The following is a guest post by Ted Linhart, describing his introduction to collecting vintage board games. Ted is Vice President of Research at USA Network. He’s a Twitter regular, where he can be found as @TedOnTV.

I think collecting is an inherited gene—you either are born with the urge or not.  I come from a family of collectors—my parents, brother, grandparents, uncle, and aunt are all passionate about their objects. I specialize in several areas: 1) Books: First editions of mystery fiction and signed autobiographies, 2) Letters signed by famous personalities from all walks of life as long as the content is interesting, 3) James Bond memorabilia, 4) 1939/64 World’s Fair, and 5) TV memorabilia.

It is that last topic that recently brought me into the world of board game collecting.  While I have seen many board games offered for sale on eBay, at collecting shows and in vintage shops, until recently I had never been very interested in them. I recognized their significance as pieces of pop cultural history, as early forms of brand extension and merchandising for TV, for their artistic design, and for the challenge finding them in top condition (since they were designed to be played with and had many pieces that could go missing). However, I had never been interested because of high prices for mint copies, the amount of space they took up and the fact so many games I saw were for shows I didn’t care about. However, a slate of encounters with board games in 2010 have started an urge for these items and now I am actively on the look-out with a potential obsession on the way. [Ed: Welcome to our world.]

Important to know in this story is that I work as the VP of Research at USA Network and my office inside 30 Rock has become something of a TV memorabilia museum with letters, books and old schedules filling the space. I never thought of putting board games in there until I went to the annual Park Slope United Methodist Church Book sale in February 2010. I go every year in search of cheap books to read and was not having much luck when, for no clear reason, I headed to the kids/games table and that’s where I found War of the Networks: The TV Rating Game for $2. [Ed: And a thrifter too!]

As someone who aspired to be Brandon Tartikoff from the age of 10, TV scheduling is a passion of mine and here was a board game all about that topic at almost no cost. I decided this would be a great addition to my office and promptly made the purchase. After placing it on a credenza at work I realized other games would be fun to add but made no overt effort to find any.

Several months later on a Sunday I went to the Brooklyn Flea, a multi-vendor market in Park Slope and almost immediately upon entering found Perry Mason: Case of the Missing Suspect Game.

It looked in remarkably good condition, especially the rich red colors which I knew from book collecting is a sign of nice preservation. I had never seen this game before but became a Perry Mason fan while in high school, when I discovered the show on cable one holiday break. Also I have been watching Ironside on DVD this year and am a fan of Raymond Burr. I forget how much the dealer’s list price was but I eventually negotiated a $25 price for the game and a large Man From Uncle button. The next day I put it on the same credenza in my office near the Scheduling game. Every time I look at the Perry Mason game now I think about how this early board game (1959 is the date on box, the first full decade of TV as a mass entertainment vehicle) has made its way to an office in 30 Rock 50+ years after being produced.

The next item I added to my collection was also not one I pursued, nor is it TV-related, but still has a prominent place in my office—the 1964 World’s Fair Game. I am a fan of both the ’39 and ’64 fairs and found this copy of the game (which I have seen before on eBay) at a large antique fair at a NYC pier. In the past I probably would have passed but instead I scooped it up. I love the image of the Unisphere (although the Trylon and Perisphere of ’39 are better) and the colorful depiction of the fair ground on the cover.

The most recent additions to my collection have the richest histories behind them. Working in 30 Rock you never know what you’ll find. Some days you run into celebrities at random (Tina Fey, Mike Myers, SNL cast on my list) and some days you find pieces of TV history. For example, when the Research group moved floors I was given a file of TV schedules dating back to the mid-50s and used by estimators in NBC Research. It now sits in my office in a leather portfolio.

Two weeks ago I received an urgent email that I needed to go to the 12th floor as important TV memorabilia was being given away. I quickly rushed there and found multiple board games (see pic below) in a variety of conditions in a bin marked “Free.”

At first I was excited to see these treasures here for the taking, then I was angry that they were abandoned and in such poor condition, and then I was perplexed as to where they had been and why they were being tossed now. I never found out an official answer to the last question but was delighted I could rescue them for my office.

The one I was most excited about, Columbo, was in the worst shape with the top ripped and only the board in clean condition. The rest were from classic game shows. Tic Tac Dough had also taken a beating but one of my colleagues who got to the 12th floor before me retrieved the blue mechanism that you see in the photo for me. It held the question categories and was pretty healthy. The ones in best shape were Truth or Consequences and Twenty One, with rather sound boxes and most pieces safe inside. Twenty One, of course, has an important place in TV history since it was the basis for the infamous Quiz Show scandal. Besides their representation of TV history I find the B&W images of the Jack Barry and Ralph Edwards on the box covers quite appealing.

At this point I don’t know when or where my next encounter with a classic TV show board game will be but there are a lot of tempting items on eBay so it may not be long.