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Vintage Game Box Storage and Shipping Information

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Greetings fellow vintage video game collector!

Here are some tips to preserve and protect your highly valued and collectible vintage video games. This is not a comprehensive guide as it does not include every type of media for every vintage video game system. But it does contain several useful generalities and a number of valuable specifics.

General tips:

Avoid damage by shipping cartridges outside of their collectible boxes

Many vintage video game cartridges originally came in boxes that held the cartridge in place with cardboard tabs or other weak means inside the box. Some of these tabs were strong enough to hold the cartridge in place during the intended original life-cycle of the game cartridge but since these game cartridges have far exceeded their intended life (by many decades) these small and delicate tabs are more and more susceptible to damage due to the ravages of time. A cartridge that is inside of its box during shipping may actually cause damage to the box and manual during shipping as it is bounced around by the delivery company on its way to its destination and as all collectors know, the box, manual and other items inside the box are often the most valuable pieces of the collectible item. The small cardboard tabs that hold the cartridge in place are often sheared off during shipping from the force of the cartridge as the shipping container is slammed around by the freight company. So, it is highly recommended to ship certain cartridges outside of their box to avoid damaging the collectible box, manuals and other items from a loose cartridge bouncing around inside the box during shipping.

Avoiding damage while opening and closing flip-flap boxes

In general, much damage to boxes and manuals comes from mishandling. Most damage I have seen is actually from people opening and re-closing boxes in ways that are in themselves damaging to the boxes. For example, for any flip-flap (flip-top or
flip-bottom) boxes, most people simply insert their fingers and pull the flap open. This action bends the flap, stretches the box and results in creases. See figure 1 for an example of this damage.

Figure 1. - Box damage from mishandling


Notice locations A, B and C where the flap has been bent and creased from forced opening. Also notice location D where the back of the box is creased from the bend created when fingers were inserted to grab the flap and pull it open. This type of damage may not always be avoidable depending on how easily the box can be opened in ways other than forcing your fingers into it.To avoid the types of damage shown in figure 1, you may attempt opening a flip-flap box by utilizing a flat object such as a butter knife, screwdriver or flat plastic implement made from an old credit card as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2. - Where to open flip-flap boxes with a flat tool


A flat tool may be inserted under the flap of a flip-flap box to carefully open the flap. The tool should be carefully inserted from the side of the box and under the flap toward the opening side of the flap as shown at location A. Do not insert the tool toward location B, the hinged side of the flap.

Figure 3. - Flat tool inserted correctly to open flip-flap box


Flap should open if carefully manipulated with flat tool as shown in figure 3. Notice that tool was inserted and manipulated under the flap toward the opening side of the flap, not the hinged side of the flap. This action will need to be repeated on each side of the box to fully release the flap. Some boxes are more stubborn than others depending on the bends of the flaps so some damage to box may be unavoidable. Go slow and careful to minimize disturbing the old cardboard of these vintage boxes.

Avoid damage from incorrectly removing, inserting or storing cartridges or other materials in relation to their boxes

I’ve received many collectible items that have not been treated well and that mistreatment resulted in damage to the collectible. I have often received Intellivision cartridges in flip-bottom boxes that have been opened at the top instead of the bottom and then the cartridge was forcibly removed through the top, crushing the internal cardboard supports. Later, these cartridges are shoved back into the damaged boxes in various ways, sometimes further crushing the internal box supports and other times ripping, creasing or folding manuals or other paper inserts. A good way to tell if a cartridge box is flip-top or flip-bottom is by feeling where most of the weight is. If most of the weight is in the bottom of the box then it is likely a flip-bottom box and vice versa in relation to a flip-top box.

If the box has a place for manuals, overlays, etc. you should use that place to store the items. Placing them elsewhere or using another method may damage the items.

Avoid damage by storing cartridges in boxes correctly

I’ve seen a lot of damaged boxes due to people placing the cartridges in the boxes incorrectly. Here are some examples of what to do and what not to do.

Atari 2600 Gate-fold Boxes:

Shipping Atari Gate-fold boxes with the cartridge in them can cause serious damage to the box. This is due to the forces applied to the box during shipping which can cause the cartridge to move around actually damaging the cardboard box.

Figure 4. - Points of potential damage to Atari Gate-fold boxes during shipping


Locations A, B, C and D of Figure 4 show areas where the cartridge can damage the box during shipping. This is caused during shipping by the shipping box being dropped, jostled, falling, etc. which causes the weight of the cartridge to move the cartridge and damage the different cardboard areas of the vintage collectible box. That is bad!

Many collectors make the mistake of storing the cartridge in the gate-fold box with the upper cardboard tab INSIDE the cartridge rather than having the cartridge UNDER this tab as shown in figure 5. Storing the cartridge with the tab inside can cause damage to the cardboard tab.

