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Rare Nintendo cartridge sells for $12,000

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Nintendo Powerfest '94 (Credit: JJ Hendricks)

When it comes to collecting video games, JJ Hendricks knows his stuff.

Earlier this week, he completed a two-year quest to obtain one of the rarest of Nintendo cartridges in existence, shelling out over $12,000 to do so. But the story of how he finally got the collectible is even more fascinating than object itself.

At stake was a Nintendo PowerFest '94 cartridge for the Super Nintendo, which was created specifically for a video game competition Nintendo held in the mid-90s across the U.S. and Canada. The cartridge contains tournament versions of three SNES games -- Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Kart and Ken Griffey, Jr. Baseball. A mere 32 were made, and while they were all supposed to be recycled after the tournament, it didn't work out that way.

[Related: Massive old-school video game collection fetches $1.2 million on eBay]

Only two are known to be in existence. When Hendricks wrote about that fact in 2010, he heard from a reader who was interested in selling his copy.

After verifying its authenticity, the two began negotiating. The seller wanted $50,000, which was way out of Hendricks' budget. Things fell apart, but amicably. A year later, the seller reached out again, this time with a $25,000 price tag. Again, they couldn't find a mutually acceptable compromise.

For a while, it looked like another buyer would step in, but in January, the seller said the deal had fallen through. Hendricks offered $12,000, and it was accepted.

Then it got complicated.

Because of the value of the cartridge and the money involved, the seller wanted the transaction to take place in person. That meant dealing with airlines. Hendricks couldn't get to Canada, the seller's home country, on his miles, and didn't want to spend another $1,000 on travel expenses. While the seller came to the U.S. on business regularly, they spent over six months trying to make a date work.  Earlier this month, they finally found a date during which they'd be within a few hours of each other.

There was another hurdle to clear, though: The seller insisted on a cash transaction, which meant Hendricks had to do some financial shuffling (involving opening up an account at a bank with an office in the small Vermont town he was visiting) to ensure he had that much with him when he was on the road.

On July 14, they finally met. The cartridge was tested -- don't worry, it works -- prompting Hendricks to hand over a purple bag full of $100 bills. The two shook hands and the deal was done.

The PowerFest '94 cartridge, while a serious treasure, isn't the priciest game in the world. That honor belongs to Stadium Events for the original NES. Two years ago, a sealed copy netted over $40,000 at auction.

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