As a child I collected things — stickers, GI Joes, comic books. While I was curious about collectiblity (I recall owning at least one comic book price guide) for the most part I only bought things I wanted for other reasons anyway. There may have been some desire in the back of my brain to own a “complete set” of something, but usually I actually wanted to play with or read the things in addition to simply adding them to my collection. The comic books stick out most in my head. These days I don’t buy them anymore, but I do still have a box of them in the basement, and I seriously doubt any of them are worth more than the $1-2 dollars I originally paid for them. I didn’t like the popular comics, my box is filled with things like Power Pack and Madballs.
I’ve tried to keep that mentality in my adulthood. I usually only buy games or modules I know I will read or play. I went through a bout of buying up old B/X box sets, first just to own a complete one, and later to own a “nice one” that I could set aside and thus not worry about beating up my “reading copy”. Hmm, that sounds a bit like collecting for collectability’s sake, doesn’t it? I started buying old modules too, and now have a decent sized box of them on top of my book case. And while I did slowly shift from buying the cheapest copy that was still readable to actually buying copies that were in better condition, I don’t have any duplicates (except for B2) and I’ve read every one I bought. I’ve even used some in my regular campaign, so I can still defend my claim of purchasing for use vs. collectability.
And then of course there was my copy of Palace of the Vampire Queen, the most expensive D&D item I’ve ever bought. I won’t reiterate what’s in the linked post, suffice it to say that I’ve been wanting to read this module for a long time, and there were no digital copies available anywhere, legally or otherwise. And I did run the thing since, so really I feel like I’ve gotten a fair bit of use out of it.
This holiday season though, I went off the deep end I’m afraid. It started with a copy of the white box OD&D set. I had a saved search for this on eBay and came up with a hit. A box was selling for about $59, and only had a day or so left. This is pretty unusual, so I jumped at it. I originally created the search because I really did want to read the old books, but I had since obtained PDF copies (legal ones at that — from back when WotC actually sold them on RPG Now). I printed them out and stapled them together, so they were actually pretty good facsimiles of the original books, certainly good enough for casual reading. So why I was I suddenly bidding on an original copy? Was it the bargain of it? I did find the idea that I had found something rare that nobody else seemed to notice enticing. It could also be the historical significance, like I know own a piece of gaming history. When it showed up in the mail though, after the initial glee of gazing lovingly at the box, I was left with just one thought — what the heck am I going to do with this now? I’m still not sure.
And then I found out via Grognardia that there was an auction of some items from Gygax’s personal game collection. None of it was “the good stuff”, that is, there was little by way of actual D&D items. It was mostly more obscure stuff, and most if it still in shrink wrap. You could sort of tell it was stuff he had been given as comp copies simply by dint of working for the company that produced the thing, and he had stuck in a closet and forgotten about. With over 200 items and it being fairly esoteric stuff, the prices weren’t that high. I couldn’t resist, I placed a few bids. I really figured I would get sniped at the last minute and the stuff would jump in price, simply because of the fact that Gygax had owned it. Turns out not to be so, and I actually won two items.
The one I was most interested in is Tom Wham’s Metwig’s Maze, a self contained game that actually sounded like it might be fun to play. The second is M.A.R. Barker’s first game War of Wizards, still in shrink wrap. To be honest, the War of Wizards game I bought solely because I thought it was esoteric enough that I might actually win the thing. I’m not a huge M.A.R. Barker buff, I know precious little about Empire of the Petal Thrown, but I figured I was likely to lose most of the other auctions and I just loved the idea of owning something of Gygax’s. Sigh, I guess there’s no avoiding it now, I’m a collector.
Much like my copy of the white box, I have no idea what the heck to do with War of Wizards. I am not so interested in playing it that it warrants breaking the shrink wrap. It’ll probably just sit on a shelf collecting dust until my own estate auction. Sigh.
Mertwig’s Maze though, that looks like fun. I don’t care that it’s un-punched, I’m going to play the thing. Thanks for the games Gary.