While others may discard old gaming consoles that no longer work, Iskandar Zend Rahim sees it as a chance to give them a second life.
He scouts the Internet for retro consoles labelled as broken or in unknown condition, often obtaining them for as little as RM10.
“During the pandemic, I started buying from local sellers, as my regular vendors in countries like Japan were affected by lockdown measures,” he shares.
Typically, a repaired console fetches upwards of RM300, according to Iskandar Zend, who has been into retro gaming since 2014.
He says he’s in the business of selling cherished memories because customers who are interested in getting into retro gaming do it for nostalgia.
Models such as the Sega Megadrive, released in 1988, and the PlayStation, which debuted in 1994, are some of the most in-demand devices.
“The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), which came out in 1990, is also popular.
“Back then, most customers played the Micro Genius, which they didn’t realise was a clone of the SNES. Now they are looking to acquire the original,” he adds.
Certain consoles that are in a sealed box or in mint condition can cost thousands depending on their condition and rarity.
The priciest console Iskandar Zend has sold so far is the Nintendo Wii U, which was released in 2012 and went out of production five years later.
“It may sound ridiculous, but I sold an unopened limited edition Wii U Deluxe Set with The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD for RM12,000. And, yes, the customer was cool with the price,” he says.
He believes part of the appeal is in acquiring something that only a few have.
“Some also want to get their hands on something that has never been opened so that they can enjoy the unboxing experience,” he says.
Apart from consoles, he also dabbles in retro games, which are equally popular.
“For now, GameCube games are the hottest items. Titles like Luigi’s Mansion (2001) can be sold for around RM300 and Wario World (2003) for about RM550,” he says, adding that the GameCube was released in 2001 and discontinued in 2007.
Iskandar Zend uses the website PriceCharting to figure out how much the games are worth based on their condition – if they are complete or only have the disc or cartridge.
Once, a customer sought his help to get Mega Man Legends 2 for the PlayStation, a title released more than 20 years ago.
“I asked him if he was sure about it because the current market price for the game was high. He said yes, I found one in good condition and sold it to him for RM1,500,” he says.
He adds that as purchasing original titles in the past was a luxury for most gamers, they ended up buying pirated titles.
“Now that they are older and have the means to relive their childhood memories, they have no qualms about spending money.
“Some also see it as an investment that would increase in value as the items are no longer being produced,” he says.
On a roll
When Chin Koon Yik wanted to open a film camera shop at a time when photography was shifting to digital and the smartphone was supplanting the traditional camera, his friends called him crazy.
“I acquired this business from a guy who was closing it down. He told me the business had been rough.
“I saw it as an opportunity to live out my own childhood dream of running a camera shop,” he says.
Bang Bang Geng was born, and Chin will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year.
He is also seeing more young customers wanting to try their hands at film photography.
“It seems that anybody who is into TikTok or Instagram is getting into film photography, otherwise they will be out of the loop or not seen as trendy.
“Some even bring their parents, who will argue with them about why they want to squander money on film cameras.
“I dare not get involved with family disputes,” he quips.
Film cameras have become a major trend on social media thanks to users “flexing” their photos.
Videos with the hashtag #filmcamera have received over 460 million views on TikTok, while #35mm has over 535 million views.
Celebrities like Korean pop sensations Jennie and Lisa from Blackpink have also made film cameras desirable again. Jennie, for example, has a separate Instagram account that’s dedicated to images shot on film, with over three million followers.
However, the involvement of celebs can, unfortunately, inflate the prices of cameras, as was the case for the Contax T2, released in 1990.
“It became a craze after Kendall Jenner popularised it. The camera used to retail for about RM1,800, but because of her, sellers were asking between RM6,000 and RM7,000,” he says.
Another model that enjoyed a similar “success” was the Olympus Mju II, launched in 1997, which Chin recalls was a camera that “nobody wanted to buy” even though it cost about RM170.
“It has since become a cult favourite and is highly sought after by film camera enthusiasts after it was promoted by a celebrity. The price can go up to RM1,200,” he says.
However, unlike modern gadgets, adopting a retro hobby requires a person to spend time learning and researching the devices.
Otherwise, the outcome could be less than desirable, if not disastrous.
“I had a client ask if there was something wrong with his film because he took the roll out of the camera and tried to scan it.
“I told him to go home because the film was ruined,” he says.
In another instance, a customer’s film roll was destroyed by airport security, which pulled the film out of the container to check it.
Anyone seeking film photography advice is welcome to visit Chin’s shop, and he recommends that beginners start with a disposable camera. It’s not only simple to use and inexpensive, but it will produce the desired aesthetics.
