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August 2015 Retro Gaming Article


August 31, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

There's more gold in d'em hills- I mean, in that hole in the Alamogordo landfill

Atari Dig Operational Consultant Joe Lewandowski Those who actively buy and sell used video games on auction sites or local markets are familiar with the ebb and flow of the game market. What if you were able to dig video games out of the ground and sell them? You know, like digging up vegetables or picking fruit. That sounds better than going to endless yard sales and flea markets to acquire more games to sell.

They say "One man's trash is another man's gold", but can it really be taken literally? You'll recall the Atari landfill urban legend was laid to rest in April of 2014 as excavators, followed by a documentary film crew, unearthed a lot of Atari games buried in the mid 80's.

From this event, the myth was widely exposed and moderately corrected, although many still believe millions of ET carts were dumped. The Game Over documentary was made and the city of Alamogordo, NM claimed rights to all the "trash" in their defunct landfill. Off to eBay they went!

Atari landfill I bid on a few of the recovered carts (Defender and Yar's Revenge), but was outbid in the end as the price went above my budget. However, the City of Alamogordo was able to sell 881 rancid game cartridges (some still crushed inside their original boxes) to folks in 45 states and 14 countries. The highest Atari 2600 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial cartridge went for $1,535.

Atari Dig Operational Consultant Joe Lewandowski announced the grand total of the Atari Dig sale on eBay to City Commissioners at their regular City Commission meeting on Aug. 25, 2015 (Alamogordo Daily News) . The $107,930 auction earnings will be split between the city and the Tularosa Basin Historical Society.

297 Cartridges Remain Unsold

At the time of the dig, it was determined that only a sampling of games would be removed from the site. I wasn't sure why they made that decision. Certainly, those excavating Egyptian tombs didn't stop after the third gold cup. Had I been in charge of the Atari Dig (with unlimited funding), I'd have dug until every last cartridge was recovered. Alas, I was across the country watching in awe via social media postings the day of the dig.

There must be more folks willing to buy a smelly part of Atari's history
It was later disclosed by former Atari Manager James Heller that he was tasked with disposing of 728,000 cartridges stored in an El Paso warehouse. Let's do some math... As you can see, the Atari Dig only scratched the surface of what is potentially buried out there. The City of Alamogordo has not determined what to do with the remaining 287 recovered carts. They will remain in storage for now. But what about the future?

They pulled over $100,000 out of the ground in a single day. I see a bright future for Alamogordo as long as they realize the value of their defunct landfill and the passion we all have for all things Atari.

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