boxed. I would like all my games to be 100% complete.

Can you please tell us more about your rarest/most precious VEG which belongs to your collection?

My rarest games are probably my boxed Tiger/Orlitronic tabletop games. Not many boxed versions of Smurfs, Monster Maze, King Kong, Smurfs (pop-up version), Lucky Luke (pop-up version) floating around.

Can you estimate how much your collection is worth?

I don’t think about the worth as in dollars. I think of it more as how valuable these games are to me. For insurance purposes I think I would estimate the value at $75,000 - $100,000 based on top prices eBay and offers I received for certain games.

Did you insure your collection in case of fire or other eventualities?

Definitely insured. It was hard to convince the insurance agent of the value without an appraisal. They only want to pay the price you paid rather than the value of the game. I actually started the data tracking of my pricing guide as a way to prove even if I pay $10 for a game it may be worth $200. I paid $1.99 for a game at a second-hand store and was offered $400 for it from a collector. That Tiger Space invaders tabletop that sold on eBay for a $75 Buy-it-now last year was bought at a garage sale for $0.25. There’s no way the game is worth only $75, but how do we prove it? I definitely suggest insuring your collections for its true value.

Do you receive your VEG primarily through / over online auctions? Which other sources for purchasing VEG do you have?

I buy 90% of my games through online auctions. The other 10% I probably get from stores and trades with other collectors. I would love to get more from trades, but it seems like no one wants to trade their rare stuff.

Do you remember details of your best bargain buy?

I’ve given up on ever getting bargains. However, I did get a boxed Actronics GrandPrix Turbo (joystick version) for $18. That was nice. I also got a boxed Pomcard tabletop in Japan for $0.10 and an Operation Z tabletop from France for $1.00. That was nice also.

Do you also collect other things beside handhelds like game consoles, old computers, stamps, coins or similar?

I collect a few Nintendo items. (NES and SNES) and dolls made by Shindana.
I don’t collect anything to the degree that I collect VEGs. They are definitely my obsession.

Since our community focuses more on “Nintendo Game & Watch” handhelds we would like to continue with some details about this topic. We hope that’s ok for you?

Can you please tell us more about the G&W items which are part of your collection and what kind of significance/rating this brand has for you?

I don’t have a large G&W collection, but that’s changing. I’m trying to buy all or nearly all Nintendo G&W’s (MIB) in one big deal. I’ve been negotiating with some collectors/dealers for them. If your readers have a set of 10 or more MIB for sale tell them to contact me. :-)

Do you also own or collect special editions of G&W handhelds like carded games/blister packs, editions with other case color or country specific G&W versions like Pocketsize, tricOtronic etc.?

No, this is probably the biggest whole in my collection. I’m collecting them slowly, but surely. Anything with a joystick is on the top of my want list.

What is your favorite G&W handheld and why do you like this game in particular?

Donkey Kong. It’s a classic and I remember it from childhood. Almost everyone who looks at my collection asks, ‘where’s the Donkey Kong in the orange case?’

Prices for G&W games are consistently increasing. Will prices continue to rise in your opinion? Do you think that the prices for non-G&W handhelds will increase simultaneously?

I think all them will continue to increase. More and more people are starting to collect and rare G&W’s in mint condition are disappearing into collections. Even in Japan where G&W’s can be found at reasonable prices, the prices for rare games are skyrocketing. It’s simple supply and demand. The demand is increasing and the supply is decreasing.

For the last topic let’s talk about your book Watson's 2007 - 2008 Price Guide for Vintage Electronic Games collectors:

What were your reasons to publish this book?

I tend to respond to all email and answer questions especially for new collectors since I remember how hard it was to get people to respond to my questions about collecting when I first started. One new collector started emailing at least 3-4 times per week asking if this game was rare or if that game was highly desirable. I was getting more and more questions so I thought if I took the work I did for insurance purposes I could probably make a book out it and it would be beneficial to people just starting out selling or buying. New collectors really do need some type of guide.

How long did it take you to finish the book (from the first idea to the release)?

It’s hard to say since it did not start out as a book. I would estimate about 6 - 9 months.
The last few weeks were the hardest, but once I finished I felt great.

Are all VEG of your collection published in the book and if not, which ones are missing?

Tons are missing. Too many to name. I plan to publish a version 2 with about 250 more.
Once I decided to publish a pricing guide I wanted to put something out there quickly and get feedback from friends and collectors. The feedback has been great. You guys have identified multiple areas for me to improve. :-)

Did you know the collectors personally before you presented them in your book and how did you take notice of those collectors?

I see posts from some of the collectors on the handheld Museum’s forum and have exchanged emails with some, but I have never met them. I posted a message saying what I was doing and asked if anyone wanted to show off their collections in the book. I was a little disappointed at the lack of responses, but it seemed like everyone thought their collection wasn’t “good enough”, it was packed away in storage or they didn’t have a camera. I’m hoping some of your readers will submit pictures of their collections and tell us about themselves for Revision 2. I have gotten so many questions about the collector’s corner. I really want to expand it in Revision 2.

Do you plan to publish a new edition of your book? If so, when will it be available?

Yes. I’m hoping to make it available January 2008. It won’t include the checklists since those don’t change drastically, but I will try to double the number of games in book. I’ve gotten requests for more LCD’s.

Do you plan to publish other books about VEG?

I’ve thought about it. I really would like to publish something about fixing the games. I’ve taken pictures and written the details about some of the games I fix, but haven’t published anything. I may add something like that to the next revision. I’m not sure yet.

A last question in general:

How do you think the VEG collecting market will develop in future? Do you think that the demand of VEG will rise, fall or stagnate in the next 10 years?

I think the market will take off in about 5 years and continue to grow. It seems like more and more collectors start collecting every year. I think if we want this hobby to truly take off we need to make it more visible to the public. Remind the 30 - 40 year olds of their childhood toys.

We would like to thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions which will facilitate us to have a better view of this particular market. Your opinion as a professional collector is really important for us. If you would like to give us any advises or more information, feel free to add your thoughts afterwards.

Thank you for contacting me. This is one subject I love talking about.

Part of Linda's collection: