Feeling brave tonight? How brave?
Hello reader! My name's Scott, and I'm the clown responsible for all this Vault of Wonders business. Before we travel any further together down this road of bloggery, I have to admit I've exaggerated a tad in the title of this post. This particular blog post is more along the lines of how I ended up with one-Lamborghini-equivalent-value* in games and miniatures clogging up my living space, and my struggle and journey to make it go away while never having a boss ever again.
A Lifetime of Sweet Sweet Games
Not my game room.
Like many things throughout history, it all started with Dungeons & Dragons. We're talking maybe 1989 or so, my parents bought me the Larry Elmore dragon cover red Basic Set from B. Dalton (or was it Waldenbooks?). A subscription to Dragon Magazine soon followed. I'd head to the local gaming store and rifle through the used bins to find myself whatever modules I could; I'd hit KayBee Toys when they were clearing out their D&D books, used book stores, whatever. Soon my gaming collection consisted of a 2 foot pile of D&D books, Tactics II, Fortress America, and Heroquest. Seems reasonable. But not for long.
As the years passed, many more games were added to my collection. Battletech, Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy, tons of historical miniatures. Eventually, hex and counter wargames in addition to all my "Ameritrash" board games. I could go on for a while but suffice it to say I had amassed a pretty big collection. Big enough to overflow from my shelves and my closets and manifest in a large stepped tower of boxes, each jam packed with miniatures and books. Awkward and obtrusive, it became known to both my admirers and detractors alike as "The Ziggurat."
Enter The Ziggurat
Ziggurat image for illustrative purposes only.
No image is known to exist of The Ziggurat, perhaps due to the intense gravity field surrounding such a dense conglomeration of hobby paraphernalia. It's hard to imagine how something like a large pile of boxes in the middle of your living space can just become a regular and accepted part of your life. I guess humans are pretty adaptable. I just could never bring myself to part with much of the stuff in there. "Oh gosh, I am totally going to use this huge English Civil War army I haven't worked on in years," I'd assure myself. Little did I realize that I had come down with "Dragon Sickness." Not just normal Dragon Sickness but full blown Dragon Sickness. Just like Smaug the Golden lazing about on his treasure hoard in that faithfully adapted, universally beloved, timeless classic of cinema, The Hobbit™ Motion Picture Trilogy.
Even the chiding of my friends couldn't force me to whittle the thing down. After all, hoarders hoard trash and useless stuff right? Gaming stuff is a collection, not trash. It took me a while to realize that a giant pile of stuff in your way is not useful to anyone. There's not enough time to actually do anything with it, and there never will be. There are only so many hours in the day, days in the year, to engage in quality hobby time. And what is a foolish mortal such as myself going to do with one point seven million hours worth of fun?
Is it really fair for me to hoard all this cool stuff that I'll never use? What about all the disadvantaged consumers out there who would do anything to get their hands on these old Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Imperial Army Rough Riders and incredibly rare Heroquest expansions? A decade of thoughts like these rattling around in my braincase eventually percolated up into my conscious mind and lead me to take some pretty drastic action a few years ago. I quit my job, I said "hey boss, screw you, yer fired!" but more politely of course, in case I needed a reference later down the road (always CYA). And I started an eBay store.
Best Boss is No Boss
"When thou hast finished setting aside a tenth of all thine produce ... thou shalt give it to eBay."
Of course, as all right-thinking paragons of capitalism should, I already owned an eBay account. In fact, May 2018 will be the account's 20th anniversary! Tempus Fugit. But now it was time to knuckle down and start turning this pile of games into bill money and to "serve my fellow man" as renowned economist and super model Walter E. Williams has said.
Years of reading, playing, and most importantly buying had prepared me for selling. Armed with extensive knowledge of games and game values, I started mining The Ziggurat and its satellite locations in my closets and bookshelves. Other than a year managing the online sales for a friendly local game store, I had managed to survive on nothing but eBay sales. It had allowed me to spend more time working on whatever creative projects I wanted, including an adventure board game (perpetually unfinished yet better than any commercial adventure board games I've played).
