Posted on May 28, 2017
Fultonbot’s Atari VCS Quest: Transmissions From AtariSpot
We communicated on Twitter a bit, and noticed that he was die-hard Atari fan. I saw a lot of myself in the transmissions AtariSpot was sending to Twitter, and followed him almost immediately.
The thing is though, at that point, I had never purchased an Atari 2600 game on the internet.
My brother and I used to carefully scan the video game section of “The Recycler” newspaper back in the 80’s looking at the listing for Atari 2600 consoles and games, but I don’t recall us ever buying anything. It was just curiosity I believe. We wanted to who was selling what, an for which prices. In fact, while I sold some Atari stuff in the 80’s in “The Recyler”, I don’t ever recall buying anything.
So for me, seeing a price-list in my in-box brought back memories, but not those of being a video game kid in the 80’s. It was memories of being a new wave teenager and young adult in the 80’s and 90’s and buying records in Goldmine magazine.
In those days, I was the “kid”, and I was up against a very well-established business that had existed for decades. Record collecting was then, all about two artists: Elvis, The Beatles. Everything else was a just a nice-to-have. Since my goal was to collect all the songs from my favorite 80’s band, The Alarm, I found myself having multiple disadvantages. The people who sold in Goldmine did not know the value of the records (this meant they were usually priced too high), and they didn’t care about them, which meant they did not always list them even if they had them.
What saved me then was persistence. I would call-up every dealer in the magazine until they knew me by name. Even though I was much younger than them, I knew more about the specific records I wanted, and soon they respected me, at least for that. Within a few years, I collected almost everything I wanted, mostly from dealers who would say to me on the phone “Hey, I have this record too by The Alarm…” but were things that never listed for sale in their ads.
However, I also recall an inflection point when the prices got so inflated and ridiculous that I would never make any purchase. I believe, since I started calling all the dealers, word got around that collecting The Alarm was “hot” (it certainly wasn’t, but I was persistent) and that made dealers raise prices on things to match the “demand”, which in reality was just myself (and maybe a couple other people I came to know later) calling around to find new releases.
in 2017,collecting Atari VCS games as an adult, I find the situation quite different. I find myself as the “old hand” who is trying to re-learn the business of collecting in a completely different way. My suspicion was that most of the people collecting Atari VCS games were at least my age, if not older. They were people of my age who lived through the era of collecting from magazines like “Goldmine” and knew the game of price-matching among dealers to match perceived demand. I’m sure that kind of thing still exists, and truthfully, one trip to eBay proves it.
However, among die-hard Atari fans, I’ve found this to not be the situation.
Case and Point: AtariSpot.
After a few Twitter messages, we emailed back and forth until he sent me his sale list. I have to say, that at first I was bit worried that AtariSpot’s list would turn-out like those old record lists from The Recycler. Was AtariSpot just another old dealer who had found a niche, and had zeroed-in on myself as an easy pigeon, fueled by nostalgia, to open my wallet for some old cardboard, plastic and integrated circuits?
However, not only were his prices reasonable, but he went out if way to mention the various defects and quality issues with each game.
I made two separate purchases from AtariSpot. The first was an iconic set of games that I knew I wanted to own for my collection. I decided I only wanted to buy CIB (complete in box) games for now, here is what I purchased.
While I might have been a but unsure about buying CIB games for my collection at first, when I opened the box from AtariSpot, my doubts were eliminated. Holding those Atari boxes for the first time in more than 30 years felt like have a bit of magic in my hands. Unspecific memories of each game flew through the movie theater in my mind.
“…playing Combat! at Fedmart with my brother until the salesman force us to go away”
“…staring at the box-art for Air Sea Battle at Lori’s house and imagining that the blocky in-game action matched that illustration in exacting detail”
“…opening the Breakout cartridge from my older sister on Christmas morning in 1981, and knowing my obsession with clearing the 2nd screen that game could finally be fulfilled”
“…playing Outlaw against my dad, one of the only game he ever played with my on the Atari VCS…”
“…speeding down the road in Night Driver and imagining it was late at night, and we were driving to vacation on one my dad’s wild adventures”
“…trying to play just ‘one more game’ of Vanguard on Christmas morning 1982, before we had to pack-up and to my grandmother’s house…”
“…being wowed by the sheer technical brilliance of Star Master…”
“…sitting with my brother and on the floor of our living room on the 4th of July, 1983 finishing my first ever RPG, DragonStomper…”
“…figuring out the ‘nudge’ secret to Video Pinball and wracking of 100,000’s of points in a single game…”
It occurred to me right then that this is what my quest was about. It was about the nuances, the lost memories, and feeling of getting something back that was ‘lost’ so long ago.
