Shrink-Wrapping

A lot of people trying to sell secondhand games, think that the fact that their item is “still in shrink” means that it should be worth more.

All that shrink-wrapped means is “At some point in its life, someone shrinkwrapped this game.” It doesn’t mean that it’s never been opened.

I’ve worked for a big hobby retailer (Virgin Games Centre, Oxford in the mid-90s) and I now run The Shop on the Borderlands. (Although we mostly deal in secondhand, we do stock new games as well.)

I can tell you this: MOST NEW GAMES DO NOT ARRIVE FROM THE DISTRIBUTOR SHRINK-WRAPPED. Some do, certainly – maybe about one third.

One of my jobs at Virgin was to shrink-wrap games using the shop’s shrink-wrapping machine which was down in the warehouse / loading bay. In other words, most shrink-wrapping is done by the retailer. And the better retailers (good FLGSs for example) expect that customers will want to open games to have a look, and flick through rulebooks, so they probably don’t shrink-wrap at all.

So just because an item is shrink-wrapped, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t got bashed about on the way to the retailer, doesn’t mean that it is complete, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been opened and read by enthusiastic gamers having their lunchbreak who work at the shop (ahem). And of course on a classic game, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t shrink-wrapped many years of enthusiastic play later.

Our policy at The Shop on the Borderlands is to actually remove any shrink-wrap on games we buy whether brand new or second hand. We then open the item, check that it is complete and what condition individual components are in. We even go so far as to give individual condition grades to each component. And our product photos are not generic stock images, or images taken from the manufacturer’s website, but photos of the actual item we have in stock, including contents. For shipping, we bag smaller items or use bubble-wrap (never shrink-wrap) before they get boxed.

Sorry for the rant here, but this is a subject that really annoys me. There are people out there putting their own shrink-wrap on a classic product and selling it at a premium as “still in shrink”. That’s fraud. I wouldn’t like to guess at the percentage of old games that have been newly shrink-wrapped in this way.

And you’ll see some experts say that you should expect to pay more for a mint condition shrink-wrapped game than one that is in mint condition but doesn’t have the shrink-wrapping. They’re expecting you to pay a premium AND take on the extra risk that the contents aren’t complete or are in poor condition.

Here’s what I think people should do when faced with someone trying to charge a premium for shrink-wrapping: ask the seller to remove the shrink-wrap and let you have it at a cheaper price.