Monday, July 26, 2021

I turned my wife's car into a Bullet Bill


I discovered a neat DIY Mario related crafts idea the other day.  All you need is two magnet sheets (the type you use to write messages on fridge doors), a pair of scissors, a dry erase marker and a spouse who owns a black 2017 Toyota Sienta that they are willing to let you mess around with.

Fortunately this past Saturday my son and I found ourselves with a bit of free time and all of those things on hand, so we decided to turn my wife's car into a Bullet Bill.  In this post, I'll show you what we did.

But first, some background.  Recently I've been stopping at 100 Yen shops on the way home from work a lot looking for crafts ideas for the kids.  They sell those Perler beads that you melt together with an iron and we've made quite a lot of things out of those, like this Lakitu that hangs from our car port:

While I was hanging that up I noticed that a black 2017 Toyota Sienta kind of looks like a Bullet Bill.  That thought stuck with me for a few days.  

Then when I was at the 100 Yen shop last week looking for ideas I found these magnetic sheets and had the idea that I could cut them up to look like the mouth and eyes of Bullet Bill.  So I bought some.

My son and I set up a little work station on our picnic table on Saturday and cut everything to order.  
Then we slapped it onto the car!
The ideal location for these really would have been the panel directly below the headlights, but unfortunately we discovered that is made of plastic and the magnets don't stick to it.  So we had to put it on the side behind the lights.  It still looks pretty cool I think.  
My wife was a pretty good sport about it.  Since these are just magnetic sheets you can just take them off whenever you want, but she went shopping with them still on and told me they made it a lot easier to spot the car in the parking lot, which was an unexpected bonus.  

So anyway, if you've got a kind of boring looking car that you want to make look a bit more bad-ass, I highly recommend doing this to it.  

I should add a couple of precautions though - you have to make sure the magnets are on a completely flat surface to prevent the risk of them getting blown off while driving.  Also the ones we use aren't designed to get wet, so these are a sunny-day only type of thing.  

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Will Retro Game Collecting Kill Retro Gaming?


I noticed something alarming the other day which is a problem I think a lot of retro gamers are having these days.

I can’t play with a lot of my retro gaming stuff anymore. Its just become too damn valuable.

This is a weird problem that most people would probably like to have, but its still a problem worth having a talk about because I think it will eventually completely destroy retro gaming as a hobby.  In fact, I think it is inevitable. 

It occurred to me when my 6 year old son discovered some of my rarer Famicom games the other day.  I found myself telling him that we couldn’t play with them because they were so rare.  Which made me feel stupid.  Did I really just tell a kid he couldn’t play video games because we have to keep them in a box and make sure nobody ever touches them so they don’t get any damage? 

Yup, that was me, I did that.  What have I become?

Well, a collector I guess. Which is not the same as a retro gamer.  

The hobby of "retro gaming" that I entered back when I bought my first Famicom in 2008 consisted solely of playing old video games on their original hardware.  This isn't the only way to define it of course but its how I've always approached it.  I love the “real” experience that involves untangling a ton of cords, blowing on carts to try to make them work, having a game freeze mid-way through because you accidentally bumped the console and all that stuff. 

Now being a retro gamer also entails a certain amount of retro game collecting in the sense that a gamer needs to accumulate games to play which is basically what collecting is.  Back in 2008 the two activities went hand in hand.  But recently a huge gap has been opening between them since they aren't exactly the same and they operate by different rules.  While playing games necessitates collecting them, the opposite is not true - you don't need to play games if you collect them.  Collecting by itself, which lots of people are doing now, is all about hunting, discovering, cataloguing, preserving, displaying and just plain owning things.   It’s a very different set of activities.  And these activities are starting to conflict with each other in ways they didn't before.  To illustrate how this is happening, I'd like to introduce a concept I call the "Gimmick! Trap."

The Gimmick! Trap

The game Gimmick! for the Famicom provides a good example of the problem I’m worried about and its longer term implications for retro gaming as a hobby distinct from retro game collecting.  Basically the problem is that nobody can play an original copy of this damn game anymore.

Ten years ago I was lucky enough to stumble along a nice CIB copy of Gimmick! for just 100 Yen (about one dollar)! And you know what I did with it?  I took it home and played it with my wife.