Some days, Chin has customers walking in with bags of old cameras that they found at home.
“I will go through the pile and see if anything can still be used. Sometimes it’s just about replacing the batteries.
“I also have a technician who can help with cleaning and fixing old cameras,” he says.
Social media and popular music trends are also inspiring the younger generation to adopt vinyl over streaming services.
Billy Tan, proprietor of Lot 68 Vinyl Shop, says they are looking for new releases by popular artistes and are willing to pay more for limited-edition coloured vinyl.
“Most of them don’t even have a vinyl player,” he says, “so I’ll propose a portable set that may not have the highest sound quality but is best for beginners.”
Not everyone gets into retro tech for the sake of being on-trend.
For Ikhwan Nazri Mohd Asran, the boss of Amanz, it’s a chance to learn about how products have evolved throughout the years.
Ikhwan Nazri, an Apple fan since he got his hands on a MacBook in 2007, fondly recalls convincing his father to lend him the money to purchase it.
“At the time, he was sceptical because the laptop cost the same as a new motorcycle.
“But he was persuaded after I explained its features and how it would benefit my work,” he said.
He began an Apple product collection as he grew older, acquiring models that he missed out on previously.
From his collection, Ikhwan Nazri says he could see for himself why some of the tech giant’s products thrived while others flopped.
He also noticed a significant change in how Apple packages its products: in the past, it included additional tools such as a stand for the webcam and extra connectors, but today it only includes essential tools to avoid waste.
During the pandemic, he added a PowerBook 2400c laptop to his collection. The PowerBook 2400c, released in 1997, came with a price tag of US$3,500. Ikhwan Nazri got his for only RM50.
“I learned through research that the PowerBook 2400c is still sought-after by the Japanese, who mainly use it for word processing.
“They even upgrade the storage of the device with a solid-state drive,” he says.
He makes it a point to never spend more than RM200 per item unless it is in good working condition and includes the original packaging, which he says is rare.
His collection also includes an iMac G3, which astounded the world with its translucent egg-shaped design when it debuted in 1998 for US$1,299.
“The seller offered it for RM20 because he said that it is no longer working.
“I checked and discovered that the device had no RAM. I installed the RAM and it worked,” he says, adding that it’s one of his proudest purchases. He has since added more iMac G3 computers of different colours to his collection.
He is also on the lookout for Apple devices labelled as “Assembled in Malaysia”. One such product that he owns is a Mighty Mouse from 2005.
“People are always surprised when I tell them that some Apple products were made here,” he says.
Chin believes the surge in interest in film cameras is due to smartphones’ inability to replicate the aesthetics and colours produced by film cameras.
“The smartphone’s algorithm is too perfect, which users dislike because it lacks authenticity.
“Also, lockdowns during the pandemic limited interaction to online activities, so people started craving physical experiences and searching for more tangible things,” he says.
Adapting to older technology, however, is not easy for everyone, according to Chin, and most of his younger customers eventually abandon their film cameras.
“After a few months, they feel that the hassle and cost of developing film is no longer worthwhile.
“Some never come back for their photos – I have boxes of uncollected negatives from 2018,” he says, adding that he charges RM25 for developing a roll of film.
Tan shares the same sentiment, lamenting that some customers quit their hobby after learning that they would have to spend more to buy better vinyl players. Some older titles are also on the expensive side.
Another challenge is in maintaining older devices, as repairs may require parts that are not easily available.
Ikhwan Nazri says he must exercise caution when dealing with dated devices, especially when charging them, to prevent the battery from degrading or becoming bloated due to overcharging.
“I have to remember to unplug gadgets like old laptops and iPods as soon as they reach 100%,” he adds.
But older technology will always have a place in people’s hearts, says Iskandar Zend, who shares that some of his customers are now looking for old televisions with cathode-ray tube (CRT) displays to fully recreate their retro gaming experience.
Chin says his younger customers have been requesting digicams from the early 2000s, while Tan thinks that CD players will come back in vogue.
For Ikhwan Nazri, nothing beats the feeling of being able to get the items that he has always wanted but was unable to afford when he was younger.
“My colleagues make fun of my collection, calling them paperweights. But now, my paperweights are going to be in the paper!” he says, laughing.
Iskandar Zend, on the other hand, relishes the feeling of being able to help people relive their memories through restored devices.
“A customer brought in a SNES game console and asked if I could repair it because he used to play it with his late father.
“It took a week to restore the machine and I turned it on for him when he returned.
“He just stood there holding the controller, crying, because it transported him back to a time when his father was still around,” he says.