Complete Atari 2600 Air Raid (With Box)
The current Air Raid auction has certainly gotten a lot of buzz. In fact, this will be our third post on the game. Part of that is because I need to test out our new Featured section, part of that is that the game and auction truly deserve the exposure.
As a true R10, the game is one of those items that normally go into a collectors hands and stay there, baring any unforeseen financial circumstances. As such, I`ve heard many people say that you only get a couple chances in life (if that many) to obtain one.
One such opportunity was last November in 2009, with a loose cartridge selling for $2,850. Now here`s the thing, Atari collectors, while having an much higher overall number of extremely rare and expensive games, seem to fetch significantly less that the in demand or rare counterparts for other systems. Look at the recent NES Stadium Events madness for example. Maybe that`s seated in the fact of the quantity of expensive games, meaning that people willing to shell out the money for a cart such as Air Raid have probably shelled out decent money for 2600 games in the past, limiting their overall purchases. Who knows, it`s hard to say. Point is, it`s hard for a 2600 game to break past several thousand and almost to impossible reach numbers you might see for the equivalent games for a system like the NES or Neo Geo. This auction though, will be quite the exception.
Why? After all, the last copy only sold for just shy of $3,000.00. The box is why.
As far as I knew, and is often quoted, there is no confirmation of an existing box for the game until now. While double checking on that I did come across this post on the AtariAge forum:
There has been a box to Air Raid found. The first Air Raid reported to me for the JerryG Classic Video Game Guide was found by a Mesa, AZ collector in the mid 90's somewhere in the Denver area. It was in a box. I can't for the life of me remember the collector's name but he also found a set of the the NES X-rated games in box at about the same time. Later he moved to Texas and I bought the NES games from him.
Since then the boxed game seems to have disappeared along with the collector.
Not exactly confirmed given the lack of pictures, but a lead nonetheless.
The thing is, Air Raid is historically one of the great mysteries in the 2600 library.
The exact origins of the game are unknown. There is no official data on the programmers, the availability or anything at all actually. There has even been arguments over the actual name of the cartridge, because there is no actually marking on the casing. The box at least, finally closes the door on that one.
Prior to this auction, what has been confirmed is:
The game's binary code reveals that it shares a certain amount of programming with another game called Space Jockey, including the sound effects.
Check out the two videos to compare gameplay.
No cartridge had been traced back to its original owner, but all second-hand cartridges found to date were purchased in the United States and in Mexico. With this auction, there is proof (while only through a personal account) that is was originally sold in the States.
The T Handle shape resembles several Brazilian releases, but does not match exactly any molding on the other games. This should indicated that the company who produced the game invested quite a bit of money getting the cartridge casing manufactured, instead of ordering them from one of the many companies that could have offered an existing design. Given that, one would expect a significant number to have been made, and the number of cartridges found to be higher.
In addition to the box info above, a letter printed in a 1992 Atari 2600 fanzine mentions seeing the game in a local store, this was never double checked for more information, as from what I understand, the write had passed away at the time someone noticed this.
Ultimately, even with this auction it is hard to know what exactly the game is. Bootleg? Mailorder Exclusive? Test Market Production? It is still unknown.
As for the current auction, it's just about as interesting as the game.
First off, the timing sort of indicated an April Fools stunt, something that has been done often in the collecting community.
First posted on the AtariAge forum, the seller explained how he first came across the game decades ago and rediscovered its box recently:
"I clearly remember buying this game back in 1984 or 1985. My mother had taken me to a Tuesday Morning store in Arlington Texas. It was near the corner of Arkansas Lane and Medline Drive. Not too long after I purchased it, I got an Atari 800 and stopped playing the 2600.
Since then, the Air Raid cartridge has been boxed up in my garage along with my 2600 and other games for over 20 years. The game box was stored separately and I just found it. I had no idea that I still had these game boxes."
With the concern about the legitimacy of the box, AtariAge administrator and owner Albert visited the sellers home to authenticate the box in person:
"I had a chance to meet Tanner this morning and take a good look at the Air Raid box and cartridge. After doing so, I'm of the opinion this is a legitimate box and that someone is going to be adding a thus far one-of-a-kind box to their collection soon. As valuable as such a box is, it seems unlikely that someone would be able to produce a box of this nature so convincingly without spending a good amount of time and money in doing so.
Everything about the box seems authentic to me, from the chipboard paper stock used, the offset printing, the die-cut nature of the box, the aging of the box interior, the insert with the plastic tray perfectly sized to the cartridge, the horrible typesetting (which would be a lot of work to reproduce digitally!), ... the wear of the box, and more.
Also, the artwork on the front of the box certainly was not 'blown up' from a label scan--as I stated earlier, it would have had to been redrawn from scratch to match the label artwork if this was a fake. If I had this in my collection I would not doubt its authenticity."
All in all its an historic auction in the video game collecting community, and and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.