While sales of board games are still greatly outnumbered by PC and console games, purchases of board games have increased by 40% over the past five years, according to The Guardian. Surprisingly, the internet has driven much of this growth. As a new generation tries digital versions of classic board games, many go on to buy physical copies as well. Meanwhile, vintage board games can regularly claim three figures. So does that mean that old Kerplunk or Mousetrap you have in the attic is going to make you rich? Not quite but games can still be a decent money earner. Like any collectible market, the value of vintage board games depends on age, rarity and condition.
Before you rush to post your listing, it’s worth looking at ‘completed listings’ on eBay, sorting results from highest to lowest prices. Other websites like Rarity Guide have specific categories for board games. If you recognise any of the titles sitting in your attic, you might be in for some serious winnings and we aren’t talking Monopoly money…
Early editions of Monopoly by Charles Darrow, such as the Darrow ‘White Box Edition’ have commanded in excess of £5,000 on eBay or auction. If you stumble on a 1935 version of Fortune, a precursor to Monopoly, this game could be worth up to £1000. Only 5,000 were created. Patent 2,026,082 gave Parker and Brothers the rights to Monopoly. Around this time, the company started buying up the rights to other games to protect their investment. The main differences between Fortune and Monopoly include board design and hotel colour. The property cards are based on the streets of New York City.
However, there is an older game that predates Fortune. An early edition of Landlord’s game can command tens of thousands of pounds at auction. Inventor Elisabeth Magie first patented the game in 1904 to help players understand property and taxation. Some early editions features Chicago. Following its success, the patent was sold to Parker Brothers in 1935. We don;t know if Monopoly and games guru Mike Mozart has this one, but he has arguably the king collection of this famous game.
Pre World War II editions can still raise prices up to £1k, depending on condition. If you are collecting with a strategy in mind, it’s best to steer clear of post-war editions, even if they are limited. Nevertheless a 1961 monopoly set is currently on eBay for £500 . For more information see eBay’s guide to collecting vintage Monopoly editions.
Vintage Board Games: 1950s & 1960s
Some of the top selling games from the 1950s and 1960s include Hollywood motion picture inspired games like ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’. This cult classic game from the early 1960s can command up to three figures. In fact, a ‘still-sealed’ 1963 version reached £1,285. Any game featuring Dracula, Frankenstein or Wolfman can fetch $1,000 (£641) at auction. Other spooky titles like Boris Karloff’s TV series inspired title ‘Monster Game’ commands in excess of £320 for the 1965 edition.
Beloved editions of ‘The Elvis Presley Game’ regularly command in excess of £500 at auction. Featuring a blue side for boy players and a pink side for girls, each side displays popular Elvis songs. Baseball themed games like ‘Be a Manager’ or ‘Swift Meats Major League Baseball Game’ sell in excess of £600 on eBay. Slightly lower down the scale a 1960s Tom & Jerry game currently sells on eBay for £150 and you can pick up £100 for a decent version of strategy war game Feudal.
The ’70s: a Golden age of Board Games?
For many of us, the 1970s and 1980s were the age of Mastermind, Mousetrap, Kerplunk, Frustration, Othello and their kin. The internet and early handheld computer games (remember Merlin and Simon?) were still a way away so it was board games that entertained kids and families. Cue misty eyed 30 and 40 somethings.
The memories may be worth more than the games themselves, although pristeen condition adds value, unopened adds even more. If you have a collection of a few of these games, you could be on a decent little earner. Mousetrap sells from £40-£60, there are early Frustrations selling for around £100, Mastermind £35-£50 with Kerplunk the poorer cousin at £15-£20. Remember these were mass produced so less rare. Surprisingly a Wheel of Fortune game from the mid-’80s comes in quite high at £90 approx.
Collectible & Limited Edition Board Games
The top selling board games of the ’80s, 90s and new millenium are based on war inspired themes. War of the Ring Collector’s Edition (2010, Fantasy Flight Games) sells for up to £770.This 3D game is renowned as a work of art, it follows in the footsteps of Settlers of Catan. Both titles are considered a collector’s item thanks to the craftsmanship and exclusivity.
Settlers of Catan 3D collector’s Edition (2005, Mayfair Games) can sell for around £400. A 3D game that is priced for its craftsmanship and attention to detail. Axis & Allies 50th Anniversary edition (2008, Avolon Hill) can go for £350, La Bastille de Deutsch-Wagram (1981, Marshall Enterprises) in excess of £300. This game is based on the 1809 battle at the end of Napoleon’s Danube campaign, when the French leader fought against Austrian forces led by the Archduke Charles.
Whether you stumble over something in the attic, at a car boot sale or charity shop, there are numerous games to collect and sell. Its a classic buyers’ market. Your old Luckie Strike may not net you thousands, but what if it is the final piece of a collectors’ treasured jigsaw
Dark Tower (1981, Milton Bradley) can reach £200. One of the most popular titles of the ’80s, this beloved game had a short production history due to an ongoing legal battle between Milton Bradely and Brurten and Coleman. Meanwhile Blade Runner (1982) can sell for up to £200. This title was withdrawn because the publishers did not have permission from the movie studio, increasing the rarity value. Movies have spawned loads of board game spin-offs, from Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Mask, and ironically the dawn of computer games saw ‘analogue’ creations… PacMan board game anyone?