Now even back then Gimmick! was a fairly valuable game, but it wasn’t bonkers insane valuable. I later purchased a second copy for a friend which I only paid 3900 Yen for (about 40 dollars) which came out of the glass showcase in Fukuoka’s Mandarake (kind of which I had kept that one).  That was just a loose copy but still, the price was still in the ballpark of what a new game costs anyway, so just busting out my copy and playing it on the Famicom didn’t really entail any major downside.

Today though?  CIB copies of Gimmick! now routinely sell for over a thousand dollars each.  A thousand dollar asset to your average person (like me) is a big deal.  There is just no way I can justify ever playing that game again.  A simple  and commonplace incident like one of my kids spilling juice on it and ruining the label would reduce my wealth by hundreds of dollars.  I can’t take that risk.

Now you might be shaking your head and saying “Seriously?  You lucked out and bought a game that is now worth 1,000 times more than you paid for it and you are complaining?  STFU!”  And you’d be right, which is why I want to make clear that I am not complaining about this (hooray, my copy of Gimmick! is valuable!) but rather using it to illustrate the fact that this shift has occurred with an increasing number of games.   For those of us who view retro gaming as a hobby that involves playing original games on original systems, we’ve basically had to scratch Gimmick! off our list of games that we can ever play that way (well, except for particularly wealthy ones who can afford to take the loss if their kids have a juice related mishap in its presence, but they are in the minority).

Another side-issue with the Gimmick! trap is that it is going to affect different parts of the retro gaming hobby with differing levels of severity.  For example, most Famicom carts are still plentiful and can be had cheaply for anyone wanting to play them (thank god!), but the same cannot be said of most Famicom accessories.  The console has a lot of really interesting controllers and oddball items that were only sold in small quantities and tracking these down to play with them was once one of the funner aspects of being a Famicom guy like myself.  My inflatable Top Rider motorcycle is a good example of these:

I have an old one which works well but has some wear on it (and I didn’t pay much for it) so I felt OK in giving it to my kids to play with last year.  Those things are crazy hard to find though and in decent condition they now sell for hundreds of dollars each.  My kids may very well be the last children to ever play with one because nobody in their right mind is going to plunk down 500$ on an inflatable motorcycle for their kids to play with.  The other great inflatable controller for the Famicom – the Exciting Boxing inflatable boxer which you can punch – which I unfortunately don’t have now sells for thousands of dollars each and my kids (and I) will probably never get the chance to play with one.  So the range of stuff out there available to be played as opposed to just collected is really getting quite slim in terms of accessories. 

How Much of a Problem is this?

Its important to note that the Gimmick! trap has only befallen a few titles and isn’t generally representative of what is happening with the majority of games which, for the most part, remain available at prices reasonable enough that you don’t have to worry about it.  Part of this is because high money collectors have seriously narrowed their focus to only either rare games or minty NIB games while ignoring everything else. So while gem mint NIB copies of Super Mario Bros. for the Famicom now routinely sell for thousands of dollars on Yahoo Auctions (which is crazy BTW), this hysteria hasn’t had any real effect on the price of loose copies of the exact same game which are about as cheap and easy to find now as they were a few years ago.  So right now collecting isn’t posing a serious existential threat to retro gaming, but is more nibbling on the edges at it (with the exception of things like accessories like noted above).

That said, I have a nagging concern that this trend is going to get worse as time goes by and eventually retro gaming as I know it is going to be completely swamped by it.

Part of this isn’t really collecting’s fault but rather the simple fact that there are a finite number of old video game carts out there and by its nature the hobby of retro gaming involves putting physical stress on them.  Video game carts were made to last and most can certainly take a beating, but on a timescale of decades all those pins won’t last forever.  And for other media which weren't built to last like that (Game and Watches with their screen rot, whatever it is that does discs in after a few decades, etc) the problem is probably going to be way worse.

Retro game collecting doesn’t pose that same problem – collectors just buy these things to have them and are content for them to sit on a shelf, which is obviously way better for the carts in terms of long term survivability. 

At the moment with most games retro gamers and retro game collectors aren’t really chasing the same thing (with most games at least) since collectors only go after the stuff in nice condition, while gamers can be satisfied with going after the stuff that can still be played even if it doesn’t look too pretty.  So they, with a few exceptions (like Gimmick!), can mutually co-exist in peace and harmony without one's respective approach to their shared interest in retro games interfering with the other’s. 

