If you’ve tracked the sale price of gaming collectibles over the last few years on sites like eBay as obsessively as we do (don’t judge our hobbies). You have probably come to the conclusion that prices are going up at a fair clip for a number of items but staying absolutely flat for others. To dive into this a bit you first need to understand economics 101 that is supply and demand curves. Essentially the price of any item is set by the relationship between supply and demand. If you don’t understand these concepts we’ll leave it to the fine people at Investopedia to explain in excruciating detail. (https://www.investopedia.com/
Assuming you read that and didn’t fall asleep you would probably still be at a loss to explain why the price of the original TSR wood grain box has increased at a double digit percentage per year for the last 5 years. Obviously the supply is fixed, any box that exists today is probably stored safely away from danger and is unlikely to be damaged or destroyed so falling supply is not an explanation. So is demand increasing? If so why?
Well we have a theory that demand is increasing for two reasons one obvious and one less obvious. First the obvious reason: D&D and fantasy gaming has been on a tear for almost 20 years now and is more popular today then at any point in its history. Those of us careening rapidly into middle age can recall a time when D&D and gaming were fringe activities but that has really changed since the release of the first Lord of the Rings film in 2001. Now we live in a world where the fantasy genre is represented by blockbuster television shows like Game of Thrones and D&D 5th edition is being published by Hasbro the same company that makes Scrabble and Monopoly. It seems pretty reasonable that with this massive increase in the number of people interested in gaming the demand in collectible market would increase correspondingly.
The second reason is similar and helps to explain a little why some items are increasing and others aren’t. Fundamentally it is a question of demographics specifically the demographics of the early gamers. The average person playing D&D and other role playing games in the early 80’s was a 10-15 year old. As the years have passed these kids have grown up and become 45-50 year old adults in 2018. These adults are now in their prime earning years and just at the point where the financial obligations of raising a family start to wane. As such they have some level of disposable income and we would assert that they are spending that disposable income on buying the things they couldn’t afford when they were younger. This isn’t a fringe theory the exact same concept is generally accepted in other areas like model train collecting and muscle cars (https://www.caranddriver.com/
So basically it comes down to nostalgia. You have thousands of people who have money to spend and want to buy what they couldn't afford when they were kids mowing lawns for a living. Those people will naturally gravitate to the rarer items that were not easy to obtain even in the early 1980's and pass over the items that are even now still pretty available causing the price of the rarer items to spike. Regardless of the cost if you have an old woodgrain box sitting in the basement you might want to move it to the safety deposit box.