Written by Paul Monopoli
Japan: The land of the console. The place where the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Megadrive, Mark 3, PC Engine & most other consoles in the world started out. There are exceptions of course such as Atari systems, the Amstrad GX4000 & Commodore 64GS among others, but Japan is where most of the big hitters were born. It’s a magical land for gamers & if you know where to look online you can find a multitude of treasures. The most common place for collectors to find rare (outside of Japan) collectables is Japan Yahoo Auctions.
Once upon a time Yahoo used to run its own auctions in each country of the world. It was nowhere near as common as Ebay & even now typing in http://auctions.yahoo.com.au will take you to Ebay Australia (UPDATE: This has changed since the original article was published & it now redirects to Yahoo7). Typing in http://auctions.yahoo.co.jp however does something completely different.
That’s the Yahoo auctions site for Japan. Ebay closed their doors on Japanese sellers a long time ago. It’s not a well known fact & is the reason a lot of collectors can get rare stuff quite cheap. A few collectors infact have been known to buy items from Japan Yahoo auctions & put the item on Ebay at a lot more than it cost them. Have a look at Hammerin’ Harry for the SNES for an example. I paid 500yen here:
Or I could have bought it for $60AU+ here:
Admittedly this one does have its book, but the game isn’t THAT rare that the book is worth an extra $50+
Anyway, the potential is there to make a bit of cash if you know how. Let’s have a look at Japan Yahoo Auctions. As you can see above the main page is a bit daunting for a non Japanese speaker/reader. Hopefully with this guide you’ll be browsing away in no time. Firstly here’s the search bar:
OK, here’s the first hurdle & the one that will put off a lot of people. Believe it or not it DOES accept English text. Some auctions are listed in English or have English words in them that you can use to search with. Some examples are:
“Famicom” or “FC” – Japanese NES
“Super Famicom” or “SFC” – Japanese Super NES
“Megadrive” – for Megadrive/Genesis
“Sega Mark 3” – for Master System/Mark 3
“PC Engine” – for PC Engine
“Sega Saturn” – for Sega Saturn
“Gameboy” – Gameboy
“Neo Geo” – Neo Geo
etc… You’ll probably find other searches for these & other systems that work for you as well. So try a few things out. With this in mind you can start having a browse around. It is a bit limited however & knowing what you’re looking for in Japanese would probably be a BIG help. So here are some Japanese phrases you can use:
スーパーファミコン = Super Famicom
スーファミターボ, = Sufami Turbo
セガマーク = Sega Master System/Mark 3
メガドライブ – Megadrive
So you’ve done a search & found something you want. How do you buy it? You can’t read the language & almost all Japan Yahoo sellers don’t ship outside of Japan. Well that’s it… right? Wrong!!
Sites such as Rinkya & Celga have been setup to bid on items on your behalf. They can be found at:
There are others, but these 2 are arguably the biggest. Each has its own features & it’s worth exploring them. Yes it does mean you will be double handling the postage, so be aware of that before you bid. Additionally to that these services will charge a fee for using them (how else do you expect them to make their money?) The best thing is to place a few small bids & see what you’re up for, then venture out a bit further. As for me, I use Celga so I’ll cover off how to place a bid using their services.
Firstly let’s look for some Super Nintendo/Famicom games as that’s what I mainly use it for. Let’s search for: スーパーファミコン & find some lots.
Got a decent number of hits, but I like the look of this lot. Let’s click on it & see what it looks like.
Looks good, & I’ve been after Gundam Wing Endless Duel for a while, so let’s run the page through Babelfish: http://babelfish.yahoo.com
I can’t see anything wrong with that other than the manuals missing for all but one of the games. After winning my VERY authentic looking Mario kart eraser I started using Babelfish just to be on the safe side.
So let’s copy the URL & go back to Celga & make a bid
Now the page will open a new window that directs us to Paypal to make the payment. With Celga you must place a deposit of at least half the bid you place. “Buy it Now” sales must be paid in full. When you have placed the bid or done the “Buy It Now” you can go to the “My Bids” page & see it in the list.
There it is down the bottom. A lot of those are for auctions that have ended. Celga doesn’t tend to remove these very quickly & there is no option to remove the manually so it’s best you keep a word document or notepad with a list of active auctions & those you have won. You will then get sent an invoice…
… which gives you the option of paying the balance. Then it’s a waiting game, until…
Celga sends an email telling you the item is in their warehouse. You don’t have to get it sent right away. Celga will package all of your items together & hold them for roughly 2 months before they ship it (their warehouse space is limited) & send you an invoice for postage. They send everything via EMS so you get a tracking number & after about 4-5 working days your games will be with you.
Some things to be aware of:
– While you will find some bargains, keep in mind that sellers on Japan Yahoo do NOT get charged for listing items (which is rumoured to be the main reason Ebay closed in Japan). This means you might find an item that is way overpriced & unless the seller is desperate to get rid of it, the price will rarely drop.
– Use Babelfish, I CANNOT stress this enough.
– Find the proxy bidder that works for you. I had a better experience with Celga, but they aren’t the only ones out there.
– If you’re buying systems be aware (& yes I know it’s obvious) that postage will be a lot more than a few games would be.
– & of course, make sure you can play import games. In the case of systems make sure you have a step down converter (Japan uses 110v remember) if you live in Europe or Australia & an NTSC compatible TV.