While friends and family often tease me about my “collections of collections,” I love hearing (and sharing) stories about “extreme” collectors, the guys that make me look normal. Almost.
Pre-Internet, it was often difficult to accurately judge the rarity of an item. All we could really do back then was judge items based on our own experience. For example, we all knew that that Atari 2600 games Combat and Pac-Man were common, but we assumed Sneak n’ Peek (an Atari game that let kids play hide and seek in a virtual house) was rare because we only knew one kid who owned it. On a scale of 1-10, Sneak n’ Peek is only a 2 — “Common+”. Who says so? The AtariAge Online Rarity Guide. For years, collectors have been compiling production numbers, information and actual sales records to create a pretty good ranking system, or “rarity guide”.
Thanks to the Internet, the world of collecting has shrunk. For example, while growing up I didn’t know anyone who owned “Double Dragon” for the Atari 2600, and I’ve never run across a copy in the wild, but it only ranks 5/10 on the rarity scale. So if a game I’ve never run across only rates as a 5, what kind of game is a 9/10? How about Swordquest: Waterworld, a game that was originally only available to Atari Club members via mail order. There are a couple for sale on eBay for $189, if you’re interested. And if that sounds expensive, heh, keep reading.
Air Raid, for the Atari 2600, is a 10/10 — “Unbelievably Rare”. How rare is “unbelievably rare”? AtariAge.com keeps a list of people who own Air Raid carts, and the list is up to fifteen people. Copies of Air Raid are selling for around $3,000 on eBay. And if that sounds expensive, heh, keep reading.
Not much is known about Air Raid. It was apparently made by a company named Men-A-Vision, and not much is known about them, either. Up until around April 1st, every copy of Air Raid found had been “loose” — that is, without a manual or a box. It had been assumed that the game was never sold in stores or mass produced.
And then, an “Air Raid Box” was discovered.
It’s too bad that the rarity scale only goes to 10; finding an Air Raid box is like a 10/10 times another 10/10, or something equally mathematically impossible.
The guy who found the box took it to the owner of AtariAge, who said it looked authentic. How authentic? $31,600 worth of authentic.
There’s no real way to authenticate the box, as (currently) it’s one of a kind, produced by a company that nobody knows anything about. Still, the auction was real (both the buyer and seller are regulars over at Atari Age).
So, that puts my own little collecting hobby in perspective. If anyone is interested in buying my complete arcade collection for $31,600, I’ll load up all 25 cabinets on a trailer behind a truck and deliver them to your house; for that price, you can keep the truck and the trailer, too.