10 gift ideas for old-school nerds
What’s that sound in your head? Oh right, it’s either Mariah Carey or Paul McCartney refusing to leave with their infectious holiday tunes.
Yup — it’s holiday time. And there’s no greater joy than hitting the mall on a Saturday in December to elbow your way through throngs of crowds to get your hands on the hottest toy of the season.
Hold on … I’m getting something … yes, I’ve just received word that there’s a thing called the “internet”, and apparently people now shop “online”. OK, whatever!
However you choose to shop, it’s hard. People are hard to shop for, and they never appreciate all the effort you put into their gift. But I’m here to help you decide what to get for that ungrateful little jerk in your life that also happens to be really into old-school nerd stuff.
These aren’t affiliate links, we’re not getting kickbacks for these, they’re just ideas I truly think old-school nerds will like (because, you know, I want them). If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the elder geek in your circle, here are some gift ideas to consider.
A record from Mondo
Mondo produces some really cool and sought-after collectibles in general, but I really enjoy the vinyl LPs they produce.
From old-school video games to new movie soundtracks, these records are both aurally pleasing and works of art in and of themselves. Typically they’ll run you from $25 to $50, but can go well beyond that for the really good stuff.
Getting a gift from Mondo won’t be cheap, but it will be greeted with utter joy.
This old-school Mos Eisley shirt from Heroes and Villains
Sometimes I go on Heroes and Villains’ website and just look at all the things I want but will never have a big enough dresser for. They do a great job of creating unique, cool merch that is actually officially licensed (not easy to find).
There are mostly shirts to choose from and lots of really good ones. But I’d recommend this Mos Eisley shirt with a retro vibe to it for the Star Wars fan in your life. Unless they like Jar Jar, in which case why are they in your life in the first place? And no, “because they’re my children” is not a valid answer.
Wireless NES, SNES, N64, or Genesis controller for the Nintendo Switch
If you’re like me, you giggle like a child every time you open one of the classic console apps on the Switch and a new game pops up.
But while there’s nothing wrong with playing classic games with a Joy-Con, there’s something so damn satisfying about doing it with one of the classic wireless controllers made by Nintendo.
These things are really true to form. They feel like the original controllers, from the touch of the plastic to their weight. And maybe it’s a placebo effect, but I feel like I play classic games better with these replicas in hand instead of a Joy-Con.
They range from $30 to $60 depending on which version you’re going for. Your gift recipient will beam with eternal gratitude when they open this one.
A gift card to your local comic book store
I know, I know, this sounds like an “I needed to put another item on the list, so here’s something lazy” gift idea. But hear me out.
A gift card for your local comic book store (or collectible/book/etc. store) gives your gift recipient the chance to pick out what they want for themselves from a candy store’s worth of options (and actual candy as an option most of the time). Whether it’s a collectible action figure or a new graphic novel, it also gives them a chance to visit the comic book store and browse around while feeling like royalty.
It also helps local, small businesses keep doing something that hasn’t been in style for like 20 years: sell stuff in real life.
A Star Wars LEGO set
Building LEGO is definitely not just for kids. In fact, in my child’s case it doesn’t hold his interest for more than 10 minutes while I get enthralled for hours.
Not only are LEGO sets fun and satisfying to build, they make excellent decorations and toys.
They’re not real cheap, but the quality and licensing are unbeatable. And let’s not mess around here, if you’re shopping for a nerd who’s into the retro things in life, just make it a Star Wars set. I mean, what are we even doing here?
Start with these:
A collectible lunch box
If you can get your hands on one, finding an original retro lunch box will fill your gift recipient with waves of nostalgia and love. Plus, it’s sort of an investment.
Many original lunchboxes, depending on their condition, have become fairly valuable and will only increase in value as time goes on. Or if your gift recipient doesn’t care about that kind of stuff, they can just keep their weed in there.
I recommend a vintage Empire Strikes Back lunchbox — extra points if you can find one with the water bottle included. Those will run you anywhere from $80 to $150 depending on the condition. And don’t be fooled, there are mini lunch boxes out there that are recreations of the original.
Some others to consider: any ‘80s cartoon, ALF, or Battlestar Galactica.
Of course, if an original is too hard to find (eBay is your best bet) or too expensive, some of the new productions would still make for a fun gift at a much more affordable price — and they still work great for storing weed.
Alamo Drafthouse (or similar) gift card
Say it with me: Gift 👏🏼 cards 👏🏼 are 👏🏼 not 👏🏼 a 👏🏼 copout 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼!
Especially when you’re buying something for a seasoned nerd who wants to enjoy a damn movie in peace. Alamo Drafthouse has perfected a certain kind of moviegoing experience where you can have beer delivered to your seat and people kicked out for talking or checking their phones.
It’s a f***ing paradise.
They also tend to show classic movies, and offer fun events like quote-alongs and live appearances.
If you don’t have an Alamo nearby, there’s a good chance a similar dine & watch concept still exists. If not, then you should probably move.
A custom pint glass
I don’t care what you fill it with, a pint glass is the most perfect drinking vessel invented by man.
In my collection, I’ve got a Cloud City glass, a map of the Dune universe, and more.
Etsy has a bazillion options to find something unique and even fully customized. If you don’t have time to go through Etsy, hit up a discount retail store like Ross or TJ Maxx. You can often find random sets of pint glasses with Star Wars or Marvel licensing at a great price. That really sounded like a commercial didn’t it? Maybe I shouldn’t be drinking out of my Cloud City glass while writing…
A third-party console that plays old cartridge games
I still have piles of cartridges lying around from ye olden days of gaming, and every now and then I pick one up and give it a blow for old times’ sake. Take that how you will.
Thanks to copyright law, you can now actually do something with those cartridges without having to try to find a working version of an original console or trying to sort through emulators and Raspberry Pi preloaded memory cards.
This 3-in-1 console does a fine job, assuming your cartridge is in decent working condition. For under $100, it costs less than trying to find a refurbished console, and you get way more out of it.
You can dust off your old NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis cartridges and pick up that saved game from 25 years ago. Or just play Columns for the next 48 hours straight. Your call.
An epic board game
Is it board game, or bored game? Am I right or am I right?
Well, for me, the longer and more complex a board game, the better. Of course, you should note that by giving someone the gift of an epic game, you inherently offer your time to play said epic game.
A few that you really can’t go wrong with:
Settlers of Catan aka just Catan (or a licensed edition for those who already have it)
If those games are a bit much for you, Munchkin is a card game that both embraces and lampoons classic fantasy tropes. There are also a bunch of variations and licensed versions.
The great thing about Munchkin is that anyone who can read can play it, and while there are a handful of basic rules, you just pretty much follow what the cards say. And even if you lose, you’re guaranteed a chuckle. Not much more to ask for from life, if you ask me.