Figure 5. - Proper Atari cartridge orientation and placement in gate-fold box


Figure 5 shows the correct way to place an Atari cartridge into a gate-fold box. Notice the tab at position A is OVER the cartridge. Also notice the crease damage at position A where this tab was at some point inserted into the cartridge instead of the cartridge being inserted under the cardboard tab.

Figure 6. - Incorrect Atari cartridge placement in gate-fold box


Figure 6 shows the INCORRECT placement of the Atari cartridge in the box with the tab INSIDE the cartridge. This is what causes the crease shown in figure 5 at position A.


Flip-flap boxes with internal cardboard cartridge support tabs:

There are many manufacturers of boxes of this type. These may be flip-top or flip-bottom. Generally, the Atari 2600 flip-flap boxes are flip-top whereas the Intellivision flip-flap boxes are most often (but not always) flip-bottom.

Figure 7. - Internal cardboard support of flip-flap box type 1 (common for Intellivison)


The cartridge that came in this box rests in a pocket made of cardboard and is supported by small fragile cardboard pieces that are bent and glued in a way to perform this function. You can see the damage that has been done to this type of support at position A in the image. Continued abuse will cause the support to completely fail. Shipping this game with the cartridge inside the box will likely cause this failure due to the continued slamming of the cartridge into the support.

Figure 8. - Internal cardboard support of flip-flap box type 2 (common for Atari 2600)


The cartridge that came in this box rests in a pocket made of cardboard and is supported by a single thin cardboard extension (flap at position A) that has been cut out and bent in a way to support the cartridge in its position within the cardboard pocket. This type of support flap is extremely susceptible to damage and is almost always completely ripped loose when I receive games in the mail. But, the example in this image shows a cardboard support flap that is still in very good condition.



Intellivision Cartridge Information:

There are several varieties of boxes that Intellivision games come in. For this document I’ll summarize the various types as:

  • Activision (up-sliding cardboard tray)
  • Flip-flap (flip-top or flip-bottom, various manufacturers including Intellivision Inc., INTV Corporation, Interphase, Atarisoft, Dextell, Coleco, Sega, Mattel Intellivision, probably more)
  • Imagic (down-sliding plastic tray)
  • Mattel Electronics gate-fold
  • Parker Brothers (lift-off front)

Intellivision Activision cartridges

All of the Intellivision Activision boxes have the same design. They have a cardboard tray that slides out (up) to reveal the cartridge, manual and overlays. The tray is designed to catch the inside of the box to keep it from coming all of the way out of the box so be careful not to damage the tray or box by trying to pull it all of the way out by force. It can be easily removed by careful manipulation of the box while pulling the tray out. Be sure to remove the manual and/or other documents which will alleviate the pressure on the “catch” making removal easier. These boxes are relatively strong and can easily withstand the cartridges being shipped inside them.

Figure 9. - Top of Activision tray exposed


Notice the manual is held under the flap at the top at letter A. Be careful inserting and removing the manual under this flap. Many Activision boxes and manuals are damaged in this area. I suggest using a butter knife, small screwdriver or other thin object to remove manual by inserting it under the manual (don’t scratch or damage the box or manual) in the area around letters B or C and gently applying pressure away from the box (bending the manual slightly) to free the manual from the tab.


Figure 10. - Activision manual removed, cartridge exposed


Once the manual is carefully removed the cartridge is exposed in the tray. The cartridge may be easily and carefully removed from the tray with a finger utilizing the finger cut-out. The cartridge should always be placed in the recess with its opening toward the finger cut-out for easy removal. Later re-insertion of the manual will require a gentle bend applied to it while gently lifting the retaining tab in order for the manual and other materials to be inserted below the tab. I suggest that you not re-insert the manual without removing the tray first. Please see notes below in relation to figure 13.

Figure 11. - Activision cartridge removed, overlays exposed


Once the cartridge is removed the overlays are exposed in the tray. There is normally nothing else in the recess of the tray.


Figure 12. - Bottom of tray exposed


The tray may be carefully removed after manuals and other paperwork are removed. You can do this by applying gentle pressure to the center of the front of the box in order to push the lower cardboard tab (position A) down to avoid it catching on the internal lip (figure 14, position A) while gently pulling the tray upward and out of the external box. Beneath the flap at position A is where manuals and other paperwork rest while in the box. The manuals and paperwork will cause the flap to be lifted (figure 13, positions A and B) which will cause the flap to catch the inside lip of the box (figure 14 position A).

Figure 13. - Manual inserted in bottom flap


Notice the manual extending over the tray on both sides of the flap at A and B. This lifts the flap which will cause it to catch the lip inside the box as shown in figure 14 at position A. I recommend removing the tray completely before attempting to re-insert the manual or other paper items under the bottom flap. Doing otherwise may damage the paper items or bottom flap as the flap should be gently lifted in order to accommodate the insertion of the manual or other materials.


