I am still very much looking forward to hearing from Mr. Jobst to set up a live stream. In the meantime, I’d like to answer the questions that have surfaced over the past several days on social media and message boards so that no one has to wait on that interview for answers.
Several allegations have surfaced about me and my dealings with various figures in the retro video games collector market. I respectfully wish that I’d been given the consideration of a conversation with Karl prior to the video’s completion as I was not contacted for fact-checking resulting in many incorrect conclusions being drawn. However, as soon as I became aware of the content and inaccuracies, I Tweeted Karl to request an interview and he promptly agreed. Currently, I’m awaiting his email to confirm the date/time.
Before I get to the questions, I’d like anyone reading this to have some additional context.
As a kid who fell in love with collecting comics and sports cards at a young age, my passion for collecting has continued to grow throughout the years. As I got older, I began to fully realize the lack of transparency in the collecting space. I decided to merge my hobby, passion, and professional talent to create GoCollect. I started GoCollect to add a layer of transparency to the comic book market by tracking sales data across several online auction houses, including images of what sold and links back to the original sale listings. It is important to me that GoCollect provides the transparency of population reports, which is why you see CGC census data now and hopefully others soon. And there are plans to expand this transparency beyond comics to video games, concert posters and others.
Adding a layer of accountability to the transactions driving our collecting passions is intensely important to me. That’s why I am looking forward to talking with Karl as soon as he is available.
To me, in the video, Karl implies that I was able to orchestrate a collusion with several well-respected companies and individuals in order to receive preferential treatment of grades on about 350 sealed NES games. This is simply not true. I would not tarnish my own reputation in order to achieve financial gains in any collecting market. Financial gains on my purchase of the Carolina Collection were relatively minimal within my overall investment portfolio.
Dain did not have multiple copies of any valuable games so any hopes of “selling the next copy for more” was never a consideration. For perspective, the ~$500,000 value received for the games sold is now a fraction of what those same games would realize in today’s market. Further, many collectors consider those games to be among the best known copies to exist. And those who made purchases from those early auctions are now poised to receive excellent financial gains – none of which will be seen by me. I am unaware of a single collector’s disappointment with their purchase of one of the games from the Carolina Collection.
The largest piece of missing transparency in the video games market is rooted in the lack of census information from both Wata and VGA. I’m confident that if either of them release their data, it will be clear that there was no need for inflating grades to achieve ideal auction results.
Additionally, below is an excerpt from the Carolina Collection auction catalog published by Heritage. My motivations are clearly stated.
On to the questions:
Why was your board position at Wata not disclosed?
I’ve never made any attempt to keep my board position a secret but this conversation, started by Karl, highlights the sensitivity to the collecting community around this topic. So, I’d like to provide context to rest any concerns about preferential treatment at ease.
My minor investment in Wata was not a secret and was regularly discussed with the many people that I had contact with during the brief period when I released a large portion of the sealed NES games from the Carolina Collection.
My board position was a formality based on my modest investment in the company. It did not provide me with influence in the day-to-day operations at Wata nor did it provide me with any preferential treatment. I simply held one of several votes on macro-scale issues which were few and far between during my short tenure on the board.
Explain the fact that Dain Anderson was an executive at Wata while Jeff was on the Board, Jeff bought his collection and then went to Wata and had it graded? It seems very shady. Please explain.
Dain and I were never involved in Wata at the same time. And my purchase of his collection occurred after Dain’s involvement with Wata ended.
Wata approached me as a potential investor about a year before they began grading games. It was the first time I had met Deniz Kahn. At that time I knew very little about video game collecting. It was during those conversations I learned of Dain Anderson as the person involved in the company that was leading their technology initiatives. I eventually decided against the investment in Wata, because I wasn’t convinced that collectors “at large” would spill into the hobby at a fast enough rate to justify the necessary return on the investment.
Several months later, Wata did one of their first conventions at C2E2 in Chicago. GoCollect was also exhibiting at that show and I experienced firsthand how intrigued the comic audience was in the hobby. Their booth was one of the busiest at the show.
It was then that I asked Deniz if the company was still seeking investment. During a catch-up conversation I learned that Dain was no longer involved in the company. It was months after my investment was finalized that I met with Dain to discuss his interest in selling NintendoAge.
My interest in NintendoAge was rooted in the expansion of GoCollect via a video games sale tracking and price guide. At the time, NintendoAge was the best source of information I could find.
