Who is Zac Gieg?

Zac Gieg has always been a collector. Star Wars, baseball cards, comic books, records, antiques... if it's collectible, he's pursued it. But he doesn't just collect things; he studies them so he can collect better. He learns to tell the difference between Near Mint and Mint, how to spot reproductions, where to look for special variants, what matters to the top collectors in that particular field. Then, once he’s accumulated an impressive collection and mastered the art of collecting within that genre, he usually loses interest and sells off his collection. Except for video games.

People told Zac that video games wouldn’t last—that they were a fad—but he always saw them as something more, something important. While other collectibles collect dust, video games are interactive experiences. Where books and films can tell wonderful stories, video games require audience participation; the player drives the story forward and the outcome often depends on their persistence and skill. Some games cultivate entire communities, whether through competition in Super Smash Bros and Fortnite, or collaboration in Minecraft and Roblox. Zac saw limitless potential in video games for art, for literature, for shared experiences or self-examination. They weren’t a fad, they were a new pillar of culture.

Growing up, Zac’s parents wouldn’t buy him a Nintendo Entertainment System, so he determined to save up for one. His grandfather had been teaching him the art of the flea market since he was 5 years old; on weekends they’d wake up early and spend long hours hustling baseball cards, coins, and whatever else people were buying and selling that week. He absorbed a wealth of information about business and about people: what they buy and why they buy it. When he was 13, Zac convinced a neighbor to open a stand with him; this ensured he'd have a ride there every weekend. They set up across from a video game stand selling sports cards and other collectibles.

Zac assembled his own collection of baseball cards, but when a friend offered to swap his coveted Nintendo for them, Zac didn’t hesitate. He scored the console and the essentials: Super Mario Bros, Mega Man 2, and Tetris among them.

He was captivated by Super Mario Bros., like so many of the kids and teens of his generation, and the generations since. The little plumber’s adventure to defeat King Koopa and save the princess sounded basic on paper, but as a game it was instantly iconic. It set the standard for what video games could be. Mario would go on to become Nintendo’s mascot, feature in hundreds of video games, set Guinness World Records, appear on sneakers, t-shirts, and bedsheets, and to rival Mickey Mouse as a beloved pop culture icon and household name. 

Zac borrowed $1000 from his dad and bought the flea market video game stand across from his neighbor's spot. He grew that investment, expanding the stall and recruiting friends, while dreaming of his own brick and mortar game store. In 10th Grade shop class, he designed business cards and letterhead with the shopping center he had in mind: Kendig Square. “That was my goal and 12 years later, we did it! That was the dream and we made it happen.”

While he was building his business, Zac was also adding to his video game collection at an increasing rate. His goal changed from obtaining complete sets, to achieving complete in box sets, to collecting factory sealed sets. Although he kept a low profile, he became well known among high end retro gaming collectors and dealers, both for the breadth and quality of his collection and his ability to procure rarities and broker deals. He acquired holy grails like Stadium Events, the Nintendo World Championships gold cartridge, SNES Campus Challenge (1 of 2 known), and purchased legendary collections like Tim Atwood's.

In 2019, Zac made headlines when he joined several other collectors to acquire one of the most significant pieces of video game history: a sticker-sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. for NES. It is the earliest known sealed print of the game, from Nintendo's limited "test market" launch in 1985, the only one of its kind known and in near mint condition (graded 9.4 A++ by Wata Games). That purchase became the first 6-figure video game sale on record and suddenly people were looking at retro games in a new light.

Zac had always contended that video games should have as much prestige as comic books--if not more. The first appearance of Superman, Action Comics #1, consistently sells for over $1 million, and there are an estimated 100 copies still trading hands or locked in collectors' vaults. However, there is only one known sticker-sealed copy of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros., arguably the gaming equivalent, and before 2019 no one else could imagine paying $100,000 for it.

Today, Zac owns 3 brick-and-mortar Just Press Play stores in Lancaster and York, Pennsylvania, as well as one of the most impressive video game collections in the world. He's been consulted by every grading company and auction house for his expertise, interviewed by news outlets like Kotaku and the BBC, and he was featured in the digital magazine Intelligent Collector. You can learn more about rare collectibles in his video series, Big Game Hunting.