A Yahoo Auctions listing in Japan made headlines in the collecting community recently when it offered for purchase a Nintendo Game & Watch that was so rare many people were convinced it was fake.
As Nintendo super-fan and author of the incredible History of Nintendo series of books, Florent Gorges, explains in the video below, this particular Game & Watch came in a regular retail Donkey Kong box, but on its top plate had an illustration of three men, along with a commemorative note about Nintendo’s having sold 20 million Game & Watch devices.
Those notes have been seen before in other rare Game & Watches, but the presence of the three men is what made this particular unit so mysterious. One was Nintendo legend Gunpei Yokoi, but the other two—Momose and Ishida—were complete unknowns, and had seemingly never been Nintendo employees.
That fact, the style of illustration and some other little things—like the lack of a serial number—had a lot of people convinced the unit was a fake. But as Gorges spells out, after some research it turns out the unit was most likely legit, and incredibly rare at that.
The three men were drawn by legendary artist Makoto Kano (who worked on everything from the original Metroid to Pokémon Stadium), and after some digging by Gorges and some friends, they discovered the other two were Nintendo partners involved in the production of Game & Watch hardware. Momose was the director of the factory that produced the aluminium plates found on every Game & Watch, while Ishida was an employee of that factory who was Nintendo’s direct contact.
Armed with all that information, and with this likely being one of only a handful of these ever made (maybe even just one for each of the men pictured), Gorges and some other collectors teamed up to try to buy the unit at auction so they could add it to their historical collections. Sadly their Yahoo account was limited to a maximum bid of one ¥1,000,000 ($9095), and the winning bid ended up being...¥1,000,100. However, as Gorges ends the video saying, there’s always hope that the buyer—realising the rarity and worth of the item--was also someone committed to preserving it, and was maybe even Nintendo themselves in order to add it to their upcoming museum.
The video below is in French, but has proper English subtitles available once you enable them.