Thursday, August 2, 2012

My New Holy Grail: 1968 Nintendo N&B Block Leisure House

My interest in pre-Famicom vintage Nintendo stuff began a couple of years ago when I found a boxed Electro Safari SP light gun target set from 1970 on a shelf at the now-defunct Omocha Souko.

It was further piqued when Erik V started his absolutely amazing Before Mario blog in which he introduced to the English speaking web his amazing collection of pre-Famicom Nintendo stuff. That blog is cool not just because it allows him to showcase his personal collection, but also because it is pretty much the only comprehensive resource on this rather interesting subject out there. Even in Japanese there isn`t anything comparable.

So over the past couple of years I`ve been slowly picking up little pieces here and there wherever I can find them. Unfortunately most of the stuff is hard to find and expensive when you do.

So I was pretty excited last week when I stumbled upon the above item on Yahoo Auctions: a complete Nintendo N&B Leisure House Block Set!
Back in the 60s Nintendo released its N & B block series, which were very similar to Lego sets. The Leisure House (what a name) was released in 1968 as the instruction manual shows:
It came with a pretty cool full color booklet that included various instructions for making stuff other than the leisure house with the bricks:
This one I got is not only complete, its still sealed:
44 years and still nobody has put this house together. Normally I think nothing of opening sealed stuff but when it is something this old and hard to find....I`m not sure what I will do about that little layer of plastic.

I absolutely love this thing. I was a big Lego fan when I was a kid and even though this is a few years before my time it still reminds me of some of the sets I had as a kid in the early 80s.

These old Nintendo Block sets are pretty hard to find. I have never seen one `in the wild`, even at Mandarake which has a huge selection of vintage toys. Since I bought this one there are now a grand total of zero of them on Yahoo Japan Auctions. Interestingly there is a seller on Ebay who specializes in old Nintendo stuff and is offering the same set here for $399. I did get into a small bidding war on mine and I did pay quite a bit for it, but not that much. I really have no idea how much these things are actually worth, they don`t seem to come up often enough to get a good feel for what they usually go for.

Anyway, I now have yet another `holy grail` for my collection that, unfortunately, I have no adequate way of displaying properly. Someday we are getting ourselves a bigger place if for no other reason than to store all this stuff:)


  1. I love seeing the stuff on the Before Nintendo blog. It really shows how cool of a success story Nintendo is. Starting out as a hanafuda card company in the late 1800s, then just trying to throw ideas at the wall to see what stuck in the 50s, 60s, and 70s (which is what "Before Mario" covers a lot of), and finally striking gold with the Famicom in the 80s. And the rest is history.

    To think what would have happened if Nintendo's love hotel business took off.

  2. Wow, that is fantastic, I love the "retro" rocket design and the simple primary colors. Also cool to see a box that features the toy being played with, instead of against a space backdrop.

  3. Nate - yeah that really is a great blog, isn`t it?

    And a Nintendo Love Hotel would be an awesome place to spend a night:)

    Samus - Yes, that rocket does look cool, the simple primary colors and shapes of these old ones have a charm to them that today`s toys seem to be lacking.

  4. So, are you going to open 'er up and put it together?

    ...I would.

  5. I can`t decide:) Actually I`m a bit worried now with my dog that if I open it up and start putting it together he would end up chewing on the pieces and screwing the set up. Maybe when we get a decent apartment with an actual table that he cannot reach the top of I will:)

  6. awesome stuff Sean, vintage nintendo products make my blood boil :)

  7. This post has defined awesomeness :) An absolutely amazing piece of history there Sean, this is the kind of gear that's so great to read about!

  8. Thanks Sean! Old Nintendo stuff like this is one of my collecting sidelines, I will try to post some more of my finds as I get them:)

  9. It really is a dilemma. If I found something old and minty, I'd agonize over whether or not I should open it. If I keep it I can sell it for a little more than I got for it, but if I leave it alone, then it'll never get played with, which is the point of even owning a toy/video game/etc.

  10. Yes, it is the collector`s catch-22. Open it and it loses its value (in terms of how much it is worth). Don`t open it and it loses its value (in terms of enjoyable it is).

    I`m leaning towards keeping it closed at the moment. This is a cool set, but its not like there aren`t a lot of cheap Lego sets that do the same thing out there...still though. I would like to see that house fully complete...

  11. The best thing about this is the whole 70s look that box has going for it. Just Look at that kid in the manual, so excited about playing with his rocket made of blocks.

    I want to own of those old mahjong LCD handhelds from Nintendo someday. They even came with a little cable to link 'em together. No idea how rare they happen to be.

  12. Great addition to your growing collection. I personally also love these sets. Great combination of 60s/70s retro style and Lego and Nintendo design.

    When I first got this set (also sealed), I couldn't help myself and ripped the plastic open to built it. But I understand your hesitation.

    @kaibun: the mahjong lcd game is rare, but can be tracked down on yahoo japan. It pops up there in nice condition a couple of times per year. But beware, as there are quite some bad ones, with heavy LCD leakage. The link cable is much rarer. In general, accessories (like the cable was) are always much rarer, as they were produced in much smaller numbers.

  13. Thanks Erik! I`ve actually just made another purchase of one of these block sets, the rocket one, which I hopefully will receive in 2-3 days. I might try to collect them all, if my budget agrees:)

  14. If you are a little bit patient, and wait for the right deal on yahoo auctions, you can get quite a few of them for reasonable prices (a couple of thousand yen). A surprising number of sealed block games are still regularly popping up, from old stock.

    With the Leisure House and the Rocket you already have two of the nicer sets. I recommend also getting the Block Crater set. Can be had in new condition also for a good price, as it is quite common.

    Much rarer and harder to find are the three hero sets (kamen rider, mirror man, silver kamen). Expect to pay quite a bit more for these, if you find them.

  15. Erik - yes I am starting to find these sets a bit more on Yahoo Auction now, I wonder if I didn`t even overpay for this one!

    I`m keeping an eye out for the Block Crater one as it looks quite cool too. Those hero sets look amazing. I actually bought one released by Nintendo`s competitor Kawada which released an Ultraman block set (Diablock) at about the same time. Definitely I want the Nintendo ones though:)

  16. So, now that you're actually moving (or have moved?) to a bigger place, any chance of actually building this thing and showing it off? It'd make a great conversation piece, and may even tie the room together. :P

  17. Move completed, but I haven`t decided whether to open this one up or not! I do have a couple of different block sets now though so I might build at least one of them!

  18. skyrunner14 here:
    Glad to hear you've finally got everything settled! It wasn't too stressful I hope? I suppose your next post will be describing how you have all your Famicom stuff laid out? That'd be quite interesting. And if you have more room... well, remember way back when I said if you ever moved into a bigger place with more room I'd remind you to possibly look into getting a Saturn. Well, here I am reminding you. Anyway,

    1. ...and I accidentally published the comment before finishing it. Oops. Anyway, glad to hear you're doing OK.