December 2009 Recap

Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in December 2009. If you missed any, or simply want to see them again, click on each "title" to be taken directly to that post. As always, thanks for reading.

Sky Commanders
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

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Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Kenner)

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
1980 - 1983

In case you were under a rock between 1977 and today, there was a little movie called Star Wars that hit the big screen on May 25, 1977. This movie erupted into a phenomenon which spawned not only sequels (and later on prequels), but a vast majority of merchandise of all kinds.

The most popular type of collectable among children and adults alike were the 3 3/4 inch plastic figures with various sized vehicles, accessories and playsets. Back in those days toys were bought with the sole purpose of being played with. Today these vintage toys can amass to a small fortune. Especially if said toys remain in their packages.

To ensure that everyone would know about the next installment in the Star Wars Trilogy, Kenner, who was still releasing the original line of figures switched all of them over to The Empire Strikes Back cards. All twenty-one figures were still available, and thus the first 21 back card was produced for the new line.

The figures released included;

Luke Skywalker
Princess Leia Organa,
Darth Vader
Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
Han Solo (small head)
Sand People

Death Squad Commander
Walrus Man
Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot
Death Star Droid
Power Droid
Boba Fett

During this time, the "Secret Star Wars Action Figure" campaign was still being advertised, and later became identified as Bossk. One of the obvious changes at this time was that the figure was no longer available for four proof of purchase, but instead for five.

The figure was available until December 31, 1980 - After which it was released on an Empire Strikes Back card.

Following the release of The Empire Strikes Back in theaters were ten new figures, as well as two more from the original "Star Wars" line. This in turn made it necessary to revamp the card backs to depict the now thirty-one available figures.

Reader Skip writes in to tell us that the big head Han was released in this batch per the request of the studio to make the figure more accurate to the actor, Harrison Ford. The Death Squad Commander was also released with this set as well as the now carded Bossk figure.

The nine new figures released were;

Leia Organa (Bespin Gown)
Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear)
Rebel Soldier (Hoth Battle Gear)
Luke Skywalker (Bespin Fatigues)
Han Solo (Hoth Outfit)
Lando Calrissian
Bespin Security Guard

During this time, Kenner introduced a new mail away offer. The Action Figure Survival Kit. This kit included twelve accessories in total which were;

Luke Skywalker AT-AT Grappling Hook Belt
Jedi Training Harness
Hoth Backpacks
Asteroid Gas Masks
Assorted Weapons

The sets were mailed in plain white boxes and (some) contained an insert depicting not only all the accessories but also how to use certain ones. The offer lasted through the 41 backs and was discontinued on May 31, 1981.

By the 32 back series The Empire Strikes Back was already a household name. However, Kenner decided to only release one new figure, and a rather popular one at that. Yoda the Jedi Master hit store shelves to a much anticipating crowd.

A few major changes took place took place with the 32 backs. The most noticeable was that one of the figures at this time received a name change. The Death Squad Commander was renamed to the more appropriate Star Destroyer Commander.

Both the Princess Leia (Bespin Gown) and Luke Skywalker (Bespin Fatigues) had changes made to them as well. While they were fairly large changes, most people still didn't notice. The most obvious change was that the card fronts changed to show a new picture of the characters. More subtle changes were that Leia's figure now came with a painted and non-painted neck, and Luke's hair was available in both blond and brown.

Eleven figures made it to cards (nine of which were new) in turn creating the forty-one back card. What was clear by now was that Kenner intended on cashing in on the "variant" department by way of consistently releasing the same figures with slight changes. While at the time action figures didn't have a strong secondary market, chasing down all the variants these days can be quiet a challenge, and a rewarding one at that to collectors.

Luke Skywalker and Yoda were released again on the forty-one back card. This time Luke sported brown hair and Yoda's previously orange snake was changed to brown.

The nine new figures were;

Han Solo (Bespin Outfit)
Leia (Hoth Gear)
Rebel Commander
AT-AT Driver
Imperial Commander

When I tell you now that seven figures were released (six of which were new) making the forty-five back you may in turn say, "That doesn't add up!" The reason it does is because at this time certain figures were discontinued, and (sadly) never released again. In particular, the original C-3PO and R2-D2.