However, and this is an important lesson for anyone who cares to learn one, I abused my credit cards pretty good. Cue sad trombone. It turns out I had really only been selling enough games to live at a subsistence level, and anything above that was financed by my future self at a high interest rate. The best way to get out from under credit card debt is to A) realize you're there, and B) take measures to get out from under. Too many years of living as a bachelor had allowed me to lose focus on the future. Becoming engaged to my girlfriend had awakened my will to utterly destroy these credit card balances and stash some cash for a house for us. But how to do so?
After dusting off my character sheet I discovered after all these years that I had dumped most of my skill points into online sales and hobby games history and valuation. Rather than continuing to sell games at a subsistence level, I needed to break through the laziness ceiling and put my nitty to the grittystone.
And most importantly, I needed to escape from these onerous eBay fees!
Internets is Hard
The internet has never been so easy.
Armed with steely-eyed determination and with my loins as girded as they could legally be, I embarked on one of the most frustrating journeys I've ever experienced. Of course I didn't know it at the time when I was just beginning. How could starting an online business be tough, we live in the future right? I mean it was 12 years beyond even 2005, and that was the distant future when Transformers: The Movie (1986) came out. So we are in the extra-distant future. Well, not in the future enough. If you think putting together an online store is like the Chief Engineer slapping together some program in 5 minutes with LCARS to reverse the polarity of the deflector dish to destabilize some alien tractor beam you couldn't be any more wronger.
I gave myself a week to get an online store up and running. It took a month. Researching the best-fit multi-channel ecommerce software alone took a week. I needed an app that could not only keep accurate inventory records and allow me to ship packages, but it needed live inventory syncing across both eBay and whatever online cart I chose. Ideally the software would include integrated consignment functionality, which is required for selling clients' items and paying them accurately. Ultimately I went with ecomdash. The runner-up was Sixbit; if they had full Shopify or Woocommerce integration with real-time inventory sync I would have chosen them for their robust consignment functionality. I will, however, keep an eye on them in case they ever do offer Shopify integration. Which brings me to:
I am chortling ruefully to myself now as I type this. I initially decided to go with Shopify rather than a Wordpress site running Woocommerce shopping cart software, because I figured Shopify would be easier to implement. It's all bundled together! A hosted store, a built-in cart, many store themes to choose from. Sounds great, plug and play baby. But the experience was more like before "plug and play" in the nineties, with setting DMA, and ports, and IRQs, and getting your EMS and XMS memory all configured with EMM386 and Config.sys and Autoexec.bat. I had no intention of fiddling with CSS or Shopify's .liquid language, or even HTML, but there I was fiddling with it anyhow. Countless days messing with my store theme's settings has endowed me with the impression that folks that do this kind of programming are basically akin to wizards. And I am no wizard. I learned BASIC and PASCAL in my youth, but this stuff is bananas. So only now after weeks of putzing around with the site am I happy with the results. I guess one can only go so far with a free store theme!
Also, I was forced to learn how to use CSV files for inventory upload and bulk editing. That's what happens when you are trying to import over 500 items from eBay into your inventory software. And you have to figure out which merge fields go to what product and item fields in said software when there is no documentation! I kept my notes; if anyone needs them for setting up their import/export templates in ecomdash hit me up. At least I think they're around here somewhere...
A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time
Only what you need to survive!
So after all that rigamarole, here we are. Over a month of slaving away at this computer to get this site up and running. Over 10 minutes of you, the kind reader, politely reading my blog post, no doubt faithfully absorbing every word. What do we have to show for it, you and I? For you, perhaps a cautionary tale about the dangers of letting your hobby get the best of you. And for me? Well, it was refreshing to impart my story of how I learned to keep only the toys and games I really need. And of course the satisfaction of starting the finest online store for collectible, vintage, out of print gaming supplies and games! With the setting up of the store out of the way, I can concentrate on listing all this great stuff that's been piling up. While The Vault does not yet have the massive amount of stock more established stores enjoy, I will endeavor to correct that, one interesting item at a time.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out my other blog posts about old school and out of print games, posted weekly!