There have been a number of classic video game cartridges that have garnered surprising sums on the auction block over the years. On any given week on Ebay, or on dedicated fan sites, you can find plenty of titles changing hands for a couple hundred bucks. Notoriously rare Atari 2600 games like Tooth Protectors or Chase the Chuckwagon (which you got by sending in labels from dog food) trade for sums that far exceed the fun you're ever going to have with such rotten games. But every once in a while a retro cart comes along that goes for not hundreds, but thousands of dollars.
The record holder for expensive carts is a special edition of Nintendo's Stadium Events. A copy traded recently for an amazing $41,300. Where did Stadium Events come from? Originally Bandai released this game along with their "Family Fun Fitness" mat. Nintendo bought the rights to produce this under their own name as "World Class Track Meet" and pair it with their Power Pad accessory. They pulled Bandai's version from store shelves, but not before about 200 copies got out. 10-20 are known to exist today - the cardboard box alone can be worth $10,000.
To get a bit more retro, there's an Atari 2600 game that's in the same pricey neighborhood. There was a special version of Imagic's Atalantis tweaked for a compeition. The only visible difference was a typewritten sticker applied to the outer box proclaiming it "Atlantis II", but you'd quickly know that the game was different thanks to much faster gameplay and a different scoring scheme. A few competitors took copies home. Few of these special carts were made, and only a couple are known to exist with an estimated value of $5000 - 6000. So next time you see a copy of Atlantis at the thrift, you may consider picking it up... just in case.
The excitement today comes from an auction for Atari 2600's "Air Raid", a baby blue cartridge with a strange T-shaped handle on it. The cart is rare enough on its own, but this is the first known instance of finding the box as well - for a long time collectors questioned whether there had ever been a box! You probably never heard of "Air Raid" (for a long time no one knew that that game was even called "Air Raid" for sure, since it's not on the cart itself anywhere) as it came out near the end of the 2600's reign. As more and more companies tried to cash in on the videogame craze, they did so with crappier and crappier games. These often forgettable games sold in small numbers hence their rarity.
In this particular case, the focus seems to be on the box. As I write this, the auction is at an astonishing $13,877.78, and shows no signs of slowing down. How high will it go? Is it possible that some hardened Atari collectors will finally push aside Nintendo's claim on the most expensive retro game cartridge ever?