Behind the Sale: 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge
If you pay attention to many gaming blogs, you probably heard about the recent sale of one of the most valuable console games known to collectors. Even though the Nintendo World Championship cartridges are one of the most well-know games to collectors (see The Rarest and Most Valuable NES Games), the 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge cartridge is said to be a one-of-a-kind item (other copies were said to be destroyed) and was out to rival the NWC Gold cartridge (of which there are 26 in existance) for the spot of the highest-valued cartridge.
The Gold Nintendo World Championship Cartridge has sold for as much as $21,400 and the recent owner of the Campus Challenge cartridge, was hoping that the increased scarcity would help push its value above that of the Gold NWC. Earlier this month, the Nintendo Campus Challenge cartridge closed for $20,100 on eBay — a very respectible price, but just shy of taking the title of the Holy Grail of console game collecting.
The collector that just parted ways with the Nintendo Campus Challenge cartridge is no stranger to the racketboy community as he has helped out with the Rare & Valuable Games series. JJ Hendricks was kind enough to take some time out to talk about his journey as a collector and the story behind this sale.
RB: Tell us briefly about yourself and business and what got you started in rare video game collecting/investing
JJ: I’m 28 years old and own two video games businesses. JJGames.com, a retailer of used video games, and VideoGamePriceCharts.com, a site showing the used prices and pricing history for about 14,000 games. My interest in rare video games started while I was running VGPC and saw how many rare games there are and how much people were willing to pay for them. I also had an opportunity to talk with lots of game collectors through the two websites and learn about the hobby.
RB: For those that aren’t familiar with the cartridge, tell us a bit about its back-story.
JJ: The Nintendo Campus cartridge was created by Nintendo for a video game competition like the Nintendo World Championships in 1990, but this one would tour college campuses and spring break hot spots. The cartridges had three games on them, Super Mario 3, PinBot, and Dr. Mario and a time limit of about 6 minutes. You tried to get the most points on all three games within the allotted time. After the event the games were all supposed to be destroyed but this one was found at an ex-Nintendo employee’s garage sale in 2006.
RB: If you don’t mind saying, how did you go about acquiring the cartridge and how much did you pay for it?
JJ: I bought this cartridge from a big video game collector named Jason, or known online as DreamTR. We were talking about the Nintendo World Championships Gold cartridge I purchased. He mentioned that he owned this cartridge and I asked him, mostly as a joke, if he would be willing to sell it too. He told me he would sell the cartridge, much to my surprise. The price we agreed to was $14,000.
RB: What were your intentions for purchasing it?
JJ: I thought it would be a great game to have in my collection, but mostly I thought it was a great deal. I paid $17,500 for NWC Gold about a month before and there are 12 of those. There is only one known copy of Campus Challenge 91 so I thought it would probably be worth quite a bit more than $14K. I figured I would own it for a while and then sell it some time down the road.
I also contacted the owner of the 92 Campus Challenge and 94 Powerfest cartridges and we discussed doing some joint events where all four of the Nintendo competition cartridges would be available to play for the first time ever. We talked about it and contacted a few video game conventions but nothing ever materialized.
RB: Did you do anything interesting with the cartridge while you owned it?
JJ: Nothing really out of the ordinary for fear that I would damage it. I played it several times myself and then kept it in a safe deposit box. I own five of the reproduction cartridges though and I hosted a tournament at my office to recreate both Nintendo World Championships and Nintendo Campus Challenge. I owned both of the real cartridges at the time, but we played the reproductions at the actual event.
RB: What type of precautions did you take with the cartridge while owning it?
JJ: I stored the cartridge in a safe deposit box to make sure it was secure. I didn’t feel comfortable having a game worth that much just lying around my house with the rest of my game collection.
RB: Was there any drama involved with the acquisition and then the resale of the cartridge?
JJ: The purchase of Nintendo Campus Challenge was very straight forward. It took about 24 hours to negotiate the payment and shipping terms. I decided to pay on installment so I sent two payments for the game and Jason shipped it after the final payment was completed. It arrived in great shape the next day.
When I listed the game for sale I decided to sell it on eBay with no reserve and as a $0.99 starting bid. This was a bit nerve racking at the very end because the price was $8,500 until about two minutes before the auction completed. Then there were 10 bids placed in those last two minutes and the price on eBay jumped up to $20,100. I went from losing $6,000 on the game to making $6,000 in the course of two minutes.
RB: Are you still holding onto any other rare games at the moment?
JJ: I still own Nintendo World Championships Gold. That is definitely the most expensive game I still own.
RB: Do you have more ambitions for investing in more rare games in the future or is it more trouble than its worth?
JJ: I will probably buy more rare games in the future, but it depends on the prices. My guess is collectors will start to realize that the items they have are worth a lot and great deals will be harder to come by. I think it is really fun to own a bit of gaming history, to be able to play a classic game, and still be doing it as an investment. You can’t play with stocks or mutual funds so games are definitely much more fun to invest in.