A Consollection Conversation

Console collecting on a grand scale.

infinitecontinues

If you have an internet connection and an interest in videogames (of course you do, why else would you be here?) then chances are that you have already come across the simplistic beauty of Consollection.de. A photographic archive of the owner Phil’s personal collection, it’s not only a fantastic source of geeky eye-candy, but also an educational look back at the evolution of the videogame console. Inspired and humbled by the sheer breadth of his stockpile, we sat down with Phil to discuss it in-depth. Find out which systems kick-started the project, his ‘holy grail’, and which console (or in his case, five consoles) he would save from a burning building…

infinitecontinues: Hi Phil. Who are you and what do you do?

Phil: I am a videogamer and collector. I collect videogame systems, and I play them as well. I enjoy my collection of old systems, but I also play a lot on the current gen. Apart from that, I like hardcore and metal and music in general, movies, politics, mountainbikes, travelling and the internet. I support a vegetarian, drug-free lifestyle. Straight Edge, if anybody knows about that. Oh, and I got a job as well.

ic: So we’re talking about your impressive collection today. When did you first start collecting videogames consoles, and why?

P: I’ve played videogames for 18 years now (I am 32). I started with a Super Famicom, switched to a 3DO, sold that to get a PlayStation, bought a Nintendo 64, and traded this for a Dreamcast. However, around ten years ago, I was missing my N64 with GoldenEye while playing on my PlayStation 2. So, I bought it again. And I added an old Pong, just because I found it cheap at eBay. And I got my Dreamcast back, because it is such a nice system. And I added a Mega Drive while I was having fun with Sega. And then an Atari 2600, as that was a system my father owned when I was kid. Then, one thing led to another. I dug deeper into the past of videogames, adding more systems and games.

Discovering, understanding, finding and buying all these systems from the past is kind of an exciting science to me, and I like to really get deep into the topic of videogames and the history of this nowadays huge industry.

For Phil, it all began with the Super Famicom/Super NES.

ic: How many pieces comprise your collection currently?

P: My database currently lists around 190 systems. 90% are in their original box. I have some more hardware like Tabletops or these cheap LCD-games from the 80’s or Nintendo Game & Watch, but I do not count them as “systems”.  Additionally, there are a few dozen accessories and peripherals. My game collection is rather “small” compared the hardware, as I have a clear hardware focus right now. It must be around 1,200 games (at least 1 game for every console!), but my list is not complete right now.

ic: How does your collection compare to those of other collectors, to your knowledge? Do you have the biggest console collection in the world? If not, is that your ultimate goal?

P: Of course not! There are many bigger (and more wealthy!) collectors than me. The thing is, many are hidden; they do not present their collection like we did with Consollection. It was never my plan to come out with this kind of presentation. Consollection happened by accident, when my friend Patrick (a design student) approached me for their university project of “portraying a collection”. I said, “Cool, let’s do it. It would be nice to have some good pictures of this stuff.” Only with the website, I noticed that people really like it, as so many people share common feelings for this hobby and the old plastic, and as the presentation was so neat.

My goal is not to have the biggest collection. This would be an illusion. I just try to make it complete on my own terms, and with good quality (in box, all systems running). I have a list in which I collected all the videogame systems that existed throughout the years. It took me years to build this. Of course, I’d like to have every single one, but it is a long way to go, and with every addition, the next system is even tougher to find – and more expensive.

So, for sure, the kind of presentation of my collection is quite unique, but there are far bigger collections around.

ic: Is there a particular console that you are desperate to add to the collection that you haven’t found a good enough example of yet? A holy grail, so to speak? By the same token, are there other consoles that are incredibly difficult to track down in boxed/working condition?

P: I’d love to add an Entex Adventure Vision one day – working (as all systems), boxed, and with all 4 available games, boxed as well. That would be my holy grail right now. But that system is really rare. The last one on eBay USA went for around $1,000 – without box or manual.

Other systems which may be not as rare, but quite hard to get over here, are Korean videogame systems from Daewoo, under the brand name Zemmix. Others are still available here and there, but always quite expensive like the NEC PC Engine LT, a kind of Laptop-styled version of the PC Engine. As said, collecting becomes more difficult with every addition to the collection.

Apart from that, there is another “special” collectors scene for prototypes and other obscure systems like development stations, all never really “sold” to the public. Of course, having the Panasonic M2, a never released prototype of an 3DO successor, would be great (and is certainly a holy grail as well), but this is not my focus while collecting, and the prices are quite unbelievable. Furthermore, those are usually not traded in public, but only within the scene.

ic: You’ve mentioned the expense of this particular hobby – how much have you spent on the collection? What was the most expensive console?

P: I won’t give any numbers, but I am a normal working guy like you and me. It may seem a rather expensive hobby, but I think many other hobbies may be more money-consuming. It is not the money, it is the passion that makes a collection like this. Furthermore, I don’t drink or smoke, so I just put that money into my collection!

ic: How do you go about storing all these consoles? I imagine 190 boxed systems takes up a fair bit of space?

P: I rent a normal apartment, and my office-room is a storage room as well. It looks packed, yes, and some systems are stored in the basement of my parents house. But still, I manage to cram in a few more every year! Luckily, my girlfriend is relaxed with all this equipment, and she supports my hobby (as long as I do not store stuff in the living room or bedroom!)

ic Do you collect consoles to sit on a shelf, or do you like to play them all? Do you ever think, ‘Ah, I’ll give the Vectrex a bash today’ or something along those lines, or do you buy them and then just try and preserve them in that condition indefinitely?

