Nintendo Game & Watch collecting for the non-collector.

So I was chatting to someone today about locating and buying the old Nintendo Game & Watch units, and decided it’d be good to share a few of the tips, tricks and ponderings I’ve discovered since deciding to add a Nintendo Game & Watch or two to my collection.

The first – and in my mind the most important piece of advice – is to decide early on if you’re buying to collect, or to use.  The difference between the two changes your entire buying habit, and what you should be on the look out for.  For the purposes of this article, there will be only a focus on the gamer aspect, if you’re a collector – chances are you already know what you want, and how to get it.

For the gamer

Due to the growing market for ‘retro’ gaming stuff, Nintendo Game & Watch handhelds have seen a marked increase in demand and as a result, cost.  That means for the person who simply wants to own a Game & Watch to play and enjoy, there are a few things to consider in order to keep the cost down.

Firstly, ask yourself how important the condition of the unit is.  If there are scratches, scuffs or other since of damage on the unit, it will likely drop the price substantially, even though the game is completely playable. In particular, try to find a unit that has a missing or replacement (not original) battery cover.  Game & Watches are notorious for not remaining paired to their battery covers over the years, and as ones without an original cover or cover at all are considered less desirable for a collector, you can steal them away at a bargain price and call in sticky tape to solve the battery retention issue.

You can usually tell a mile away if the Game & Watch doesn’t have the original battery cover, as the cover color is different (usually white, as these are popular and found on eBay) or a different shade of the same color.  Remember if you spot any of these battery cover irregularities, bargain, bargain bargain!.  See what you can do.  If the battery cover is missing or not the original, I’d refer to the below pricing matrix under ‘poor condition’ (it’s not really poor, but in the world of collectors it would probably be considered as much).

You should also try wherever possible to avoid eBay.  Yes, eBay is a constant and reliable source of all things retro, but prices on the worlds biggest auction site are primarily driven by one thing; greed.  Try to check out local garage sales, trash & treasure markets etc before going down the eBay road.  It’s fine if you find one for the right price, but try not to let eBay dictate what you expect to pay.  For the sake of having a benchmark available, at the time of writing this article, these are what I’d consider fair prices for a Game & Watch.

  • Multi-Screen, poor condition, unit only – working. $50 – $70
  • Multi-Screen, poor condition, unit only, popular game (Zelda, Mario Bros) – working $70 – $80
  • Multi-Screen, excellent condition, unit + box – working $100
  • Multi-Screen, excellent condition, unit + box, popular game (Zelda, Mario Bros) – working $100 – $150
  • Single screen, poor condition, unit only – working $40
  • Single screen, excellent condition, unit only – working $50 – $70
  • Single screen, excellent condition, unit + box – working $70 – $90
The above prices are in AUD, and are subject to all kinds of case-by-case exceptions, but it’s a nice rule of thumb to have.  If you’re not fussed about the kind of Game & Watch you have (you just want to own one to play) try to avoid games like Zelda, the Donkey Kong series etc.  These are highly popular, highly sought after and therefore have a price to match.  Grab a single screen game, or something less ‘big ticket’ like Blackjack.
Still great fun to play, but without the associated price tag.
Also, as a protective measure if you own one of these and you want to display it or use it, only leave the batteries in the unit when required. If it’s just going to sit in the box or on the shelf for an extended period of time, pop the batteries out – if you don’t, you risk them leaking into the unit and damaging it or rendering it useless.  You have been warned fellow Game & Watch’er!
Happy hunting, and feel free to leave any additional tips you might have as a comment here and I’ll add them to the article.

6 Responses to Nintendo Game & Watch collecting for the non-collector.

  1. SleepinDevil says:

    Hey I own two of these consoles from my childhood (lucky me right?) and they work and are in great condition besides some finger smudges and a few scuffs, do you have any tips on cleaning up the screen a bit? I was going to clean it the same way I clean my monitor but I was feeling a bit worried about damaging it.

    Also any ideas on locations of these trash and treasure markets in Melbourne?


    • SleepinDevil says:

      Oh I got a bit too excited as I was reading your article… Found out the Trash & Treasure is a company. Never knew that.

      Thanks for the article and oh any tips on how to clean and maintain it would be good thanks 🙂

  2. amiga4eva says:

    Hey there SleepinDevil, there are lots of different markets around Melbourne and Geelong, but it’s getting harder and harder to find Game & Watches “in the wild” 🙂 Occasionally they do pop up though. There are markets here in Geelong in areas like Belmont and Corio, as for Melbourne you can head to the Laverton market which is massive and you might find something there. There’s also the Caribbean markets out Clayton/Mulgrave way 🙂

    As for cleaning the units, they’re pretty sturdy, so wet wipes will be fine, or even just a shammy cloth will do. Just be gentle and don’t press too hard on the screen otherwise you may damage it. The outside plastic is tough as nails though so you can give it a good wipe.

  3. Daniel85 says:

    Haha, how weird is this… I found a Pinball Game & Watch at a thrift store (op shop) in Seattle last night ($6, no battery cover, still works) and did a Google search for replacement battery covers, which led me here. Then I noticed in the comments you mentioned the Belmont Sunday market… I grew up in Geelong and went to that market almost every weekend of my life! Small world.

    • amiga4eva says:

      That’s awesome. Internet power, bringing people closer :). Nice score on the Pinball Game & Watch too! That’s one of my fave ones… looks awesome too, all black and shiny. How long since you’ve been to Geelong?

  4. sixer says:

    Ok, so ive recently become obsessed with these things…grew up with them and now are collecting them far got 9(few rarer ones like rainshower etc) probably stop when I get around 20…maybe, depends on the missus.haha.Anyway love reading about them so keep up the good work.

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