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Don’t Sell Your Gaming Books

Back in college, I sold gaming books that I didn’t want (and sometimes, that I did want) to my local gaming store. And you know what? I really wish I hadn’t.

There are three good reasons not to sell off your RPG books:

  1. You never know when you’ll want to run (or play) something again.
  2. Old books — even games you don’t play — are a great source of ideas.
  3. For purely sentimental reasons, you’ll miss some of them.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time and money re-buying gaming books I sold in college to raise a quick buck. If you can help it, don’t go down that road — you never know when you might want them again!

16 Comments (Open | Close)

16 Comments To "Don’t Sell Your Gaming Books"

#1 Comment By Pythor On June 21, 2006 @ 7:51 am

True Story: About a year after I was given my first DnD books, the relative who gave them to me freaked out about their Satanic nature and begged me to get rid of them. I hadn’t really had a chance to play the game, so I gave them all to a friend of mine. He, in turn, did nothing with them except color in the illustrations in the Monster Manual. I got most of the stuff back a few years later when I was old enough to decide that being accused of devil worship was worth the chance to play the game.

#2 Comment By ScottM On June 21, 2006 @ 8:24 am

I don’t know… it’s probably my anti-packrat nature, but if I haven’t opened a book in five years and haven’t been serious about running it in ten, then it’s definately time to get rid of it. In fact, I’m doing so now, locally.

Sure, I had fun with Battletech in high school, but I have new mech games I’d rather play today. The same’s true with superheroes (Champions then, With Great Power now), Fantasy (1st & 2nd D&D vs. 3.5), and the like. Now if there was a niche that hasn’t been covered better since then, that’d be a good reason to hold onto them.

#3 Comment By Jeff Rients On June 21, 2006 @ 8:34 am

Every damn time I sell off a lot of game books I end up regretting the absence of at least one item. I sold my Feng Shui corebook, ended up in a FS campaign and had to re-purchase it. I sold Exalted for lack of local players, only to find a prospective GM. Etc, etc.

#4 Comment By Bento On June 21, 2006 @ 8:50 am

I’m going to use a counter-argument against this.

How many times did you purchase a game from a used bookseller and loved it? I got back into RPGs when I picked up all three D&D 3.0 core books from a local used bookstore for $5 each. After much use I resold them to another used bookstore when I had upgraded to the 3.5 versions.

I’ve also bought used versions of Oriental Adventures and Unearthed Arcana, which I’ve plundered to the benefit of my gaming group. And then there’s all thoes Gurps books!

I say if you’re not getting much out of it, sell it. Maybe it will re-kindle an interest in someone who’s dropped out of RPGing and will inspire them to get back in.

#5 Comment By Crazy Jerome On June 21, 2006 @ 9:01 am

I’d say the advice is very good for younger gamers, but trails off as one gets older. If you have 40 games on your shelf, and you’ve only played 5 and looked at 10 for the last decade, then that little “gem” that you thought was pretty stupid the first time you read it is probably taking up valuable shelf space.

That said, selling old game books for money does not strike me as the best way to raise funds, or the best reason to get rid of the book. You might be tempted to get rid of something because it is valuable, rather than because you know you’ll never use it. I’ve given books away to people that I thought would enjoy them more than I. I’ve never regretted doing that. I imagine that trade with someone of a like mind would be a good solution as well. You get something cool and new to you. He gets the same.

As for sentiment, the anti-clutter gurus have a good suggestiong for that as well: Take a picture of thing, and put it in a special photo album. If all you need is the thing itself to bring back good memories, but you’ll never actually use it again, then the album works great.

If unsure about a title, box it up and put it somewhere moderately hard to get to. In a box of games, chances are there will be one or two titles that you’ll want to pull out again. Do so, as they are ones you might regret losing. If the rest of that box is undisturbed for a year or two, chances are you’ll never care about it again.

