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Ballblaɀer's collection: 2600, 5200, Vectrex, and...


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Procured the 2800 direct from Japan.  No box, manual, or anything else came with it unfortunately.  I'd like to eventually get my hands on one or two of the Atari 2800 game box and/or manual releases, just as a little added color (the cartridges themselves are indistinct from standard release games).  I mean, take a look at this sweet/unique/weird Air-Sea Battle box:




That is somehow both SO ATARI and SO JAPAN at the same time, it's amazing.  I must find one!  :D


@Clint Thompson -- I do have a Flickr, but there are no other game-related photos there... yet.  I'll probably publish an album of everything I post here, though, so I'll send a link when it's ready. :thumb:

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Next up... some unusual cartridges in my 2600 collection.  Since I'm still working on my "regular" 2600 collection I haven't focused all that much on picking up oddities, but I have managed to score a few noteworthy things.  My favorite example:




You ever have those dreams where things are mostly normal but something seems a little off -- like you're back in your old high school, but the hallways and stairwells don't connect like they should and generally make no sense?  That's how seeing these cartridges released by Atari Monaco (New Zealand) makes me feel.  Like... Berzerk and Defender existing in the silver/gray style is just a tad unsettling to me, somehow!  Or perhaps I'm just weird.  Scratch that, I know I'm weird, but you know what I'm saying, hopefully.


You may have noticed a few additional peculiarities in the first photo, but if not... here's a regular Atari Inc. (USA) Centipede on the left, and an Atari Monaco (NZ) Centipede on the right:




To sum things up: the labels 1) have rounded corners that don't quite fit the shells, 2) are on upside-down compared to "regular" cartridges, and 3) look more like the later Atari Corp. gray labels than the Atari Inc. silver labels.  The end labels for Defender and Berzerk are also unusual in that they're in the silver/gray cartridge style font:




I'm hoping to eventually have some more of these -- there are at least six more titles with silver-style labeling that weren't released in the rest of the world (unless you count some of the Brazilian Polyvox releases, which I don't think look nearly as nice).

Edited by Ballblaɀer
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Let's look at some more unusual cartridges!  Starting off with... the French-Canadian versions of four Activision games.  Funnily enough, they're four sports titles that any French-speaking citizen would understand WITHOUT the translation:




"Sacre bleu!  'Tennis'?  What ze hell ees zis 'Tennis'?!"

*pulls out French-Canadian version of game*

"AHHHH, 'LE Tennis'!  But of course!"




Seriously, someone explain this to me.  :rofl:


These are the only four titles with translations as far as I'm aware.  Hope to replace these with ones in better condition someday, but *standard* Activision games can sometimes be hard to find in good shape!

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"Le Tennis" -- hilarious!


As dumb as this looks, the explanation is pretty simple....it was probably an attempt to meet the Canadian labeling law.  I don't know if the law still applies to games/books, but I'm sure Activision was just playing it safe. 


And man, how cool are those?  I've never seen them before.  Thanks for sharing!

Edited by RickR
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Next up, one sorta-rare label variation, and one super-rare variation:




Two re-releases by Atari Corp., where instead of re-using the old silver label design with plaintext white titles (like most of their other re-releases), they utilized logotype titles above the artwork, "borrowed" from existing instruction manuals.  For example, here's the original Swordquest: EarthWorld manual (image from museumofplay.org):




The original silver Atari Inc. version next to the Atari Corp. re-release:




Note that the Atari Corp. release invites you to "Use with Joystick Controllers" even though SQ: EarthWorld is strictly a one-player game.  :thumb:


Now, why this game was re-released AT ALL is, to me, an inexplicable mystery.  For one thing, it's... just not that good of a game.  For another thing, the EarthWorld contest (i.e. the *point* of playing the game) was proverbial ancient history by 1986.  And to top it off, the game was re-released WITHOUT THE ACCOMPANYING COMIC BOOK, effectively rendering the gameplay completely meaningless.  Dropping random items in random rooms to get numerical clues that match up with... nothing?!  Doesn't that sound like FUN, kids?


