Ask LH: How Much Is My Atari 2600 Worth?

Dear Lifehacker, I was wondering how much I could get for an Atari 2600 in good condition? It comes with everything needed to get up and running (cables, joysticks, etc.), plus 23 games. I've had a look online, but no two prices are the same. I subsequently have no idea what to ask for! Thanks, Old School Gamer

Photo: Flickr, Chris L

Dear OSG,

It's true that prices vary wildly for Atari 2600 consoles: we've seen second-hand units go for between $15 and $1000+. The value of your system will depend on which version you own (there are several), its overall condition and the rarity of the included games.

From its debut in 1977 to its discontinuation in 1992, the Atari 2600 came in several guises. The original six-switch woodgrain Atari 2600 generally fetches higher prices than the post-1986 "Jr." model which boasts a smaller, all-plastic form factor. There are a handful of other models that carry the "2600" moniker, including the four-switch "wood veneer" version, the all-black "Darth Vader" version and myriad licensed clones from third-party manufacturers.

It shouldn't be too difficult to determine which version you have - if you've lost the box and instruction manual, simply compare its appearance to photos on the internet.

Whichever version of the console you own, its value will be bolstered considerably if you still have the box in mint condition. There's a glut of Atari 2600 consoles on the market - approximately 30 million units were sold during its lifespan - but pristine original packaging is hard to come by.

If you don't have the box, it will mostly come down to the games you own. As we recently showed in this infographic, retro games have been known to sell for surprisingly high prices even when they're not especially rare. But as a general rule of thumb, the less common a game is, the higher the price tag.

Your first port of call should be rarityguide.com; a collectibles database that boasts a dedicated Atari 2600 section. To find out how rare your games are, simply type each title into the search bar. The site will then spit out a rarity rating and the amount it generally sells for. The evaluations are based on community feedback, current market activity and the administrators' own expertise.

Other price-appraisal sites worth exploring include Price Charting, Retro Gaming Collector and of course, targeted searches on eBay and Gumtree.

Once you've ascertained how much your collection is worth, your best bet is to sell them directly to the buyer via an online auction site. Don't offload them to a pawn shop or specialty store as the reseller's intended cut will eat significantly into your profits.

In addition to the usual online auctions, it might be worth trying specialist sites dedicated to old video games (examples include VGA, Gamesniped and GameGavel.) While the number of daily visitors on these sites is much lower than eBay, they're all niche hobbyists willing to spend top dollar on old video games. In other words, the pool of potential customers is higher.

If any Atari 2600 fans have additional selling tips, let AFA know in the comments section below. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

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