Also odd with this set was the re-release of the Bespin Security Guard who was now black. Kenner never gave an explanation for this change, nor was it really necessary. It's not like people were complaining that there was only one well known black character in the movies. Lando Calrissian also got a subtle change to now show a toothy grin.

The six new figures released were;

R2-D2 with Sensorscope
C-3PO with Removable Limbs
Luke Skywalker in Hoth Gear
AT-AT Commander
Cloud Car Pilot
Bespin Security Guard (black)

There was no doubt about it that Kenner saw the value in the mail-away campaigns. Since most kids threw the backer boards from their previous figures away, each time a new offer was made available, more action figures had to be purchased in order to get the required proofs of purchase labels.

The Action Figure Display Stand was available only on the 45 back figures (though some offer stickers may have been adhered to older cards that were still in the Kenner stock warehouses at the time). The campaign lasted until July 31, 1982.

What made the Action Figure Display Stand so unique was that it came with eight different backgrounds that could be attached to the back. This in turn meant more sales for Kenner as kids sought multiple stands to depict the various pictures.

By now The Empire Strikes Back figures were slowly coming to an end as word of a new Star Wars movie sped quickly around the world. Though nothing was known about the upcoming finale to the Trilogy, it was destined to be a success.

While only one new figure was released on card for the forty-seven back figures - TIE Fighter Pilot, what made it a forty-seven back was the new mail-away campaign for the new Bounty Hunter 4-LOM.

What was interesting about the new mail-away figure was the drastic mistake that Kenner made, and that Lucasfilm either never noticed, or didn't bother to correct...

...The Bounty Hunter 4-LOM was in fact not 4-LOM, but rather Zuckuss. All through the original Star Wars figures this error was never corrected, and even appeared when the figure was released on a card.

For five proofs of purchase, Kenner would send you the brand new figure. Unlike prior mail-away figures, 4-LOM included no insert with details on the character. It simply contained the figure and weapon.

The mail-away offer was good until August 31, 1982.

The last in The Empire Strikes Back series was the forty-eight backs. Zuckuss, who should have been 4-LOM, but wasn't because the real Zuckuss who had been named 4-LOM was released along side 4-LOM who should have been Zuckuss, but the error was never corrected. Make sense? Either way, both figures made it to cards for the forty-eight back set.

During the final set of The Empire Strikes Back figures, a new mail-away figure was offered. Interesting enough, the campaign started before the official title to the upcoming movie was changed. Thus the mail-away offer for the first Revenge of the Jedi figure began.

The offer for Admiral Ackbar ran until January 31, 1983. During this time, two separate inserts were mailed out. Offers redeemed in prior to the movie title being changed to Return of the Jedi received inserts that said Revenge of the Jedi. Offers redeemed after the title change were mailed out with Return of the Jedi inserts.

Like the prior "Secret Star Wars Action Figure" campaign, both collectors young and old jumped at the opportunity to be the first to own the newest figure from the newest Star Wars film.

There are nine known card front variations released throughout the entire run of The Empire Strikes Back figures. Like the original Star Wars line, most of these changes are due in part to stickers being adhered to the front of the cards. This in turn can create an unknown amount of possible variants.

The first The Empire Strikes Back card to be released included a sticker for the "Secret Action Figure" campaign. The second was for the same campaign, but with the figure identified as Bossk, and the offer date being extended. The third was the unaltered card with no stickers of any type.

Both the fourth and fifth cards were for the Survival Kit mail-away campaign depicted by stickers. The sixth included a sticker for the Action Figure Display Arena mail-away offer. The seventh had a sticker for the mail-away 4-LOM figure. While the eight included a sticker for the free Revenge of the Jedi figure Admiral Ackbar.

What makes the ninth card variation so unique was that it was the first card in any of the two Star Wars lines to actually have the mail-away offer printed on the card as opposed to being a sticker.

Eighteen different card backs have been confirmed to be in existence. While some of those changes are so subtle even the most experienced collector could miss it, this doesn't stop them from tracking down every different version they possibly can. A task that may not even be humanly possible.

There are three different variations of the twenty-one back card, though the changes are due to stickers. The first is the original card, while the second includes a small rectangular sticker underneath the UPC code extending the offer for the Secret Star Wars Action Figure. The third extends the offer yet again, but this time with a larger red sticker which identifies the figure as Bossk.

