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Rare 24-year-old game takes eBay by storm

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Nintendo World Championships (Credit: JJ Hendricks)

For a game that was used in a tournament in 1990, Nintendo World Championships sure is popular these days.

Copies of the ultra-rare title have been popping up regularly on eBay and commanding eye-popping prices. The question is: Are any of the bids legitimate?

The most recent sale closed with the cartridge selling for $100,088, more than five times as much as the game typically commands. Normally that’d be cause for celebration, but it’s very possible this is just another case of eBay users trolling sellers.

In late January, another NWC cartridge owner thought he’d hit paydirt when his copy of the game sold for $99,902 on eBay. That jubilation was short-lived, though, when the buyer retracted the bid, saying it was a “mistake.”

And, as you read this, the price is escalating on yet another copy of the game on eBay. The seller of this copy, though, is taking some precautions, putting a “Buy It Now” price tag on the cartridge of $50,000 (it’s also bundled with rare memorabilia from the 1990 event itself).

So what the heck makes this thing so valuable?

The game was tied with a 1990 U.S. contest that toured 21 cities around the country. Players were tasked with scoring as many points as they could in six minutes and 21 seconds of bite-sized versions of Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris. Only 116 copies were ever manufactured: 90 copies of the game were gray cartridges, while 26 were painted gold.

The February 4 auction was for one of those gold copies, which might explain the price inflation.

"Only 26 Gold carts were made for the Nintendo Power Magazine NWC giveaway,” the seller wrote. “Still, case in point, this is an authentic, original NWC Gold cart from the Nintendo Power Magazine championships giveaway back in the early 90s. The cart plays just fine and will be worth much much more in the future as no one actually knows if all 26 gold carts are still around."

So far there are no conclusive signs that the most recent completed sale of the gold cartridge is another ‘mistake,’ though skepticism is certainly understandable. If it is legitimate, it would set a new record for any NES game. That record is currently held by a prototype copy of The Legend of Zelda, which went for $55,000 in 2012.

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