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Published August 19, 2019

NES Collecting can be fun, but it also can be very expensive.

Let’s get that straight right off the bat about NES Collecting. It’s not that cheap anymore. After 2010 there has been a Retro gaming boom in collecting.

Given the right knowledge about collecting for the NES, you can probably save a few bucks here and there!

I’ve collected for the NES before as well as many other systems, and recently I’ve gotten back into it.

I sold my last batch of NES stuff whenever I needed some quick cash a few years ago. Be sure to check out the Retro Gaming Podcast!

Join up in my Discord and we can talk about retro games and collecting all day long!

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With that said let’s get down to business, down to NES collecting.

Where to start with NES Collecting?

My first suggestion is you need a console to play the games on. Some people like to collect for “investment” but that’s not always a good idea since prices fluctuate all the time.

Although games haven’t really dropped in price in a long time it’s still not ideal to collect to invest. There isn’t a huge market for retro collectors; it’s very small.

So What options do you have?

You have a wide variety of options, it’s really all about what you want to experience. If you want the authentic experience in 2020 you really need to stick with the original front-loading “toaster” model which is the most familiar.

NES Collecting
Smango’s NES

Problems with the original NES.

The NES toaster in 2020 still has all the problems it had in the 80s, and the 90s. However, you can almost fix 90% of your problems by replacing one thing. All you are going to need is a Phillips head screwdriver and a new 72-pin connector.

Amazon 72-Ping Connector – (

This may not fix all of the problems you might have (though it has fixed every one of the issues I’ve come across) but it will fix the majority. The blinking light and loose carts are the biggest problems and this fixes them.

NES Collecting

After Market 72-Pin Connectors.

Replacing things is a pain and it doesn’t always work, or as is the case with many of the 72-pin connectors, they don’t work exactly as the original did.

The majority of the replacements give somewhat of a death grip on the NES carts. I will say it is manageable, just a tad annoying that it takes a bit of a force to get your cart out.

So stick with the cheap 72-connectors unless you want to spend $30+ for a better fix which is also a great solution, the arcade works BLW (Blinking Light Win.)

Sadly, NES Collecting and repairing almost goes hand in hand unless you want to pay someone to fix it.

blinking light win

Different Model’s of the Nintendo Entertainment System

Want the rarest of the rare for your collection? Well, you are in luck! Turns out many people have discovered that Nintendo’s original NES changed top molds during later production.

I sadly have a rough top NES. This means that the sides are all smooth but the top is rough. Although they appear similar, the smooth top does shine up nicer and is rarer. These models have low serial numbers and the customer service sticker lists a phone number for “Inside Washington State”. Those are the only real differences between that model so look out for smooth tops!

There is another model known as the Top Loader. Released in 1993 as a cost reduced version of the original NES.

The Top Loader.

NES Collecting

These guys seem to be pretty rare. I’ve seen a real one once in my entire life if that says anything. Because it was released one year after the SNES they did not sell in large numbers so today they are somewhat uncommon.

No need to change a connector, all the carts should work flawlessly as long as the carts themselves are clean. The problem with the top loader for me is I don’t have any nostalgia for it whatsoever. Also without a MOD, you don’t get  A/V output but RF only (unless you have a Japanese top loader which has AV out). This is no easy mod either, not for beginners anyway.

The “Dog Bone” NES Controller is a great controller too. Stay on the lookout for these on your NES Collecting adventures.

Yes, you can still play games on your HDTV.

People get confused and think that it’s not possible. It’s very playable on my 1080P HDTV.

I’m even using the RF adapter in the back on good ol’ channel 3.

HDTVs usually have converters in them allowing this to work now so no special equipment is needed.

The quality isn’t great but what do you expect when you are blowing up a very small image from 240p to 1080p?

So what’s the problem with HDTVs and Retro Games?

You don’t get to play your cool Nintendo Zapper gun games such as duck hunt. Luckily I have in my garage a nice CRT TV where many of my retro consoles are already working.

There is also an issue with some input lag. So the best way to really play retro games and have everything working is to stick to CRT TVs.

Also, please don’t buy one from eBay that is listed as a “retro Gaming CRT“. Some of them truly are great for retro consoles, but most of them just want your money. You can easily find a CRT TV in Goodwill or Craigslist or something.

Most people give them away. I would pick up one soon as who knows how much longer they will last.

NES Collecting

Best quality on an HDTV.

There are options for you if you just want to play on an HDTV, but they are pretty expensive, and no matter what you do the zapper gun will not work.

You can buy a device called an upscaler which will allow you to input A/V and convert it to HDMI.

Cheap upscalers are pretty awful, and the input lag will probably drive you insane whenever you are trying to make difficult jumps on Mario or finish Mike Tyson.

The best cheap one is called KanexPro. I really wouldn’t trust it.

The best of the best upscalers is called the Framemeister, but it is not on the cheap end of things.

What if you don’t want to deal with upscaling or HDMI mods?

NES Collecting

You still have a few options.