The three thirty-one back cards are very different from each other, but only in the bottom third section depicting the vehicles being offered by Kenner. The first card shows the Snowspeeder, Millennium Falcon and Imperial Troop Transport. The second shows the Hoth Ice Planet Action Playset, Star Destroyer Action Playset and the Darth Vader Collector's Case for figures. The third variation covers up the vehicles completely with a sticker showing the mail-away campaign for the Action Figure Survival Kit.

While there are three different thirty-two back variations, oddly enough they are all the same as the thirty-one back with the exception that Yoda has been added to the top left of the card, and the text under the logo has been shifted to make room for him.

Five forty-one backs have been confirmed over the past years since the figures were produced. The first three are the same with the exception of the bottom third of the card. The first variation includes a sticker over the vehicle portion to advertise the Action Figure Survival Kit mail-away offer. The second depicts two separate portions for the vehicles. The first contains the Darth Vader Collector's Case, Dagobah Playset, Imperial TIE Fighter and X-Wing Fighter. The second section shows the Millennium Falcon, Twin-Pod Cloud Car and Slave I. The third card is laid out the same way, but shows different vehicles. The first section shows Snowspeeder, Tauntaun, Turret-Probot Playset and the three (sold separately) Mini Rigs. The second section shows the AT-AT and Imperial Attack Base.

The two forty-five backs are essentially the same. The only difference is that the second version has a small thin black sticker towards the bottom that shows the extended offer date for the Action Figure Display Arena mail-away offer.

There is only one forty-seven card version. That is the one showing the offer for the 4-LOM mail-away campaign.

The forty-eight backs have four different variations. The first two are different only by way of the text at the top being placed differently. The third and fourth cards are different by way of the third version has a sticker advertising the Admiral Ackbar mail-away figure while the fourth has the ad printed directly on the card.

Anxious to sell more than one figure at a time Kenner continued the multipack scheme. Like the prior multipacks, you could not complete an entire set of The Empire Strikes Back figures by purchasing them, and you would again end up with multiple duplicates.

The multipacks were available in nine three packs and two six packs. What also stunk about the multipacks was that you couldn't use the proofs of purchase labels towards any of the mail-away offers.

Several vehicles, playsets and accessories were released along side The Empire Strikes Back figures. During this time Kenner also released several items that weren't necessarily seen in the movies, but were released for the sole purpose of offering cheaper "larger" toys to consumers who couldn't or wouldn't afford the larger more expensive ones.

The vehicles released were;

Twin-Pod Cloud Car
Rebel Armored Snowspeeder (Pink Box)
Rebel Armored Snowspeeder (Blue Box)
Battle Damaged X-Wing Fighter
Slave I - Boba Fett's Spaceship
Scout Walker Vehicle
Rebel Trasnsport
Imperial Crusier
AT-AT - All Terraine Armored Transport

The Playsets released were;

Cloud City Playset (Sears Exclusive)
Rebel Command Center Adventure Set
Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Set
Dagobah Action Playset
Imperial Attack Base
Turret and Probot Playset
Darth Vader's Star Destroyer Action Playset

The creatures released were; Tauntaun, Tauntaun with Open Belly, and Hoth Wampa.

The mini rigs and mini accessories were; CAP-2, INT-4, MLC-3, MTV-7, PDT-8, Radar Laser Cannon, Tri-Pod Laser Cannon, and Vehicle Maintenance Energizer.

Kenner produced several carry cases for the figures which included both vinyl and plastic varieties.

The Darth Vader Carry Case was originally released as an individual piece. Later released versions included three action figure varieties. The first contained Boba Fett, IG-88, and Bossk. The second included Darth Vader, Yoda, and Luke with Bespin Fatigues.

Kenner also re-released a handful of vehicles and one playset from the original Star Wars line with new Empire Strikes Back logo boxes. This included two different Millennium Falcon boxes, the Imperial Troop Transport, and the X-Wing Fighter.

The playset was the Droid Factory.

The first vinyl carry case for the series was actually a re-release of the original carry case, but with an Empire Strikes Back logo. It was released prior to all other carry cases with the Empire Strikes Back logo on it.