#6 Comment By John Arcadian On June 21, 2006 @ 9:30 am

I’ve got to say hold onto those old books. I had a fire at my house in september 05, and a lot of my books went to the flames. While I can’t say I ever play DND 1st edition it was still a great loss. I still look back to it for nostalgia, as a symbol of geek cred and to get inspired for new things. The second ed monsters manual, old rifts books, etc. While you may not use them for your current game you can always get something out of them. I’ve never regretted holding onto an unused book, but I have regretted getting rid of them.

#7 Comment By Buzz On June 21, 2006 @ 9:46 am

I have to say, while I have on occasion regretted selling or giving away an RPG book, more often than not I never think about it again. Once I get past the “Shiny… book… use… someday…” phase and the things tiself is long gone, I realize that, yes, I care more about collecting really cool books I will always love and ideally use a lot than I do about collecting for the sake of collecting.

The real key, IMO, is to simply stop buying so many books. Get off the supplement treadmill. Wait for reviews, and look at any potential purchase with a critical eye. “Am I actually going to use this? Is it worth the shelf space if I’m not?”

#8 Comment By Chris On June 21, 2006 @ 11:04 am

Actually, I have no problem selling books. I’d rather the game books go to someone who WILL play them and enjoy them rather than sit collecting dust. I have plenty of games to play, the ones I have no desire to, those I pass along.

#9 Comment By Rick the Wonder Algae On June 21, 2006 @ 11:27 am

I actually tagged my near complete set of Torg books for sale a while ago. Luckily for me, I asked my wife to get rid of them for me and she knows that I’d rather keep them so she conveniently “forgot” all about it and there they still sit.

As for old books, I get a kick out of them all. Every now and then I get an idea in my head and I have to dig out a half-dozen old books to see “Just how DID such and such a game handle that?” Or I’ll pull out old edditions for extra flavor text or to fact-check third party translations.

#10 Comment By Abulia On June 21, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

I don’t sell my books, I give them away to fellow gamers.

Clears my shelf and passes the love onto others. Helps expands the hobby, right?

I got the wrong hobby if I’m trying to make a buck off my books… 😉

#11 Comment By Frank On June 21, 2006 @ 2:24 pm

Hmm, I’m definitely in the packrat stage, and have at times cleaned stuff out. And I really need to consider getting rid of more stuff.

Let’s see, what have I gotten rid of that I regret, or might have regretted:

Judges Guild Wilderlands, eventually re-purchased it.

Sometimes I regret getting rid of all my Harn stuff. But then I consider that it really didn’t fit my play style well. And I consider how little of the detail actually matters to me.

Call of Cthulhu. Sure, it’d be cool to still have that 1st ed. boxed set. But you know what, I honestly will never run it. Horror isn’t something I’m really interested in. And I don’t think CoC really enables horror play anyway. I’m better off without it occupying shelf or closet space.

For nostalgia, the original G & D series modules which I bought as they came out. For potential play value, a handful of modules (some which I did photocopy the maps before selling).

Let’s see what I don’t regret:

AD&D books (including a Deities and Demigods with the Cthulhu mythos). I sold them when I got out of college. The last time I had played AD&D, I had typed all the rules I used into the computer, and really was ready to be done with it. I couldn’t sell the PHB, so I figured, well, that’s only one book, and if I ever decide to play for some reason, well, I’ll have it. Besides, everyone was starting to shift to 2nd ed. I really honestly don’t ever see myself returning to AD&D (and if I do, well, I still have a PHB and those electronic copies of everything else I would need – plus lots of modules).

Some D20 books. I’ve bought way too many of these. I got rid of some, mostly given to the 11 year old kid who played in my AU campaign, when he helped me pack for my move. I still have 80-90% of the D20 books I ever purchased though.

Lots of stuff I can’t even remember…

I’ve actually more often regretted NOT buying stuff when I was out of the game. I’m still looking for a reasonably priced copy of RuneQuest 2nd edition. Thanks to reprints, I was able to get all the rest of the missing material. Oh, and I just last week got 2 original products I was missing, plus 4 duplicates (2 definitely handy for loaner copies) for $70 including shipping.