Getting back to the cartridge label design, Atari Corp. seemed to do this a lot with their re-releases (use the game manual as the basis for the cartridge artwork).  Most of the time, there was hardly a difference -- the artwork on regular picture labels was sometimes extended outside the picture's border, but that was often the extent of it.  Here's the original 1981 Atari Inc. picture label release of Basketball next to the 1988 Atari Corp. re-release:




Check out that sweet 1988 artwork, it's like the ball is coming right out of the cartridge at you!  Basketball, NOW IN 3D!!!  Okay, not really.  My absolute favorite instance of Atari Corp. using the instruction manual as the basis for their re-release artwork, however, is Pelé's Soccer from 1986/1987:




Hilarious -- where it usually says something like "Use with Joystick Controllers" it now says "Atari Game Program Instructions".  Why?  It's on the game manual (image from atariguide.com):



So yeah, Atari Corp. lifted the "Atari Game Program Instructions" text straight from their manual design, same font and everything!  I like to imagine that there had to be at least one special kid out there, who, upon looking at their new cartridge for the first time in 1986, wondered how on earth they would possibly plug the game instructions into the console. 


As for good ol' "RAIDERS LOST ARK", the end label typo is just amazing.  Right up there with Pole Positn, I think:




And perhaps it's just me, but there's something about those fonts that just *screams* counterfeit/pirate/bootleg to me, especially RAIDERS.  Like... they seem to sorta have the same styling/feel as a lot of "Engrish" on knock-off toy packaging/manuals from China, or something.  Whatever, it all just adds to their charm and the Atari lore, in my mind!

Edited by Ballblaɀer
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Retrogamer81081's thread about 2600 launch titles inspired me to assemble the fine nine together:




If I were to rank their scarcity, I'd say Basic Math is hardest to find, with Star Ship and Street Racer taking 2nd and 3rd place.  Blackjack and Surround were the only two I had in this style growing up.  Air-Sea Battle was the last one I added to my collection, mostly because I refused to pay more than a couple dollars for it.  I don't know why someone "P'd" on my Video Olympics -- my TV doesn't seem to think it's a PAL cart, so probably it just once belonged to Paul, or Pete, or Plaxico, and they wanted to make sure Joey Bagadonuts from around the block didn't take it and try to claim it was his.  The camera flash ended up highlighting a common text label fading pattern on Indy 500 -- it's fairly invisible to the naked eye in regular light.


I find what Atari decided to mark with a "TM" mark a bit weird.  They're unregistered trademarks, so they're not ultimately protected much by law, but... did Atari really think that TAG and ANTI-AIRCRAFT and STAR SHIP were distinct/important things/concepts worth trademarking?  I mean, I totally see wanting to protect/strengthen usage of brand-specific names like FOOZPONG and QUADRAPONG.  QUADRAPONG was even registered with the USPTO, though that was due to Atari releasing an arcade game with that name in 1974 (a re-brand of Kee Games' "Elimination").


But seriously, Atari -- nobody's gonna associate "TORPEDO" with you, don't pretend they will!  And nobody else even *wants* to use "SCOOP BALL", come on.  :lol:




Sometimes it feels to me like Atari had like five label designers working in five different offices, with only the briefest collaboration allowed.  Why is Star Ship the only one of the nine not to have the game title left-justified with its number?  Why the extra little space between "11" and "Indy 500" compared to the others?  Why is Street Racer's number 12 not flush with the left border, like all the rest?  Why does the TM symbol sit above the title text on Air-Sea Battle and Video Olympics?  Having the TM on the very far right end of the label didn't seem to bother them when it came to Street Racer...




Yet another question - why was the decision made to switch from the color borders (01, 03, 11, 12 are the only releases in this style) to the non-color ones?  To save money?  So that future releases would be more uniform-looking?  Because it was Thursday and Thursday was "try something new" day at Atari?  No idea.


In case you were wondering (and even if you weren't), the product numbers were originally genre-specific.  Atari seems to have abandoned this idea early on, but their first released games were grouped by game type:


Action/battle games -- 01 Combat, 02 Air-Sea Battle, 03 Star Ship, 04 Space War, 05 Outlaw

Racing/driving games -- 11 Indy 500, 12 Street Racer

Sports/athletic games -- 21 Video Olympics, 22 Breakout (I guess they figured it was close to tennis?), 23 Baseball, 24 Basketball, 25 Football, 26 Miniature Golf, 27 Human Cannonball (ehhh, sure), 28 Bowling, 29 Sky Diver

Strategy games -- 41 Surround, 42 Hunt & Score, 43 Codebreaker, 44 Flag Capture, 45 Video Chess.

Card/gambling games -- 51 Blackjack, 52 Casino, 53 Slot Machine


As far as I know, only three other cartridges with numbered end labels have surfaced over the years, and only one copy of each:

- "03 Space Mission" showed up on eBay in July 2005.  Space Mission was the original title for Star Ship.  See a very low-res photo from the eBay auction on AtariMania here, along with two photos from early advertising -- one which shows 03 on the end label, one which doesn't.


- "04 Space Combat" came to light on AtariAge a few months later, in Nov. 2005.  This (photo from 2600connection.com) was very unexpected as "Space Combat" was known as a Sears-only title (the Atari-branded version is titled "Space War"), so it's undetermined whether this cart is a marketing mock-up or prototype of some kind, or something else.


- "23 Baseball" popped up at AtariAge in June 2006.  Baseball was the working title for Home Run.  Like the others, it's unclear as to what this actually is as it does not look like a retail release.

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I need to take some good photos of my first complete* set (as of this past week) -- Atari 2600 text labels!  While this is undoubtedly the "easiest" of all the various VCS labels to collect, there are still a few difficult ones to snag at reasonable prices.  And, like all Atari cartridges, there are some fun things to point out on the common ones.  Until I have time to set them all up for one big group photo, here's a smaller group of what I feel are the hardest to find:




AtariAge's rarity guide is super helpful, but it is not without need of some revising.  When it comes to the plain text labels, its biggest flaw is that it rates Flag Capture as a '4', and as the toughest text label cart to find.  Perhaps this was true when the guide was published, but right now the two scarcest are, without question, (A Game of) Concentration and Fun With Numbers.  As of the time of this post, there is not a single (AGO) Concentration to be found on eBay, and there are only four Fun With Numbers carts, two of which are PAL format and one of which is missing its end label.  Everything else, including Flag Capture, can often be found for a few bucks.  I have no interest in ranking their rarity beyond pointing out that the two toughest to find are... the two toughest to find.  Those two titles have some similarities: both started off being sold under different titles (respectively: Hunt and Score, Basic Math), both were not very popular, and both still ended up getting (very rare) picture label re-releases late in the VCS game (1986, in the monochrome gray boxes).


Here's another interesting cart... check out this version of Superman.  What does the label reveal?




Copies of Superman with their copyright information on one line only contain a version of the ROM with a game-breaking glitch wherein one can avoid becoming Clark Kent by using x-ray vision for a few seconds when the game immediately starts.  The bridge still explodes and scatters pieces throughout the game world, but a second bridge remains in place, meaning you can win the game simply by rounding up Lex and his henchmen before going to the Daily Planet.  Wonder how they learned about this bug...


*Finishing up with a comment about what constitutes "complete" -- with Atari, I feel you sorta have to decide to draw the line somewhere.  Some titles were released with text in different colors (I believe Brain Games has the most color variants, but I'm not sure).  Some titles have labels with slightly different size text.  Some use slightly different fonts.  Here's an example of the font variation from my collection:




The Video Olympics cart is a later release, and uses a new styling of the original font -- some letters have gaps (check out the lowercase 'd' in Video Olympics compared to the one in Sky Diver), while some letters are totally different (check out the lowercase 'r' in "game program" , the angled stroke in the lowercase 'e', and the shape of the lowercase 'y' compared to the other cartridges).  Only a few cartridges were released in this second font style as far as I know.  The text labels for Championship Soccer, Dodge 'Em, Maze Craze, and Video Checkers were *only* released with this font style.


What I'm driving at here with all this is that my collection would balloon in size if I were to truly go for EVERY possible variation.  And really, I have no business judging anyone's collecting tendencies given my own fascination with minutiae, but I do question just how much joy a person can derive from having both the blue text Bowling *AND* the red text Bowling, you know?  But... to each their own!  :thumb:

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I had quite the eBay score this past week.  I was doing my usual Atari searching two weeks ago when a fairly nice looking lot of 2600/5200 games went up for sale.