Unlike the first series of Star Wars toys, Kenner now began including offers for vehicles that included action figures along with them. These were typically done through department stores, or catalogs for the various department stores. This happened randomly throughout The Empire Strikes Back series, and depending on which figures were readily available at the time determined which figures were offered.

For collector's, finding all the various versions of figures from The Empire Strikes Back line is a rather rewarding journey. For those of us without money coming out of our asses, we have to suffice for collected photographs. However way you get the opportunity to relive those moments from your past, it's nice to have those memories associated with such great toys from our childhoods.

For those looking for promotional items, there were four catalogs produced during The Empire Strikes Back line. The 3rd and 4th catalogs are actually the same one. The only exception is that one was produced with a silver cover, and the other, a white cover.

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Sky Commanders (Kenner)

Sky Commanders
1987 - 1988


The storyline of Sky Commanders comprises the daily adventures of a multi-racial group of soldiers and mountaineering specialists from all over the world who battle the evil General Plague and his goon squad of villainous mercenaries and miscreants, The Raiders, whose aim is to seize control of the planet. The series is set on a new continent deep in the South Pacific which was created by the emergence to the surface world of a new and powerful, unstable radioactive element called Phata 7.

This lethal energy source can only be stabilized for containment by exposure to temperatures of 200 degrees below zero. It is known that whoever can control the element and harness it enormous power would be the ruler of the world; a goal that the amoral General Plague wants strongly. It is up to General Mike Summit and his highly trained soldiers to stop him.

Complicating the Sky Commanders objective of stopping the criminal ambitions of The Raiders is the fact that the new continent (collectively referred to in the series as "The High Frontier") is routinely beset by sporadic, unstable and highly dangerous weather conditions and environmental hazards such as landslides, earthquakes, cave-ins, whirlpools, etc. There is also the need for monthly shipments of fresh supplies, new advanced technology and weapon systems. Constant attack by the scheming and underhanded Raiders and the aforementioned environmental dangers make the Sky Commanders mission only that much more dangerous.

Travel throughout the new continent is only possible by means of high-altitude flight, or by means of using Laser Cables; a specialized version of a rappelling cord emitted from combat backpacks worn by both Raider and Sky Commander. When used, the cables shoot out from the combat backpacks in the form of energy beams. When contact is made with a solid object, the Laser Cable solidifies into a solid metal cable line upon which travel is possible.

Phata 7, the radioactive element that both sides vie for control of, which came from the deepest subterranean recesses of the earth itself has brought with it on its rise to the surface of the world not only the new continent itself but also a wild and voracious, bizarre menagerie of utterly horrific creatures to inhabit it. These life forms are either the products of long-term mutative exposure to Phata 7's radiation or were just naturally brought about the way that they are. Occasional violent encounters with these monstrosities were yet another danger waiting for both sides of this battle for the future freedom or enslavement of the world.


The toy line itself wasn't very large as the series fizzled away just as quickly as it began. Comprising of mostly vehicles, the series took the route that shows like M.A.S.K. and Air Raiders took - As in the vehicles were the selling point of the toys, not the figures.

Most of the vehicles comprised of sting based lines which could be attached to various objects around your house to simulate mountainous terrains. The strings generally weren't strong enough to hold up the toys for long periods of time, and the slightest jostle would send it crashing to the floor.

Despite this major flaw, the toys were still way cooler than the actual show, and offered hours of imaginative fun to kids as they attached things all over the house. The real pain was when all the strings got tangled together when you put them away.

The show may have tanked, but the toys will always have a special place in the hearts of kids who remember using their parent’s house as a virtual planet for all these great toys to hang from.

Rollerball Backpck with General Summit, Cable Raider Backpack with Raider Rath, Search and Rescue Backpack with Commander Rex Kling, Deception Raider Backpack with General Plague, Ascender Backpack with Commander Jack Reilly, Geyser Attack Backpack with Commander RJ Scott

Jackal Raider with General Plague, Rapid Deployment with Commander Pete Crane, Outrider with Commander Rex Kling

Bomb Blast with Commander Pete Crane, Battle Track Protector with Commander Jack Reilly, Track Patrol with Commander Cliff Baxter, Locust Raider with Raider Rath, Flex Wing with Commander RJ Scott, Cable Cannon with Commander Pete Crane


Vector Command with General Mike Summit


Battle Track Dispatch with Commander Cliff Baxter

Finding a complete set of sealed Sky Commanders is challenging, but rewarding if you can accomplish it.

