Where to Find Rare and Out-of-Print Board Games – Ask The Bellhop

Today I’m talking about finding a place to buy, older, out of print, tabletop games. This question is based on feedback I’ve gotten about how we always talk about these great games on the podcast that people can’t actually go buy and due to also getting a question about this topic.

Todd Crapper asks:

I am looking for an older out of print game, Atlantic Star. I was wondering if you knew a place I could get this or a place that sells older out of print games like this.

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The Short Answer
The first place I check when looking for an out of print game is the Board Game Geek Geek Market.

We’ve talked about how difficult the Board Game Geek interface can be to use. Even with its new look some stuff that site offers isn’t easily evident. I was on BGG for several years before I even discovered that the Geek Market was a thing.

I knew that BGG has their own storefront, called the Geek Store, where they mostly sell cheap promo items and add ons for games, but it took me years to learn that users could buy and sell on the site itself.

The Geek Market is a rather well done public marketplace where users can list items for sale and other users can find those items and get in contact with the seller.

The BGG marketplace is completely free to use and includes all of the usual storefront stuff like shopping carts, shipping calculators, different search categories, etc. Basically all of the stuff you expect to find in a good online store. The only difference here is that you are buying from other users.

Now sometimes these users are actually stores but I’ve found most of the items on the Geek Market are listed by gamers looking to sell to other gamers. There are a ton of items up for sale at any given time.

Popular games are pretty much always available. Collectable games are also often there, though often at collectable prices. Rare out of print stuff shows up now and then, and it’s worth checking back often to see if anyone is selling your grail game.

The Geek Market does include a feedback system as well, but mostly it’s policed by users. This is similar to how sites like eBay do it, but I find that with BGG you are dealing with BGG users who are really good at keeping people on the site fair and honest.

Overall it’s actually a really great place to buy games, both the new hotness and hard to find items.

Taking a look at the game Todd is looking for, Atlantic Star, I currently see 8 new copies for sale for about $30 and a handful of used copies with one as low as 5 euro.

The Long Answer
Some of the best games are out of print and hard to find.

One of the things that I often get flack for both here on this blog, and as feedback from our podcast, as well as when showing off games in public, is that I recommend some great sounding games, but when people to go buy copies of them, they find that they are out of print and impossible to find at a reasonable price.

At first, I didn’t even realize I was doing this. I would sit down to answer a question about the best games that do X and just list all of the games I thought were great at doing X. It wouldn’t be until after I published the post that someone would point out that every single game on the list is out of print and sells for over $300 on Amazon. I actually felt bad about that.

I don’t like getting people all excited about a game only for them to not be able to try it themselves. So as time has gone on I’m much more aware of the current print status of the games I recommend. I still recommend some out of print games, but I do make sure that I include some more modern, in print games whenever I do a recommendation list now.

The problem is that some of the best games ever made are out of print, for whatever reason. It may be that the publisher lost a licence, or the designer has passed away, art files or other assets get lost, companies fail, Kickstarters over promise, or any number of other reasons.

When a good game goes out of print they quickly become hard to find, and often becomes rather expensive due to this scarcity.

For the rest of this article, I’m going to talk about some sources I’ve found to find out of print tabletop games.

Noble Knight Games Specializes in Out of Print Games

One of the best sources for finding hard to find and out of print games is Noble Knight Games. Their motto is: Where the Out-of-Pint is Available Again. Noble Knight has been around as long as I can remember. The site launched in 1997, and I’m guessing I found it around that time.

Noble Knight has, by far the best selection of out of print games on the web. It’s pretty much a one stop shop for rare and hard to find games. The thing is, that selection comes at a cost. While Noble Night may have everything you want, you may not want to pay the price they are asking.

Taking a quick look for Todd’s game, I see Atlantic Star, but Noble Knight wants $52 before shipping for a used copy.

Boardgameco can be a good source for used games

If you aren’t worried about getting a new sealed copy of the out of print game you are longing for, check out boardgameco. They have a large selection of “heavily discounted games” at a wide variety of quality levels.

While, to me, the selection at boardgameco never seemed to be quite as extensive as Noble Night Games, the prices are often way cheaper.

Boardgameco often has multiple copies of each game available at different quality levels. They also offer free shipping on orders over $100 and under $10 flat rate shipping in the US.

I managed to find a copy of Atlantic Star for only $18.74 at boardgameco. It’s listed as Very Good condition.

I’ve now bought quite a few hard to find tabletop games on Facebook and other social media sites

I almost hate to recommend it, but one of the places I’ve gotten the most hard to find games from recently has been Facebook.

There are a wide variety of marketplaces people have created on Facebook and you can usually find one in your area that is specifically game related. Right here in Windsor we’ve got a Buy and Sell for Geeks group and a Windsor Board Game Buy/Sell group.

Along with marketplaces, you can also find people listing games for sale on their personal pages or in groups. If you are looking to buy a game, jump into one of the busier board game groups and ask if anyone is selling.

The same goes for other social media. I got a copy of a long out of print RPG boxed set by noting on Twitter that I was looking for a copy. Someone who had a copy sent me a DM and I managed to get it by only having to pay for shipping. I had similar things happen back on G+.

