Presented by Ack & Racketboy
Due to its age, and the bizarre state of the video game industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Atari 2600 has seen some of the cheapest and common, as well as some of the rarest and most valuable games ever released. Because of the rarity of certain games, it is nigh-impossible to build a complete collection for the console, especially if one attempts to collect the different versions of some companies’ games.
But if you happen to look in on your Atari 2600 collection and spot one of the titles mentioned below, or wander across them in a bargain bin at a local flea market or yard sale, thank your lucky stars, because you will hold a real piece of gaming history. So take a look, one of these might just be sitting in your closet right now.
In stark contrast to the Cheapest Games series, this Rare & Valuable series will round up the rarest and most valuable games for a given console or handheld so you’ll know what to look for whether you are buying or selling. It should be noted, prices vary based on condition and completeness of the title.
|Gamma Attack: $20,000 – $50,000
The only game released by company Gammation, programmed by Robert L. Esken, Jr., and seeing only a handful of cartridges produced, Gamma-Attack remains one of the rarest video games ever made. How rare you ask? There is one copy known to exist, in the hands of collector Anthony DeNardo.The eBay auction in February 2008 for Gamma-Attack was Mr. DeNardo’s copy, put up to showcase his amazing find. The auction had a $500,000 Buy-It-Now price. Back when originally published this guide in 2009, we had this game valued between $5,000 and $10,000. This is what Mr. DeNardo estimated the worth at in 2008, but he confessed that he had received even larger offers for the title.Nearly five years later, the video game collecting market has taken off quite a bit, so it is easy to value Gamma Attack between $20,000 and $50,000 making it arguably the most valuable video game of all time.
It is worth noting that the ROM of Gamma Attach has been released, and in 2008 Gammation unveiled GammAttack4, a re-release of the game for PC emulators. Gammation’s website is www.gammation.com. You can also occasionally find reproductions of the game on eBay
|Birthday Mania: $15,000 – $35,000
Distributed by Personal Games, Birthday Mania cartridges were specially ordered cartridges with personalized title screens and spaces on the front where names could be written in. The game focused on the player blowing out birthday candles, and the game was billed as a perfect birthday gift. It didn’t really catch on, so there are very few of these out on the market.So how rare is it? Well, there’s only a couple claimed to exist. One is supposedly in the hands of Jerry Greiner, known Atari collector and enthusiast, while another belongs to a user at AtariAge (I won’t list his name since he appears to value his privacy). Since Greiner has never actively proven his ownership, it means the one from AtariAge is the only known in existence. (Yes, that could very well make it more rare than the NES Nintendo World Chamption Cartidges)Back in 2009, the highest known offer for a copy of Birthday Mania was $6500, but it was turned down by the owner.With recent sales of Air Raid and the rise of collecting over the last 5 years, Birthday Mania could easily fetch 2 to 5 times the amount of that offer.
|Air Raid: $3,400 – $33,400
This game was apparently the only released by MenAvision with possibly only twelve official copies ever seeing the light of day. The cartridge is blue, with a t-shaped handle on the end.Gameplay centers around the player attempting to protect a city by shooting down flying saucers, airplanes, and other kinds of enemies which are trying to bomb said city. To do this, the player must fly around in their own aircraft, launching missiles at enemy ships. Waves are continuous, though scores are tabulated so players can compete against themselves.For many years, only cartidge-only versions of the game had surfaced. In 2004, the cartridge sold $3,305 and another one was listed in 2009 for $5,000 and passed without a bid. However, in 2012, we have now see two boxed copies sell on eBay and GameGavel — for $14,000 and $33,400 respectively.
These recent sales made it one of the highest priced video game transations of all time (a bit behind the $41,300 that was paid for a copy of Stadium Events for the NES). For the record, it would be very interested in seeing one of the other two games change hands just so we can see the values/
|Atlantis II: $5,000-$18.000
This was a special tournament version of the Atari 2600 game Atlantis. The gameplay is much faster, the scoring system has been slightly altered from the original, and enemy ships are worth far less than the original version, where the city of Atlantis must be protected from the evil Gorgon spaceships. Copies of the cartridge were sent to the top players in the Defend Atlantis competition, primarily because there were far more than four people capable of maxing out the score in the original Atlantis. Of those receiving the cartridge, four were chosen and sent to Bermuda for the final round of the competition, where the winner won $10,000. The game looks identical to Atlantis, though a sticker with “Atlantis II” typed on it was stuck to the front of the box. It is unknown who won the competition.
|Red Sea Crossing: $10,400 – $14,000
This game was created by Steve Slack at Inspirational Video Concepts in 1983 and was advertised in some magazines, but wasn’t uncovered by gaming collectors until 2007 at a garage sale. As the story goes, there were only 100 copies produced, but they were quickly lost with no idea what happened to them. There are only 2 copies that have surfaced. According the the advertisement, the game was supposed to come with a coloring book and an audio tape, but we have yet to see any of those items surface. In September 2012, the cartrridge sold for nearly $14,000 on eBay. Another copy showed up at Medium Bob’s Curioisity shop in Philadelphia and was later sold on GameGavel for $10,400. If a copy ever is sold with the coloring book and/or the audio cassette, I’m sure it could climb higher on this list.
