The 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge

Nintendo Campus Challenge CartridgeLast month the infamous 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge was sold on eBay for a whopping $20,100. This confirmed once again that rare video games are worth a lot of money and that rare NES games still command the most. For those of you who have never heard of this cartridge before, here is a brief history.

In 1991 Nintendo toured 58 Universities in the United States promoting what was known as the Nintendo Campus Challenge. At each event the people with the best NES and GameBoy scores would be announced. Each winner from the 58 events was flown to Disney World in Florida to attend the final event. The final event had 3 rounds with the top scorers advancing until the final was a head to head competition.

In the event the participants had 6 minutes 21 seconds to play 3 mini games (why that time is beyond me). All 3 games were included in one cartridge, the infamous 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge.

In the contest they had to collect 25 coins in Super Mario Brothers 3, get 100,000 points in a pinball game called Pin-Bot and then play Dr. Mario until the time expired. Apparently the final score was worked out by multiplying the Super Mario Brothers 3 score by 10, adding the Pin-Bot score and then adding 100 times the Dr. Mario score.

1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge

For whatever reason, none of the challenge cartridges were kept and were either lost or destroyed. However, in 2006 a guy called Rob Walters found the cartridge in a Garage sale. He then sold the game in July this year to JJ Hendricks via eBay for $14,000.

It was then sold again on 8th October for $20,100. A profit of over $7,000 in 3 months suggests that this cartridge could be sold again at sometime in the future, and no doubt for a higher price.

Nintendo Campus Challenge

As you can see from the images below, the cartridge is longer than a regular NES cartridge. Nintendo didn’t develop the game for consumers so they never had a problem with circuit board just sticking out of the top of the game. Because of this, the NES lid has to be removed in order to insert the cartridge properly.

The 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge

The 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge

The 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge

Two controllers were required to play the game. The 1st controller is used to play the game whilst the start button on the second controller initiates the timer.

Why the high price?

The sale last month had 48 bids on it. In the last two minutes the price doubled from $10,000 to over $20,000. Someone actually lost the auction by just $100.

To an outsider the high price of this basic games cartridge seems absurd, though you need to appreciate how rare this game is. This is the only game in existence. The challenge was also a revered tournament amongst gamers in the early 90s.

RacketBoy has a great interview with JJ Hendricks, the man who just sold the game on for $20,100. In the interview JJ explains that he had purchased a Nintendo World Championships Gold cartridge for $17,500 and there are 12 of those available (this competition was held in 1990 and the gold cartridges are considered the Holy Grail of gaming!). Upon hearing that I was actually surprised that the 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge didn’t sell for more, particularly when you consider that it’s the only one.

Like any product, the price is determined by supply and demand. With millions of gamers worldwide, the games which are in short supply see their prices go up and up. It’s the same for rare cars, comic books; anything really. The less there is of something, the more perceived value it has.

It will be interesting to see if the challenge cartridge or any world championship cartridges change hands over the next year. If they do, I believe they will sell for an even higher price.


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