Named Collections – “Pedigrees” and “Collections”

At WATA Games, we have been asked many times about the difference between the terms “Collection” and “Pedigree.” It’s an understandable question and one which we have discussed within the walls of our offices many times. It shouldn’t be a surprise that even we at Wata have slightly different opinions on the subject.

Interestingly enough, the resulting views seem to correlate to which collecting hobby each person has roots in outside of video game collecting. Coin collectors have one view, while comic collectors have another, and sports card collectors have yet another. There are discussions involving whether a “Pedigree” requires the said games have to have been purchased new and remain with the original owner, whether the games can be sold in part or as a whole and retain any kind of title, and myriad other topics that affect these definitions.

As mentioned, not everyone has the same outlook on what makes up or doesn’t make up a collection or what has pedigree. That said, there is a common thread that runs through all the opinions and while there is no true “black and white” definition, we can articulate it fairly briefly at least as it relates to video games collecting.

A “collection” as noted or defined by Wata can be any assortment of games that share a common ownership. They can be very uniform in scope and character or be a complete hodgepodge of games in varying conditions and states. It really doesn’t matter, and by itself, it doesn’t really have any meaning other than documenting a provenance or chain of ownership.

A collection with “pedigree,” however, is a different beast. Pedigree is something a collection obtains over time via some sort of attributed reputation that reflects a characteristic of the collection itself. It could be reputation gained by a common theme with its curation, i.e. all sealed games with a very high grade, or all games of a certain type (mint CIBs, for example) featuring a common theme (Black Box, superhero games, etc). Similarly, it could be gained via its owner. If the owner is a celebrity of some sort or is well known for something, then that can lend itself to the collection’s pedigree, but does not necessarily define it as a pedigree. Either way, something can be inferred about the games based on which collection it comes from. That’s the game’s pedigree. To illustrate this difference let’s use our (currently) two recognized collections. With The Carolina Collection, one cannot infer characteristics about the games themselves, nor can someone infer characteristics about the collection based on any one game. Contrarily, with The Indiana Collection (a pedigree collection) one can infer characteristics about the collection based on a game, or vice-versa. This is due to the specific attributes that make the collection unique, such as (but not limited to) the games’ near-mint conditions, odors, specific markings or price stickers.

A few notes from our internal discussions:

1) There are many different ways for a collection to obtain pedigree, but one thing that we do agree on is that pedigree cannot be purchased. You cannot simply buy a game from a well known collection, slap your own name on it, and give your collection any kind of pedigree. The reality is that the owner still doesn’t have pedigree; they just have a collection. And if it’s mixed and matched with no rhyme or reason, it’s probably just guacamole.

2) A collection with pedigree can be sold and retain its pedigree. However, it would have to retain its collection name and exist within a greater collection. For example, if 20 games from the Indiana Collection are purchased by someone, their collection doesn’t suddenly become the Indiana Collection. However, part of the Indiana Collection can reside within their collection.

3) A collection can never grow once it’s sold. A known collector cannot sell his collection with pedigree to another person and have that new person add to it and “grow” the collection. The original collection would stay named and exist within the larger collection of the new person. That said, a collection can be reduced and be sold in part.

4) The question of whether or not pedigree adds value is largely irrelevant. Value is determined collectively by two people: a buyer and a seller. As we like to say, it all comes out in the wash and in time the marketplace will decide what adds value and what doesn’t, regardless of whether a buyer determines that a game or group of games is worth more (or less) to him or her because of its pedigree.

At Wata Games, our documentation of pedigree is not to affect value in any way, but rather simply to note the significance of the collection and let the collectors decide what they want to do with that information. It’s part of our devotion to transparency. We do, however, determine whether or not a collection bears any significance and we take that seriously as part of our love of this great hobby.

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