Over the long term though, the supply of playable copies of games out there is inevitably going to go down as we retro gamers “use them up” so to speak.  This isn’t going to happen overnight and its going to be way more of an issue with games that only sold 200,000 copies compared to games that sold 10,000,000, but so long as we keep playing them its going to happen.  Meanwhile if retro game collecting continues to develop and expand as a hobby (which current trends suggest will happen) then more and more of the remaining stock of old games is going to be getting locked up in people’s collections.  And at some point, the frictions between retro gamers and retro game collectors which are only playing out in isolated areas now are probably going to expand as the two groups start finding that there is more overlap between them in terms of what they are looking for.

Take Rockman for the Famicom as an example of a game that might be on the verge of falling into this category.  This is a game that is very popular for its play value among retro gamers AND very sought after by retro game collectors because it is so iconic.  Until now though it hasn’t really fallen into the Gimmick! trap because there are a lot more copies of it out there, enough to satisfy the demand of both groups without driving the price completely through the roof.

But at the same time, it has been slowly inching its way to falling into that trap for a while now.  Its more common than Gimmick! but a lot harder to find than similarly iconic titles like SMB (or the other Rockman games for that matter).  I have a loose copy of it that I still consider playable, but I’m also aware that its getting close to that price point where I might have to say “Damn, I can’t justify playing this anymore”.  If retro gaming loses a major centerpiece like Rockman then this issue is probably going to be way more noticeable than it is now.  The more such games we lose, the closer we come to a tipping point where people realize that if they want to play the best retro games out there they’ll have to do so on modern hardware without using the original games. 

When that happens, retro gaming as we know it will be dead. 

Are We All Going to become Collectors?

Are we all going to become game collectors?  Well, its not our only option.  Some will decide to collect. Some will decide to play retro games on modern systems.  Some will take up bird watching as a hobby.  I have no idea what everyone is going to do.  But the hobby that surrounds the vintage game carts (and systems and accessories) themselves is inevitably going to morph from one being centred on "retro gaming" as I define it, to one centred almost entirely on "collecting".  Its already happening now and there really isn't anything we can do to stop it. The real question is when are we going to look up and notice that this trend which is playing out in very slow motion will have so totally transformed the hobby?  I'm guessing we have at least a couple of more good decades of playable Famicom games being available at cheap enough prices that retro gaming is still viable as a casual hobby.  But this is just a guess, we might be lucky and push it out well beyond that.   If anything its impressive that we've managed to keep retro gaming using cart based systems up this long - I'm amazed that my kids have a bunch of carts which are about 35 years old and can still be played without any problems.  I mean, that would have been the equivalent of kids playing with toys from the late 1940s in 1983 when the Famicom came out, which I don't think happened very often.  

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Coolest Vintage Mario Thing Nobody Knows About


One of the cooler and also  (for some reason) least known Mario "things" out there is a set of round Menko cards that were released in Japan in 1985  and feature artwork inspired by the first Super Mario Bros. game.

As you can tell from some of my recent posts I've become interested in tracking down and collecting all of the Famicom related menko which came out in the 1980s.  Menko are kind of like a cross between baseball cards and pogs and have a long history in Japan as kid's toys.  In the same way that American trading card makers like Topps cashed in on the video game craze in 1980s North America by producing sets of cards featuring Donkey Kong, Pac Man and other big name video game characters, in Japan a company called Amada produced Menko featuring a lot of Famicom related ones.

Unlike those Topps sets in the US which are well catalogued however nobody has ever sat down and done the same for Amada's vintage video game menko, in English or Japanese, so I've decided to try to do that here on this blog since this information deserves to be out there somewhere!  I'm not sure why so little info exists about them on the internet.  In comparison to American cards from the 1980s these ones are pretty hard to find, which is probably a big contributing factor.  

With this post I'll do the Mario set and tell you everything I have been able to find out about it.

First, the above two pictures show all the cards in the "base" set that I've been able to identify, 35 different designs in total.  The cards measure roughly 4.5cm in diameter.  Since 35 is an odd number I'm pretty sure I do not have all of them since most menko sets are usually produced in even numbers owing to the manufacturing process.  I'm not sure but I wouldn't be surprised if there are 40 in total and I'm missing 5.

