It’s November and time to highlight another console in my collection, the Vectrex. Manufactured initially by GCE (General Consumer Electronics), then Milton Bradley when they bought GCE, the Vectrex is a vector graphics based home console released in 1982. In order to provide this type of gaming experience on a home console, the Vectrex came with it’s own vector monitor that displays monochrome vector graphics similar to what was being used in arcade titles such as Battlezone and Tempest. This self contained 9 x 11″ monitor probably makes the Vectrex the most unique video game console of all time. It’s a cartridge based system with a cartridge port on the right side of the machine. The front of the console allows for two controllers to be plugged in but instead of the traditional left port intended for player 1, the right controller port is player 1’s controller….odd. The system came bundled with a built in game, Minestorm, which was unusual at the time.
I don’t recall exactly when I acquired my Vectrex but it was likely during my initial video game collecting phase of 1999-2001. EBay was my new best friend while working nights as well as my days off since I liked to keep my nocturnal schedule at that time. It was easy for me to win eBay bidding wars that ended at 1 or 2 am because I was the only one monitoring them, ensuring I had the highest bid. Back then, video game collecting wasn’t as mainstream as it is now so I didn’t have as much competition which also aided my efforts.
I had done my research and I knew which consoles existed in the late ’70s & early ’80s before I really became aware of anything outside of Atari. I knew of the Intellivision and its unique disc controller and overlays. I knew of the Colecovision and its improved graphics. I knew of the monstrous Atari 5200 and its shady controllers. I knew there was a console with a built in keyboard called the Odyssey 2. But when I came across the Vectrex in my research I was flummoxed. What was this weird console with a built in monitor? Why had I never heard of this? I was an ’80s gamer kid….but this was not on my radar at all. I had to own one and I was lucky enough to win a bid on not just a Vectrex with 2 controllers, but also 10 games, 8 of which came complete with boxes and plastic overlays. The overlays were bundled with the games to place over your monitor in order to provide the player with the illusion of color since the games were all monochromatic as I mentioned earlier. I personally don’t always use them when I’m playing Vectrex games but these overlays are a cool, collectible part of what makes this console so interesting.
These days, a loose Vectrex console with a controller will typically cost you $150-200 if it’s in good condition. If you have complete Vectrex with box (which I don’t), then you’re asking for even more if you plan to sell. Most of the “common” games can be found loose for around $15-$30 but if you want complete copies with manuals, overlays and boxes, the prices range from $30 all the way up to the low to mid $100’s. Not sure why some games are worth so much more complete than they are loose but part of that might be sheer lack of some of these title available at any given time on sites like eBay. Someone desperate for a complete copy of Pole Position might be willing to pay an obscene amount for it when it finally shows up online, which in turn increases the selling price when someone else sees how much it recently sold for. Unfortunately, I have no idea how much I paid for my winning bid but my guess is that it was less than $100 for a console, 2 controllers, 8 complete games plus 2 loose titles.
The Vectrex has an active homebrew community and some of those games look really fun but I haven’t gone that route yet. At this point I am focusing my collection on the original releases circa 1982-1984 and my attempts as procuring the two peripherals, the 3D Imager and the Light Pen.