Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Economics of Board Game Collecting During Wartime

I have been reflecting recently upon the interesting influence of fluctuating fuel prices on my board game purchasing behavior. Specifically, the rising cost of shipping from on-line vendors, E-Bay sellers, and fellow gamers engaged in trading has dramatically skewed how I buy, sell, and trade board games.

One thing that's changed is I no longer order just a single game at a time from on-line retailers. A couple years ago, shipping costs didn't seem like that big of a deal. Today, on a single game order, shipping can easily be 25% the total cost of the purchase. So, I now find myself buying more games than I otherwise would just in order to keep shipping cost low. I figure it's better to have more games than to forfeit discretionary spending money to UPS or FedEx.

Another thing that's changed is that trading games is almost never worthwhile unless there are non-monetary factors involved, such as game rarity or sentimental value. Recently I traded an opened copy of Shadows Over Camelot for a sealed, slightly dinged copy of the A Game of Thrones Expansion, which are roughly on par in value at $30. Unfortunately, shipping the games cost each of us around $12 parcel post, which cut away $24 out of the $60 value of the games. Perhaps we should have both just purchased new games.

E-Bay isn't quite as bad, as sellers are frequently willing to take it in the shorts on shipping in order to attract bidders. On a single game, shipping rarely goes over $10, but it's still almost never worth it unless collectability is the prime motivator or you find the rare below-market-value opportunity.

I can still save at least 20% over FLGS costs by buying on-line, and, being a cheapskate, I still buy games almost exclusively this way. However, now I massively defer gratification by doing orders of at least $125-$150/order minimum, usually with at least one pre-order game added in order to get the total cost above the free shipping threshold. The result is I'm still waiting on a game order placed in Nov 2005 which included a Fantasy Flight pre-ordered game...

With shipping costs from on-line retailers now creeping up to the $10 mark for basic shipping on a single game, the competition of FLGS vs. on-line deep discounter increasingly becomes one of sales tax vs. gratification speed. For the moment, cheapness still wins with me. However, in the end, the rising cost of board games becomes yet one more reason for us all to hope and pray for peace in the Middle East.


7 Comments:

At 1:56 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Simon said...

Too bad peace in the Mideast won't help to curve energy prices in the least at this point.

I too buy in bulk though. Usually one giant purchase from Thoughthammer every month or two to get the free shipping. I find it works quite well.

 
At 2:13 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

Now if Thought Hammer would just open a pick-up-at-the-warehouse option...

 
At 5:12 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

I mainly don't trade single game for single game (via BGG) because of shipping costs. It really does eat into things. However, if you were never going to play SoC, then you roughly recouped 60-70% of it's value (you got a comparably priced game after you subtract shipping). So really, UPS is just taking a cut and turning the world into your super game store.

Still, I'd rather the money go to a real game store, so I sometimes just suck up the extra cost. Not too often, though.

 
At 6:28 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Chad said...

Since I buy one, maybe two, games per month, I just stick to the local stores (Dragon's Lair and Central Command). Yeah, I could wait until I want enough games to make one big order, but that could take a few months. Within that time the money I was planning to use for the board games will have gone towards one of my other hobbies (anime, movies, video games) since if I can't satisfy one geeky urge I'll satisfy another. I'd rather have the convenience of paying retail and getting what I want within a few days of release.

There's also the benefit of supporting two stores I really like as opposed to supporting a "faceless" online store I don't really care about beyond the discount it gives me.

 
At 7:16 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

Interesting and thought provolking... I appreciate the feedback!

 
At 9:17 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Ted Kostek said...

Small world, but maybe not small enough.

The way I finance my game-collecting is by doing research on internal combustion engines at Southwest Research Institute. Last summer a guy gave a presentation arguing that fuel prices are never, ever going to be low again. In fact in a few years, this guy argues, we'll be fondly remembering $2/gallon.

So it's interesting my day-hobby relates back to my night-hobby, but if the world were a lot smaller then shipping would be cheaper...

 
At 4:03 PM, April 01, 2006, Blogger Simon said...

Smaller world!

I used to work in division 15 (building 178) at SWRI as a network tech for a company called NetForce (now named Pernox).

I've even met Dan Bates before.

 

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