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Resurrected 'E.T.' Atari Games Fetch Thousands On EBay


And now for some seriously wasteful purchases, emphasis on the waste.


Earlier this year we told you about documentary filmmakers who were trying to unearth the truth. They wanted to know if Atari, the videogame company, had really buried hundreds of 1980s game cartridges they couldn't sell...

SHAPIRO: Including the game version of "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," which I played as a child.

CORNISH: (Laughter) OK.

SHAPIRO: Reviewers hated game and - here's where the waste comes in - rumor had it the games were deep inside a New Mexico landfill. One of the filmmakers, Zak Penn, spoke to us about the project in March.


ZAK PENN: Well, our goal is to document the excavation of this game to kind of find the truth behind the story.

CORNISH: Well, Ari, the city of Alamogordo struck a deal with the filmmakers. You can dig, they said, but we get to sell most of what you find.

It turns out it was all too true and the spoils have been up for auction on eBay.

SHAPIRO: So who would pay money for something that is literally garbage?

JASON BROWN: The box just had newspaper in it and the game itself is crushed up with dirt.

SHAPIRO: That's Jason Brown. He is 32, father of three and just bought the landfill version of Atari's "Centipede" and it was not dirt cheap.

BROWN: The ending bid for me I believe was $186.

CORNISH: "E.T." cartridges, by the way, have been going for way more than that. One of them sold for more than 1,500 bucks.

SHAPIRO: I wish I hadn't gotten rid of mine. Well, Jason Brown is a big collector of these games. He has more than 1,700 of them at home. In this case though, he was really trying hard not to spend too much on trash so he asked his wife to talk him out of it.

BROWN: As the auction was going on I was like hey, stop me from buying this so she asked me what it was and I told her, and she surprised me. She's like, well, just don't spend too much and I was like, well, how much is too much? And she said, you should know how much is too much.

CORNISH: He decided anything under $200 would be worth it. That's for something he never intends to use. He plans to keep it in the box, dirt and all.

BROWN: Because if I ever want to sell it in the future, I'm if sure someone is looking to buy one of these, they want the authentic, you know, just-straight-from-the-dump feel.

SHAPIRO: Well, apparently just-straight-from-the-dump sells. So far the city has made more than $37,000 from the online auction of those old Atari 2600 game cartridges. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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