Game collectors have been around for years but the past decade has seen a considerable boom in the value of rare titles.
The internet has made selling games all the easier, creating a larger pool of potential buyers and a resultant rise in the top bids.
Arguably, the fact that an obscure game with a curious backstory becomes so expensive, and is only available to an elite few, has little meaning when most of the great games people want to play exist in great quantities. For the vast majority then, the real value of a game is the pleasure it delivers through its interaction, and not its desirability to those looking to collect rarities. Yet the fact that the most uncommon titles can fetch prices more typical of a Christie's art auction does reflect the increasing worth of games as a cultural artefact and that's what makes them fascinating.
As with any collectibles, it all comes down to the details; a particular version of an otherwise common game or the position of a sticker can make all the difference. But if you have one of the following tucked away in the attic, you'd best make a call to the insurers.
1 Batman Forever Woolworths Box Set (SNES)
There's a certain charm to the idea that a 1995 Woolworths-only edition of an otherwise common game could today court the attention of global collectors. But so it is, and quite possibly because youngsters that got their hands on a copy in the nineties filled the bundled diary with scrawling, tangled the included VHS making-of documentary and slapped the set's sticker on the underside of a skateboard. Nobody guessed it could be a future collectible, and as a result today devotees will offer up £750 for a copy. But to most the game is far from "well worth it"; on release it received a critical mauling, and it continues to stand as an immortal example of bad beat 'em up design.
2 Nintendo World Championship (Gold colour variant, NES)
In 1990 Nintendo hosted a gaming tournament that took place across America, and the prizes were unquestionably generous. Cars, TVs and $10,000 savings bonds were showered on players that triumphed at Tetris, Super Mario Bros and Rad Racers. The concept was loosely based on the movie The Wizard, and it no doubt delighted its many victors. But many years later it emerged that the true winners were those that took away a copy of the NES catridge made for the contest. Of 1,200 manufactured, 90 were given to contestants as official grey-coloured cartridges. But it was the 26 gold versions, that have become icons of contemporary collectibles, and in January this year, a copy attracted bids of more than $100,000 on ebay.
3 Music Machine (Atari 2600)
There are more valuable games for the Atari 2600 than Music Machine, but few have as peculiar a reason for being desirable to collectors. A spin on Activision's Kaboom, Music Machine was only sold in religious bookshops in the US around 1983 by Sparrow; a company that remains in operation today. The release was the company's only game, and sees its youthful protagonists racing to collect "Fruits of the Spirit". A sealed copy recently sold for more than $4,500, but rumours of a rarer version continue to tantalise collectors. Sparrow published two LPs of music to accompany the game and inspire players, and it is suggested a version bundling a special LP and the game exists, with an audible instruction on the vinyl to allow synchronised consumption. If proven and found complete, it may be worth more than Atari 2600 rarity Gamma Attack, recently valued at between £12,000 and £30,000.
4 Tetris (Megadrive)
Tetris is among the most familiar games created, and dust-laden Megadrives can be found in cupboards across the globe. However, only between five and 20 copies of Tetris for the Japanese Megadrive were ever made, as legal wrangling stopped the game's production. As a result, Tetris Megadrive became a holy grail for game collectors, who pay up to £3,500 to have it on their shelves. One copy is known to be signed by Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov, who famously struggled for years to get any royalties when his game became a phenomenon. That signed copy is rumoured to have changed hands for €11,000. Even the bootlegs have become desirable, with some prepared to hand over between £35 and £100 knowing they are purchasing a fake.
5 Kizuna Encounter (NeoGeo AES)
When Japanese game company SNK released the NeoGeo AES console, it brought the power of arcade machines to the living room in the early nineties. It was a time when people still had to leave their homes to see the most impressive games, and as such the console developed a cult following almost immediately, later spawning a furiously devoted collector community. There are, as a result, many expensive AES games, and numerous scandals around forgeries and bootlegs. Fighting game Kizuna Encounter's European release is one of the rarest, with a genuine copy rumoured to sell for up to $13,500. Meanwhile, the edition of the game for the NeoGeo arcade system is valued somewhere closer to £30.
6 Bangai-O: Prize Edition (Dreamcast)
Given out in a gaming contest, only two copies are known to have sold. Today they are valued at $1,000.
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