Friday, June 7, 2024

Spot the difference: Ultra(s)cope box variants

Today's story is for people who appreciate the smallest details. People who see useful information where others see merely trifling trivia. It is also a story about paying close attention and discovering things hiding in plain sight.

For many years, I believed there were two versions of the Nintendo Ultra Scope from 1971.

One of them was actually called Ultra Cope, while the other one was called Ultra Scope.

The missing 'S' in that first version was most likely an error, although it was carried through (or started with) the name in Japanese: ウルトラコープ, which does read as Ultra Cope.

The Japanese name of the second version has an added "SU" (ス), and reads as ウルトラスコープ (which means, indeed, Ultra Scope).

The different names of the two versions can be seen on the front and sides of the box, as well as on the plastic housing itself.

When I first posted about this wonderful device back in 2011 (check that out here), somebody added a comment mentioning the existence of a third version. However, no visual proof was provided at the time, and I soon forgot about it.

I never came across this alleged third version - that is to say, I never noticed it. Until somebody pointed it out to me (thank you Bart).

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Nintendo Love Peace "Smiley" e-clock (Love Peace 電気時計, circa 1971)

I have been collecting vintage Nintendo toys and games for around twenty-five years now, and although there are still plenty of items on my search list, they tend to be - obviously - the rarer ones. As a result, the finds occur with decreasing frequency.

Recently I was able to add two items to my collection that are both very rare and hard to find: the Nintendo Time Bomb (covered here) and the Nintendo Love Peace e-clock, which is the topic of today's post.

The Love Peace electric clock (「Love Peace 電気時計」) is one of the seven known variants of electric clocks released by Nintendo in 1971-1972. Of these seven different clocks, the four featuring the Tokusatsu heroes Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Mirror Man and Silver Kamen are the most common. The clock with the Disney figures is rarer, and the Panda clock can be considered very rare, with only a handful copies known in collector circles.

The Love Peace clock is the rarest of all these clocks. The one I was able to acquire was only the second one I had ever seen.

The box and clock itself are decorated with the well-known "Smiley" design. Created in the 1960s by Harvey Ball, this design soon exploded in popularity, and was recognized worldwide by the 1970s. It was produced by the millions in the form of stickers, buttons and used to adorn almost any object you can imagine.

Monday, April 1, 2024

My stay at Marufukuro, former Nintendo HQ

[Long post warning!]

Today marks the second anniversary of the opening of the Marufukuro hotel in Kyoto, on April 1st, 2022. It's a good moment to share my personal experience visiting this special place in Nintendo's history: the former headquarters of Nintendo, situated at the site where the company originated back in 1889.

Nintendo shop in Shōmen-dōri in Kyoto, early 20th century

In previous posts, I've shared the background of this building and it's neighborhood (check it out here), as well as some of its interior details.


Shōmen-dōri in 2023

Many years before the hotel's opening, when the building was no longer in active use and completely off-limits to outside visitors, I had already traveled to this location. At that time, I was content to view it from the outside, steal a small peek inside, and absorb the atmosphere of the neighborhood, which is the birthplace of Nintendo. The highlight of that trip was taking a picture with my recently released "Before Mario" book in front of the well-known old company signs.


My visit in 2015 (in front of a closed door)

At the time, I couldn't have imagined or even hoped for what would happen several years later: a full restoration of the building dating from 1933 and its conversion into a hotel, while preserving the original atmosphere and many original artifacts completely intact.


Hotel Marufukuro, Nintendo's former HQ, in 2023

As you can imagine, ever since the announcement of the hotel's opening, I've been eager to visit. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting closure of Japan to foreign visitors, I had to wait until an opportunity arose last November.


The buildings extends deep from the street

I traveled to Japan together with my youngest daughter, and during this trip, we planned to stay one night at Marufukuro.

As we walked into the building, it immediately became clear that it was even more beautiful than I had imagined through the many pictures I had already seen. My eyes darted between all the interesting details and beautiful items.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

I caught a Nintendo Time Bomb from the 1960s

In a previous blog post I discussed a very rare Nintendo item from the 1960s called the Time Bomb (タイムボーン). For decades, this Nintendo-branded licensed toy had remained out of sight, even to the most dedicated Nintendo collectors and historians. That is, until one appeared for auction on Yahoo Auctions Japan in 2021. An unknown lucky winner took it home for ¥256,555.

As you can imagine, ever since that moment, I have been on the lookout for another Time Bomb. And last November, two and a half years after that first discovery, I managed to acquire one offered by an American seller through eBay. Fortunately, this one was a bit cheaper.

So, without further ado, here's the second known Nintendo Time Bomb, now part of the beforemario collection.

The box is a bit rough and squashed, with some rips. But all flaps are present and the colors of the artwork are still vibrant.