Truly Rare Treasures - Nintendo's World Championship Cartridges
As a retro video game collector, we all have preferences. Some tastes are aimed for Nintendo, others Sega. Some for handheld games, others for arcade cabinets. However, there are a select few tokens that anybody who has a reasonable interest in retro games would probably only dream of ever owning, perhaps even seeing it live. The Nintendo Power World Championship Grey & Gold Cartridges.
In 1990, Nintendo sought out to find some of the world's best NES players by hosting tournaments in 29 major U.S. cities. The idea was simple, Nintendo had found a niche of very loyal game players through their Nintendo Power magazine subscription and they wanted to create something the most faithful followers would remember for a lifetime.
Competitors played abridged versions of Super Mario Bros, Rad Racer and Tetris. Throughout the three stages, players needed to complete a challenge, such as collect 50 coins, then finish level 1 of Rad Racer, and then finally finish level 1 of Tetris until the 6 minute time limit expired. The player who collected the most point was the winner. There were various prizes allotted to competitors throughout the tour; hats, shirts and even cash (intended for college scholarship!). However, the most valuable of all were the limited release of the competition cartridges with the tournament game on them: 90 grey carts and 26 gold carts. These extremely rare carts were given to randomly selected participants of the tournament pool. The 26 gold carts were take from the pool of gray carts and recycled into the same gold casing used for the Zelda. Each cart is individually numbered and has a switch board located at the top left of the cartridge. Nintendo created 1,200 of the NWC carts but only the 116 carts were released to the public. It is possible that some carts could have been discovered later and taken from Nintendo of America by employees before they were instructed to destroy the remaining lot and repurpose them for other games. This is the kind of stuff you read about in Dan Brown novels!
As you could imagine, there have been some serious offers thrown at sellers of these carts. It is reported that this game pulled the largest price tag for a video game is history, with one copy selling for slightly over $100,000. Conspiracy theorists speculate that phantom bids were responsible for the spike in selling price, suckering some wealthy hobbyist with a huge balance to pay. Certainly, there are other hobbies and collectibles in the world with much higher price tags, but for retro video games, this number was 4-5 times higher than other NWC carts being sold on the market.
It is believed that about 3 people in the world own one of each copy, including Pat Contri (Pat the NES Punk). If his story is any hope to general populous, it is that with an absurd amount of money, collectors can have a piece of history. So dream big, network furiously and start saving!