Print on Demand: The Death of Collectible RPG Books?

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With a resurgence in RPG’s I am wondering what the impact of the new generation of gamers would be on classic collectible RPG products: modules, supplements, rule sets etc.

I was able to amass a collection of “Old School” products in the late 90’s early 2000’s when role-playing interest had died off and I bought out the inventory for several game stores. Before eBay we didn’t have market pricing on rare or interesting products so I was able to accumulate new shrink wrapped MERP products, parchment ICE material, old Midkemia supplements and most of the 1st edition AD&D modules at bargain basement prices. Those products from the early 80’s were pure nostalgia with simple line drawn artwork, heavy stock paper and cruder presentation.

The first demand bump I saw was after the announcement for the first Lord of the Rings movie. MERP products, already out of print but of great quality (it was reported that the movie designers used ICE MERP products extensively) started increasing in value. Then OSR started manifesting and the early D&D products started to grow in demand. Early second tier materials: Midkemia, Loremaster, HARN and Judges Guild also added value in the early 2000’s.

Has the demand for these supplements faded? A quick check on eBay shows that Court of Ardor sells for $70 or best offer–with the map. The hardcover edition of Minas Tirith, an amazing product is now only $80! What about ICE? Early products can be bought for prices far lower than 10 years ago.

Given the ubiquity of DriveThruRGP, the availability of out of print products in PDF form and a younger generation that is more open to paperless products; will new products ever become “classics” in the future? There does seem to be value in some ICE print on demand products that are no longer available, but in general prices seem stagnant. As original gamers get older, will these early books lose their allure?

2 Replies to “Print on Demand: The Death of Collectible RPG Books?”

  1. I think the industry is changing, and you are probably correct. As we get older and die off the number of surviving old books will become greater than the number of surviving old gamers, so scarcity will not drive up prices. Todays young gamers are not playing the same versions of the games as we started with, so they have no nostalgia for them.
    On the other hand my games company has gone from pdf only, to print on demand and I am not looking at distribution and higher quality offset printing. POD is cheap for publishers but is not high quality.
    There are new collectibles being created every day.

  2. I think old books will still be collectible, but for different reasons and perhaps to a lesser degree. Previously, it was because it was the only way to get printed versions, and still is for some things. In the future, I think they are more likely to become collectible for the reasons anything is; they’re old and getting scarcer.

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