The picture for each is different, but they al have some common elements.  "Super Mario Bros." is written in bold lettering somewhere on the card, and there is a 1985 Nintendo copyright line on the bottom.

Each card design also has a unique number, which you can see above Mario's hat in the above example.  These were part of a game, basically kids could take two cards at random and whichever one had the higher number would win.

On the left side of the above card are two circles next to Mario's foot. These are also games.  The upper one with a hand is for a rock-scissors-paper game (again, take two random cards and play them against each other, this one would win in a battle against one with a rock on it, or lose to one with scissors on it).  The lower one has the kanji  庄 in it, which is a similar game called Kitsuneken that works the same way.  There are three potential characters, one for fox, one for village headman and one for hunter (fox beats village headman, village headman beats hunter, hunter beats fox.  This one is a village headman one). 

The backs of these menko are blank.  Of the 35 I have only the two above have anything on the back. These are winner menko!

These menko would have been sold in packs in small candy and toy stores back in the day.    I've never seen an original box of packs of these, but with other stuff Amada produced they would usually come 40 to a box, Among those 40, 3 would contain a winner card like these which would entitle the kid who pulled it to redeem it for a prize from the store owner.  When kids gave them to store owners the store owner would scribble something on the back to indicate that it had been redeemed, then give the card back to the kid.  These two look like they were redeemed at different stores owing to the different scribbles on the back.

What prize would the kids get?  Bigger menko!

Amada made "parrallel" versions of at least some of the cards which were the same as the base set only bigger.  I've been able to identify 6 different sized versions of these cards in the photo below (the one on the lower left is a standard sized card)

There might also be a seventh mega sized one out there but I am not sure.  I wrote about this one a few weeks ago, it features Mario but I don't think it is from the same set since it is from Super Mario Bros. 2 and features a 1986 copyright line.  Its existence though at least suggests that there might be similar mega sized version of these out there, but maybe not.

These cards are pretty cool in part because of the artwork, which really reflects how early these were released in the life span of Mario the character.  Mario himself looks very similar to the "standard" way of portraying Mario, but the other characters look quite different.  Princess Peach and Bowser on these two cards are good examples:
They really look nothing like how they are portrayed today (or even how they were portrayed just a few years after these were produced).  This likely reflects the fact that while a standard portrayal of Mario had been decided on back then, the details of the appearance of the less prominent characters were still up in the air and so the illustrators were a lot more free to use their imagination in rendering them.

Anyway, that is what I know so far about the 1985 Super Mario Bros. Menko set by Amada.  Its a pretty cool set with some awesome artwork on it and I think it deserves to be a bit better known than it is now, hence this post!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Air Raid has some thoughts on the $660,000 copy of Super Mario Bros for the NES


To put the recent $660,000 sale of a copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES in context, I'd like to ask if anybody remembers how a decade ago there was a similar buzz about the below copy of Air Raid for the Atari 2600?  It made headline news for selling for $31,600  which seemed like such an insane price for a video game back then (ah 2010 was such an innocent year).

It seems quaint compared to today.  But to me the interesting thing is that since that sale and a couple of sales of loose copies in the two years after, Air Raid has completely disappeared from our retro game collecting conscience.  The game's Wikipedia entry doesn't have any information more recent than 2012 and my Google search for it doesn't turn up any news more recent than that either.  Its been relegated to basically footnote status in articles here and there about rare games in general, rather than ever being the focus of any interest itself.  

For a game that briefly looked like it was about to become the  all time holy grail of retro game collectors (or at least was a serious contender, alongside a handful of other rarities), its been a pretty big come down.  Probably that has been made all the more irritating by  the fact that it, a game that there are only 14 known copies of in existence, has been completely overshadowed by a game that sold like 40 million copies and is one of the easiest in the collecting world to lay your hands on.  

The downfall of Air Raid (or at least its displacement, its still obviously a valuable game) and its usurpation by SMB  raises a few questions that we might have a discussion about since they strike right at the heart of the retro game collecting hobby.  Lets review a few of these, in no particular order.

How much does the cultural relevance of a game matter?

One thing that divides these two games more than anything is that not just gamers but almost everybody today knows who Mario is.  He is one of the most recognized pop culture figures in the world.   Air Raid on the other hand is known by almost nobody, even within the gaming community.  It only sold 14 copies so its fame is ironically entirely based on its complete lack of fame during its initial release.  