This title has nothing to do with the later action RPG series Atari would release. Instead, the plot follows Sir Robert Whittenbottom as he runs the gauntlet of an ancient tribe in an attempt to prove his manhood and join the tribe. The player could run around or leap over various obstacles, and could survive multiple hits before finally succumbing to wounds. The game was mail-order only from Answer Software and was not contained in a box, instead coming in a foam case.We haven’t really seen much activity on this release in recent years. Copies back in the early 2000s went for about $3,000. I think it would be safe to say that it could reach $5,000 or more if went up for sale in good condition.
Check for Gauntlet on eBay
|Karate – Ultravision release: $2500-$4000
Some of you may be shocked by this winding up on the list, because the Froggo release of this game for the Atari 2600 really isn’t rare at all. If you happen to be the proud owner of the Ultravision release of this game however, count yourself among the lucky few because both the T-case and square case Ultravision releases are considered worth these exorbitant rates. Functionally however, there really isn’t much of a difference, so owning the Froggo version will let you play the game.
|Superman (Sears Telegames Picture-Labeled Version): $1,000 – $3,000Don’t get too excited if you have the standard Superman release with the red text on the labels. Even a typical Sears release of the Superman game with the text-only label is only worth $150 to $200. However, if you have the Sears version that has the yellow text and the picture of Superman on it (see comparison shot with the standard release), you’re in luck. It is the rarest of the Sears Telegames variants and can fetch a few thousand dollars. A boxed copy recently sold on eBay for over $30,000 in November 2012.|
|Pepsi Invaders: $815 – $2125
This was a revision of Space Invaders, specially designed and built for the executive level of the Coca-Cola corporation, so there are believed to have only ever been 130 of these games, at most. Instead of waves of aliens being fended off, the player must shoot invading letters that say PEPSI, as well as a flying Pepsi logo that replaced the flying saucer at the top of the screen. The game also includes a three-minute timer, so the player can’t dally about.A recent copy on eBay and only sold for $815, although, there wasn’t a lot of varifcation that is was the real deal. Other verified sales on eBay include a 2005 sale for $1,825 and a 2010 sale for $2,125.
|The Music Machine: $380 – $500 – $5250
This title by Sparrow was only available through religious bookstores. That’s right, it’s a religious game for the Atari 2600, where two children must collect the Fruits of the Spirit that fall from the Music Machine in a basket, then grab a heart to move to the next level. This game was the only video game release by Sparrow, though they still exist today. A Music Machine LP was released at the same time which contained several inspirational songs which could be listened to at the same time. In 2009 sealed copy sold on eBay for $5250.00. A loose cartridge of the game sold for $500 in August of 2012. and also for $380 in September 2012
Check for The Music Machine on eBay
|Eli’s Ladder: $1500-$1700
Easily the rarest educational game ever made, as well as one of the rarest for the Atari 2600, primarily due to an extremely limited release. Players must answer basic math questions to help Eli climb a ladder to get back to his ship so he can fly to the moon. The game also came packed with a wall chart and motivational stickers for children, which are also difficult to find.
Check for Eli’s Ladder on eBay
|River Patrol: $760 – $2000
Due to a very limited run for a port of an obscure arcade game, River Patrol is considered extremely rare. There’s speculation that as few as six copies may be in circulation among collectors. It is unclear why the game is so rare, though there is speculation that it has to do with the trouble engineers had programming the game to licensing problems over the arcade game, as well as its 1984 post-video game crash release date. The game also holds the distinction of being one of the few 2600 titles with music. Players must navigate a large boat down a river strewn with obstacles. Back in 2009, the game was valuabled between $300 and $500, but in 2012, the game cartridge (without box) sold on eBay for $760.
