Gold Cartridge Buyer Recreating Nintendo Championships Today

J.J. Hendricks, the Denver entrepreneur who bought the rare Nintendo World Championships Gold cartridge, is hosting an event today that seeks to recreate the original contest. He spoke to Kotaku about it and his acquisition.

Hendricks, the owner of vintage game-and-console retailer JJGames.com, bought the NWC Gold cart last month for $17,500. The seller was asking $25,000. So it was a nice discount for a "holy grail" of game collecting similar to baseball cards' Honus Wagner T206 or comics' Marvel Comics #1. Rather, his business bought it, and will reunite that game with a lesser known (and possibly more rare) Nintendo Campus Challenge cartridge he's in the process of purchasing for $14,000.

"My guess is that they'll increase in value over time," Hendricks said, saying he considers both cartridges to be investments held by the business he founded 10 years ago while at the University of Colorado. "I these as opposed to wine or paintings or other collectibles because of the business connection, and because I have always enjoyed video games."

Though the NWC Gold cart was a newsmaking buy back when Hendricks got it in June, the Campus Challenge cartridge was an even luckier find. That cart was the basis of a 60-college tour by Nintendo from 1991 to 1992 and, unlike the World Championships, none of the game cartridges went public as prizes or giveaways. Hendricks said his copy was found at a garage sale and might be the only known copy.

For those wondering, yes he has played the original NWC gold cart - it was advertised as a working one, after all, and Hendricks wanted to make sure it was still good. I asked if the cart - made in 1990 - required the Nintendo Blow.

"Yes, but after I played it," Hendricks said laughing, "I just wanted to make sure it was clean before I put it in a safety deposit box."

Unfortunately, the cartridge will be there, not on display, during JJGames' inaugural - and free - Retro Game Championship today in Denver. From 2 to 9 pm today (MDT) at the business's warehouse storefront in south Denver, players can try for high scores in both the World Championships and the Campus Challenge. Hendricks had duplicate carts worked up off of both games' ROMs. Ten screens will be set up, five playing one game and five handling the other.

"I got the idea earlier this year while thinking about buying the game," Hendricks said. "I wanted to have an event that would as closely as possible recreate the Nintendo World Championships - right down to the six-minute, 21-second standard time limit."

In the NWC, players have to grab 50 coins in Super Mario Bros., complete a specialized course of Rad Racer, and then rack up as many points in Tetris until the end of the time limit. In the Campus Challenge, players grab 25 coins in Super Mario Bros. 3, score 100,000 in Pin*Bot, and then play Dr. Mario until time expires. It too has a 6:21 limit.

JJGames is offering prizes, from $200 gift cards to top scorers to T-shirts for the first 20 people to show up. Reproduction carts will also be offered as giveaways. Directions and details are here.

As a collector, Hendricks says he is choosy about what he'll acquire - he won't just throw money at a cabinet or other collectible. As of now, the Campus Challenge and the World Championship are the cornerstones of a collection that has just one other specimen.

"It's a Starfox Super Weekend competition cartridge," Hendricks said. "It's worth maybe $300."

Retro Game Championship 2009 [JJGames]