This represents a hidden struggle within the retro game collecting community though - are the "holy grails" of our hobby going to be determined by what we collectors want to go after (rare and unusual stuff like Air Raid), or what society as a whole finds most familiar (stuff like SMB)?  

If you look at other collecting hobbies, its kind of hard to figure out where the value of SMB is coming from since it does not square well with how those hobbies have defined their holy grails.  

This baseball card here for example is a T 206 Honus Wagner, long considered that hobby's holy grail.  There are only about 60 copies of it known and they sell for millions.

If you aren't a baseball card collector though you probably have no idea what this card is or who Honus Wagner is.  He is a hall of fame baseball player who was a star in the early 20th century, but he is definitely not a household name.  This card is the baseball card collecting world's version of Air Raid, it became valuable solely because collectors knew it was very hard to find and its part of a set that a lot of them like, so the price went through the roof.  But its not something that had any pop culture significance beyond the hobby.  

With stamp and coin collecting too its the same story - if I posted pictures of the world's most valuable stamps and coins here you would have no idea what they were (well, unless you are a die hard stamp or coin collector).  The holy grails are entirely defined by people in those hobbies and not by the cultural relevance or recognizability of the items themselves.

One collecting hobby which  partially bucks this trend though is comic books.  The holy grail of that hobby is:

Action Comics #1, the first ever comic to feature Superman.  If you aren't a comic collector you might not know the details of this specific comic, but you likely recognize Superman and know why he is famous.  The value of this comic (which is insanely expensive, there are only about 100 copies of it in existence) is probably driven both by the fact that it is highly sought after by collectors AND because Superman is such a famous pop culture icon with the general public.  

So, retro game collecting has taken an odd turn away from a rare obscurity that hardcore collectors go after (Air Raid) towards an extremely famous but common game that everyone knows (SMB).  This turn seems to be without precedent in other collecting hobbies (or at least the ones I'm familiar with).

How much do Systems Matter?

This is something unique to our hobby and doesn't have exact parallels in other collecting hobbies.  The video games we collect were tied to consoles on which they could be played.  These had limited lifespans and thus limited opportunities to have an impact on all of us.

Atari was of course the biggest console maker of all in the late 70s and early 80s and had a massive impact on the early development of the industry and the popular understanding of home gaming.  But it lost most of that significance with the 1983 video game crash, hanging on for a few years mostly as an "also ran" in the console wars of the third generation of consoles onward before fading mostly into oblivion.  Today its basically just a name and logo that gets slapped on Flashbacks and other products by companies that have nothing to do with the original Atari (Wanna stay at an Atari hotel?  Somebody just bought the right to slap the name on those because of course they did).  

In other words, it is no longer significant and over time memories of its heyday are fading.  Nobody under 40 today remembers a world in which an Atari was a must-have item for kids.  This probably precludes any game from that console like Air Raid, no matter how rare, from every aspiring to be the holy grail of the broader retro game collecting hobby.

Nintendo on the other hand has continuity.  It became the dominant console maker in the 1980s and while it hasn't won the console war in each subsequent generation, it has never failed to be considered one of the top three makers.  That continuity gives the NES a huge advantage since the characters and even the games themselves are constantly being kept in the eye of current gamers on new platforms like the Switch.  So it makes sense that the holy grail of the retro game collecting hobby would be a Nintendo one rather than an Atari (or Colecovision or whatever) game.  

How do we define rarity?

SMB for the NES is obviously not a rare game, as pretty much every game collector has been quick to point out every time a story about a copy of it selling for insane $$$ has appeared.  Its value lies entirely on the basis that the specific $660,000 copy is the highest graded sealed hangtab version of the game in existence.  So its a "one of a kind copy of a 40 million of a kind game".  If this seems arbitrary its because it is (note that you need  to use four adjectives to describe it in a way that defines its value - its the "highest graded sealed hangtab" version).  I have a copy of SMB that my three year old daughter accidentally dropped in our toilet (don't ask).  It is the only copy of SMB that has ever been dropped in my toilet known to exist! And I have established countermeasures to ensure that no further copies of SMB will ever be dropped into my toilet again! Guaranteed population one of one!  Give me $660,000 for it please!

