Monday, November 1, 2021

This 1971 price list shows the full product range of Nintendo fifty years ago

After their early days producing mainly Hanafuda and other playing cards, and temporarily side-stepping into various other markets in the 1960s, at the end of that decade Nintendo had transformed into a toy manufacturer with a broad range of products, sold throughout Japan.

The document shown here gives a detailed insight into just how many different items the company offered at that time, from traditional games to new and innovative toys.

The document is called 'price table' ('価格表') and dates from September 1st 1971 (listed as Shōwa 46).

1971 Nintendo price table - front

It was published by the Nintendo Nagoya Sales office (任天堂名古屋営業所), one of Nintendo's four sales offices at the time (the other ones were in Sapporo, Osaka and Okayama). Together with the headquarters in Kyoto, a branch office in Tokyo and two distribution centres, these constituted Nintendo's operation. [For a company tour of Nintendo in 1970, check out this post.]

The document consists of seven thin paper pages, that are printed on one side with tables in black. In the back, a single fold-out page with colour pictures is included, that is printed on both sides.

Dimensions are 18 by 25.5 centimetres. The fold-out page is double that size, 36 by 25.5 centimetres.

The first page aptly begins with Hanafuda (花札), or 'Flower Cards', which was the company's first product, offered here in five quality versions. The top-of-the-line is Daitōryō (大統領), featuring the familiar picture of Napoleon on the wrapper, followed by, in descending price, Otafuku (お多福), Three Cranes (三羽鶴), Tengu (天狗) and City Flowers (都の花).

1971 Nintendo price table - page 1 of 7

These 'standard' Hanafuda are followed on this page by:

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Nintendo Love Tester ad sign (ca 1969)

In today's post we will take a look at a very special item in my collection: a sign used to promote the Nintendo Love Tester (ラブテスター) from 1969.

I do not know if this was an official item produced by Nintendo, but given the build quality and the unique feature it has (more on that below), I am assuming it is. It must be very rare, as this is the only one I have ever seen. If there were more, and there probably were, they probably have disappeared in the sands of time by now.

The Love Tester was a novelty item conceived by Gunpei Yokoi for Nintendo. It used simple electronics to provide a 'love score' to a couple holding hands.

The Love Tester was a considerabel success, helped by marketing material like the flyer above and this particular sign, that was likely placed in a shop or departement store to attract sales.

The sign measures around 35 centimeters wide, 40 centimeters high and 12 centimeters deep. It is lighted from inside, using a 110 volt fluorescent light.

At the top it gives the product name in both English and Japanese.

Friday, June 25, 2021

The one that almost got away: Nintendo Time Bomb (タイムボーン, 1965)

Earlier this week, an online sale on Yahoo Auctions Japan made some heads turn in Nintendo collector circles.

Firstly, because the final bid was for a whopping ¥256,555 (around US$2300 or €2000). Secondly, because the sale involved a Nintendo toy that was virtually unknown until a week ago.

It's name is Time Bomb (タイムボーン) and it dates from 1965.

Yahoo Auctions Japan bidding war - July 24 2021

This particular toy was so unknown that it did not appear in any overview of Nintendo vintage toys, nor in any of the books covering this period of Nintendo's history. Not a single image of it could be found online.

No Nintendo Time Bomb in these books

There was one exception though, although I did not learn about that one until this week as well.

In 2019, an interesting book was published by Kohei Takano (高野 光平), called 「発掘! 歴史に埋もれたテレビCM 見たことのない昭和30年代」, or "Excavation! Never before seen TV commercials buried in showa 30s history". It covers a wide selection of examples from 1955-1965, which are the early days of television commercials in japan. [Amazon Japan link here.]

The 2019 booklet that includes a reference to Nintendo Time Bomb

One of the commercials included in Takano's book is... Nintendo Time Bomb. This ad aired in 1965 in Japan, and shows that the toy retailed for ¥600.

Images of the Nintendo Time Bomb TV commercial (from Kohei Takano's book)

However, for the origins of this toy we have to travel to the United States.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Nintendo Napoleon playing cards

In Nintendo's early playing card manufacturing days, they carried a number of different brand names and trade marks. It's a familiar marketing tactic used to gain market share.

A key brand was Napoleon, named after the French 19th century emperor Napoléon Bonaparte.

Other brand names used at the time by Nintendo were Standard and Victor.

In the first decades of the company, Nintendo took inspiration from more established playing card manufacturers abroad, in particular from the United States. This included copying card designs, absorbing expertise, as well as re-using existing brand names.

It is not known if this happened with the full consent of the other companies, as part of business deals or partnerships, or if this was an act of creative 'borrowing' or straight-up plagiarism. Fact is that a manufacturer named The Standard Playing Cards company existed in the United Stats already before Nintendo was established, and it appears that American companies also used the Napoleon name, possibly referring to the card game with the same name.

An interesting article, in Japanese, on this somewhat hazy part in Nintendo's history can be found here.