If you have a shoebox filled with old video game cartridges stuffed in a closet, you may want to think twice about throwing them out.

Because even though advancing technology and the ever-changing nature of video games has made it nearly impossible to actually play games from the 1980s, it doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.

In fact, Deniz Kahn is betting there’s some serious cash to be had for them.

Kahn, the 25-year-old son of Kenoshan Steve Kahn, founded the first video game valuation service, called Wata Games.

For the Kahn family, it’s true that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

Steve Kahn, owner of Inner Child Comics and Collectibles, is an expert at collecting and valuing comics.

Now Deniz Kahn has chosen a similar path with Wata Games, and he believes his service will do for video game collecting what similar services do for collectibles such as comic books, coins and sports cards.

“It’s kind of like the Wild West right now, and that’s what makes it exciting,” Kahn said, noting authentic versions of some old, rare video games have fetched as much as $50,000 at auction.

“When we started this, I talked to a guy who said he had 50 games and threw them out. People don’t know that these are being collected. It’s a really unique hobby. Some people are sitting on gold and don’t even know it.”

How it works

So how do you know if your shoebox in the closet is actually stuffed with cash? That’s where Wata Games comes in.

Through painstaking research and co-workers with a vast knowledge of the history of video games, Wata Games, which is based in Denver, analyzes and rates collectible video games.

After a rating has been assigned, the game is sealed in a tamper-resistant plastic case and labeled with all the pertinent information about the game as well as its rating.

The company does not affix a price; that’s up to the buyer and seller to determine. But the authentication by Wata Games makes for a safer, more reliable marketplace for the games.

In the world of comics and sports cards, this type of grading and rating has been key to collectors; Kahn is hoping the same will be true for video games.

The difficulty in collecting video games is two-fold: It’s not unusual for the exact same game to have dozens of variations, from the artwork to the packaging to the release date.

Also, the market is flooded with reproductions, but it’s nearly impossible for the layman to know what’s authentic and what’s a knockoff.

“We started this because we saw the issues; we saw collectors for 10-plus years saying, ‘I’m sick of it; I’m sick of going on eBay and seeing 70 of things that are reproductions or counterfeits.’

“We created this to give people confidence to know what they’re buying. The condition is tied to standards they know can be trusted,” Kahn said. “We’re providing the resources to educate collectors, and we’re giving people more of a reason to get involved and transact with confidence.”

Launched in April

While Wata Games is the first of its kind and just getting off the ground — Kahn launched it in April — he already has some important backers, including Mark Haspel, one of the founders of Certified Guaranty Co., the first company to rate and grade comics. He is Wata Games’ chief adviser.

“The comics market is big, but the video game market could be so much bigger,” Haspel said. “And I think introducing a certification service in the video game market is what is needed.”

There are three categories for grading video games: the cartridge, complete in box and factory sealed. Like toys and action figures, the value is highest for those that have never been opened.

“A lot of games never came with anything but a cartridge,” Kahn said. “And we grade anything — prototypes and anything that was released. We find a way to authenticate everything.”

Kahn emphasizes that his service isn’t for casual video game players; it’s geared toward the serious collectors.

“We stress this immensely: Not every game is meant to be graded. You have to make a decision, and we’re here to help collectors do that. We can help guide you.”

Feelings of nostalgia

Home video gaming started in the mid-1970s with Pong and Atari. The introduction of video game cartridges helped the market explode in the 1980s.

People who grew up in that era are now in their 30s, 40s and 50s and remembering those games can spark joyful nostalgia.

“I think people are a lot more attached to the feeling of nostalgia with video games than comics,” Haspel said.

“With video games, you play them for hundreds of hours. You play with your friends, and you get home from school and can’t wait to beat that next level. Your life becomes playing this video game. It’s immersive.”

Kahn agreed, saying Wata Games can help preserve those memories.

“You may have a childhood game that has a ton of sentimental value. You won’t play it again, but you can freeze it in time, put it in a case and display it so that every time you walk by it, you can remember those memories.”

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