See?  Its so easy to turn a common thing into a rare thing depending on how one defines its rarity.

The fact that our hobby's new holy grail has its rarity defined like this makes our hobby weird.  In all the above examples from other hobbies, the holy grail was valuable not just because it was the "highest graded version" of a common thing, but because the thing itself was really rare.  

This fact can still be explained with reference to those hobbies though.  This concept of "highest graded version of a common thing being valuable" comes from them after all.  The crucial difference is that it developed decades after those hobbies emerged and had already defined what their holy grails were.  

Retro game collecting in contrast is relatively new and is still going through this process of establishing what constitutes its holy grail in the shadow of current trends in those hobbies, which have now established themselves in ours.  So, shit, we're now stuck with something as uninspiring as an unbroken layer of plastic wrapping being the main thing that defines our holy grail.  

Should we be concerned about the millionaires?

Another difference related to the timing of our hobby's development is that the global economy today is a lot more dominated by a rentier class of millionaire ass holes than it was when the baseball card and comic book collecting hobbies were taking off in the 70s and 80s.  These people view collectibles as an asset class and a good place to park their money.  So entrepreneurs are busily at work  creating narratives about various games like SMB which fit the expectations of those millionaires.  This leads to nauseatingly awful prose like that found in this passage that grossed $660,000 for Heritage Auctions, which successfully convinced some millionaires that shrink wrap is the most important thing in the history of video games. 

I mean, yeah hey I got no problem with Heritage Auctions doing what they gotta do to shake that money tree, more power to them.  But I'm not sure the rest of the hobby should follow that rabbit down the hole because it really makes no sense except  when viewed as an effort to attribute value to a relatively mundane thing and convince millionaires that this is something they should care about.  Crucially they have to convince not just ONE millionaire, but several of them since they need a few to bid against each other.  And....yup, it wasn't that hard to do actually.  This should really be a good rule of thumb for anyone buying video games (or anything really) in the hope they will one day be worth something.  If the thing has the potential to be described to a bunch of millionaires in a way that will make them want to compete with each other for it, its probably a good buy.  I'm still working on a convincing storyline for my toilet copy of SMB that I hope will fund my retirement.  

Its not all about the shrink wrap though, its also about the cultural significance.  The millionaires are really looking to invest in "Expensive Mario Stuff" and so the hobby has spit this out as an offering to them.  Every cultural icon has to have something valuable they can collect associated with it.  Mario posed a problem since most of his best known games were such smash hits that they aren't rare.  So they've settled on this contrived rarity to satiate that demand.

To Conclude

These are just a few of my thoughts about the big sale of SMB and a comparison with Air Raid, which I noticed nobody was really talking about so I thought I would add this to the online conversation.  I'm not really convinced that copy of SMB is destined to be our hobby's holy grail forever.  On the one hand it now has a "first mover" advantage since it grabbed headlines with that insane sale.  On the other hand, you could have said the same for Air Raid a decade ago and its basically fallen to the wayside in our conversation since then.  To me, the distinguishing features of this copy of SMB are just way too thin to allow it to maintain that position.  With the holy grails of other hobbies, one look at the item tells any collector what it is without having to rely on a bunch of detailed explanation to distinguish it from millions of things that look exactly the same (Its the highest graded copy of the version with the hangtab which still has its shrink wrap intact.......yawn).  

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Lot Lot Silver Member Stickers are Now Insanely Expensive

A really interesting and very rare thing sold on Yahoo Auctions a couple of days ago.  A copy of Lot Lot without the game!

But this was more notable for the sticker it contained: A Lot Lot Silver Members Sticker.

Back in the day Tokuma Soft had a little contest with both this game and Exed Exes.  If you finished the game with a certain score a password would flash on the screen. If you wrote that password  onto a postcard and sent it to them they would send you one of the above members stickers.  Oroti at Famicom no Neta wrote a really great post about this a couple of years ago, which has a treasure trove of contemporary promotional literature related to it:

Basically there were several ranks of member stickers you could receive depending on your score, and the number of these they would give out were limited in the following way.

Silver members (500,000 points) - 2,000 stickers

Gold members (2,000,000 points) - 500 stickers

Plantinum members (5,000,000 points) - 200 stickers

Royal Members - 10 stickers, with two divisions for 9,000,000 points and 10,000,000 points

So these are pretty rare, but the silver sticker ones are significantly more common than the others. 

