The area of Chicago that straddles the line between “Lakeview” and “East Lakeview” – depending on which neighborhood border map you’re looking at – is one of my favorite areas of the city to walk around. It has a very diverse mix of people, and there are a lot of local shops and quirky eateries that make it one of those neighborhoods that driving through just doesn’t do justice. Well if you’ve strolled around there in the last few years, you were much closer than you probably realized to a very impressive collection of video games, old school and new, which having gotten to see it for myself is just as cool as anything else in a neighborhood with every kind of cool you can think of.
Brandon Perton founded the Old School Game Vault in 2007 after a nearly fatal car accident left him unable to continue his previous career as a chef who had worked for 5-star restaurants and hotels that even had him occasionally cooking for celebrities. With only $200 and a small collection of games, he decided to give the video game resale business a shot. He now has an inventory that lines the walls of his office and fills two storage units, and he’s even taken on an employee to help keep up with the work. Although we didn’t discuss any specifics about his income or how much cash flows through his business, office space on Sheffield just a few blocks from Wrigley Field is not rent that a floundering operation can afford.
Currently, the website is only set up to buy people’s games, either individually or in entire collections. He then sells them through various channels like eBay and Amazon. And he’ll buy just about anything, from an Xbox 360 game you just finished to the Colecovision collection gathering dust in your parents’ attic. I say “just about anything” because he doesn’t want your copy of Madden 2004 for PS1, or anything else that typically stuffs the shelves at second-hand music stores or 30 people are trying to sell (unsuccessfully) for a penny on Amazon. Scanning the shelves in his office, I was impressed to not see too many duds – most of what I saw were games that could likely sell on their own for more than just a dollar or two. In fact, Brandon had several very rare and valuable pieces that he showed me: a boxed copy of Earthbound (which he told me surprisingly didn’t lose its value all that much once it came to the Wii U), a Virtual Boy system, a Game.com in a mint box, a boxed copy of Dragon Warrior IV, and the very rare NES title The Flinstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak, which regularly fetches four figures on eBay from the mere handful of auctioneers selling it at any given time. He says he deals in pretty much every console – with TurboGrafx-16 being his personal favorite – and I was a little surprised that his answer to my question “Which consoles’ software do you typical see the most traction with?” was Nintendo 64 and Gamecube. The least popular? The various Atari platforms.
I asked Brandon if he ever considered having an actual brick-and-mortar game shop, and he said that with young kids at home he just didn’t like the idea of the incredible time commitment that comes with running a storefront. But he also leveled with me and admitted his fear that he’d enjoy talking to the customers a little too much and end up neglecting his, you know, actual work. And certainly, there is no denying that Brandon enjoys talking to and interacting with people. He is warm and friendly and I could see him getting lost in conversation for hours – especially if you bring up one of his favorite topics, like why the Persona series is so great. He was eager to invite me to his office and chat with me, and offered me plenty of great advice from a veteran of the world of marketing oneself to the video game community at large, and I was extremely grateful to be privy to his wisdom on that front. He also shared a few other trade secrets with me that I’m not entirely sure he wants me to repeat, but all I’ll say is that if I ever find myself with a cartridge-based game that isn’t working the way it should, sandpaper is my friend.
If you are local – and if you are reading this than you probably are – you don’t have to hassle with shipping your games to Brandon. Just call him up to make an appointment and stop by his office, and bring your games directly to him (this method also nets you cold hard cash). The conversation is free, and I can tell you that at that price, it’s a real bargain.
The Old School Game Vault is located at 3257 N. Sheffield (but again, call to make an appointment first). The phone number is (312) 423-658, or you can email Brandon at firstname.lastname@example.org.