I didn’t actually meet Dain until the day we closed on the sale of the NintendoAge web site. It was at that time that I learned he was talking with a few folks about selling his sealed VGA graded NES collection. I asked him to reach out to me if he exhausted those negotiations without attaining the asking price he needed. If memory serves, it was about a month later that we revisited the conversation.
I eventually made the trip to Dain’s home to see the collection first-hand. He and I agreed on a price (several hundred thousand dollars) and the deal was done within a couple weeks.
Why did you shut down NintendoAge? It seems like you wanted to monopolize the ability for data to be available for your own interests.
I did not voluntarily shut down NintendoAge and it was a forum, not a price guide. It was created many years ago using technologies that had been long outdated by the time I purchased the site. Shortly after the purchase, the company that provided web hosting for the NintendoAge forum decided to no longer support the site and initially gave me one week to move to a different hosting provider. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the resources at the time nor did I know enough about the category to fully launch a comics-equivalent experience. So, after scrambling for several days the forum was re-launched on a new domain and I was transparent with the user base about the situation: https://connect.gocollect.com/categories/video-games
The NintendoAge forums were never taken away, nor were any of the forum’s information/discussions.
GoCollect’s video game price guide will be launching this fall and will deliver the data and tools that video game enthusiasts will be excited about. My goal was always to give NintendoAge a second life. That remains unchanged. I certainly wish that I’d been able to get the new site off the ground faster.
What is your relationship with Jim Halperin? What was your relationship with him when you were at Wata?
It would be an overstatement to claim that I have a direct relationship with Jim Halperin. I know Jim as an influential collector of comic books that shares a passion and excitement for collecting high grade books from the golden age, like myself. I don’t recall ever having had a conversation with Jim about the video game market.
I did not work with Jim Halperin in any capacity when I decided Heritage was the best place to host the Carolina Collection auction. I worked with the folks in their Comic department and their (then newly forming) video games department. Once we agreed that Heritage would host the auction, I packed the games and shipped them to Wata. Wata then worked with the team at Heritage to have the games delivered directly to Heritage for photos and eventual sale/distribution.
Had they been graded by VGA and then graded by Wata? And, if so, why did you get them regraded?
Yes, the majority of the most valuable NES games Dain held were graded by VGA. I wanted to have them crossed over to Wata in order to have accurate grades assigned to them. Unfortunately, at the time, VGA considered the quality of the seal within their grading score rather than separating it. That was the biggest differentiating factor between the two companies, in my opinion.
I’ll illustrate with an example – Dain submitted his sealed copy of NES Donkey Kong Jr. Math to VGA. The seal wasn’t in great condition so VGA gave the game a grade of 80+ (serial #75697972) and included a note with the return submission stating that the grade was low due to the seal… and that if the seal wasn’t present it would receive a higher grade. Dain then decided to remove the seal and resubmit the game. By the time I received the game, it was graded by VGA, no longer sealed. Clearly, VGA was not “tapped in” to how important a seal is in this hobby. There are likely fewer than 10 copies of that game that will ever surface in a sealed state.
Why did WATA name the collection? That seems like special treatment.
Assigning a pedigree or a prominent collection a reference name is nothing new in collecting. The individuals that go out of their way to research and collect within any collector category are generally known as noteworthy collections.
Dain had been seeking out the best possible copy of NES games for well over a decade before we met. During that time he contributed a great deal of knowledge to the retro game community as a result of his endeavors. He was (and still is) considered by many as a pioneer in the hobby.
It would have been a disservice to discerning collectors to not recognize the collection by name. The Carolina Collection was not the first notable video game collection that received a pedigree name. Others in The Indiana Collection, The K-mart Collection, The Atwood Collection. As time goes on, I would expect more pedigrees to emerge.
What happened to the rest of the collection?
I still own the majority of the CIB collection, a handful of sealed games, a number of rare NES carts and prototypes, an amazing collection of NES “paper” that Dain accumulated, and what I believe to be the most comprehensive collection of NES Homebrew games.
I have very few sealed games left from the collection. About half of them are still in VGA holders and the others are in Wata holders. Some aren’t graded at all.
Of the CIB collection, I hold roughly 50 Wata graded games and about 500-600 that are not graded. None of the carts, nor Homebrew games, that I hold have been graded yet.
My intentions are to hold off on any new grading until CGC releases their grading process details. And if VGA alters their approach to grading during that time, I would strongly consider their service as time goes on.