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November 2009 Recap

Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in November 2009. If you missed any, or simply want to see them again, click on each "title" to be taken directly to that post. As always, thanks for reading.

Star Wars
Nintendo Game and Watch

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Nintendo Game And Watch (Nintendo)

Nintendo Game and Watch
1980 - 1986

Nintendo Game and Watch began its life in the Spring of 1980 and would have a strong following up until the series end in the fall of 1991, two years after the release of the Nintendo Gameboy.

There were several sets in the Game and Watch series, though not too many people are aware of the differences in each individual series, and truth be told, rather than appearance or slight variations in the screen quality, there really isn't any.

Approximately sixty different games were released during the almost decade long run of the Game and Watch. Over time, Nintendo got a little creative with their styles of the hardware which would later be used on various versions of the Gameboys itself.


The Silver series made its debut in April of 1980 with the game "Ball". April 28 to be exact. Like most of the games, simplicity was the key, but this didn't necessarily mean the games were going to be easy. In fact, some were far from it. The series got its name by way that the faceplates of the games themselves were silver.

The games were laid out in either a two or four button combination which were labeled with the screen in the middle. Along the bottom of the screen were three more buttons labeled, "Game A", "Game B", and "Time".

Game "A" was typically easier than game "B", and the time button did exactly what you would expect. It displayed the time - Thus the franchise name, "Game and Watch". Also included on each handheld game was a tiny, only accessibly with a very thin object "Alarm" button.

Each game came packed with a Styrofoam lining and was packed into a cardboard box with an instruction booklet. Sometimes the games would even come packed with the required LCD batteries.

The Silver series included five games in total. Those games are (listed in order of release);


Each had its own unique style of play which offered gamers a small variety to chose from. The most repeated style would be the concept of catching falling objects and either guiding them to safety or simply catching them once.


The second series of Nintendo Game and Watches got its name in the same fashion that the prior series did. By now, Nintendo had sold thousands of games across the United States and the series had gained a rather strong following. Handheld gaming was depicted as the way of the future, and Nintendo was proudly leading the way.

The Gold series of games offered three new titles with the same basic concept and layout as the Silver series. The games were (listed in order of release);


All three games were released between January and April of 1981. Worth noting is the name change that the game Helmet got in the UK by way of being called Headache.


Very noticeable changes took place in the world of the Game and Watch in June of 1981. Boasting a larger screen and displaying the series name underneath, the Wide Screen offered a much larger display which meant that Nintendo could make the games more involved.

Another noticeable change was that the game option buttons as well as the time and alarm buttons were moved to the top right hand side of each game. This in turn meant that the screens could not only be longer, but also taller.

At this time Nintendo also took a step further in the gaming world by incorporating some iconic animated figures into their own games. This would be a huge step in the franchise, and one that would be continued until the series end.

The Wide Screen games included (listed in order of release);

Mickey Mouse
Turtle Bridge
Fire Attack

Despite the slight price increase due to the larger screens, fans of the little handheld games happily received these ten new games into their collections.


In 1982 Nintendo finally began displaying their company name on the front of each Game and Watch. This in turn meant that the name of the series was again excluded. But, Nintendo had good reasoning for doing this. During this time they were in the early development stages of the Nintendo Entertainment System, and it was crucial that they began getting their name out on the market. If people would make the connection between the highly successful hand held games and the upcoming system, it would be highly likely that they would in turn purchase more units of the upcoming console.

The New Wide Screen series would include several well known faces from the Nintendo line, and was so popular that the series continued on for two years after the Nintendo Gameboy was released, and managed to still sell several copies.

The games released in the New Wide Screen series were (listed in order of release);

Donkey Kong Jr.
Mario's Cement Factory
Tropical Fish
Super Mario Bros.
Balloon Fight
Mario the Juggler


Not only were the multi screen games the most popular, they were also the most ground breaking. Where else at the time could you find a game that required such high skill as to require two screens to play?

Between May, 1982 and August 1989 Nintendo released a total of fifteen multi screen games.

