Thursday, November 28, 2013

Video Game Collector Syd Bolton

Like many of my articles, this one recently appeared in AntiqueWeek:
Canadian Syd Bolton has “just under” 15,000 video games, one of the largest private video game collections in the world. His electronic obsession ranges from old Pong units to Intellivision cartridges to computer discs to Xbox 360 games, and just about everything in between.
Bolton, who owns the Personal Computer Museum in Branford, Ontario, was recently featured on an episode of Extreme Collectors, where host Andrew Zegers visited his home, marveling over the amazing amassment of interactive media.

“I love this!,” Zegers exclaimed upon entering the first of several of Bolton’s game rooms. “Are you kidding me?”

A 30-year veteran of the antique/appraising industry, Zegers travels the country in search of collectors and their vast collections, which range from yoyos to vintage automobiles to Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes. He’s even profiled celebrities, such as Penny Marshall, who collects sports memorabilia, and Corbin Bernsen, who collects snow globes.

While checking out Bolton’s collection, Zegers was obviously having a blast, playing such favorites as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the GameCube and the original arcade version of Pac-Man, and exclaiming excitedly about such obscurities as the Virtual Boy 3D console and Extra Terrestrials (not to be confused with the infamously bad E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial game), which is a recently discovered, under-produced Atari 2600 cartridge worth $10,000.
Zegers always appraises the collections he investigates. Bolton was hoping his video games were worth at least $500,000 and was pleasantly surprised when Zegers quoted a figure of $650,000.

There’s no doubting that Bolton’s video games are valuable, but Zegers may have overshot the mark by a sizable margin. While examining a used Virtual Boy, for example, he told Bolton it was worth $500. A quick eBay search, however, showed several of those systems selling for around $100 (with shipping). Further, a new-in-box Virtual Boy with nine complete games recently sold for $749.99 (free shipping).

Regardless, Bolton isn’t in it for the money. He simply loves video games and the nostalgic pleasures they bring, pointing to Pitfall! for the Atari 2600 as the title that turned his hobby into an obsession. “Pitfall! got me into video game collecting,” he said. “Pitfall! for me isn’t just a video game—it’s like a time machine.”

A software developer, technology broadcaster, museum curator, and author, Bolton enjoys a full, well-rounded existence, with plenty of time spent away from the small screen.

“(My video game collection) hasn’t taken over my life, not yet anyway,” he said. I have a job; I have friends; I have other interests. A lot of people have accused me of being a hoarder, but everything is extremely organized and in alphabetical order.” 

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