Vintage Video Games: Donkey Kong 3 could win $20K at auction

A copy of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong 3 (NES, 1986) and a rare cartridge of Nintendo World Championships are now enticing collectors to pay $20,000+ at auction.
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Heritage Auctions expects collectors, investors may bid $20,000 or more for limited run and prototype video games

DALLAS – Who could predict a copy of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong 3 (NES, 1986) and a rare cartridge of Nintendo World Championships (NES, 1990) – the game played during the world’s first nationwide video game competition – are now enticing collectors to pay $20,000 or more for each at auction?

Donkey Kong 3

Donkey Kong 3 (NES, Nintendo, 1986)

Donkey Kong 3 (NES, Nintendo, 1986) Wata 9.2 A (Seal Rating) Variant: Sealed Hangtab, 4th Revision, 2 Codes. Photos courtesy of Heritage Auctions, www.ha.com.

Donkey Kong 3 (NES, Nintendo, 1986) Wata 9.2 A (Seal Rating) Variant: Sealed Hangtab, 4th Revision, 2 Codes. Photos courtesy of Heritage Auctions, www.ha.com.

The explosive demand for vintage video games, particularly those professionally certified, are now bringing big dollars at auctions, with no price ceiling in sight.

A group of 53 such games and game prototypes will cross the auction block May 16-18 in Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction in Dallas, Texas, and on HA.com.

“This Donkey Kong 3 is the fourth revision of this black box game, indicated in part by the presence of the hangtab under the shrink wrap,” Heritage Auctions’ Video Game Consignment Director Valarie McLeckie said. “This particular variant had a very small print window, and there are fewer than five of this variant confirmed in sealed condition. We anticipate this will be a very popular item with collectors.”

These games and others are all sealed in hard plastic cases after certification by Wata Games [www.watagames.com], which has built a strong business based on collector nostalgia. Wata staff evaluates each submission based on condition, authenticity and historic context before the video game is encapsulated in a case secured with six locking clips. Wata even preserves a prototype game’s data by “dumping” and storing it on a secure database which will only be accessible using the firm’s unique Matrix code, a feature that will be released in the near future.

Nintendo World Championships 1990 Gray (NES, Nintendo, 1990) Wata 5.5 (Loose) Cartridge #260.

Nintendo World Championships 1990 Gray (NES, Nintendo, 1990) Wata 5.5 (Loose) Cartridge #260.

The gray cartridge of Nintendo World Championships 1990 is one of fewer than 100 left from the 1990 Nintendo World Championships US Tour. Some competitors’ parents expressed concerns that it was unfair that there was a Nintendo Power giveaway for the Gold version of these cartridges, but their kids who participated in the competition would not get one to keep. The offered copy is one of those given to satisfy those concerns, and it is believed that only 50 to 60 remain in existence.

Many have torn labels, some with writing on them, meaning very few can be considered to be in true mint condition. Ironically, the cheaper glue that allowed some labels to lift up from the cartridges, and subsequently were glued back down, now are considered a measure of authenticity. So rare are these cartridges that they have become the centerpiece of many collections.

Sought-after prototypes offered in the auction include Adventure Island Prototype (NES, Hudson Soft, 1988) Wata Certified may sell for more than $4,000, and collectors could also pay $4,000 for a copy of Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos Prototype (NES, Tecmo, 1990) Wata Certified.

“Until now, prototype collecting was not as accessible to collectors because authenticating these handmade cartridges requires a great deal of specialized knowledge,” McLeckie said. “Each prototype is completely unique as there were no standardized means of creation for these test cartridges. Now, with Wata certifying them, anyone can be much more confident that the prototype games they’re buying are genuine.”

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