What makes the auction so interesting therefore is that while the silver stickers are common, its really rare to find them in their original condition, with the envelope and everything, like that.  Most of them today are to be found stuck on the carts.

So when I saw that appear on Yahoo Auctions I started following it, wondering if I might be able to snag it on the cheap.  


It ended for 251,000 Yen, about 2,500$ US.  Yikes, and that is the price for the easiest to find of these stickers!  I can't imagine what a platinum or royal one would sell for!

I regret that I did not add one of these to my collection a few years ago when I had the chance.  I actually remember passing on an Exed Exes Silver Members Sticker for about 15,000 Yen a few years ago because I didn't think it was worth it.  D-oh!! 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Famicom Games and Inter-Generational Justice


My kids have built up a pretty decent sized collection of Famicom games over the course of the past year.  I mean, just look at all these suckers:

And they also have a little pile of Super Famicom games too.

This got me thinking about my own NES collection when I was a kid.  My parents gave me an NES Action Set for Christmas when I was 13.  It was great and my late sister and I spent an insane amount of time playing it for about a 3-4 years period.

During the entirety of that period I was able to accumulate a collection of.....(drum roll)

Six games.

That was it.  NES games didn't grow on trees, they cost like 30-40 bucks each. In 1980s dollars at that.  Six games was actually a decent collection back then, I don't think any of my friends had more than ten games either.  

Theoretically there may have existed the odd rich kid out there whose parents could shower them with video games at will regardless of the cost, but I never knew any of them. They must have existed though.

My kids today have the functional equivalent of one of those hypothetical rich 1980s dads who can shower them with Nintendo games without having to worry about the cost.  Not because he's rich (I ain't) but because these Famicom games on average cost me about 200-300 Yen each, about what a bag of chips costs.  So they've got this massive collection that would have been accessible to only the children of the wealthy elite of 1980s, Bubble era, Japan.  I quite like this, it makes me feel like a big shot.  I can actually give my kids a Famicom game for a relatively minor accomplishment in the same way my parents might have given me a quarter for the same 35 years ago.  

You might envy them for that, but I also worry that this might be the ONLY type of advantage their generation has over mine.  The ravages of climate change, pandemics, exploding economic inequality, erosion of democratic norms, whatever the hell AI is going to do to all of us, and all the other bad stuff sweeping the planet is all going to be crap that they'll have to deal with as adults.  To a certain extent its also crap I have to deal with as an adult, but it'll likely be way worse for their generation. Its a pretty lousy deal if all you get in exchange for that is Famicom games aplenty as children and I wish I could give them something more, but for now it'll have to do.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

100 Yen Shop Famicoms: Beginner's Guide


I was on Twitter the other day when I saw this post by RuiReiChannel, had written about building a DIY Famicom out of Petit Blocks, which are these super cheap block sets you can buy at Daiso, Japan's biggest 100 Yen store chain (100 Yen = about $1).  These are a big thing for Twitter users in Japan I discovered after going through the #プチブロック (petit block) hashtag rabbit hole on there.

I thought it looked pretty cool so I took up the challenge.

First step, stop at a 100 Yen shop and peruse their selection of Petit Blocks.  The one in our area it turns out has a lot of them:

Its pretty impressive that these only cost 100 Yen each.  They are basically rip offs of Nanoblocks, which are an almost identical toy line but sell for about 8 or 9 times that.  I have to say that the quality of the Petit Blocks is a bit lesser, but not 8 or 9 times less and for making Famicoms from scratch they do nicely. 

Unfortunately they didn't have the exact set that he used, which might have been sold out, so I just grabbed a couple that looked like they had lots of red and white pieces to see what I could cobble together.  One was a race car, the other a birthday cake.

So I cracked it open and after about half an hour of fiddling around, voila!

Its not perfect, I had to improvise a bit since the pieces and colors I had available were somewhat limited, but I think its basically recognizable as a Famicom. 
I think this is going to be Version 1, and I'll try to build a second model at larger scale to get a more detail in.  I might try buying some grey sets to build an AV Famicom too so I could give it to my kids (who have no idea what the red and white original Famicom looks like, but LOVE their AV Famicom).