Check for River Patrol on eBay
|Cubicolor: $1,183 – $1,425
Even in the early days of the console business, there were times that a game got pushed aside by a publisher and developers go indie to sell their creations. Cubicolor was developed by Rob Fulop during his days at Imagic. After the company refused to publish it, Rob sold it on his own. Since we don’t have the distribution methods we do today, the game was very limited in quantities. Earlier reports suggested there were “less than 100” copies of the game circulated, however later information reported that there were 50 cartridges made. Each cartridge was signed and numbered by Rob. The recent sale on eBay also mentioned that the cartridge included an “original letter from Rob about the game, [which] also included is the packing envelope and game instructions .The letter and envelope both have Robs company logo on it (PF. Magic). In the letter he mentions being flattered that anybody would pay attention to these games anymore.He also talks about his fascination with Rubiks Cube, and Cubicolor being designed and programmed in 8 weeks. He goes on to say he kept 50 copies of the ROM and guaranteed that no more will ever be made.” If you would like to see more pictures of the cart and the letter from Rob Fulop, check out this archived copy of the eBay auction contents.
|Xante Releases: $200-$1350 individually
Xante was a small company based out of Oklahoma which opted to sell popular games via blue rewritable cartridges. Whenever a player grew tired, they could return to a Xante kiosk and have a new game written on their cart, complete with generic label and box. Games released this way include Alien, Solar Storm, No Escape, Demon Attack, Beany Bopper, and Crypts of Chaos. There are certain Brazilian releases with the same-style cartridge, such as Spacegame, but these generally are worth the same amount, so don’t feel bad if it turns out not to be a Xante cart. It’s still worth quite a bit.The last eBay sale of a Xante release was Beany Bopper in October 2012 for $579.
|Mangia: $720 – $1000
In this game, you must either eat the plates of pasta your mother is constantly making, or throw it to your pets. Eat too much and your stomach explodes, but don’t get rid of the plates quick enough and your table collapses. The game is also noted for having one of the most annoying sound effects of the entire Atari 2600 library. This is a black cartridge Spectravision release, but was only released through the Columbia House Record Club. It may also be worth mentioning that a European release of the game was recently sold on eBay for about $200. Also a boxed copy that was missing the instruction manual just sold in December 2012 for $1000.
Check for Mangia on eBay
|Out of Control: $270 – $2200
The point of this game is to weave your ship through space buoys and pop several balloons before executing a perfect landing in a space station. There’s also a minimalist idea used for the sound and visuals. But what’s really impressive is the price tag. The game had the unfortunate problem of releasing in the middle of the video game crash of 1983, so manufactured amounts were very little, and the game didn’t sell very well, hence why it’s so difficult to find now. Loos cartridges show up on eBay fairly regularly for under $300, but the boxed copy has fetched well over $2,000
Check for Out of Control on eBay
|Condor Attack – Ultravision Release: $200 – $1,830
Much like Karate mentioned above, this game is only valuable if you have the Ultravision release. There are bare cartridges showing up on eBay fairly regularly, but a complete, boxed copy only shows up every now and then. In November 2012, a boxed, albeit roughed-up copy, sold for $1340. A more pristine copy sold a month earlier for over $1800.
|BMX Airmaster – Atari release: $300-$800
While this game is not terribly uncommon, it’s the TNT release that can be found so easily. But late in this game’s production, Atari bought the rights and produced a limited number of their own cartridges for it. Of these, fewer sold, making it difficult to find a copy of Atari’s BMX Airmaster. Don’t be fooled by the “RARE” label you see on most auction sites next to this game. Rarely is it really the rare version.
This is the original release of the game Shark Attack, put out before Apollo changed the name due to a pending lawsuit of copyright infringement for the film Jaws. Certain minor changes were also made to the game, though these aren’t really noticeable. The point of the game is to grab as many diamonds as possible without letting the shark get you. If the shark does get you, he eats you, just as he eats any diamonds he comes into contact with. The Loch Ness Monster can also be found hiding in various undersea caves, and will hunt the player down if disturbed.
Check for Lochjaw on eBay
|Quadrun: $180 – $410
First, this title was released exclusively via mail-order by Atari. Second, it was kept in limited quantities because the play-testers hadn’t liked the game. This is what happens when you let a group of little girls test your game(seriously, that’s actually what happened). For the record, the game’s also the first Atari game to utilize voice synthesis.Loose copies of Quadrun routinely show up on eBay for under $200, but a compete copy can fetch over $400.
Check for Quadron on eBay
|Tooth Protectors: $140 – $600
Tooth Protectors was a mail-order only release by Johnson and Johnson, though it’s never been as popular as Chase the Chuck Wagon. Then again, it also happens to be rarer than Chase the Chuck Wagon. It’s an interesting marketing tool, where you play the Tooth Protector, who must save teeth from the Snack Attack. To do this, you must knock back the crumbs that Snack Attack shoots at you. If a tooth takes too much damage, you can clean it by using your trusty Reach toothbrush, Johnson and Johnson dental floss and Act fluoride mouthwash. Seriously.Since it was only a mail-order release, there isn’t a retail box. However, one recent eBay sale featured the orginal styrofoam formed backing that was included in the mailer. How they kept that, I have no idea.
