The $15,000 NES Cart
How far would you go in order to secure one of the rarest pieces of gaming merchandise in existence? And what would you do with it?
There is amassing a few shelves’ worth of tatty Dreamcast and Neo-Geo Pocket games and calling yourself a serious collector, and there is handing over the price of a small car for a single cartridge. James Baker falls into the latter camp, having recently spent $15,000 securing one of the 26 gold-colored NES carts originally manufactured for the Nintendo World Championships in 1990. We caught up with him to find out what it’s like to be part of an elite club.
So, why would you pay $15,000 for a videogame?
Well, I don’t really look at it as purely a videogame; it’s more like the Honus Wagner of videogame collecting – or like Action Comics number one. There are 50-60 Honus Wagner cards out there and only 12 accounted NWC gold carts accounted for, so comparatively it’s pretty cheap! But, yeah, it’s pretty crazy that I spent that much on a videogame, regardless of rarity.
Will you actually play the cart?
Well, when I first got it we fired it up at the office and played it for a while – and I didn’t even need to blow on the end of it to get it to work. But I have a friend who’s an architect and eventually we’re going to collaborate on building a really cool installation to put it into.
How does the NWC cart compare to other rarities in your possession?
It’s clearly the showpiece of the collection. I have some favorites, like the Nintendo 64DD, which is probably going to remain my favourite item. I also have a NES Deluxe Edition that predates when Nintendo decided to split the bundles. I also have a mint Atari Pong system, complete with the batteries included, and somehow they haven’t corroded yet. But in terms of price and rarity, this is by far the key piece.
How long have you been looking for it?
I’ve been looking for a few years, but I wasn’t serious about getting it until recently. I’ve avoided collecting carts for a while – I always looked at them as a slippery slope, since there are just so many collectible carts out there to get. When I started, I concentrated on systems – I’m up to 130 now. But I think that this game really validates the collection as one of the best out there.
What have your friends’ reactions been like?
The guys at the office were for it. I don’t think I’m going to be bragging to any of my non-videogame geek friends that I have it, though. Like I said, when it came in we played it immediately. The ones that aren’t into games, well, either I don’t tell them or when I tell them they think I’m nuts. But I don’t blame them.
How much have you spent on collecting?
On collecting in general? I don’t even want to hazard a guess. I was a relatively hardcore Star Wars collector for years, and I collected comics well into college. But when I started collecting games about five years ago I was astounded at how cheap they all were. It all started when I found a mint Famicom on eBay for $10. I always wanted a Famicom and a Super Famicom when I was growing up and seeing them in game magazines, so when I was able to find these mint, boxed classics my OCD kicked in and I went nuts. But the total cost of shipping and handling on my collection probably cost me more than the systems themselves. The most I would pay for something? Well, I think I’m tapped out for a while.
What’s next on your list?
There are a few things I’m still hunting for, like a reasonably priced Adventure Vision and an Interton VC4000. But I’d really like to track down a set of original Nintendo Hanafuda cards.
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