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When someone talks about rare video games or video game memorabilia, most would think of games that were only sold in one country, or games on popular older consoles which didn’t sell well. You might even think of gaming peripherals that never really caught on. But in the history of gaming, there are a few items that are so rare as to be considered treasures. Most gaming history buffs would love to get their hands on these items, and most of us will never, ever see them.
These items were never sold on the market commercially. To get them, you pretty much had to be the right person in the right place at the right time. They very rarely show up on Ebay, and you’d be very lucky to ever find them. And if you do, congratulations, because you’ve got your hands on something gamers consider to be truly special.
This is the stuff of legends: Long supposed to have been a myth, the offspring of Nintendo and Sony’s brief partnership recently turned up on the internet. The Nintendo PlayStation was one of those stories that will make any gamer wonder, “What if?”
The backstory: In the late 1980s, Sony and Nintendo teamed up to create an add-on for the Super Nintendo which would allow it to play CDs. After years of development, this peripheral evolved into its own console called the “Play Station.” But as anyone can tell you, the partnership ended sadly. Nintendo instead chose to pair with Phillips, a partnership which was largely fruitless; and Sony went on to develop their own PlayStation. The rest is history.
Supposedly there were a few prototypes made of the Nintendo Playstation, but they’ve never been seen and were presumed to have been destroyed. However, this year the son of a maintenance man posted pictures on Reddit of a device his father had kept while cleaning the office of Olaf Olafsson, former CEO of Sony. Dan Diebold, the son, eventually posted a video to show off the device.
It has the Nintendo and Sony labels, the title of “PlayStation,” and can apparently hold both cartridges and discs. While my initial reaction would have been to cry “fake,” all of the appropriate watermarks are there. This is possibly the only one of the prototypes still in existence, so it’s a unique and important piece of gaming history.
Nintendo World Championships & Campus Challenge Cartridges
Nintendo held a number of video game competitions in the 1990s, and the artifacts from these competitions are now some of the most valuable pieces of gaming memorabilia that exist.
The first Nintendo World Championships were held in 1990, and the competitors played on branded cartridges. The games on these gray cartridges, ninety of which currently exist, were modified versions of Super Mario Bros, Tetris, and Rad Racer. The cartridges were awarded as prizes to some competitors and have been making the rounds on the collector’s circuit ever since.
Even rarer are the twenty-six gold versions of the cartridge which were distributed via a contest in Nintendo Power magazine. Only about half of those have been accounted for, which means the rest have yet to be found or are destroyed.
In a similar vein, Nintendo held two Campus Challenges across America in the ’90s. Special cartridges were made for the competition containing modified versions of three Nintendo games for competitors to play. The first competition used NES cartridges with Super Mario Bros 3, Dr. Mario, and Pinbot. The second competition used SNES cartridges with Super Mario World, Pilotwings, and F-Zero.
There are currently only three Campus Challenge cartridges known to exist from both competitions and they are currently in the hands of private collectors. The few times you will see these on eBay, they can fetch up to five figures from collectors.
Uncharted 2: Fortune Hunter Edition
It isn’t just from gaming’s distant past where you can find the super-expensive, one-of-a-kind games of legend. While Uncharted 2 itself is available at almost any retailer and for low prices, this edition was never sold. You could only get one of the 200 or so copies made by winning it in contests or giveaways.
So what did your good fortune get you if you happened to get your hands on the Fortune Hunter Edition? An autographed copy of the game, natch; a box shaped like a book, an art book, and a replica of the Phurba Dagger from the game itself.
While this sounds like standard fare for the super expensive edition of any game, the rarity of this version and the fact that no one could just buy it has driven the price up astronomically. I’ve seen copies of the complete set priced on eBay anywhere from $3000 to $10000, and that’s just since I’ve been looking.
In 1982, Atari created a video game contest for the record books. It started with Swordquest, a series of four games, each one named after an element. In each game, the player would pick up items and look at them, receiving clues in the form of numbers. Each of these numbers corresponded to a page and panel number in a comic book – and I mean a real comic book, made by DC and distributed with the games.
To enter the Swordquest contest, you had to put together words from the corresponding panels to form sentences, then mail the sentences to Atari. During the contest proper, players operated on a timer and whoever could find the most clues in the game would win the prize. The four winners would go on to compete in a final for the ultimate prize.
These weren’t coupons or T-shirts they were competing for, either. The prize for the Earthworld competition was a golden medallion encrusted with twelve birthstones (that would include a ruby, sapphire, and diamond); and the prize for Fireworld was a gold and platinum chalice also encrusted with precious stones. Both were valued at the time as being worth $25,000. We can only speculate what they’d be worth today.
Unfortunately, only two of the contests, Earth and Fire, ever took place. Atari went under and no one ever had the chance to win the other prizes: The Crown of Life, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery. The Sword was the biggest prize, made of silver and gold with (you guessed it) jewels on the handle. It would have been worth $50,000.
The Talisman of Earth was supposedly melted down by its owner years ago, but the Chalice is still intact as far as I know. As for the Talismans no one ever won, they were thought to be just on the drawing board until, allegedly, they were found in the possession of Jack Tremiel of Commodore. It’s unknown whether he still had them at the time of his death in 2012, and no one knows where they are now.
Are there any rare or unique pieces of gaming merchandise that you wish you owned? Know any other good gaming treasure stories? Let me know in the comments section below!
Image Credits: Nintendo Playstation via Redditor Analogueboy, Nintendo World Championship Cartridges via Pricecharting.com, 1992 Campus Challenge Title Screen via SNES Maps, Uncharted 2 Fortune Hunter Edition via Gameinformer Swordquest Prizes via Apixelatedview.com, Swordquest Chalice via Digital Press?