There is the Retron  5

The latest from Hyperkin, the Retron 5 which lets you play 5 different systems on your HDMI TV, but it’s really just a glorified emulation machine.

Personally, it’s one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen but it’s got a cool concept and it’s fairly cheaper than the rest of the solutions to play a bunch of systems and only requires one hook-up to the TV. So if you want the all-in-one system you might want to pick this up.


NES Collecting

This is personally my favorite option if you want to hook up to an HDMI TV. This looks legit like a newer version of the NES. It has the flap to stick your NES game in. It’s not super expensive if you are planning on wanting the best quality on a newer tv and you just want to play NES games.

It sits around $170 if you preorder. It’s real hardware, and there is no emulation which is awesome to me.

Pick up the RetroUSb AVS Here – (

The Analogue NT

NES Collecting

It has the top loader look, it uses real Famicom FPGA boards, this has all the bells and whistles. It also is extremely expensive. It’s so expensive in fact they made it more expensive if you have the money to lay down on a gold version for $4,999.

If you wanted to get into Famicom (Japanese NES) this plays it also. I don’t really recommend this, I’d rather spend my money on games. I like the look of the AVS way better too.

If you want a wireless NES Controller you have a few options.

You can buy an 8 Bitdo Wireless controller but you will also have to buy the wireless NES adapter.

I believe they are made for the NES Classic or Mini but it should still work with the adapter.

NES Game Collectors

NES Collecting

This is where your true NES collecting adventure begins.  But first you will need weapons and by weapons, I mean Nintendo Security Bits.

Picking up these will allow you to take cartridges apart, not only allowing you to clean them easily but also to check and make sure something fishy isn’t going on. There are lots of repros out in the world and tons of horrible fakes. Some NES games also used coin cell batteries to save games. Being able to open the carts allow you to inspect for leaking batteries and to change dead ones. So grab your trusty Nintendo Bit and set off for an adventure.


NES Collecting

This is always a safe place to find the game you really want. Most prices are fair but it will be at the eBay price.  Speaking of eBay prices you can always check out to see what the prices are going for which I highly recommend.

You might get lucky and find a nice deal on eBay. If you do you can almost guarantee it won’t be around long. Expect to pay close to the top dollar on eBay for a really rare game.

Gamestop and Other Chain Stores.

NES Collecting

Stay far away. Chain stores are possibly the worst place to catch a deal. I’ve heard of horror stories of what Gamestop does. Accepting repro carts and sending people games without testing them.

Most of the other chain retro stores aren’t going to do that to you as they are trained to look for and test games but the prices will be top dollar. Gamestop has yet to have a deal yet on a retro game and if it is, it is probably fake. If you want used modern games sure go ahead. Retro games stay far far away.

Collecting Retro Games Best Deals

NES Collecting

You are going to find the best deal from looking around at flea markets, yard/garage sales, and friends and co-workers. Also Non-chain mom and pop gaming stores. I picked up Mario/Duck hunt cart for $3 the other day and it really doesn’t get much cheaper.

Some of these people will go clean out a closet they haven’t set foot into for years and just want to get rid of junk.

Another good source is Facebook Sell Groups; you might get lucky and catch a few deals there, and always keep Craigslist up as people like to drop some nice prices on there as well.

Super Mario NES Collecting
Most Common NES Game?

A good tip is to always carry some cash around as you never know who might have a sign up while you are traveling around. If you don’t like going to flea markets and yard sales etc.. then this really isn’t the hobby you want to pursue.

Looking for a few kids’ games to get your youngsters started on the NES? Check out this post top 5 NES games for NEW gamers.

Collecting Storage

After you have a fairly decent collection from your NES collecting adventures you are going to want to show them off, right? RIGHT?

Time to invest in some decent shelves! Walmart actually has pretty decent shelves for fairly cheap. A lot of people like the IKEA brand billies, which are probably better shelves. But, I’m putting NES games on it and you are going to need a LOT of space. There are a total of 714 known licensed game titles for the NES, of which 679 were released in North America. Also, Goodwill and Peddler’s Mall usually have some decently used shelves for you to pick up.

Collecting NES Games

NES Collecting

It’s according to how you want to do your NES collecting. You can go for a full collection, games you actually like, complete in box collections, and even new never opened.

For now, what I’m doing I’m searching for only loose games that I really like and would play. I eventually want to try to collect as close as I can to a full loose collection.

Here is a list of some of the must-have nes games you can target at first just to have a great time!


Complete in the box is even a bigger niche which is going to be harder and going to cost a heck of a lot more than finding a loose cart.


top nes games

Now that you have all the knowledge, and knowledge is power, you are ready to conquer the world of NES Collecting.

I really hope that this helped someone out there on the internet. Please leave a comment below and follow me on Twitter!


Be sure to check out our podcast! Can’t get enough retro action and want to come to show your support live!? Check out the Official Twitch Channel for Retro Gaming!

Want to chat about Retro Games and your collection? Join The Kingdom Discord official Discord of

*Updated* 2020


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