Atari 2600 Space InvadersAtari 2600 Box Cover Art for Space Invaders

As kids who play video games mature into...well, adults who play video games, many long for reminders of a simpler past. Of course, the simpler past involves primitive graphics, basic gameplay, and no need for a ratings system. It's hard to imagine now, but at one time the art on the box cover looked nothing like the graphics in the cartridge.  As the collector's market grows for video games, I suggest collecting smart and grabbing game art before it explodes.  Just as the most important comic books create huge demand for related art, the key games in the industry hold the most iconic art.

Video game collecting is an emerging market.  Get box art now!

So you know what sort of dinosaur, I mean perspective, that I offer, the first video game we owned was a radio shack version of Pong.  Believe it or not, it was FUN!  Not long after, we opened our first real gaming system, the Atari 2600.  I don't remember if it was '78 or '79.  I just know I was young enough to have fun and my youngest brother was just old enough to play and be completely frustrated.  Because he can outplay me at any game, I definitely am not making fun of him.  He honed his skills on the Nintendo.

This Game Art is Not So Smart

Back in my day, the Atari 2600 graphics blew my generation away-- compared to Pong.  Let's look at the graphic art inside my most iconic game: Space Invaders.  Then, let's compare it to the cover art on the cartridge.

Space Invaders graphicsImage from FunFareDecals on Etsy

Those graphics are pretty lame, but they didn't have many bits to work with.  The game makers compensated by creating some awesome box cover art.

[caption id="attachment_38722" align="alignleft" width="214"]Atari 2600 Space Invaders cover art for Collecting Smart Game Art Atari 2600 Box Cover Art for Space Invaders[/caption]

In today's gaming catalog, the Space Invaders cover is tame by comparison.  However, late seventies teens drooled on those boxes just before ripping them open.  Trust me, graphics and art aside, we played that game until we mastered the pattern!

As Video Game Collecting Explodes

With money in their pockets, 21st-century gamers shell out big bucks for the latest Madden, Fortnite, or Call of Duty.  But, they also want WATA graded copies of the scratched and gnarly games their moms threw away when these gamers upgraded their systems.  As recently as September 11th, someone paid $6,000 for a Wata 9.2 Early Production Blue Box Space Invaders game.  That's well over 40  times what my parents paid for our entire Atari 2600 system and the three games we started with.  Collecting video games is not new, but the exposure right now indicates we are far from "game over".

If you don't mind, I'm taking my Mario down one of those tubes that transports me to another world.  Game collectors must remember the mass production of these games.  It in fact led to the Atari implosion.  Check out any of the numerous documentaries on the subject like Atari: Game Over.

Atari Implosion ET found in a landfill in New MexicoAtari Implosion

But how does collecting art show I'm smart?

While we may not know how many sealed Ms. Pac-Man games exist in storage units somewhere, we do know that cover and ad art for these games is rare.  Even lesser-known games feature art already captivating game collectors.  Take for example art from the Tengen game "After Burner".  Ever heard of it?  I haven't.  Someone liked the game well enough to pay $18,000 for the cover art.  Think about what art from any of the all-time games would garner?

After Burner by Tengen cover art sold for $18,000 through Heritage Auctions. It is an example of Collecting Smart Game Art. Imaged by Heritage Auctions, After Burner box art

I conducted multiple searches at to find art related to video games.  There isn't a lot out there yet.  As with the example of "After Burner" art, it could be that people are already keenly aware of the potential.  However, the fact that there isn't already a lot being sold makes me think that the game is still fresh.  As with any great collectible, if you can find it, the price will probably seem high.  Of course, if it is is truly iconic, this year's prices will seem cheap in a decade.

Collecting Smart: Game Art wrap up

Recent generations of kids that are now collectors grew up playing video games.  Some of them may not be interested in the traditional collector hobbies from past decades.  However, there are two common threads for all collecting: reminiscence and rarity.  By reminiscing, I am stating that what people remember best is special.  The iconic video games are special!  By rarity, just like with any collectible, the fewer that exist the greater the demand.  Cover art from iconic games is not only rare, but it is also special!  Items with those traits increase in demand, sometimes exponentially.  And that's what I call Collecting Smart Game Art!

Disclaimer: I'm not much of a gamer, so check out other GoCollect blogs to see what is hot in that market.