EVERETT — Despite cramming more than 300 board games into a single-bedroom apartment, Bonnie Hertzog, aka “Boardgame Bonnie,” does not, in fact, like to play board games.
“I feel like a fraud,” Hertzog said. “I’m actually not a board game player. And so it is very ironic that I’m Boardgame Bonnie.”
The 41-year-old says she’s a sore loser and never wins. But Hertzog is skilled at finding decades-old games to resell online. About once a week, the Everett resident will hit a few local thrift shops in search of treasure.
Hertzog usually spends around $3 to $7 for old copies of “Clue,” ”Yahtzee,” “Risk” or “Connect Four” to then sell for $12 to $25 on Etsy. She bases her prices on what each game sold for on eBay.
Business for Hertzog is good. She sells about five to seven vintage games a week. One of Hertzog’s best sellers is the 1961 edition of “Monopoly.” She’s sold seven copies of that version, and they always go fast. Another hot seller: old copies of UNO.
“They fly off of my shelf,” she said. “I cannot keep an UNO card game from 1979 in stock, even in poor condition.”
Why would someone want a 40-year-old UNO set when they can buy a brand-new copy at virtually any convenience store and supermarket in the country? Hertzog says it’s nostalgia. A lot of her customers are adults who just want to replay the version of “Boggle” or “Stratego” from their childhood. And Hertzog is willing to put in the time and effort to find them.
“It’s a decent side hustle,” said Hertzog, whose full-time job is conducting hearing tests at an otolaryngology clinic.
Years before getting into the vintage game biz, Hertzog’s online storefront mainly carried custom versions of “Guess Who?” The game has two players taking turns asking yes or no questions to determine the other’s selected cartoon character. Hertzog converts store-bought copies of the game into custom creations by swapping out the drawings for photographs of real people.
Customers send 24 photos for Hertzog to resize, print and paste into the game. It’s a lot of cutting and gluing, Hertzog said. The whole process takes about four hours per game. But the result is a personalized, one-of-a-kind game like no other.
Hertzog started making custom copies of “Guess Who?” in 2017 as gifts for friends and family. She said it was “a fun way to share a game that I grew up with in a new way.”
Hertzog’s husband launched the Etsy shop for her as a surprise.
“He feels like I’m very creative, and he felt like this would be a creative outlet for me,” Hertzog said.
Thus, “Boardgame Bonnie” was born. Since 2017, Hertzog has sold more than 300 personalized copies of “Guess Who?” to people as far away as Dubai, Australia, Thailand and France. Her busiest season is always around Christmas. She gets so many orders that in December she’ll take time off from work so she can devote herself to her home business full-time.
Hertzog thinks there will always be a market for personalized “Guess Who?” However, she is worried that demand for old games will die down once the pandemic subsides. Hertzog has always sold vintage board games as a way to fill out her online inventory. But she didn’t make them a priority until sales began soaring in winter 2020, she said.
Demand for vintage games has boomed in the past year, according to Hertzog. She believes it’s because people are spending more time at home because of COVID-19 and are bored out of their minds. She’s also noticed lately an increase in the games for sale at thrift stores, possibly due to people cleaning out their stuff due to, again, being stuck at home all day.
So the pandemic led to a surplus — of demand and inventory — that Hertzog was ready to take advantage of.
“I go to a thrift store, nobody’s clamoring to buy those 50-year-old-games,” she said, believing other customers there tend to go for newer games. She especially is drawn to games based on film and TV classics like “The A-Team” and “Police Academy,”or the obscure“Police Surgeon,” a 1970s Canadian medical drama.
One of her favorite finds was a 1972 edition of “Flottenmanöver,” the German-language version of “Battleship.” She also found a copy of “Scrabble” in Russian.
Herzog buys her games on a hunch, never researching the market price until after purchase. So she was surprised to find that her biggest payday came from scooping up a copy of “Smess — The Ninny’s Chess.” Hertzog got it for a few bucks and later found it selling online for $80.
As Hertzog’s inventory continues to grow, she has struggled to find space for it all. A few months ago she installed two 12-foot-long shelves, and they’re already filled to the brim with games.
“My mom at one point said, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t buy anymore until you’ve cleared off one shelf,’” Hertzog said. “But I can’t do that because I go to a store and I see a new game that I’ve never seen before, and I’m not going to not buy it because I don’t have the room for it.”
Eric Schucht: 425-339-3477; email@example.com; Twitter: @EricSchucht.