“With all the video, computer and Internet games available to kids these days, why would anyone want to buy vintage board or card games!” That sentiment was conveyed to me by Jason, a longtime business colleague. When I informed Jason that just the other day I had a customer who purchased not one but four vintage games from Dogbotz Boneyard, one of which was fully designed, written, and produced during pre-World War II Germany, he was amazed. “Wow! Really?” was all he could say.
As a former editor of fantasy role-playing games in the 1980s for TSR, Inc., the then-producer of Dungeons & Dragons and its various spawn, I learned that play in all of its diverse formats is a fundamental human endeavor. The ancient Romans termed that concept homo ludens, “the playful man.” In fact, much can be learned about a culture by studying how its citizens approach the idea of play. Anthropologists and sociologists have done much research in this arena, and from archaeological discoveries, we have learned that some of the basic components of play are several millennia old — dice, sticks, tokens, and even playing tiles or cards. These are devises we still use to this very day for play. Even the more “modern” games such as Go, Halma, Mahjong, Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, and those based on the standard 52-card, four-suit card deck are all antique, if not ancient, and are the progenitors to Old Maid, Stratego, Monopoly, Yahtzee, Scrabble, and so forth.
So, contemporary collectors of vintage games are sometimes motivated to add to their collections because they appreciate the historic perspective a game might convey. For example, the very rare 1890 Game of Dr. Busby is a sought-after card game because of its less-than-politically correct portrayals of African Americans, caricatures that were rampant prior to and well beyond the turn of the 19th century.
Another impetus, which follows alongside historic appreciation, is the artwork created to illustrate the various components of a game. Board games, for instance, have been around since Victorian times. These games were beautifully lithographed and generally had intricately detailed artwork, playing pieces and storage containers. The oldest board games, whether manufactured in the U.S.A. or Europe, are hot commodities in today’s collectible market, the rarest selling for a minimum of $10,000. Turning to more recent times and remembering the artist contracts that I drafted as a game editor, I can guarantee you that the collectibility of the artwork (both color and grayscale) that has populated heroic fantasy and science fiction role-playing games since the 1980s is . . . well, let’s just say, a huge market.
The more iconic a game becomes, the more its variants may become collectible as well, which makes the vintage game market more dynamic. Think about it! How many versions of Monopoly are there? I am not merely talking about the different editions of the standard game or its computer or Internet versions but the thematic diversity the essence of the game has engendered. Austin-opoly, Gay Monopoly, and, even one Dogbotz Boneyard has for sale, Dino-opoly — all of these are the thematic grandchildren (or perhaps, step-children) of an old master.
Finally, and with prevalency among the Baby Boomer generation, the desire to recapture one’s childhood is a motivating factor for many who collect vintage games. Therefore, some Boomer collectors seek to purchase the vintage Dark Shadows board game for the same reasons that they watched the similarly named Tim Burton film that brought to life almost 50 years later perhaps the oddest of all TV soap operas ever written and produced. And so it goes with the Dukes of Hazard game or the Man from U.N.C.L.E. game or even images of Jerry Mathers himself in the numerous Leave It to Beaver games featuring different storylines.
Historical appreciation, beautifully designed and artistic components, thematic diversity and childhood regained are some of the reasons that I believe people collect vintage board and card games. But perhaps the most important of all is, quite simply, it’s a lotta fun!
If you are a collector of vintage games, or if you are seeking to start a games collection, here are great examples of vintage board and card games as well as other vintage toys and models available through the Playthings department of Dogbotz Boneyard.
Now it’s your turn to roll the dice or play a card!
All the best,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC