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


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My collection saw some really big additions in December, including a handful of 2600 carts I was beginning to feel like I'd never find.  I'm also enjoying collecting foreign carts way more than I thought I would.  Check out these new beauties:



The top two rows are all NTSC format; the bottom row, L-to-R, is PAL, PAL-M (Brazil), PAL.


Going through 'em, in order:

  1. Gray label Asteroids NTSC is crazy rare, and was the next-to-last unique silver/gray USA title I still needed.  PAL versions of the gray label Asteroids are way more common.  NTSC versions are all copyright 1986 and mention the joystick controllers.  PAL versions don't mention the joysticks, and sometimes also have the old picture label style end label (with blue text).
  2. Sears pic label Canyon Bomber is more rare than most guides claim; I've only seen a few copies show up on eBay in the last 20 months. I absolutely love the artwork -- I wish this copy were slightly cleaner but I'm thrilled to have it regardless!  After this addition, Gunslinger and Superman are the final two on the Sears pic label list...
  3. Obélix is a quite uncommon cart as well, though nowhere on the same order of rarity as the first two carts listed.  I find it to be a pretty enjoyable game, actually, and I'm really glad to have gotten a great deal on this one.  The final silver/gray label NTSC cart now needed: Asterix.
  4. The Atari Corp version of Missile Command with controller info omitted was a huge find -- it also has a unique Harry/Hammer Fat font end label (see below).  I'm still in search of a Basic Programming with the same style of end label.
  5. Guardian is the second-rarest cart produced by Apollo (the rarest, Lochjaw, is orders of magnitude harder to find).  Got this really nice example as part of a trade/sale with an AA member.
  6. Dishaster is about as rare as the other four Zimag carts, but to snag one with such a great label was super unexpected.  They're usually in horrible shape; I honestly wondered if I'd gotten one with a repro label but... it's legit!
  7. Pac-Kong (aka Spider Maze, Spider Monster, Spider Kong, Inca Gold) puts up a formidable fight when it comes to worst Atari 2600 game ever.  But... it does score highly in the title department with me!  It has literally nothing to do with Pac-Man or the Transformer-looking thing on the label.  One *could* draw a slight comparison with Donkey Kong gameplay, but... yeah, no.
  8. The Polyvox version of Beamrider is considered one of the rarest Polyvox carts -- between that and Mr. Chin I think I now have the two hardest-to-find titles.  I love that Polyvox carts look like the Atari silver/gray labels, but yet you'll find Activision games, Parker Brothers games, and a few other non-Atari games mixed in.
  9. Last but not least, Kampf um die Schatzinsel was a Quelle (a German department store / mail-order company -- think Sears) produced cart, and it's the same as an original game by Home Vision called Treasure Discovery (also known as Treasure Island).  It's... not a good game, haha.



I've had to put the brakes on collecting for a little bit, but there's one more purchase that I made in December that I look forward to sharing soon...  :D

Edited by Ballblaɀer
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Taking this opportunity to celebrate Atari Day with... Sears!  :D




That there is every Sears picture label cartridge produced, minus the insanely rare Superman (of which fewer than 20 are known to exist, I think, but of course it's hard to say for sure).  Picking up the last non-Superman cart that I needed, Gunslinger, in December was what finally put me into the Sears "32 Club".  Here are what I feel are the nine hardest-to-find:




The AtariAge rarity ratings for Sears pic labels need an overhaul.  Gunslinger's picture label is at the top of the heap -- using AA's rating system I think I'd honestly give it an 8 or 9.  I waited almost two years for a single copy to turn up!  Following that would be Canyon Bomber, which I'd be comfortable calling an 8.  Next up would be Night Driver, Basketball, and Asteroids, all a solid 7.  The remaining four games I'd probably make a rarity 6.  Some of those not pictured here come close, though -- I feel Adventure, Arcade Pinball, Missile Command, and Race would all be should all be at least a 5.  Rarity ratings change over time, certainly, but AA's rarity ratings for these haven't been updated since 2001.  Here's 2001; here's now.


A few interesting things...


- Asteroids' artwork is rotated 90 degrees compared to the Atari artwork:



I think I prefer the layout design of the Sears carts... the Atari logo and product number get in the way of the artwork, and could just as easily have been placed elsewhere on the cart (á la Sears):



"Outer Space" is the only non-Sears-exclusive picture label cart not to have a respective Atari picture label cart.  Atari did, however, introduce this unique label for Star Ship that looks like no other release -- it has elements of the text labels (i.e. listing the game variations), the picture labels (the font used for the title and game variations), and even silver labels (the Atari 2600 logo up top and the controllers/copyright text at bottom)!



I've started a thread with a poll that asks which artwork variation you prefer for certain Atari/Sears variants.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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I mentioned this in a status update a while ago but never got around to taking some photos until today.  The newest addition to my Atari hardware collection: the stylish 1200XL computer!




It was possibly the most poorly-packaged item I've ever received from a seller -- I could see what was inside the box before I even took it out of the package locker.  The tape on the box was more decorative than anything else!  That said, for what I paid I would have expected a trashed computer that reeked of cigarettes, or something... but what I got looks great and still works, so I can't complain too much.




The design of this computer is just off-the-charts good.  It's sleek, sexy, and eye-catching, and there aren't too many computers from this era for which I could say the same.  Hats off to Regan Cheng, seriously.




I love that the cartridge port is on the side -- it seems natural there, as opposed to the 600XL / 800XL where it cuts into the face of the case.  Little details like the slightly forward-facing controller ports only add to an already great design.  On another note, Oil's Well is a *great* game.


Gotta start saving my pennies for either an Ultimate cart, or an SIO2PC cable.  It looks like I can probably make my own cable pretty easily if I can just find a cheap SIO cable to cannibalize.


Super excited to have finally joined the A8 club with this beauty!

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If you've been following me over at @AtariSpot then you've seen me post these things already, but 140 characters doesn't leave much room for blatherin' on about things! 


A little while ago I completed the CBS collection of games for the 2600:




Is Wizard of Wor the only Atari cart that explicitly spells out your game objectives right on the label?  I can't think of another one off the top of my head.  Tunnel Runner is probably my favorite of these games in terms of gameplay, but I'll always love Gorf having played that one as a kid.  I didn't get to play it in an arcade until relatively recently, so I never knew what I was missing with the 2600 version.  Four unique screens of gameplay was never not awesome!


I picked up a nice copy of the Atari 1983 Coupon Calendar in an eBay lot:




I should have taken the photo with something else in the picture for scale.  It's about as big as a standard magazine.  Then you open it up, and... wow!  Before Art of Atari was released, this was one of the only ways to see some of Atari's best artwork in a larger format.




I'd never seen this particular artwork anywhere before...



...and until the other day I didn't notice that it had a signature:




Any ideas?  I've asked Tim Lapetino about it and will update should he be able to tell me more.


One final thing for this post -- the second-to-last Atari 5200 title I was missing:




I need to get a photo of my entire 5200 collection now (since I likely won't have the last cartridge I'm missing in the near future given its typical asking price).  A few of my carts could use an upgrade, and I'm still in search of a number of manuals and overlays, but having QFQR was my last *major* goal for 5200 collecting -- so I'm happy to have finally crossed it off!

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CBS made some really great games for 2600.  Wizard of Wor is probably my favorite of the bunch.


I think I owned that calendar in 1983, but I probably stupidly threw it away once the year ended.  That's a really cool find.  I love that era of Atari marketing with the silver background and rainbow font with the horizontal lines....It's the era of the XL computers in my mind. 

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From 4000 miles away across the Atlantic to my little ol' collection, one of the toughest Atari carts to acquire, NTSC *or* PAL:



That there is CX26190, the Atari-branded re-release of TNT's BMX Airmaster, in pristine condition.  This was the one red label title released as NTSC that I didn't have, and... well, I still don't have it.  :lol:  This particular cart is PAL format.  If I ever come across an NTSC red label cart I'll naturally swap this one out of the collection, but it's a low priority given that 1) I have the original TNT version of the game in NTSC format, 2) the labels for the NTSC and PAL Atari releases are identical, and 3) there's some absurdly low number of NTSC carts that have surfaced.


CX26190 is the highest Atari 2600 game product number to have both an NTSC and a PAL release.  Klax (CX26192) was only ever released as PAL.  It's not known whether CX26191 was ever assigned to a title.  As for the game itself, BMX Airmaster is one that I really enjoy.  It was programmed by Adam Clayton, who also did Dark Chambers.  Fun fact: at age 15, Adam was the one who first wrote to Atari about having found Warren Robinett's easter egg in Adventure.


As for this latest acquisition... even better, it came with the Atari manual!




Since I generally don't collect game boxes (but I do like having manuals!) it was the perfect score, and I got it for an amazing price.  It's a great feeling when a tireless search pays off!

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The most recent additions to my Atari collection are things I’ve not seen in photos on the internet or elsewhere.  I can't see that they've been cataloged on AtariMania.com, AtariBoxed.com, or any other comprehensive database sites, and I’ve never really seen them specifically mentioned on any Atari forums or in Usenet groups like RGVC.  I don't believe these are super-rare or anything; one has to think that lots (thousands, perhaps?) of these were printed.  I just don't think anyone has bothered to document and share them.  So, what are they?



These are unique Swedish language instruction manuals from licensed international distributors for the Atari VCS in Scandinavia.  They are supplementary to the standard English manuals, and are designed to refer directly back to the English manuals for illustrations, etc.  Most are printed in black-and-white only, but a handful of them have color printing.  Two of them -- Space War and Surround -- have the officially licensed artwork on the front, too.  Video Chess has the title of "Schack", the Swedish word for Chess.




When it came to releasing region-specific products for the VCS, Atari partnered with distributors all over the world.  Aficionados may be familiar with some of the more noteworthy ones like Polyvox in Brazil, Monaco Distributors in New Zealand, and Irwin Electronics in Canada (see photo of Night Driver manual below, another recent collection addition). Some of Atari’s international relationships, including those with Scandinavia, find their roots in the first half of the 1970s when Atari/Syzygy partnered with a number of coin-op distributor corporations.  Check out mcurrent’s fantastic Atari timelines for additional details.



Atari's connection to Scandinavia appears to have originated in 1973 through the newly incorporated Atari International, with partner “AB Roulettekonsult och Spelautomater”, a roulette & slot machine distributor in Sweden that (if I'm reading translations properly) originally dates back to 1963.  Sometime in their earliest years, the Swedish company re-branded as (or signed a partnership agreement with -- it’s not clear to me which) Cherry, a Swedish casino gaming company.  One of the coin-op Atari games that Cherry distributed was a uniquely manufactured Breakout.  Cherry also seemingly built their own version of the Atari Theater kiosk, though I'm not sure if any were ever put into service.  Anyway, it's this same company that later also distributed the Atari VCS and its games in Scandinavia.  The manuals are mostly attributed to “Cherry Hemelektronik AB” (Cherry Home-Electronics Ltd.) and “Cherry Företagen” (Cherry Enterprises).


35841457270_8cfca19757.jpg  35841457720_e2b02cf063.jpg


In addition to Cherry, there are also some manuals printed by “AlgaVision AB” and “AB Alga” to contend with.  AB is the Swedish acronym for Aktiebolag, which is like "Corporation" or "Limited Company".  I don't think that AlgaVision is directly related to Cherry, though they seem to have similar/overlapping regional coverage.




Alga appears to have had an office in Finland as well: they printed an Atari 2600 system owner's manual all in Finnish.  An article (“Growing Interest in TV Games”) in December 1981 Norwegian magazine “Radiobransjen” refers to AlgaVision AB as Atari's official distributor in Sweden, Finland, and Norway.*  Inter-Salg A/S is named as another Atari distributor in Norway.** The designs of the B&W Cherry manuals and those of the Alga manuals are nearly identical.  Interestingly, I've found two images through Google Image Search that show VCS advertisements from Cherry; one of them has the ad displayed next to a separate ad from AlgaVision, the other has the ad by itself but with an AlgaVision sticker ON it, as if maybe they were sharing stock, or they took over for Cherry at some point.


All of this is to say that I don't yet understand how these Scandinavian companies were related (if at all), both in general and chronologically.




My first instinct is to wonder how it's possible that these particular manual supplements don’t seem to have ever been documented anywhere.  Then I remember that, while Atari expanded their business all over the globe, the VCS didn’t become a part of global mainstream pop culture in the same way or to the same extent that it did in North America.  Ultimately, So if, say, some devoted Atari VCS fans don’t go to the trouble of unearthing and cataloging things like this, they could potentially be lost to time.


I call on everyone, especially international readers, to help me chart the existence of additional manuals and supplements (find me at @AtariSpot on Twitter, message me here or on AA, or email AtariSpot [at] gmail [dot] com).  I’ve been building a spreadsheet tracking major variants of Atari manuals, and I'm sure that the international manuals I have listed are but a fraction of what exists.  I also strongly encourage everyone to scan unique manuals and submit them to AtariMania, AtariBoxed, and archive.org -- these things are all part of video game history and deserve to be preserved electronically, if in no other way!  We’re seeing big pushes to archive post-crash video game history in recent years, but not nearly the same attention and effort is being given to classic systems, and especially non-North American releases.  I hope to help change that.


*Bonus: there’s a full-page VCS ad on page 6 of the same magazine which shows Inter-Salg A/S as the Norwegian distributor.

**Double bonus: there’s an article that appears to be about VCS Pac-Man sales in this June 1982 issue of Radiobransjen -- when I get more time I intend to try to translate it.

Edited by Ballblaɀer
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