Figure 14. - Internal lip that catches bottom flap of tray


The lip at position A is what catches the bottom flap of the tray when the manual and other paperwork are resting under the bottom flap and the tray is inserted into the box.

Intellivision flip-flap boxes

See information under the “General Tips” and the “Flip-flap boxes with internal cardboard cartridge support tabs” areas at the top of this document

Intellivision Imagic cartridges

The Intellivision Imagic cartridges have metallic silver boxes that have a black plastic tray that slides down toward the bottom and out of the box to reveal the cartridge, manual and overlays.

Figure 15. - Imagic tray being slid down and out of box


As the tray is removed from the box the manual is exposed. The manual simply rests on the tray inside the box and is kept from falling out of the box by the plastic lip on the bottom of the tray. This lip should NOT be forced into the box. It is intended to rest against the bottom of the box, not enter the box. Forcing the lip into the box will deform the box.

Figure 16. - Exposing the cartridge and the overlays


Removing the manual will expose the cartridge and the overlays. The cartridge rests in a depression in the plastic tray. The overlays also have a recessed area in which to lay. The overlays do not usually maintain their position in their small recess even during storage. So, for shipping, I recommend placing them inside the manual or beneath the cartridge in the cartridge recess.


Figure 17. - Empty Imagic tray


You can see the recesses of the Imagic tray in the image.

Mattel Electronics gate-fold boxes

Something to watch out for with the gate-fold boxes in general (Atari 2600, too) is that there is a lip inside the manual pocket. This lip will catch the manual and other items inserted into it and bend the pages of the manual or other items inserted into it. I avoid this by either gently pulling the pocket open and then inserting the items or by inserting a more sturdy item first and then inserting the manual or other softer items behind the first item. With Intellivision gate-fold boxes I carefully insert the overlays first and then insert the manual or other items behind the overlays.


Figure 18. - Mattel Electronics gate-fold box with plastic pocket


Some of the Mattel Intellivision gate-fold boxes have a plastic tray that the cartridge rests in. This is an extremely strong design and I’ve not seen a game box damaged from shipping one of these with the cartridge inside the plastic tray. Something to watch out for with the gate-fold boxes in general (Atari, too) is that there is a lip inside the manual pocket. This lip will catch the manual and other items inserted into it and bend the pages of the manual or other items inserted into it. I avoid this by either gently pulling the pocket open and then inserting the items or, with Intellivision gate-fold boxes, carefully inserting the overlays first and then inserting the manual or other items behind the overlays.

Figure 19. - Mattel Electronics gate-fold box with pocket (no plastic tray)


Other Mattel Intellivision gate-fold boxes have a pocket in the cardboard that the cartridge rests in instead of a plastic tray. This is not nearly as strong as the plastic insert and the boxes often show damage from the insertion and removal of the cartridge.

Figure 20. - Mattel Electronics gate-fold box with pocket damage


The damage to the cardboard support can be seen at position A. I often receive boxes in in the mail that have this support completely ripped through. I strongly recommend that cartridges be shipped outside of these boxes since I’ve seen so much damage to the cardboard supports from the cartridge bouncing around during shipping. These boxes have a lot of similarity to flip-flap boxes related to how they can be damaged from shipping and mishandling.

Intellivision Parker Brothers (lift-off front)

Figure 21. - Parker Brothers box showing exposed contents


The Parker Brothers boxes have a lift-off front which exposes the entire contents of the box, usually revealing the manual and other documents in the box first.

Figure 22. - Parker Brothers box showing exposed cartridge


Once the manual and paperwork are removed the cartridge and cartridge support are shown. These cardboard cartridge supports are very weak and are often damaged during shipping which leaves the cartridge free to fly around in the box damaging the other paper items. I recommend shipping the cartridge outside of these boxes.

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No, very informative, but since games are mostly found second hand nowadays, and usually are in bad condition, eg touched by children hands, it's not always possible to receive video games in excellent condition. Sometimes you are actually lucky nowadays that a box is included, or even the instruction manual.


Many video game collectors are happy just to receive the cartridge, that' s the way it goes.

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  • 1 month later...

Sigh. And to think that because of space constraints, all of my boxes have been opened, flattened, and compressed so that they can fit into one large box. :-o


Some were acquired in fair condition (at garage sales, etc.), while others were new when I purchased them.

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So, ultimately, this thread serves to tell people how to open boxes, and then how to put the games back in the boxes?

Yes, and discusses the weak points of the various game boxes as well as how to ship things in ways to avoid damage.


Sent from my SM-G920T using Tapatalk

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