Dear Lifehacker, I have a collection of chips belonging to old Atari game carts. (Photo attached.) My dad's friend used to work for Atari as a developer of Atari games and he gave these chips to us. Do you know if it is worth anything? I have 11 games. Thanks, Nova
As the old adage goes, a product is worth what someone's willing to pay for it. The trick is finding those who are willing to pay.
There's less of an overall market for retro Atari stuff compared to, say, Nintendo rarities, but that very much depends on what you've actually got. There's not that much to go on from the supplied image — I'm guessing they're Atari 2600 internals, but Atari did dabble in cartridges for their other computer formats as well. If it's for the 400/800 series, for example, they're probably worth a whole lot less, simply because there's far fewer rabid collectors for that particular set of systems.
Realistically, you're looking at value from two different sources, one of which is arguably going to be far more lucrative than the other. There's the collector set that enjoys having the physical object, especially if it has rarity. These are the mobs who tend to display rather than play, and would most likely buy your chips to encase in a box as a trophy somewhere.
However, that's very much conditional on what's actually on the chips. This is where the real potential value lies. If what you've got, is, say, Atari 2600 Pac-Man, an incredibly common cart, then you're sitting on almost no value at all, unless you could somehow prove they came in prototype form from Atari itself.
If, however, you're sitting on rare software, or even better an unreleased game, then there's potential for them to be worth quite a bit more, depending on what you have.
Were I you, I'd chase down this friend of your Dad's and see if he's still got something that can read the content of the chips to determine what actual software, if any, is present. It's most likely that they wouldn't run on a straight production machine, and I'd be wary of automatically trying that, because a fried chip isn't going to be worth anything.
If it's a previously unknown game it could be worth thousands, but if it's common, or the chips haven't actually been burnt with any actual software, then they're not going to be worth much at all. If it's a game that's still regarded as rare, and you can back up the provenance of where it's from, you could be looking at a decent little sum of money. But the first step has to be working out what's actually on those chips.
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