Super Mario Bunneh

a nintendo fangirl

Recently on Instagram, someone mentioned an Atari that sold for a couple thousand dollars. Naturally I had to go look that up, because holy crap.

Personally, I have the Atari 2600 that my parents bought when we lived in Guam, so it would have been somewhere around 1984-85, I think, and I was around 4 or 5 years old. I’d ask my brother but … #effort. Maybe he’ll read this and tell me.

My whole family just keeps things. I took the Atari to college my junior year, and after that it went back to my parents’ house, where it sat in a box in their various spare rooms or garages for years, through a lot of moves, until about a year or two ago when I was visiting and went digging in the garage.

I found the Atari and a ton of games, plus the Sega Master System that my brother and I had when everyone else had the NES. This was fortuitous because not only do I collect retro gaming consoles so that was another one off the list, but also the SMS controllers work great on the Atari!

Yep, they fit perfectly and they’re much easier to use than the joysticks – and since I hadn’t found the joysticks, it worked out great. I did find the paddles, though!

Just recently my parents moved again, and my dad found the joysticks and sent those to me. I’ve cleaned the Atari inside and out, and cleaned every game cartridge, and replaced the coax cable. I had to take it in to a gadget repair shop to have the internal power doohickey (that is the technical term, thank you) replaced because after 30 years, but once that was done, it works like a charm!

I looked up my system and discovered there were some variants in the 2600. The one that I have is referred to as “the heavy sixer” and was the first one released in 1977. These are less common than the other models. The other 6-switch model that came out afterward, starting in 1978, is called “the light sixer” because – wait for it – it weighs less.

The easiest way to tell the difference if you don’t have two of them to compare the heft is by the front corners: the heavy sixer has rounded corners, and the light sixer has angled corners.

In 1980, they started making the 4-switch model. All this to say, I have the more valuable version of the Atari 2600; however, worth thousands? Not remotely. So what on earth did Atari put out that’s worth that much?

It turns out the answer is: nothing. The system that’s worth thousands isn’t one they released. It’s an Atari 2700, a prototype that was planned for release in 1981. It was very much like the 2600, but with wireless controllers, which would have been a pretty big deal in 1981.

The problem is, the technology wasn’t really there to keep the wireless controllers specific to their units, and their range was pretty wide. Your controller could totally mess with your neighbor’s Atari, especially in an apartment. Atari poltergeists!

Image from The Atari Museum

Probably only a dozen or so of these were made, and when the idea was scrapped, they were tossed out. As recently as 2017, though, they’ve been found in random thrift stores for a steal and re-sold on eBay for – you guessed it – thousands of dollars.

Daaaaaaaang. When I retire, all I’m gonna do is trawl thrift stores. Actually, I should probably start doing a lot more of that now so I can retire.

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