Every now and then, when visiting different parts of the US, I like to track down independent or small-chain game stores and report my findings to the Racketboy community. Usually, I like to do a video interview with the store owner and not only get a tour of the store, but also get their insights on the retro-gaming world.
While in Oklahoma last month, I had the opportunity to visit a couple of locations from a regional chain of stores by the name of Vintage Stock. The not only sell games, but other used media goods as well such as music, movies, trading cards, and other goodies. I was hoping to be able to talk to one of the owners or head managers about the gaming part of the business, but I didn’t get a response to my inquiry. So, I figured I would do the next best thing and do a recap of my experiences with Vintage Stock and share a few pictures that I was able to capture (forgive my low-quality cell-phone pictures – I was trying to be nondescript and I didn’t want to make a scene with a big camera)
Appearance and Initial Impressions: 10/10
I visited two stores in Oklahoma and both were quite clean and organized rather well. The storefronts and interiors are both quite welcoming and modern-looking. I suppose this is the advantage of working as an established chain – you have some extra polish that most independent stores don’t have. The locations were also quite accessible in normal shopping center areas.
Customer Service: 8/10
I purchased a handful of games (mostly NES and SNES carts) at both stores and the employees that I dealt with were all helpful and friendly. Everyone that worked in the store seemed to enjoy what they were doing and both stores had a great vibe to them. Later on, I realized I should have asked them some questions about the games to test their knowledge, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. However, I’m guessing a pure-play gaming store will give you much better service in that area. But if you know your stuff (and most of our readers do 😉 ) you shouldn’t have too many issues.
In addition to browsing the games myself, it was fun to listen in on some conversations from other patrons of the store. I eavesdropped on a group of teenagers that were commenting on some classic vinyl that they were flipping through before moving onto some N64 carts and discussing some of their memories of the games. Overall, I saw a wide range of ages browsing the different types of media and the entire store seemed to generate interesting conversations.
Bonus points are all added to Vintage Stock’s appeal for their non-gaming selection. Even though it isn’t the focus of this review, it is still fun to browse the other goodies. The only thing keeping the store’s atmosphere from perfection is a few friendly retro-gaming experts to chat it up with.
Retro Game Selection: 6/10
The selection of the retro games was slightly above average in my opinion depending on the platform. The Nintendo and Playstation consoles and handhelds seemed to have a reasonable representation, but the Sega systems were very picked over. Most of the retro games were cartridge-only, but there were probably about 5 to 10 boxed games for most of the older platforms. (Maybe about 20 common, but not big-name games for the Dreamcast).
I mostly enjoyed browsing through the NES carts, and to a lesser extent the SNES cartridges. I was really disappointed with the Genesis selection at both stores, unfortunately. Not only were there very few games with cases, but most of them were sports titles with just a few common Sonics and such mixed in.
The store in Moore, OK had a few big-name cart-only titles behind the showcase by the cash register, but the prices were just a bit high, and I almost didn’t realize they were there (not especially close to the rest of the games). It’s also a bit of a pain to no be able to flip through those games on the shelf and even see all of the titles and prices without asking a clerk to pull them out of the case for you. I realize they are trying to cut down on people pocketing the games and walking out, but some of them were only a little over $10.
I was relatively happy with the pricing of the games, but it’s not a place for hardcore retro collectors to look for bargains. Most of the popular titles like the Mario games and such were priced a bit higher than a retro collector might expect ($7 really cmmon ones), but I was able to pick up a handful of titles that we featured in the Hidden Gems series for just a few dollars each.
I can’t say I was surprised at some of the higher prices though. Remembering that this is a nice chain located in good shopping centers, these stores need to keep prices a bit higher on big-name titles just to keep them in stock. Otherwise, casual gamers will snatch them all up quickly. However, I still think most of the games are a decent value if you prefer walking into a store and seeing the game in person as opposed to online bargain-shopping.
To give you an idea of what some games sell for (in addition to their condition), here are the games I purchased at the two Vintage Stock locations with the price tags still in place.
Game Condition: 7/10
The condition of the games (mostly just the carts themselves) were kinda hit or miss, but were not priced according to condition from what I could see. I put back a number of excellent games that had marker writing or labels torn (yes, I realize this happens, but at least give a bit of a discount). Sometimes I could find the exact same game in excellent condition for the exact same price, so I just got that one instead.
It also bothered me that there were quite a few game cartridges that had the large Vintage Stock barcode/price tag laid over a good section of the game’s artwork label. Casual gamers might not care about this, but this is sure to annoy a lot of condition-conscience collectors like myself. Since there was plenty of bare plastic available to put a label on, I’m not sure why the labelers weren’t being just a bit more careful. I know personally, I would have bought a few more games at each of the two stores if it wasn’t for the label placement. Once I got home, I found that the labels on the games I bought were quite easy to remove off the plastic (I didn’t buy any that had price tags on the game labels), but I would have still be nervous about trying to remove the store’s price/barcode stickers of the paper game labels.
Bottom Line: 8/10 – Recommended For Casual Shopping
Vintage Stock is a chain of stores I would love to have in my area. While it obviously isn’t geared solely for retro gamers, it is a more than enjoyable experience for anyone that loves browsing through music, movies, comic books, toys, sports cards, in addition to games of all vintages.
Vintage Stock is definitely a fun place to shop, but it’s not the ideal place to find lots of retro goodness on the cheap. If I lived in the area, I would check in every now and then just to see what they have in good condition for a nice price. You’d also need to be well-versed in some of the lesser-known gems to find some good values (check the Racketboy guides for the best retro game values).
Have You Been To Vintage Stock?
Have you ever visited the stores? What did you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below 🙂