Check for Tooth Protectors on eBay
|Chase the Chuck Wagon: $65-$400
This game is practically the poster child for what went wrong with the home video game market during the Golden Age. It was a mail-order release by Ralston-Purina, advertising dog food based on a popular commercial in the early 1980s. Also, it’s not as rare as certain other Atari 2600 games(AtariAge doesn’t even rank it in their top 40). Still, it’s box and manual are considerably rarer, so finding a complete copy is extremely difficult.
Check for Chase the Chuck Wagon on eBay
Rare Atari 2600 Carts That Aren’t Really Games
|Video Life: $1800-$2700
This “game” was only available via mail-in order to CommaVid, and only if the sender already owned a copy of the rare Atari 2600 game Magicard. The game is an Atari version of Conway’s Game of Life, a game, which happens to be a cellular automaton. One doesn’t play the game so much as simply watch it and see what happens as “life” is created on the screen. It is rumored that fewer than twenty cartridges of the game were ever released.
|Magicard: $850 – $2400
First off, this is actually a programming tool released by CommaVid. It features a plane cartridge with a bland white label and a 100+ page manual. Magicard was not packed into a box. The cartridge was available via mail-order only, hence its rarity. Several sample programs were included in the cartridge to help give an understanding of how it worked. The cartridge worked in conjunction with the keyboard controller.The cart actually just sold with the manual in September of 2012 on eBay for $2400.
|Color Bar Generator: $230–$480
The purpose of this diagnostic cartridge was to enable television owners to check the alignment and quality of their televisions. It came with fifteen different patterns, including one specifically for checking the adjustment of the color generating circuitry of the Atari 2600. Several of these patterns were simply single color screens. Back in 2010, Chris Kohler scored an awesome deal in what turned out to be a complete-in-box Color Bar Generator. I haven’t seen one of these advertised on eBay since then, but a boxed unit could probably reach $1,000 or more if promoted properly.
|ECPC Cartridges: $150-$695
These were reprogrammable cartridges released by Romox. They could be taken to Romox’s Software Centers so they could be rewritten and taken home again. Some of the games to be loaded onto them were exclusive to the Romox carts, so if found, it’s one of the only ways to play titles like Castles and Keys, Flapper, Bartender, or Topper.
|Copy Cart: $100-$600
The Copy Cart was basically a blank cartridge that could have other games copied onto it. You will also need the Duplicator to handle the process, as the cart is pretty useless on its own. While there aren’t very many of these, there’s also not much of a market, hence why the price doesn’t go as high as some of these other titles. For the complete package, the cart was originally packaged with both the Duplicator and the game Dishaster, but finding all three together can be extremely tough.
Additional Games of Value
There are quite a few other rare and valuable Atari 2600 titles. If interested in finding more information, the website AtariAge.com keeps lists of rare titles and offers a forum for those interested in Atari collecting. Here’s just a few other titles that are rare, valuable, or both:
- Malagai: $320-$1150
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre: $120 – $500
- Mr. Do’s Castle: $30 – $700
- Spider Maze: $150-$300
- X-Man: $70-$280
- Q*Bert’s Qubes: $78-$575
- Stronghold: $175-$300
- Cakewalk: $150-$700
- Wall Defender: $238-$450
- Video Jogger: $105-$950
- Video Reflex: $105-$950
- Z-Tack: $238-$450
- Motocross/Tomarc: $145-$350
- Assault: $238-$450
- Jogging Pad: $250-$950
- Great Escape: $238-$450
- Halloween: $130-$450
- Springer: $90 – $338
- Custer’s Revenge: $90 – $300
- Swordquest: Waterworld: $85-$400
- Beat ‘Em & Eat ‘Em – $60 – $500
- Crazy Climber: $60 – $430
- Berenstain Bears: $45-$130
- Sir Lancelot $40 – $273
- Cosmic Corridor: $30 – $270
- Scuba Diver – $25 – $293
This list isn’t by any means a comprehensive price guide, but it will give you an idea of what some sealed 2600 games can sell for on eBay
- Beat ‘Em & Eat ‘Em” $67 – $500
- Shuttle Orbiter: $250
- Gremlins: $80 – $338
- The Power of He-Man: $200
- Star Wars: The Arcade Game: $153
- GI Joe: Cobra Strike: $100 – $130
- Shootin’ Gallery – $90
- River Raid: $71
- Freeway: $70
- Math (Sears): $65
- Ikari Warriors: $51
- Off the Wall: $50
- Cosmic Ark: $50
- Spider-Man: $50
- Pac-Man: $40
- Space Invaders: $40
- Solaris: $15