Saturday, November 6, 2010

Are your NES games worth more than you think?

by Thomas Mellott

I’m sure many know about the more common Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge variations such as the original Metroid being available with two different labels or The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link both being available in gold or grey plastic, but are you aware of the more sought after variations that collectors will sometimes pay more for?

The variation I’m referring to is the '5-screw' cartridge. These cartridges are identifiable by their flat tops and, as the name implies, the fact that they have five screws on the back rather than the normal three. The extra two screws are located in the top corners of the cartridge. Also notable is the fact that these 5-screw cartridges use standard slotted screws that can be removed with most screw drivers as opposed to the 3.8mm security screws that all 3-screw games use.

These 5-screw cartridges are the original design that was used for the first two years that the Nintendo Entertainment System was out in the United States. At some point in 1987 someone at Nintendo came up with the idea to have two interlocking plastic tabs on the top of the cartridge in place of the top two screws as a method to make the cartridges cheaper and easier to produce, thus all games made after this point featured this new cartridge. Because of this, the 5-screw cartridges are considered to be like first editions to some collectors, and therefore can fetch a higher price. The closer to this time in 1987 a game was released, the more obscure and valuable the 5-screw version is. Some of the more uncommon 5-screw games include the original Mega Man, Alpha Mission and Star Force.

Now, don’t mistake this information to mean that any 5-screw cartridge you come across is automatically worth more than its 3-screw counterpart. There are some games that went out of print prior to 1987 and therefore only exist in 5-screw form, such as Gyromite, Stack-Up and the original Donkey Kong. There are also games which went out of print in early 1988 and are therefore more valuable in their 3-screw form than five, such as Balloon Fight, Volleyball and Ninja Kid. In short, if you come across a game you think may be worth something, you should probably do a bit of research on it to find out for sure.