The Sinclair
Spectrum Games
Finder Service

Sinclair Spectrum Buyers' and Sellers' Guide to


(buy and sell on eBay UK now)

Sinclair Spectrum Software for
Sale and Wanted

What are they? Small black plastic cartridges that contain games for the Sinclair Spectrum.
What do they do? Allow Spectrum 16k and 48k users to load games instantly without any waiting around. Used in conjunction with Sinclair's Interface Two peripheral, the idea was to allow the Spectrum to compete with games consoles that were becomming popular in the early 80s.
When were they originally released? The Interface Two and three Sinclair-branded, cartridges from Psion were officially launched in September 1983. These were. A further seven Sinclair-branded cartridges featuring games from Psion, Ultimate and Melbourne House were released in December 1983. These were
Was this product a success? Er, no. For starters the entrie software available was a straight rerelease of existing titles, but with a £14.95 price tag. This deterred many buyers, particularly as tape versions typically cost £5.95. The fact that blank cartridges had to be ordered in batches of 1,000 also deterred software companies from releasing software in this format. As John Gilbert wrote in Sinclair User in 1984, the ROM cartridge market was very immature and unestablished and making an order of this quanitity a risky business, even for a company as established as Melbourne House or Psion. Unsurprisngly, none of the ten original releases sold well in the cartridge format and despite much talk of further software, it never materialised. Within a year of its release, the Interface Two, along with the cartridges, had been consigned to the dustbin of computing history.

How rare are these cartridges? Due to the low quantities produced and sold, Sinclair Spectrum Rom cartridges are highly sought after and collectable.
What factors affect the price of these items? It all depends on the title, the condition of the box, whether the original instructions are present and, crucially, whether the red protective skirt is intact. The latter detail can make a big difference to the final price.
Where can I buy or sell Rom cartridges? Without doubt, the best place is on eBay UK. Don't bother with the other auction sites like QXL, they simply doesn't attract the same volume of buyers and sellers. It's also worth trying the World of Spectrum Wanted forum, as buyers often make pleas for cartridges and sellers sometimes look to sell them for a fair price before placing them on eBay.
How much can I buy or sell a Rom cartridge for? Starting with the basic cartridge, without a box or instructions, these have a value of between £5 and £15. Add the box (even a slightly tatty one) and original instructions and you are looking at between £20 and £30. For a mint condition cartridge complete with instructions and red rubber skirt, the price can sometimes go to £40 and beyond. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Ultimate titles tend to fetch higher prices than the others, although the Psion releases like Planetoids, Space Raiders, Chess and Backgammon were the least popular and can therefore fetch high prices due to their scarcity.

Are prices rising or falling? Despite increasing numbers of Rom cartridges appearing on eBay, demand remains high and prices remain stable. If two or three bidders are competing in an auction for the same cartridge, the final price can often go through the roof. But it's also worth considering that most bidders are Spectrum enthusiasts keen to complete their collections. As these gaps are filled in coming years, competition will become less fierce for these items, and prices will almost certainly fall from their current level. However, if you can pick ROM cartridges up in good condition for between £10 and £15 they should make you a decent return for a few years to come

Tips for sellers: If selling on eBay, make sure you include a well-composed and clear digital photography showing the actual cartridge plus box and instructions, if they are available. If the box is damaged, don't attempt your own repairs with sticky tape, as buyers prefer to keep everything authentic. Removing an old price label stuck to the front can also increase the aesthetic appeal of a Rom cartridge, but be very careful when doing this. It's better to leave it on, rather than damage the box. Personally, I have found that adding a bit of water and gently rubbing the label with my finger gets good results. Selling Rom cartridges as a job lot doesn't seem to increase the total value and in many cases you can make more by listing them individually. However, a complete collection of all 10 Rom cartridges would probably fetch as much as £400 if all games were present and correct. If you do decide to sell a collection of ROM cartridges, it's worth taking individual photographs of each and then paying a little extra to display each one with your eBay listing. It's also worth considering that even an empty Rom cartridge box or original instructions are attractive to buyers, who may be missing these. In the past, I have sold a JetPac box in excellent condition with the bare circuitboard of the Rom cartridge for £11 on eBay.

Tips for buyers: If you are in the business of collecting Rom cartridges, don't expect to get any bargains. These items hardly ever turn up at car boot sales in any type of decent condition. Interest remains high in these items and bidding on eBay is always competitive, even for cartridges without boxes or instructions. But there are a few tricks and tips you can employ to help you win auctions and snatch the odd good deal.
For starters, some listings on eBay don't have pictures, which deters some bidders and sometimes results in a lower final selling price. In cases like this, it's often worth emailing the seller and asking for confirmation of the state of the cartridge and box and whether the instructions are included. You may find it's just what you are looking for. Also watch for auctions that finish at odd times, such as the early hours of the morning. If you are willing to get up early and place a late bid near the finishing time, you may be able to land an item with little competition. Another good tip is to use the Opera browser, which allows bids to be placed faster than Microsoft Internet Explorer. This is useful if you are trying to sneak in a crafty bid just seconds before the auction finishes.
Finally, it's always worth emailing a seller to see if they have any further cartridges available for sale. This can be a good tactic if a cartridge has sold for a price that's below the market average. To avoid eBay's fees and the hassle of listing the item, they may be willing to sell cartridges to you for a similar low price. Also look for auctions for Rom cartridges that have finished without a bidder and make the seller a fairly low offer. You may be able to come to some arrangement.

(last updated 29/12/03)



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