RETRO contributor Michael Thomasson isn’t just a word-wielding video game aficionado, he also happens to own the game collection dubbed the largest in the world by none other than Guinness World Records. Michael recently made the tough decision to sell his mammoth mound of gaming history on RETRO‘s sister site, GameGavel.com, and we thought it was the perfect time to revisit our recent interview about the collection featured in RETRO #1, which details how he put the collection together, some of it’s rarest pieces, and info on how Guinness made the call on it’s record-breaking size.
RETRO: How long have you been collecting?
MT: I started in 1983 with the ColecoVision and had acquired a near complete set, but sold the whole collection to purchase a Sega Genesis when it was released. I was a big fan of the arcade coin-ops and Sega was bringing them home in great fashion at the time. So, I essentially hit the reset button in 1989 and started all over again.
I started seriously collecting when I was helping my nephew clean out his basement in 1993. He started to dispose of his Sega Master System and Odyssey2 into the trash when I mentioned that I always wanted both of those systems and never had a chance to really play them. At that point he gave them to me and I became hooked all over again. At that time people were not really into collecting games and their value had not yet exploded, so I was able to buy dozens and dozens of games for those systems via pawn shops and flea markets for pennies on the dollar — long before eBay and resellers popped into existence.
By 1998 I had acquired complete sets for the Sega Master System and TurboGrafx-16 (including imports) but sold them all to pay for my wedding to my lovely bride, JoAnn. A decade and a half later I still have no regrets despite Magical Chase being so darn elusive!
RETRO: I hear you have the largest video game collection according to Guinness World Records. How did they hear of your collection, and how did they quantify it?
MT: Guinness was not aware of my collection until I contacted them. I had purchased a copy of the Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition 2011 and when I saw the entry, I knew that I was close if not already over the standing record. However, I had to confirm this was the case and spent several hours a day entering my inventory into Game Collector software to obtain an actual accurate number. This took several months of organization and compiling.
I first contacted Guinness on April 27, 2012. I received my “Claim ID” on April 30 and permission to make an attempt on October 12, 2013, meaning that my qualified and expert witnesses were approved, which had to be done in advance.
The actual count was performed on December 3, 2012. Following the event, it took two full weeks to compile all the paperwork, photographs, and edit all the recorded video, which was submitted to Guinness on December 19 in a massive box. It was officially recognized by Guinness on July 11 2013, nearly two years after starting the endeavor! In late August I was presented my actual Guinness World Records certificate. The clincher…Guinness then kindly requested that I stay quiet about the record until the release of the 2014 Gamer’s Edition of the book.
RETRO: After all the fanfare over the recent Guinness record, it sure seems like this collection was a labor of love. What prompted your decision to sell it?
MT: My other love – MY FAMILY! I have chosen to sell my collection to better support my family. There are those in need, and those that I would like to offer more. The truth is that the collection was a labor of love. It is practically everything I own. I have some TV shows on DVD and a ten-year-old wardrobe (as I haven’t changed in weight or size for over a decade) and that is about it. I could pack everything else I own in my car.
RETRO: How many individual video games do you have in your collection? Are most complete in box or loose/incomplete?
MT: I have over 11,000 individual and unique games, and growing. I purchase on average about two games a day. I keep to a regimented budget and have limited myself to approximately $3,000 a year for the past 20 years.
Most of the games released before the ’90s are loose (with some exceptions) while most since are complete. About a third of the collection is still factory sealed and shrink-wrapped.
RETRO: How many consoles do you have in your collection?
MT: 108 platforms and growing. These are unique systems, meaning that I count both versions of my Sega CD (model 1 and my CDX) as one platform. To get to this number, I have had to acquire some very rare and unusual systems such that even the most versed and die-hard gamers may not even be aware that they even exist, such as the Casio Loopy, Apple’s Pippin, Epoch’s Cassette Vision and Super Cassette Vision, the Amiga CD-32, the CreatiVision, the FM Towns Marty, and even the Cougar Boy from Brazil.
RETRO: What are some of your rarest video games and consoles?
- DinoPark Tycoon for the 3DO
- Blue Thunder for the Action Max
- NFL Football: L.A. Raiders vs. SD Chargers for the RDI Halcyon
- BattleSphere Gold for the Atari Jaguar
- Road Prosecutor for the Pioneer LaserActive
- Chip Chan Kick! for the NEC PC-FX
- Iron Soldier 3 for the Nuon
- Panzer Dragoon Saga for the Sega Saturn
- The Dynastic Hero for the TurboGrafx-16 Super CD
- Jack Bros. for the Nintendo Virtual Boy
On the prototype side, I have a fully complete Eye of the Beholder with functioning battery back-up technology for the Atari Lynx.
I also have a Brown Box replica hand-made and autographed by Ralph Baer (father of the home videogame) himself, given to me as a gift.
RETRO: What are your 10 favorite games?
MT: Hmmmm…pick 10 out of 11,000, eh? My list will surprise you, as it is not a compilation of familiar names nor those ingrained into popular culture. In no particular order:
Resident Evil 4, because the mood is perfectly captured, the control is spot-on, and the laser-sight aiming is extremely accurate.
The Dreamcast’s Alien Front Online, as it was the only online game that has ever kept my interest.
Alan Wake, because it plays like a Stephen King book with even better writing.
Robotron: 2084, because it is the one game that I continually return to and seems fresh every time I play it. Plus as the original dual-joystick game — it rocked!
Alien vs. Predator on the Atari Jaguar because it was the first game to make me jump and scream like a schoolgirl.
Dead Space, because it was the first game since Alien vs. Predator to make me jump in fear!
Cannon Fodder because it had a unique control scheme and a dark sense of humor.
Jumpman Junior, because it is devilishly clever.
Gunstar Heroes, because it is the best of the Treasure games and they were one of the best developers in the industry.
MT: As hard as it was to nail down 10, I just couldn’t do it. Here are two bonus games that I just couldn’t leave out.
Lady Bug, hands-down the best maze game ever, toppling even the mighty Pac-Man.
Beauty and the Beast on the Intellivision. It is just plain good old-fashioned fun.
RETRO: Is there anything you want that you don’t currently have in your collection? What is the most you ever spent on a piece?
MT: I have a list of items that I continuously look to obtain, all of which regularly show up on eBay and other auction sites from time to time. I may just not have the money to purchase them. However, there are a few titles that I have never seen pop up such as Cyber Soldier Sharaku for the Philips CD-i or Crayon Shin-chan 3 for the Nuon that was only released in Korea.
On the hardware front, I have been looking for a Halcyon unit for decades to no avail. The same with the APF Imagination Machine. The NTSC Cheryco version of the CreatiVision has also been elusive.
The two most expensive items I have purchased for my collection were the Pippin and FM Towns Marty, both nearing $500 each. Other than those two items, I do not think that I have spent more than $200 on any game system or $80 on any piece of software. I rarely pay more than $10–15 for anything. So, most of my items were bought inexpensively. I look for the deal and am patient. To get to the number of items I have with a limited budget I had to be disciplined and extremely efficient.
RETRO: Are there any special items or personal favorites you’re holding back from the sale?
MT: I am selling the collection that was recognized by Guinness. Nothing is being held back. Every title that was counted by Guinness is part of this historic set and it should stay together.
RETRO: Any plans on starting up a new collection, or will this be then end of your days as a game-grabber?
MT: Well, I’ve already started buying duplicates of my favorite games assuming that the collection will sell. So, yes, I’m already back to my “bad habits!”
To get a better look at the full auction, hop on over to the official GameGavel.com listing here.