Saturday, June 29, 2013

Yet more vintage Nintendo items sold

Alright, folks! It took a little bit longer than expected, but another batch of vintage Nintendo toys and games from my collection is now up for grabs on eBay sold.

All this on eBay now! And more!

The items listed included: Color TV Game 15 (2x), Electro Poker, Computer Mah-jong Yakuman link cable, board games, Table Soccer, Candy Machine, the rare My Car Race racing set, Paper Models and Mini Games.

These are currently being shipped out to their new owners. Thanks you to all bidders and congratulations to the winners.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

How the Bassmate Computer came to be

In the previous post, we introduced the Bassmate Computer; a pocket electronic databank from 1984, targeted at bass fishers. The Bassmate was manufactured by Nintendo and co-designed by the Game & Watch team from Gunpei Yokoi's R&D1 department.

Bassmate Computer by Telko / Probe 2000 / KMV (1984)

American engineer Bill Olliges was the inventor of the Bassmate. He conceived it together with his business partner Ed Miller, who took care of the marketing through his company Telko.

In an earlier stage of his career, Bill was involved in the American arcade business, as was Ed. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they both worked as executives for the American devision of Taito and later for Florida based Centuri inc.

During its heyday, Centuri was one of the top US suppliers of video arcade games. Many of their machines where licensed from Japanese companies, in particular Konami. The list of games they manufactured and distributed includes hits like Phoenix, Vanguard, Track & Field, Time Pilot and Gyruss.

After the demise of the video arcade industry in the mid 1980s, Bill started an engineering firm called Proton Engineering, which he is still involved in today. 

[Update: Almost five years after the first publication of this story, Bill Olliges passed away in February of 2018].
Bill Olliges holding a WalleyeMate II, one of the products
that was created after the success of the Bassmate

Bill explains where the idea for a fishing computer came from and how Nintendo got involved.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bassmate Computer (1984): a newly discovered member of the Game & Watch family tree

Chances are high that you have never heard of Game & Watch BM-501. I had never heard of it myself, until a few weeks ago, when fellow Nintendo collector Sander mentioned that I should take a look at the Bassmate Computer; a pocket size electronic device that helps select the best lure and bait combination for every bass fishing condition. Sander had spotted it during one of his regular searches on eBay.

The Bassmate I saw was sold under the name of a brand called "Probe 2000" and dated from 1984. At first glance, it seemed like a regular sporting aid, be it one that was quite advanced for its time.

However, when checking out the image on the back of the box, something dawned on me. That shape seemed rather familiar! It looked just like a Game & Watch Multi Screen!

When taking a closer look, it appeared that everything matched; the overall design of the case, the hinges, the connector between the bottom and top part, the shape of the buttons - they all looked like they came straight out of the kitchen of the handheld master from Kyoto.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Nintendo Companion (トランシーバー コンパニオン, ca 1965)

The early days of Nintendo's toys and games are gradually being documented, thanks to the efforts of a handful of researchers, writers and collectors. But there is still plenty of ground to cover, stories to be told and inventions to be shared.

Every now and then a 'new' old toy pops up that is relatively unknown. The subject of this blog post is one the most obscure toys from this era. Beside being very rare, it is also an important piece in the history for the company, as it marks a number of firsts: Nintendo's first electronic toy and their first cooperation with Sharp.

The item we are talking about is the Nintendo Companion (コンパニオン). It is a toy walkie-talkie set, dating from around the end of 1965, possibly early 1966.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mini Nintendo Summit with Isao and Florent

The title of this blog post should be taken with a pinch of salt, as nothing quite as formal as a real summit took place. But still, it was a moment of great importance to me personally.

In April of this year, I travelled to Japan for a week long holiday, together with my seven-year-old daughter. In the short period we were there, we enjoyed many of the things Japan has to offer: bustling city life, beautiful nature, mouth-watering food and as much anime and video game fun as is humanly possible to take in.

For me, one of the highlights of the trip was meeting fellow Nintendo aficionado Isao Yamazaki. Isao is one of the world's most renowned Nintendo collectors and extremely knowledgeable about Nintendo's history.

Isao-san unpacks the Nintendo Crossover, while Florent watches approvingly.

But most of all, he's a very nice guy and I was happy to finally meet him in person.

Isao had recently acquired some vintage Nintendo toys from me, and this trip allowed me to hand-deliver these to him in Tokyo. One of the items was a Nintendo Crossover from 1981, one of most difficult to find inventions by the great Gunpei Yokoi. Isao had been looking for one for a long time, so you can imagine how pleased he was to add this to his collection.

Isao-san and yours-truly posing with the Crossover

An evening with Isao would already have been historic for me. But luck would have it that another Nintendo comrade was also in town: none other than Nintendo historian Florent Gorges, who was in Japan working on a couple of his upcoming books! Florent joined the party, which turned into a mini gathering of three Nintendo lovers.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Collection update - nice finds and still wanted

It's my objective to collect and document - on this blog - every game and toy produced by Nintendo from the early 1960s, when they started as toy maker, up to the phenomenal success of the Family Computer in the mid 1980s.

My collection initially grew rapidly, amassing many of the items that are still quite easy to find, even though they are from thirty up to fifty years old. But after these early collecting sprints, I slowly drifted into more challenging territory. As a collection grows, it is almost inevitable that the gaps become increasingly difficult to fill.

In the case of vintage Nintendo items, it is not so much the cost of items that makes completing a collection difficult. Finances do play a role, as a number of these things are rather expensive; like the Computer TV Game and some of the Ultra Man themed games, for instance. But although prices seem to be picking up in recent years, due to the number of collectors increasing, those pricey items still tend to be the exceptions.

Three more vintage Nintendo items I can strike off the wanted list

For the largest part, it is the scarcity of the items that is the problem challenge. Most, if not all, that is left on my wanted list is simply extremely difficult to find. Added to that the desire to find items in good condition and in original packaging, and patience and perseverance are needed more than anything else.

I recently found three items that I had been looking for for a long time: Nintendo's Mini Game Horse Race, N&B Block Parts set P-35 and the blue boxed Ultra Hand.