But some of the biggest space wasters on my shelves are a result of that “I’d better not miss anything.” I have almost all the Deadlands and 7th Sea products (both original system and D20 versions). I’m pretty sure I will never run 7th Sea, and could probably at least stand to get rid of the supplements. Deadlands I might be a bit more likely to play.

I do have some treasures, and stuff I have no intention of getting rid of even if I have no real intention of ever playing. I have a later print of the original D&D plus the 4 supplements. Of course all 7 books fit in the box. I still have the 2nd RPG that ever came into my original little circle of players, a copy of Chivalry and Sorcery which I totally killed the spine of while playing. My RQ stuff will absolutely never be let go of. RQ is the one thing that points to a “you will actually go back in history and run old games” paradigm.

Now that I have duplicates of most of the RQ material, I’ve considered storing a copy at work…

As for ideas – well, those games that seemed like they might have had good ideas are still on my shelves (and I have supplements for games I never bought the core books for because the supplement looked like it had good ideas). Mostly though I don’t look back on this stuff much, I’ve got way too much to really be able to easily search and comprehend while doing research.

I do regret that I overpurged my game notes a bit before moving out to Oregon (mostly the Cold Iron and RuneQuest character sheets and perhaps some game notes, but also perhaps some of the D&D and other game notes). And I regret the loss of some of my first maps for D&D adventures (though I do still have some of the early stuff).

Thinking about it, I’m sure I’ve spent less money on re-purchase than I got from selling everything I’ve sold. And that’s considering that the present value of the dollar is less than the value of the dollar when I sold the item (in fact, for some items, which still sell for less than original list price, you could potentially make money by selling the book and re-purchasing 10 years later… [hmm, anyone have a good grasp on the decreased value of the dollar over the past 16 years/what is the inflation over the past 16 years, I think I sold my D&DG for $20 (but maybe it was $30), what would it cost to buy now?]).

Of course I have also never sold a game book because I needed the money…


#12 Comment By Skycast On June 21, 2006 @ 6:05 pm

I gotta say if you haven’t cracked it open in some time, get rid of that bad-boy…it’s eating up space. I have books right now sitting in my basement I need to get rid of!

#13 Comment By Spleen23 On June 22, 2006 @ 4:10 am

You got stuff cluttering up the shelves than you know won’t bring in any money, but you can’t bare to just toss in the trash.
Go the you local gameing convention with the stuff in a box labled “Free stuff”, and drop it on or under the table with the other free stuff or the flyers.
Someone who was interested in the game, but not enought to drop $20+ might take in your orphans, or maybe a collector might just grab a few for reading.

#14 Comment By DM T. On June 22, 2006 @ 4:14 am

When I moved from 1st ed. AD&D to the 2nd ed. I sold a few of the books along with the original Temple of Elemental Evil…

When Return to The Temple of Elemental Evil by Monte Cook came out I started looking for my old adventure only to have a friend state to my ears how I sold it along with my 1st ed books….

AAARRRGGGHH… was the only thing I could have done that moment… a few months pass and ToEE came out to the PC and the same scream was heard through the halls of my building…

That’s the only regret I have about not pack ratting old gaming materials.

#15 Comment By steve On June 22, 2006 @ 7:52 am

I sold all my AD&D books just before the transition to 2nd edition. About seven years ago, I had a hankering to buy them back, so I went looking for everything that I once owned, in their original editions.

Finding the NPC character sheets and PC character portfolios was a challenge, that’s for sure!

#16 Comment By Martin On June 22, 2006 @ 1:17 pm

Scott: I’m not a packrat about very many things (I sued to be), but books fall into a different category for me. Unless they’re really, really crappy, I miss them when they’re gone.

My copy of Diomin, on the other hand, I don’t miss at all. Although on a shelf of the worst of the worst, it would have a place of honor. 😉

Bento: I got a lot of love from the used section of my last FLGS (my current one has a crappy selection of used stuff), so I can see where you’re coming from.

Taking $ out of the equation, though, I’m with Abulia, Spleen and the other folks who mentioned trading or giving away their old RPG books.

That’s a much better option than selling them, IMO, and I’m all in favor of that. Just reluctant, personally, since I love my hoard of books. 😉