Collecting NES Black Box / Sprite Art Games

NES Black Box Collecting Guide

It is very easy to get overwhelmed when collecting vintage video games. It can be tempting to attempt to collect full console libraries of games, but sometimes focusing on a certain sub-category of a particular library can often be a more practical (and many times more enjoyable) experience.

This is the first of a series of collecting guides that will focus on a subset of games that are popular with collectors. The launch titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) are of particular interest to me, not only for their historical value, but also for their packaging style.

As an added bonus, I also included images and prices for three other games that, while they aren’t launch titles and use silver boxes instead of black boxes, they do use the same pixel art for their covers. They are still pretty cool in my book, so I didn’t want to overlook them.

Personally, I only own a handful of carts for these games, but I hope to collect more – including slowly starting to collect some boxed copies. My motivation for creating this post was actually researching the values of these games in various conditions so I knew what to expect when tracking them down. Knowing which ones are the hardest to find and knowing what is a extra-good deal is very helpful when you stumble upon some in the wild.

History

After the video game crash in the early 1980’s, Nintendo wanted to take extra precautions when marketing their hardware and games.  In addition to naming their console the “Nintendo Entertainment System” to avoid referencing “video games”, they also wanted to be very upfront to consumers what the games would look like.

To make sure gamers weren’t disappointed, Nintendo used pixel art on their covers instead of the more traditional hand-drawn artwork.Even though it was originally intended to avoid getting consumers hopes up about the games, these boxes eventually became iconic pieces of gaming history.  More than twenty years later as enthusiasm and nostalgia for retro video games grow, these covers are also viewed as appealing and collectable commercial art.

The Box Art

Since I love the sprite-based artwork, I wanted to round up the best quality scans of the boxes that I could find online and touch them up, so I and anyone else could find them easily.  You can click on any of the smaller cover images below to get a large version.   These larger versions should be the best you’ll be able to find online.  If you know of a better copy, please let me know in the comments below.

10 Yard Fight Balloon Fight Baseball
Clu Clu Land Donkey Kong Donkey Kong 3
Donkey Kong Jr Donkey Kong Jr Math Duck Hunt
Excitebike Golf Gumshoe
Gyromite Hogan’s Alley Ice Climber
Kung Fu Mach Rider Mario Bros
 Pinball Popeye Pro Wrestling
Slalom Soccer Stack-Up
Super Mario Bros Tennis Urban Champion
Volleyball Wild Gunman Wrecking Crew
Kid Icarus Metroid Rad Racer

Game Values

Since values of these games can vary so much depending on condition, I actually have four different price points listed for each game.  Of course, the cart-only will be your most affordable option.  The “Boxed” value is for a copy with a box that shows some wear (which is easy on these black boxes) that may or may not include the instructions.   A “Boxed Mint” copy is one where there is very little wear on the box and instructions are included.  And finally, the Sealed prices are for games that have never been opened and are still in their factory shrink wrap.   I based these prices on what I have seen in recent months on eBay.  If I have not seen particular game in a particular condition, I based the value on another game of similar rarity.  I think you’ll find these prices to be rather accurate.

Name Cart Boxed Boxed Mint Sealed Shop
10 Yard Fight $2 $25 $30 $200  eBay / Amazon
Balloon Fight $13 $100 $125 $500  eBay / Amazon
Baseball $3 $33 $40 $1500  eBay / Amazon
Clu Clu Land $10 $50 $60 $200  eBay / Amazon
Donkey Kong $15 $50 $70 $300  eBay / Amazon
Donkey Kong 3 $10 $60 $70 $250  eBay / Amazon
Donkey Kong Jr $9 $50 $60 $300  eBay / Amazon
Donkey Kong Jr Math $20 $500 $600 $2000  eBay / Amazon
Duck Hunt $4 $18 $30 $150  eBay / Amazon
Excitebike $6 $25 $100 $200  eBay / Amazon
Golf $3 $10 $20 $150  eBay / Amazon
Gumshoe $6 $80 $150 $1500  eBay / Amazon
Gyromite $4 $25 $30 $200  eBay / Amazon
Hogan’s Alley $6 $15 $18 $150  eBay / Amazon
Ice Climber $12 $40 $60 $200  eBay / Amazon
Kid Icarus $10 $38 $45 $300  eBay / Amazon
Kung Fu $4 $25 $30 $170  eBay / Amazon
Mach Rider $2 $15 $25 $150  eBay / Amazon
Mario Bros $15 $50 $60 $400  eBay / Amazon
Metroid $10 $38 $50 $300  eBay / Amazon
Pinball $5 $15 $23 $100  eBay / Amazon
Popeye $7 $35 $55 $350  eBay / Amazon
Pro Wrestling $4 $16 $28 $150  eBay / Amazon
Rad Racer $4 $18 $35 $150  eBay / Amazon
Slalom $3 $20 $27 $150  eBay / Amazon
Soccer $4 $15 $28 $150  eBay / Amazon
StackUp $25 $230 $300 $1000  eBay / Amazon
Super Mario Bros $6 $60 $100 $200  eBay / Amazon
Tennis $4 $15 $25 $150  eBay / Amazon
Urban Champion $5 $15 $23 $150  eBay / Amazon
Volleyball $4 $15 $25 $150  eBay / Amazon
Wild Gunman $9 $40 $50 $250  eBay / Amazon
Wrecking Crew $5 $40 $125 $400  eBay / Amazon

26 Comments

retrovision says:

Awesome post, really helped me when completing my Sprite cart only collection. Not to be annoying, but some of the cart only prices are low…at least based on eBay. I had a hard time finding a nice Donkey Kong 3 for under 15$…DK Math is easily 40$ cart only….standard DK goes for much more than $15.00. I know prices have jumped a bit lately…maybe your numbers are based on trends, I just am listing what I recently found when I bought a few of these carts.

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