We’ll never forget that sense of anticipation as you roll the dice, move your pawn, draw a card and strategize your way around the board for the win. We’ll also never forget the frustration of watching your sibling or best friend steal victory right out of your hands…but that is the sweet triumph and tragedy of playing a classic board game.
Whether you grew up playing games like Monopoly, Clue or Scrabble with family and friends, or enjoy regular game nights as an adult, you likely have some warm and fuzzy nostalgic feelings about the way a board game can entertain us and provide some opportunities for friendly competition. In today’s screen-saturated world, board games feel particularly special, as they offer a tactility and sense of nostalgic excitement that phone games and video games simply don’t have.
What makes a vintage board game valuable?
Finding an intact vintage board game (any game between 25 and 100 years old) can be a struggle. Since they’re made to be played with and feature small pieces, cards, dice or some other combination of accessories, it’s easy for them to get worn out or lose pieces over time. Given this fact, it’s rare to find a vintage board game in pristine condition, so if you happen to have one sitting in your attic, you may be able to score some cash for it. The auction house Barnebys says that the value of a vintage board game comes down to “edition, theme, condition and availability — or rather scarcity — on the market.”
Many board games that are still sold today originated decades ago, and it can be interesting to see how their packaging has evolved over time. With vintage-mania in full swing, some games have also been reissued in vintage-inspired editions. Hasbro’s Retro collection features well-known games with the same packaging and graphics they had when they were first introduced (think a 1967 edition of Battleship or a 1978 edition of Chutes and Ladders).
While these retro editions are certainly fun, and provide a sweet way to show your kids or grandkids how games looked back when you were growing up, they aren’t valuable, since they are not the genuine vintage articles. In fact, many of the games that are worth the most are ones you might not have even heard of! Obscure games that weren’t around for a long time and surprising spin-off games based on various pop cultural properties are particularly prized by collectors.
Which vintage board games are worth the most?
The most valuable board game ever is an early ’30s Monopoly set from the collection of the wealthy publisher Malcolm Forbes. It sold at auction for $120,000 (yep, you read that right!) in 2011. While most board games you might have won’t be worth six (or let’s face it, even three) figures, there are some surprisingly sought-after games out there, as well as specialty shops that buy and sell old games, like Don’s Game Closet, which bills itself as “America’s Largest Out of Print Board Game Store.” As with most collectibles, much buying and selling of vintage board games happens on auction sites like eBay.
The game enthusiast site Purple Pawn gathered a list of out-of-print vintage board games that sold for high prices on eBay. These include a variety of games you may not be familiar with, but you never know what you may run into at a yard sale or flea market, so keep an eye our for these big sellers:
Be a Manager, a 1967 baseball game which sold for $1,500.
1935 financially-focused game Fortune, which sold for $1,360.
The Elvis Presley Game, from 1957 sold for $799.
Lost in Space 3D Action Fun Game, from 1966 sold for $750.
Boris Karloff’s Monster Game, from 1965 ($522).
Apartment Therapy lists other games that have proven valuable, including a rare Monopoly set that sold for $2,800, and Ratrace, “A madcap game of social climbing” from the ’70s that sold for $1,624. Barnebys notes that vintage editions of beloved games like Clue may sell for $200, while ’70s obscurities like Chartbuster and Seance can net upwards of $275.
Whether you have a vintage version of a board game that’s still around or a rare game based on a long-canceled TV show, you might be able to sell it to an eager collector for a couple hundred dollars, or even over $1,000, if it’s really rare and complete with all the original pieces. Do your research and make sure your game is in good condition with all its necessary pieces, and you just might find that your game is worth big money — and no, we’re not just talking about those fake Monopoly bills!
Read on for more childhood collectibles: