Trash To Teasure, Unearthed E.T. Atari Game Cartridges Score $108K At Auction

Hundreds of Atari 2600 cartridges of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial that were excavated last year from a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico collectively raked in nearly $108,000 through eBay auctions. Some $65,000 of that will go to the city of Alamogordo, while the Tularosa Basin Historical Society will receive over $16,000. Over $26,600 went to shipping fees and other expenses.

A team of excavators led by operational consultant Joe Lewandowski unearthed the E.T. cartridges in front of a film crew. The high profile (among gaming historians) dig was the basis a documentary called Atari: Game Over, which is available for free through the Microsoft Store or you can find it on Amazon Prime Instant and DVD for $3 - $10.

E.T. Dig Site

Covering more than just the dig itself, the documentary chronicles the fall of Atari and "one of the biggest urban myths of all time," that being whether or not dump trucks filled with E.T. cartridges and other Atari hardware were buried over 30 years ago.

If you have even a passing interest in video games, I would strongly suggest watching the documentary. Obviously the urban legend turned out to be true, though there's more to the story than just a dump site of old video games.

E.T. is widely cited as the worst video game of all time, though that's probably unfair. It's true the game was a financial disaster and played a role in Atari's demise, but considering that lead designer Howard Scott Warsaw had a mere five and half weeks to complete the title (after Atari secured the rights to E.T. in July, 1982, Steven Spielberg was adamant that a game be ready in time of the holidays), it's not surprising that several elements of the title needed more polish. Lots more.


Nearly 900 of the unearthed E.T. cartridges were auctioned off on eBay. According to Lewandowski, there are still 297 more that he's holding in an archive and plans to sell at a later date, perhaps when and if a second move comes out.

E.T. wasn't the only game the excavation crew uncovered. More than 60 titles were dug up, including Asteroids, Missile Command, Defender, Super Breakout, and Warlords, to name just a few.

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