Before Nintendo released the Game Boy, the company sold simplistic, LCD-based Game & Watch units—and lots of them. When sales broke 20 million units, creator Gunpei Yokoi commissioned special edition Donkey Kong Game & Watch pieces to commemorate the achievement. One of those units, which came on the market for the first time, recently sold in an online auction for $9,000—the most paid for a single Game & Watch to date.
The device features work by artist Makoto Kano, programmer Hiroshi Momose, and sound engineer Naoto Ishida. It’s unknown how many Yokoi produced. John Hardie, director at the National Video Game Museum in Frisco, Texas, speculated with Ars, saying, “Were there just three made (one for each of them) or [was] it a limited thing Nintendo made and sold/gave away? Maybe there’s 50 of them? Maybe Nintendo has a pallet in their warehouse. It’s just hard to know since there’s very little information. If I had to guess, I would say there were more than three made, but again, just a guess.”
Even if 50 were made, $9,000 for such a rare piece of Nintendo memorabilia—especially given the recent million-dollar Zelda and Super Mario 64 video game auctions—remains cheap. Hardie wasn’t surprised by the price given the current state of the collector’s market, but he did note, “We at the museum would have paid that,” and sadly, the NVM does not have one in its otherwise sizable collection.
More recently, Nintendo dipped into the Game & Watch nostalgia bin by releasing a full-color Mario Bros. unit, with a Legend of Zelda edition planned as a follow-up. Unlike the originals, which played choppy adaptations of Nintendo properties (think Tiger’s LCD handhelds from the ’80s and ’90s), those new versions play the classic NES games and include bonus features. Vintage Game & Watch handhelds vary in value, from around $50 for unboxed common ones to the super rare, like a Balloon Fight variant, which can fetch close to $2,000 if complete.