As well as the games I ordered, AtariSpot, inspired by my own quest, threw-in a few other games for free to help me along!
- Hangman! (box)
- Street Racer (loose)
- Solaris! (yes! One of my all-time favorite games!)
- Laser Blast! (my god do I have storied about this game!)
- RealSports Baseball.
Far from being the opportunist he could have been, AtariSpot appeared to be a genuine Atari fanatic who was trying help another Atari fan bring some magic back from the 80’s. A few days after my first batch of games arrived, AtariSpot emailed me to say that a another deal had fallen through, and asked if I would like some of the other games on my list. I jumped at the chance to get some more games at some very reasonable prices.
All of these games helped flood back fleeting memories of the era, just like the first batch.
“…playing Asteroids the day after Christmas in 1981, and realizing we finally, finally, FINALLY could play arcade games at home…”
“…playing Donkey Kong on New Year’s day in 1982, after my dad bought me the game as payment for helping my grannie move out of her house and into a retirement home…”
I especially enjoyed holding the boxes for the Supercharger games, which, to me, are some of the most amazing creations from the entire golden-age of video games, but that is story for another time,
I was so happy with AtariSpot, that I asked him to write a little bio of himself that I could include in this post. Much to my surprise, AtariSpot was not an old guy like me, but much younger. This made me very happy. I loved that younger people were getting into the hobby for the “right” reasons, collecting things that make them happy, not just as a soulless bushiness transaction.
It reminded me of myself, all those years ago when I collected records in Goldmine magazine
It reminded me of myself now.
Here is the bio AtariSpot sent me:
“The first video game console I ever owned was an Atari 5200. I’d have to dig up old Christmas photos to see which year Santa brought it, but I’d guess 1985. I’ve been told that I was a Pac-Man enthusiast even at the young age of 4, and that Santa had to search his warehouses high and low for the 5200 that came bundled with Pac-Man because I so enjoyed it in the arcade. For the following years, there would always be a few Atari cartridges under the Christmas tree. Because I didn’t own any other video game console at home until the PS3 (it’s true!) the Atari 5200 will always be the system I love most.
Meanwhile, my grandparents lived only two city blocks away, and they had an Atari 2600. My brother and I would visit them many times a week, so we were fortunate enough to enjoy the best of both worlds. As a kid, I never really thought about one system being “better” than or different to another — they were all just fun video games.I wasn’t much into game collecting until just a few years ago. Unfortunately we didn’t keep the boxes for the 5200 games I received as a kid. If I was starting from scratch I’d certainly have gone for collecting games complete-in-box, but since I was already halfway to owning all of the 5200 games when I began collecting in earnest, I continued on as a loose cartridge collector. Hey, at least it saves on storage space!
Collecting for the 2600 has become my current focus largely due to being only two games away from owning the full 5200 library, one of which is Bounty Bob Strikes Back (which routinely sells loose for hundreds of dollars). On the other hand, putting together a complete Atari 2600 collection is not feasible for me (and most people) for two reasons: 1) the comparatively vast library, and 2) the existence of titles where only a handful of cartridges have ever turned up. That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun trying, though! I really enjoy finding the oddball Atari Corp. era cartridges, and I’ve recently gotten into collecting cartridges from overseas, especially titles that were never released in the USA.
My most recent Atari acquisition is an Atari 1200XL, my first 8-bit computer. I have zero experience with the Atari home computer world, so I look forward to learning all about it!
You can follow me as I share photos of my collection on Twitter at @AtariSpot, and also check out my interview with author Tim Lapetino (The Art of Atari) over on atari.IO, as well as my review of his book.”
So thanks AtariSpot! You’ve helped me take my quest to the next level.
But now I need to figure out my next move…
Current Quest Status (As Of 5/28/2017)
*5/28/2017: Added “Source” notation to salute people who help me on my quest.
Color Coding Key:
X = No copy of any kind
X = Copy has some issues (loose, back condition)
X = Acceptable , but might not be correct version
X = Exact right version from pre-crash era