An original cartridge for Air Raid, a shoot-em-up from Men-A-Vision published for the Atari 2600 in 1982 and considered the console's rarest title, surfaced on video game auction site GameGavel earlier this week, skyrocketing to a high bid of nearly $18,000 in less than a day.
"We occasionally get mega rare items like this listed on GameGavel," site founder and owner Mike Kennedy told Polygon. "We really have a hardcore community of retro gamers so it's a great place to feature an auction like this."
Air Raid is the only game from developer Men-A-Vision and had an extremely limited run. In 2010 another cartridge sold for $31,600 on eBay. The auction for Air Raid began yesterday at $1. As of this posting the maximum bid is sitting at $17,850.00, with 10 days left to place bids.
This particular cartridge belongs to Harv Bennett, who dug the game out of storage with the help of his daughter, Alana. But how Bennett came to own the game is pure serendipity.
Bennett was working as an assistant manager for a small drug store that processed photos and sold watches and video games. Bennett worked in the video game department, assisting in the buying and selling of store stock.
"At the time big game companies like Activision and Atari would just plus us out games and send them to the store," Bennett told Polygon. "Smaller companies would send reps in to try to sell their games. Apollo and Spectrovision would send them, small companies like that. And then one day, this guy came in from Men-A-Vision with a game called Air Raid."
Bennett said he would take the games home to play, and if he liked them he would order copies for the store.
"The man told me, 'It's my last copy. I only got five or six pieces. This one is the last.' He said even if I did want it, he'd have to order it special and send it to us later."
Bennett said that the game wasn't good. It didn't play well, the box art wasn't attractive and he didn't think he could convince kids to buy it. But when he called the company back to tell him he wasn't interested and let them know they could pick up the copy, he was told they didn't want it back.
"'The game didn't do that well,' he told me. 'You can just keep the copy.' So I gave the store a couple dollars for it, since it was technically given to the store, and then just put it in my Atari cabinet and didn't touch it."
The case loaded up with Atari games was moved two more times: once to the back of his wife's closet, and then into storage, where it sat for years until one day Bennett spotted Air Raid listed on an Atari-centric blog.
"When I saw the picture of the game, I instantly knew I had it," Bennett said. "I called my daughter Alana, and went with her to pull it out of storage."
The video posted above shows Bennett and his daughter opening the Atari cabinet and re-discovering the cartridge for the first time. The box has been opened a total of five times, Bennett said, and there isn't a scratch or crease anywhere on it.
After some research, Alana reached out to Kennedy at GameGavel. When he saw the photos and video of the game, Bennett says Kennedy agreed to sell the game. Bennett and Kennedy spoke with AtariAge administrator Albert Yarusso, who said there was no questioning what Bennett and his daughter had found.
"From that second on, everything just went crazy," Bennett said.
Alana discovered the game's manual when she pulled the game and tray out of the box to take pictures.
"[Kennedy and Yarusso] went crazy when they saw the manual," Bennett said. "There had never been a manual for the game."
The manual also has the name and address the Men-A-Vision studio on the back, something previously unknown. Since receiving the information, the people at AtariAge have been trying to track down the company. The group has already found the building and are currently closing in on the names of the people who owned the building in 1982 when Air Raid was made.
So why not sell the game on eBay, where it will possibly earn more money?
"Ebay sells everything, and GameGavel sells games, and after talking to Mike, we knew this was the right place to sell it," Bennett explained. "I'm not just giving it to some big machine that sells everything and you're just a cog. Mike is excited about what he's doing for us and the game community. We know we could make more money with eBay, but we'd rather go with Mike because he's sincere and he collects games too."
After auctioning off Air Raid, the Bennetts plan to sell the Atari game cabinet they pulled out of storage when they unearthed the game. According to Kennedy, the game trophy case is also a rare item that will fetch a hefty price.
Bennett, who lives in Pomona, California, says they haven't considered giving the game to a museum because no one has contacted them about it. Companies are already interested in copies of the manual and box, which Bennett is happy to share. But until the right person calls, Bennett says he and his daughter think they are making the right decision by selling the game.
"The game hit almost $18,000 on its first day, we were told no game has ever done that," Bennett said. "The money is great, but the fun I've had with my daughter in finding the game and the super positive support from everyone involved... That's the value for us."
As for what Bennnett plans to do with the money?
"My daughter is living the American dream," Bennett said. "She just bought a house, and it's a real fixer-upper. Almost all of the money I'm giving to Alana to help her with her house.
"For the next 11 days, I have one of the rarest, complete games in history. That's the coolest thing."