High score or game over? The financial returns of retro video games on the secondhand market

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High score or game over? The financial returns of retro video games on the secondhand market

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2022

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Recent high-profile sales of retro video games, including the $1.5 million sale of Super Mario 64, have spurred renewed interest in purchasing retro video games as investments, not merely as collectibles. While existing literature suggests that collecting anything solely as a financial investment is unlikely to result in returns greater than those seen in traditional financial assets, the prominence of video games as one of the dominant forms of entertainment and the utility associated with owning a retro game may make them a more attractive asset. There is a lack of existing research into the secondhand market for retro games or the financial returns of similar pop culture items. This thesis explores that gap and determines if there is a significant financial interest in secondhand retro video games as an investment. eBay sales data from January 2014 to January 2022 were collected for games across ten different consoles and several standardized financial indexes were assembled according to the repeat-sales methodology. For an index consisting of all games for which sales data was obtained, there is an annualized real rate of return of 10.2% and a Sharpe Ratio of 0.73 compared to a 9.8% real return and 0.25 Sharpe Ratio for the S&P 500. Consequently, secondhand retro video games are a compelling alternative investment. Additionally, their low correlation and high risk premium suggest they may be a good investment from a diversification perspective, as risk is lower but returns are similar to those of the stock market. These results break with the established literature on collectibles, which suggests that collectibles are not an efficient or worthwhile investment.

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Farrell, Thomas. (2022). High score or game over? The financial returns of retro video games on the secondhand market. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/227747.

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