P: As mentioned, all systems have at least one game, and all are in working condition. There are some which I fired up only once for testing purposes, as of course some do not even have attractive games, but only plain software garbage. Those are more for collecting purposes than to have fun. But when it comes to the real classics, like the Vectrex you mentioned, or the Super Famicom, the PC Engine, the Dreamcast, some Ataris or the Sega Mega Drive: those have awesome games, and once in a while, just as you imagined, I browse through the collection and hook up one of those systems to enjoy some retro fun. So, it is both; of course, I try to preserve the systems as good and as long as possible, but I am no “mint in box and still sealed” collector. All systems are used and ready to be played.

ic: How do you think your collecting habits will inform your console purchases moving forward? For example, do you buy new consoles and try your hardest not to leave any marks of use? And what about special editions? I notice you have both standard and ‘Pikachu’ versions of the N64 – is this an area of interest to you?

All my consoles are “played”, so I only have a few almost-brand-new systems. However, of course I treat my stuff right. But I am no “mint in box” collector. My systems “live”. I carry my Xbox 360 around to LAN-Parties, and hook up even rare systems from time to time. For new releases, of course my collection influences my habits. Now that a new Xbox 360 is being released, of course I plan to add it to my collection sooner or later.

Special Editions are no focus of my collection right now. I’ve got a few, yes, but this is another endless topic for collecting. If you want to do that, you have to concentrate on a few systems to get the Limited and Special Editions together. I’ve got them in my database to track them, but not really anything more. Take the 21 versions of the Bandai Wonderswan for example, or the 14 versions of the Dreamcast, the 15 Neo Geo Pocket Colors or 16 different PS2s – those alone would make quite a big collection. There are really nice editions around. Maybe I’ll start that area after I’ve completed my current collection.

ic: OK, it’s crunch time. Imagine that there is a fire (God forbid!) and you can only save one console and one game? What would they be?

P: Tough one. I need to have some alternatives here:

  • The Dreamcast, probably with Shenmue. Or…
  • The Magnavox Odyssey with Pong, just for having the roots of it all. Or…
  • The Gameboy with Tetris. It is small and endless fun. Or…
  • The Atari 2600 with some real evergreen like Missile Command, Pacman or Donkey Kong. Or…
  • The Xbox 360 for non-retro HD fun, including Project Gotham Racing 3.

But, actually I’d grab my iPod with a good portion of my record collection archived on it. Although videogames rock, music probably beats it on the long run (WHAT?! – ic)

The Magnavox Odyssey – one to save

ic: In a similar vein to the last question, would you be tempted to sell your collection? If a wealthy (but lazy!) collector came in and offered you, say, £1,000,000 for your entire collection and all your games, would you sell? Or do your consoles mean more than money?

P: Well, for 1,000,000 USD/GBP, I’d be stupid not to sell: I could live through my whole collectors life again, with all the pleasure and excitement, and after I got everything back together, I’d still have enough money left to buy a few hundred additional systems, found a museum, and travel the world! However, I would not sell for just the combined price of the systems. I was offered 10,000 once (Phil declined to specify the currency- ic), but I declined. Getting everything together was the tough part of the job, not the money which was spent. Thus, of course I’ve got my heart in this collection, and I do not plan to let it go. However, most systems will never be worth less than when I bought them, so it is kind of a solid investment in some ways as well. Some people buy stocks, I buy old plastic!

ic: The website has really taken off, and I imagine you have inspired a lot of people to become a little more serious about videogame console collecting. What tips would you impart to give people a solid start? And do you have any resources, such as enormous lists of consoles to check off, that you can share with us?

P: The feedback on the website was awesome. We never expected this. We  just put it online, did NO advertising – and a few weeks later, we got hundreds of thousands of hits out of freaking nowhere. It took us a few days to find out that the blogosphere was going crazy about it. As said before, the Consollection book was done as some semester work by Patrick, and when he said “Let’s make a website with all that”, we never thought that a few hundred blogs, including the big ones like kotaku.com or Gizmodo.com would run stories on it.

I plan to open my archives, as my list may be quite a valuable tool for fellow collectors and starters. Why shouldn’t I share that knowledge, although hours and hours went into collecting this list! To start collecting, I’d suggest to kick off with some classics. Buying a Super Famicom, adding an Atari 2600 and a generic Pong is a good start to dive into the history. You will then notice if you are a collector, or if this is only old-fashioned childrens games coming out of ugly cubes of plastic.

Phil: Start with an Atari 2600. A.k.a. ‘Woody’.

ic: Finally, with beautiful photographs of all your consoles already in the bag, and your extensive knowledge of the subject, the natural next step would be to produce a Consollection book for sale. Any plans for this or other expansions of your Consollection?

P: A book is planned, yes. As you remember, the Patrick’s original semester work was a book, presented here. The website was more a recycling of all the material. The feedback on the three existing books was awesome, and so we are trying to get a publisher to release the book right now. Apart from that, the website will see improvements soon. An update with 25 new systems will be online in a few days, with more ideas and features to be added in the next months.

In the long run, and once I’ve added around 50 more systems, I’d like to lend my collection for an exhibition in some museum. Unlike when I started this hobby and videogames were considered as child’s play, they are HUGE these days and get bigger every year, so I see some real need to show the public the roots of this great hobby, and the biggest entertainment branch on the planet.

If you have been inspired by Phil’s answers in this interview and want to be kept in the loop about future updates, be sure to Like Consollection on Facebook. While you are there, it’s also in your best interests to Like infinitecontinues to stay informed of articles just like this one, am I right?

And, as if you haven’t already been, head over to Consollection.de now and hang your head in shame at your own pitiful collection, just like we did. All images from this post are taken from the Consollection website, as photographed by Patrick Molnar.

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