The games included (in order of release);

Oil Panic
Donkey Kong
Mickey and Donald
Green House
Donkey Kong II
Mario Bros.
Rain Shower
Life Boat
Black Jack

Despite the re-shrinking of the screens to their original sizes, the games were so good that most retail stores couldn't even keep them in stock. What helped drive the series was that a lot of the games depicted characters from prior arcade classics and earlier Game and Watch games as well as familiar faces from NES games.

Sadly, the series ended prior to two more games which were scheduled for release (Tetris and Boukas) that never saw the light of day.


While Game and Watch games were perfect for car rides, Nintendo wanted to offer a more "home" version style.

The tabletop games would resemble shrunken down arcade machines, and also offer players with color screens. They were widely received by gamers around the world, and were so popular that other video game companies began producing their own as well.

A total of four tabletop machines were released, but all four were basically upgraded versions of prior released games.

The four games were (listed in order of release);

Donkey Kong Jr.
Mario's Cement Factory

The tabletop games were only released in 1983 and disappeared mainly because while popular, they weren't cost efficient on the part of Nintendo to manufacture.


To understand what this series is, one must first understand what a panorama is. Simply explained, a panorama is any wide view of a physical space or a wide-angle representation of such a view. In other words, the Nintendo Game and Watch Panorama series was Wide Screen with more.

The Panorama series (at the time) was a beautiful way to show the slight advance in handheld gaming technology. The graphics were slightly better, and the games were some of the best ever released.

The layout of the games changed considerably as were the style of the overall design of the cases. Some even argued that the Game and Watches now looked rather cheap - Far from the truth.

The six games released throughout 1983 and 1984 were (listed in order of release);

Donkey Kong Jr.
Mario's Bombs Away
Mickey Mouse
Donkey Kong Circus

The Panorama games to this day remain the most difficult to track down among collectors.


The two SuperColor games released in early February were not well received at all. Perhaps it was their futuristic look that scared gamers away. Perhaps it was because the look and feel of the games that gamers were used to appeared to be gone. Or, maybe it was the simple truth that the two games that were released sucked so bad that nobody bothered.

I'm going with the third guess on that one.

Despite it’s flashy looks and boasting of color, the games for the SuperColor were so horrible that it wasn't enough for this new handheld technology to push these games to the front line. Because of their utter failure, Nintendo quickly jumped back into making their standard style of Game and Watch games.

The two games released were (listed in order of release);

Spitball Sparky
Crab Grab

Micro Vs.

We'd had the ability to play two players Game and Watch games before, but never at the same time. Never like this.

Before, if one wanted to partake of a two player Game and Watch game, you had to hand it back and forth to each other. If not done quickly, chances were you weren't going to last long.

Micro Vs. changed all that by offering two sets of controls which branched off of the main unit. This way, each person could hold their controller, and still be able to see the screen. The downside to this however was that you had to get pretty friendly with that person because there wasn't a lot of lead on the wires.

The three games released in this set were (listed in order of release);

Donkey Kong 3
Donkey Kong Hockey

For some reason, while this was a great new concept, the Micro Vs. never took off. Maybe because people didn't want to sit on top of each others laps to play a game.


The Crystal Screen series was a major step up as far as picture quality, but the price alone was enough to kill the series. Costing almost twice as much as a regular Game and Watch, consumers weren't too eager to jump on this technology.

Through 1986 only three Crystal Screen games were released. It didn't help that all of them were previously released titles. They were (in order of release);

Super Mario Bros.

The Crystal Screen games faded away almost as quickly as they came. It didn't help that in an attempt to make the games easier to play Nintendo threw a bunch of buttons all over the place. Have you ever tried to hit only one small button in a cluster of four? Not easy.

Though Nintendo no longer produces the Game and Watch series, there have been a few "Special Editions" released over the years of prior best selling ones. They're typically released in very low quantities and in my personal opinion cost way more than they're worth.

However, collectors around the world continue to hunt down their missing pieces from their collection. The series remains so popular not only for nostalgic reasons, but because a lot of the games simply were that good. For these reasons alone, Nintendo Game and Watch prices have skyrocketed on the secondary market, fetching prices upwards of the high hundreds range to even slightly over a thousand for some while most remain in the couple hundred range - Still, not a bad investment or cash in (depending on what side of the market you're on).

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