Seattle-based used game store Pink Gorilla got a huge surprise on Tuesday when a man traded in a Nintendo World Championships NES cartridge. Game collectors covet the rare cartridge which can sell for the price of a small car.
In 1990, Nintendo held the Nintendo World Championships, which toured around the US and gave kids in 30 major cities the opportunity to compete in Super Mario Bros, Rad Racer, and Tetris. Nintendo stored all three games on one cartridge and gave one as a prize to each of the finalists of the competition. Nintendo also gave away gold versions of the cartridge through Nintendo Power Magazine.
One of the grey versions of the ultra-rare cartridge arrived at Pink Gorilla rather unceremoniously: a man brought it into the shop in a box with other old NES games he wanted to get rid of. In a phone call with IGN, Pink Gorilla said the man didn’t know about the game and how much it generally earned on auction. The company explained to him the game's value and gave him an offer (which they did not disclose) and the man accepted it. The man had been a collector of NES games a long time ago, before the old games could go for thousands of dollars.
Just traded in! Not joking pic.twitter.com/OBSfhiXIJN— Pink Gorilla (@PinkGorillaLLC) August 6, 2019
According to legend, Nintendo only produced 90 grey versions and 26 golden versions of the game, though the discovery of more of the grey cartridges has pushed that estimate a little higher. The label on this cartridge read #302. Despite that, collectors still see the cart as the rarest and most valuable NES game ever distributed. Other games, like the copy of Kid Icarus recently uncovered by a family in Reno, might earn close to the same amount as Nintendo World Championships, but only if they come in an unsealed box in pristine condition.
This cartridge, on the other hand, generally makes thousands regardless of the condition. Pink Gorilla posted some photos of the cartridge on their Twitter account, and it definitely looks used. But that didn’t stop it from selling quickly. A collector has already claimed and purchased the game, and did not give the company permission to disclose the amount.
Sold! Goodbye NWC we hardly knew you. The buyer asked to remain private. But if you’d like to hear the full story we can share tune in tonight 9:30PM pacific to https://t.co/iJVsutRStE pic.twitter.com/mEbWwyaaF2— Pink Gorilla (@PinkGorillaLLC) August 7, 2019
IGN did some sleuthing and found that copies of the game have gone for between $15,000 and $20,000 in the past. However, the NES collecting scene has grown in the last few years, and game historian Steve Lin puts the current value at a minimum of $25,000.
Pink Gorilla told IGN that the Nintendo World Championships cartridge is definitely "the most expensive" rare item to come through the store. As for the Nintendo World Championships, they haven’t died. Nintendo brought them back in 2015 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the event, and then again in 2017 to celebrate the launch of the Switch, though neither event has yet to produce such a rare collector’s item.