The Stangata applied to retrogame: history of a scam?

The Stangata applied to retrogame: history of a scam?

The Stangata applied to retrogame

Over the past few months we have seen an incredible increase in retrogame sales prices. There are reports of copies of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Bros sold for over $ 1 million at an auction house (Heritage Auctions) that prior to 2019 dealt only with luxury items and art. This increase in prices, however, would belong to a real scam, in a very similar way to what we saw in the film The Stangata, where two scammers orchestrate a scam to a US criminal by creating a fictitious bookshop. And trust me, we are on a very similar level when we talk about this new speculative bubble of 80s and 90s video games.

retrogame How did this scam against retrogaming collectors develop? It is not easy to understand and does not even immediately emerge to the eye. Discovering this gigantic deception was Karl Jobst, who on YouTube deals with speed runs, but is also passionate about retro games. So much so that he concentrated about a month of investigations to find out why certain copies of absolutely “expensive” games in terms of rarity and conditions found themselves close to the value of a medium-sized villa located in Costa Smeralda. The truth is shocking and involves, in addition to Heritage Auctions, some individuals who have set out to orchestrate a real gigantic scam.

It all starts in 2018, when WATA, a company that deals with the grading of video games, was founded. It is not the first activity that appears on the market, since VGA was born ten years earlier, with the same, identical purposes. A leap of a year and we are in 2019: at Heritage Auctions a copy of Super Mario Bros is sold for about $ 100,000, graded by WATA. The bought are three, including a key man in this whole affair. Let's talk about James L. Halperin, founder of… Heritage Auctions. But the man is not only the owner of the auction house, he was also one of the members of the board of WATA, the same "authority" that takes care, in fact, of grading the games.

In short , the retrogame market is not in a golden age of prices like art, for example. There are two companies operating the market, namely WATA and Heritage Auctions, connected in a not so obscure way. Their goal is to raise prices systematically, passing through a grading system (which was already carried out by another company) and then selling everything in a prestigious auction house. But how is it possible that WATA has gained the attention of so many collectors or speculators in just three years? Simple: with PR maneuvers.

Beyond the news on retrogames sold at high prices and reported by all the media dealing with video games and pop culture, the CEO of WATA (Deniz Khana) and Halperin have worked in a systematic way, with many press releases on the video games sold at Heritage Auctions, as well as a constant presence of Khana in the Pawn Stars show, which we “localized” with the name Family Business. A similar media power that VGA has never been able to implement, and perhaps even never wanted: consider the fact that, despite being a full-fledged job, the founders of VGA never started with the intention of creating a speculative bubble, as opposed to WATA. Then there would be other details and other figures involved, such as for example a dentist who passes himself off as a collector, with the aim of buying the games and then reselling them a few years later at a higher value, but we prefer not to be more balanced. On the other hand, the mechanism is already clear enough like this.

The last big question, however, concerned the buyers. Heritage Auctions does not release the names of those who have bought retro games at such high prices, just as it obviously does not do so for other auctions of other categories. Jobst, however, managed to enter into the merits, discovering that some video games have been purchased by companies such as Rally, which deal with "selling" assets belonging to the world of collectibles. Just like on the stock exchange, when you bet on whether a certain material, a certain currency or a certain stock goes up or down in value. It is therefore not excluded that, beyond some speculative maneuvers, behind these purchases there are no companies of this type, which allow users to sell or buy pieces of a video game (obviously all in a virtual way) and then resell, thus creating a profit.

For further information, please consult the Jobst video. Behind this speculative mouth of retrogames there are also other ideas on the subject, including money laundering, on which we absolutely do not want to enter, given the little evidence to support it. To be honest, in reality, the picture just painted is quite disturbing. To avoid such scams, of course, our advice is to buy exclusively from specialized stores or from sites like eBay or Subito. Heritage Auctions, at least for now, can wait.

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