Over the last few weeks my e-mail filled up with friends and other electronic games enthusiasts bringing to my attention a couple of eBay auctions. Amused at first, I quickly saw a collectors’ chain reaction happening.
These auctions centered on the rare and elusive Stadium Events video games by Bandai, a Japanese toy making company founded in 1900. The first e-mail I received referred to an auction on eBay for an “Old Nintendo NES system and five games” that sold for $13,105.
At first glance, this group of artifacts may look like nothing special, but note in this picture the Stadium Events game box on the left; it accounts for an estimated worth of 95 percent of the lot’s value.
Bandai’s Stadium Events is a rare gem in the world of video game collections, with only 2,000 copies produced for the North American market, and only approximately 200 rumored to have made it into the hands of U.S. consumers. Released in North America in late 1987, the game was intended for use with an early alternate controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System—the Family Fun Fitness Mat produced by Bandai. Early in 1988, however, Nintendo purchased the rights to this technology and remarketed the controller as the Nintendo Power Pad. During this transfer of rights, Nintendo pulled the previous Bandai copies from shelves and had them destroyed, and the few copies of Stadium Events that trickled into the hands of consumers became the coveted Bandi Stadium Event games that sat in basements and attics awaiting the advent of eBay.
When the eBay auction generated lots of press, geeks across everywhere started rummaging through their boxes of old cartridges for these Japanese jewels. Dave, from Kansas, won the scavenger hunt.
A few days after the first auction ended, Dave began his own eBay auction for a single cartridge of–you guessed it–the coveted National Television Standards Committee (NTSC) Bandi Stadium Event cartridge. It was still in its factory shrinkwrap, complete with the original price tag. Asking price? $20,000!
That asking price seemed a little steep to me. I thought perhaps Dave’s reasoning was sprinkled with a touch of wishful thinking left over from the initial auction hype. But a few days ago I learned that he sold the game for $41,300!
I thought this feeding frenzy couldn’t go any further, but yesterday, eBay had yet another mint condition NTSC Stadium Events cartridge auction. With just over five hours to go and fifty-two bidders, the top bid was $800,200! Five hours later, this top bidder won.
It amazes me that what started as a small ripple in the international video game market in early 1988 has become practically a collecting tsunami within 23 years. Since these recent auctions began, I’ve scoured my basement to no avail, and my credit card has a limit well below $800,000. And NCHEG won’t have Stadium Events in the collection this week, either, but we’ll forever be on the lookout for nuggets like this and other significant finds. Meanwhile, we’re glad that events like this one around a single Japanese game bring so much attention to the importance of collecting and preserving historic electronic games.