So, a mixed lot of about 50 games.  Pretty standard-looking, with some quality stuff mixed in: an Atari Video Cube, the Mario Bros. label variation I was missing, a clean-looking Sorcerer's Apprentice to upgrade the poor one that I had...  not bad!  Sure, there are a number of games with writing on the labels, but all in all... nice lot.


Then, in an instant... I saw it.  A heavenly chorus reverberated in my ears...




I got tunnel vision.... suddenly, I could see only the boxed 2800 Super Breakout.  The reality around me started to break down a bit, I think -- it's hard to remember exactly.





Then I notice the seller... it's a Salvation Army ARC less than 10 miles from where I live!  HOW?!  I've never seen a 2800 box on eBay USA in my months and months and months of looking, and now there's one being sold by a seller less than a 20 minute drive away?  Turns out they *also* had a separate lot with a 2800 console, so... perhaps someone brought their collection from Japan here?  Who knows.  Whatever -- I immediately realize that I have a secret weapon; an ace up my sleeve... not having to pay shipping if I win!


Anyway, to make a longer story slightly less long, I won the auction for a great deal less than I was prepared to pay.  I was (and remain!) super excited about that fact; I might very well make back most (all?) of what I spent by selling the duplicate games and the boxes I don't want.


So, Wednesday rolls around and I go to the Salvation Army location to make my pick-up.  They'd packed everything up nice and tightly since they assumed they'd be shipping it out to someone.  I just needed to make sure the 2800 box was in there before I drove off with my winnings.  Once I saw that it was tucked in there, I left on cloud nine.


Later on that evening I opened the box back up to have my first look.  Okay, nice, nice... lots of upgrades to some games in my collection, a few label variations, good... some good trade bait...


Then I get to the beautiful, glorious Super Breakout box.  It's a little bit rough, but it's all good where it counts:



I wasn't expecting the manual, so that was a nice bonus!  The box, I'll probably either flatten or try to re-shape a bit, but it's plenty good enough for me as-is.






For some reason the end of the cartridge itself is all chewed up... but it's no big loss since it's not a label unique to Japan.


Okay, let's look at these other boxes.  Any japanese stickers on the backs?  Man, that'd be sweet.  Nah, no such luck.  Okay, wait, I have three loose copies of Amidar here... what's in the Amidar box, then?  Please don't tell me it's a fourth copy of crappy Amidar...


I pick the box up -- it's HEAVY.  What the?  MY GOD...  IT'S FULL OF STARS MANUALS!


The corner of one catches my eye.  HOLY S#!...




Suddenly I find myself riffling through a stack of about 50 manuals, and glints of silver keep catching my eye.  This is crazy!



I didn't even have time to start wondering where the boxes for these might be, because my fingers stop on one of the two pieces of 2800 paraphernalia I was most wanting:




THE 2800 CONSOLE OWNER'S MANUAL.  The one thing that I didn't get with my 2800 that I'd really, really wished it had come with.  And now, here's one that's fallen into my lap totally out of the blue.  Serendipity!




"Table of Contents"

(learning Japanese I think I'm learning Japanese I really think so...)




It even still has the insert sheet explaining how to hook it up with a switchbox.




I'd love to see a Sears Video Arcade II manual now, just to compare!


Anyway, this lot is where many of my latest additions to my trade list come from.  I don't know if I'll ever get so lucky again.  One can only hope!

Edited by Ballblaɀer
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The only reason I had searched for it was because of your posts!




BRB, deleting all my posts.





Congrats on the fantastic haul!!! Well-deserved!


Thanks.  Totally a lucky break.  The auction listing didn't even mention manuals, let alone picture them.  I'm trying my hardest not to dwell on what became of the other 2800 boxes that went with the manuals!  "Don't look a gift Auction in the mouth," or something!

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Over this past weekend I was at my childhood home, and I knew there were some hidden treasures waiting to be found.  It took some poking around the dusty basement, but I found pretty much everything I was looking for.  Here are two of the things I was most hoping to find:



I've got some LR44 batteries coming in the mail, but until they arrive these Nintendo Game & Watch beauties will have to remain untested.  I see no reason why they won't still work -- fingers crossed, anyway.


What I *didn't* know was that I saved the boxes and documentation, too!  I am typically *not* a box collector, but for whatever reason I hung onto these.






Jeez, Nintendo -- want to be a little more descriptively specific about the potential danger to babies?


More handheld goodness to come in the next few days!

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