SEATTLE—In the decades since 1991's Nintendo World Championship tournament, its unique prize for participants—a competition-class cartridge with timed versions of classic games Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris—has become a sought-after collector's item. It's among the few "holy grail" games for high-end NES collectors, with an apparent grand total of less than 200 in the world. It represents a golden era when Nintendo could host a tournament that captivated a nation (and followed the two-hour commercial of a film that was The Wizard).

Hence, the discovery of any Nintendo World Championship cartridge is a newsworthy event for a certain class of retro-gaming enthusiast. But this week's discovery of a new copy, brokered by Seattle retro-gaming shop Pink Gorilla Games, might be the weirdest one yet.

"You wouldn't believe this," Pink Gorilla co-owner Cody Spencer told Ars Technica in his shop's storage room on Wednesday, after a whirlwind 24 hours concluded with the game's sale to a collector. "It's like anybody's dream come true, when they hear about rare and valuable video games."

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