Check your local Kijiji/Craigslist while you are at it. I haven’t had much luck with this myself, but I know other people who have gotten lucky.

I did a couple of searches on Facebook and didn’t currently see anyone selling Atlantic Star.

Math trades and conventions can be great ways to get hard to find games

Math Trades were another thing I discovered on Board Game Geek. Since joining the site I’ve noticed that people set up a math trade at pretty much every gaming convention. A math trade is a trade between a whole bunch of people at once.

Math trades use an algorithm to decide who should trade what game with whom. It’s designed so that you only get games you want and maximize the chances of getting rid of something you don’t want.

In addition to math trades, game conventions often have vendors selling rare or out of print games and many also host auctions that feature rare gaming goods.

Amazon has a great selection of old games but you probably don’t want to pay the price

Third party sellers on Amazon are always selling older out of print games, the problem is they usually want way too much for them. It’s worth a shot checking though. Over the years I have found a few deals. For example, I managed to get a copy of West End Games Star Wars for $2.50 on Amazon and it was in like new condition.

Most of the time though these sellers are asking far too much for games that aren’t all that rare, or sometimes they are that rare but the price is still nuts. Just look at the going rate for HeroQuest.

You can get Atlantic Star for $120.85 Canadian or $49.99 US on Amazon.

There’s always eBay for finding out of print tabletop games

At one time eBay was the one place I would go to find out of print stuff. Not so much anymore. I’ve had too many bad transactions and shopping around for the right price can take too much patience.

If there’s one specific game you are looking for it’s probably worth setting up a saved search and turning on email notifications. Just make sure you check the seller’s feedback. I’ve found people’s definition of “like new” is very suspect at times. Also, watch the shipping cost.

Right now I see one copy of Atlantic Star for sale direct from Germany for $26.99US, but there’s almost $20 shipping on top of that.

AbeBooks sometimes has board games listed for sale and is a great source for rare RPGs

Here is one that most people wouldn’t think of: Abebooks is a site that aggregates sales from a huge selection of used book stores. While it’s mostly books, as you would expect, you can sometimes find board games there as well.

I’ve found Abe is very hit or miss, especially for board games. I’ve found some great deals and I’ve found in print games listed for $3000. It’s worth taking a look though.

Where AbeBooks really shines is when looking for roleplaying books. I’ve gotten some great prices on out of print RPGs at Abe. Most of my Star Wars collection comes from Abebooks.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to find a copy of Atlantic Star for sale on Abe.

If you are looking for out of print Role Playing Games there are a few more options

Of course, the first place you should be looking is Drive Thru RPG. Now that they offer print on demand many “rare” and out of print games aren’t so out of print anymore. Like did you know you can buy a softcover version of S1 Tomb of Horrors for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for only $9.99 right now?

It’s amazing how many times I see someone online bemoaning some old RPG they wish they could find a copy of when that game is available in print right now through Drive Thru RPG.

Now I know some people are collectors and would much rather have the original printings of these older books.

In that case, check out Wayne’s Books.  While Wayne doesn’t have the selection of Noble Night, the prices tend to be better and he offers free shipping at $50 US.

The Dragon’s Trove also sells new and used RPGs. I personally have never used them but they may be worth checking out.

If you are in the UK check out The Shop on the Borderlands for classic role playing games.

So now that I’ve given away my treasure map of sites I check when trying to find an out of print game, it’s time for you to return the favour. What tips or tricks do you have for saving money when trying to purchase rare games?

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4 Responses

  1. Though I have never had any luck with this myself, I have seen several people on MeWe and previously on Google+ who posted about finding great games at their local Goodwill or 2nd hand store. Usually those places don’t realize the rarity or demand for the board games, so people tend to find them for just a few bucks at most. Some I have seen even got real gems of game for less than a buck!

    Again, I have not had any luck in my area, but in places with more people I think more people/family members take old games they don’t play anymore, or games from someone who passed away, to the Goodwill or 2nd hand store. I’ve seen photos of old war games, newer games (from the last 7 years or so) and extremely rare games from decades past. So checking at those places is another potential spot to find older/out of print games.

    1. Hey Phil,

      I considered adding second hand shops to the post. I also see people sharing them online from time to time, some people with such a frequency that I wonder if some of them are staged. Every time we leave town we hit up the local Goodwill and Value Village. In all the years I’ve done it I once found a copy of Marvel Heroscape for $3.

      I think this may be a valid way to find a random out of print game that you may or may not want but not a way to seek out a specific game you are looking for. I guess what you could do is pick up the phone and start calling places, but just driving to every Goodwill looking for Atlantic Star is just going to lead to frustration and a high gas bill.

      You noted people who passed away, and that’s another source, that is again very random. Estate Sales and Yard/Garage Sales. To me not a good way to find a specific game but a solid way to happen upon older out of print things you may be interested in.

      Thanks for the comment,

  2. If I don’t know the name of an old game from the fifties or sixties but can describe it, is this a place I can do this in an effort to locate this old board game?

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