Atari Video Game Burial Hits Ebay

1983 was the year of the great video game crash, and after the chiefs of Atari realized they had produced more copies of Pac-Man than consoles sold, these games, along with other ‘treasures’ were loaded into trucks, shipped out to the desert, and buried in a New Mexico landfill. Last year, these consoles were rescued. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Tularosa Basin Historical Society, these cartridges are for sale again.

Want to grab your own copy of E.T., Asteroids, Star Raiders, or Centipede rescued from a landfill in a desert? Here’s a link to the seller on eBay, with the highest auction being E.T., in box, going for $400 with nine days left. The auction comes with a certificate of authenticity from the city of Alamogordo.

This is only the first batch of cartridges and boxes rescued from the dump, with the Tularosa Basin Historical Society putting at least another 700 items up for sale if this batch goes well.

With the rousing success of this bit of dumpster diving, we must point out another techno-archeological myth/legend: there are several thousand Apple Lisas in a Utah landfill, just waiting for someone to come in and pick through the remnants of an Apple tax writeoff.

47 thoughts on “Atari Video Game Burial Hits Ebay

    1. Ahh but I hope they left all of those unused brake assemblies
      sitting in a box for someone like me who strongly believes in
      working brakes (Front & rear) with a freewheel on the multi-speeds or a coaster hub on single speed bikes.
      Never throw your leg across a bike without your fingers
      Gently squeezing the brake levers.
      You gwet a fell for presence and if something is just really wrong feeling with them.
      If a light bit of finger pressure wont hold the bike stationary
      while you mount,
      Get back off and find out why!
      Before you even consider riding it.
      ah but then Until the switch broke, I’m that guy who didn’t realize my friends sedan had a multifunctional interlock switch on the brake pedal to prevent the car (auotmatic trans) from shifting from park into gear unless the brake pedal was pressed while you attempted to put it in gear.
      For whatever reason, (let the shrinks work it out) I’ve always had this innate reflex of making contact with and a slight application of the braking system with anything that moves before attempting to make it move.

      1. Curses! Spellcheck outwits me once again.
        along with a couple of goofs like feel vs fell,
        multifunctional should be malfunctioning.
        Doesn’t help that while trying a cursory “proofread”
        my brain tends to fill in and correct the errors in my typing.

      2. Must find
        Shatner-izer button,

        I am a bit curious as to why my posts no longer appearing in that fractured mess like they once were.
        Now if I could just fix the composition quality!

    1. If these games were hard to find in their ‘authentic’ cartridge form.. and you really wanted one… you just need to get one with an intact shell and sticker. If the PCB inside is coroded or otherwise trashed how hard could it be to make a new pcb with an eeprom on it? Then just burn a downloaded ROM to the eeprom.

      Ok, it’s not quite originial but everything a user could see, touch, sense would be oringinal.

      Is that copyright infringement? If you keep that original PCB you do technically own a copy right?

      1. The game, as you probably know, is more common than dirt. Literally if you live in New Mexico. I might order 10 from the Internet then bury them in the back garden for a couple of weeks.

    2. The game would be bought as a novelty in this situation. The E.T. game in particular is not rare at all and can be bought at second hand stores for about a buck. There is no point in buying a game that is worth about a buck for 400$. p.s. I have an E.T. cartridge and I can confirm that the game sucks.

        1. some guy did quite a lot of work fixing the code in E.T. to make it playable. His write up on it was very interesting especially about how resource constrained the platform was. He was literally counting individual bytes.

          1. He did a pretty good job. 99% of what’s wrong with 2600 ET is that you absolutely have to read the manual to play it. Otherwise it’s just a game about a green idiot who keeps falling down holes.

            In fact you’re *supposed* to fall down holes. But the right ones. The little icon at the top-centre of the screen is essential, you have to follow it’s instructions all the time. It’s only 8 pixels square and certainly doesn’t look as important as it is. This is all explained on the site you mentioned, the chap who fixed the code.

            Most console games, kids don’t bother reading the manual, that’s the problem. If you do, it’s a passably diverting game. I wouldn’t play it through twice though.

    1. I’m not sure how much you know about landfills, but it was my understanding that they are usually ‘sealed’ – everything is heaped onto a plastic liner and covered before being buried. With no water getting in and everything relatively ‘sealed’ you have a somewhat anerobic environment so you get very little decay. At least, that’s what I learned back in the early 90’s.

      I’m curious to know what else they found from 1983..

      1. I thought anaerobic bacteria could cause a lot of decay, re all the methane producers in landfills. So some of the boxes might be doomed. The plastic of the cart case, PCB, and ROM chip casing, should last forever, especially in the dark with no UV.

        Still if they were buried in a big lump, the ones in the middle could well be fine. And there were supposed to be FOUR MILLION of them! Just by the odds, some must still be ok.

      1. Yeah, but it was in the desert. I’m sure it’s rained there since 1983 but how much? I once pulled a SuperNES cartridge out of a pile of rubble in an ilegal dump site. Of course, it had been there for months at most, maybe even just weeks. But.. that was in Michigan. Everything was covered in mud! I cleaned it off and it played just fine.

          1. Local resident here.
            I went to the dig event, it was a blast. Some of the games were still in 5 game shipping boxes. There were quite a few unopened cartons in fairly good shape. I saw plenty that were in better condition than the ones on ebay, but they probably went to the outfit that sponsored the excavation. I think they were allowed to keep 10-15% or something like that.

            As far as water, we’re in a rain shadow, the land has a significant grade, and the soil has a lot of clay in it. Rain that does fall runs downhill and/or evaporates before it can do much soaking in to the ground. Oh, and we are in an extended drought.

  1. Am I the only one who cannot find any offers under the link to the seller? Under the following link ( I can see that he has 99 offers, but if I click “Items for sale” I see 0 offers?!

  2. One would think that they would take some of the more intact looking ones and attempt to play them. Then sell them as ‘tested’. Look at the prices they are getting even for obviously smashed ones! Some of them must work, think what they would get for a tested one!

    Then again, maybe they aren’t legally allowed to do so. This stuff was supposed to be destroyed, there must have been contracts involved, maybe they only get to sell them as unplayable.

    1. Somewhere I read that there might be a problem with the IRS. Atari booked the units as losses and were striped from their revenue reports. Because of this, those cartridges are not properly taxed. But I have no idea if this is true as I’m not a US citizen.

      1. Not really a problem. They were trashed and Atari didn’t sell them so they wrote it off. Someone found them decades later and are going to sell them. They may have to collect state sales tax on them but that is only a maybe. The US has not national sales tax/VAT so it is not really an issue. The company now selling them will just have to report the income and pay taxes if they make a profit.
        US taxes are not as complex as many nations.

  3. Here I was hoping they dug up a bunch of ready-to-ship 1450XLD’s or some unreleased 5200 games. 2600 games? ET at that? I wouldn’t waste money on shipping much less paying for it.

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