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1990 NWC Controllers - Lets talk about them

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A WATA Facebook post a few months ago featured a pair of two NWC Competition Controllers used in the actual 1990 event - #1 & #2.  This was my first glimpse of WATA graded NWC controllers, as opposed to the VGA graded versions, which were,  in my opinion, not the most flattering way to display them.  I really fell in love with the WATA setup so I decided to get one of my controllers graded & protected. 


This has also caused me to resume researching NWC Controllers, their backstory and how many actually survived the competition and somehow escaped into private hands.  Personally, I was browsing Goodwill online back in 2016 when I first laid eyes on one of these controllers being offered in a typical NES lot.  After years of collecting and even acquiring a complete set of loose NES carts at that point, I had never seen or heard of one of these controllers.  I quickly went onto NA and found proof of existence, some of which is detailed below, and bid hard on it.  I ended up winning the lot from Goodwill Santa Ana, CA, and to my surprise when unboxing, not one but two #1 NWC Controllers were in the lot!  In all of the listing pictures only one was visible.  However, when reexamining the listing, the pictures showed two controllers plugged into the console.  I wish I knew the interesting story leading to this donation.




I spent a lot of time visiting various sites and compiled a rough timeline of when these controllers have popped up and their corresponding commentaries.   I am aware this is incomplete and I am confident some VGS members know much more, firsthand  or otherwise. 

       Can anyone fill in the gaps or provide additional insights/knowledge to the timeline below?

       - Do any current VGS members own NWC Controllers?

     -  How many exist?  I know it is a small amount and after compiling pictures and backstories. Some that were VGA graded were regraded with WATA and many of the same controllers changed hands multiple times over the years.



NWC Controller 2 first documented sales:

·         Oct 2007 – EBay sale of NWC controller 2 for $226.

·         Dec 2007 – Digipress trade of controller 2 for $300 worth of games by ‘Kentuckyfried’.  Note: the D-pad and buttons were restored to red and black colors from the florescent aftermarket colors. 

o   NintendoAge Forum conversation regarding Digipress article:

§  Bunnyboy:"As far as anyone knows, it is a controller from the real NWC contest. That is completely unconfirmed but there isn't another explanation. There have been a couple found and it isn't just a homemade thing. The NWC and 2 are silk screened / painted onto the plastic, not stickers. Its possible the 2 means those are controllers that started the contest instead of being used by the contestants."

§  Dain Anderson: "The last one that sold on eBay, if I recall correctly, went for an insane amount of money " ($226)

§  Bunnyboy response: "Only controllers with 2 on them have been found (about 3 total?) so it is not likely a contestant or station number. I have heard stories that a custom box was used to start all the NES systems at once, but it might have just been done with a few of these controllers and someone pressing them instead."

NWC Controller 1 first documented sales:

o   2011 – eBay sale of first known NWC controller 1 for over $1600

o   Chris Tang, 1 of 90 city champions (LA), user name VicViper573 on NintendoAge, announced controller #1 for sale on 1/22/11.  He originally tried to sell it in Oct 2009 but had a change of heart.  He was also selling #183 NWC grey cart.

o    Conversation cited the last controller sold was a year earlier for controller #2 for $236. 

§  "Several have turned up in the past, but they've all been the 2nd controller.  There was some speculation that a 1st controller didn't exist because the second is needed on start up, I guess this kind of settles it." 

§  "It's also nice to see that #1 controller. Something I've heard for years that SHOULD exist... but was never discovered”.

§  “Last controller I saw on ebay was a number 2 one, and that went for $226. Never seen a number 1 controller for sale tho” – Penguin – NintendoAge.

o   From Chris Tang’s listing: “To give a background of the controller:  At the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, players played on special competition game stations.  On the tour, some of these stations had special NWC control pads.  These controllers were like a normal NES pad, except the face featured a design with the Nintendo World Championships logo, and a large number in the upper right corner: 1, or 2.  Presumably this was done so that the tour crew would be able to easily tell which controller the player would use (#1) and which one the crew could use to start the game on a game station (#2).  As the tour progressed, these controllers became increasingly rare as pads broke down after public use and normal ones replaced them on the game stations. By the time the tour hit my state of California, only a handful of stations still had the special controllers.  Personally I remember trying to get onto the stations with the special ones since I thought they looked cool and it felt more special.  So, I had an idea.  The tour was packing up, and since I had become the city champion, the staff was pretty cool with me... So asked one of the crew about the controllers, and begged for one - I was about ready to do anything to get one.  I was glad I did, and was given the ultimately rare item seen here, and it happened to be in really nice condition (unlike most of the ones used on the tour)  It was the coolest thing ever to have, especially after Nintendo sent me my NWC cartridge, I could re-live the NWC experience by playing the actual competition game with the controller it was meant to be played with. Its hard to say what it is worth.  Is it just a controller?  Or should it be even higher because of the ridiculous rarity, condition, and ties to NWC?  I've been told it should be valued higher than a gold cart since its apparently rarer, and an item that receives physical abuse by its very nature that is still in good condition.  To me, it is a prized possession that I hate to part with, that I have precious memories associated with - but the bottom line is that I could use the money now to better my future.  And ultimately it will become worth whatever people - you guys - are willing to pay for it.”

o   April 2013 eBay sale of VGA graded 85 Set of 2 NWC Controllers - #1 & #2 by ‘Eatengovcheese’

o   From his listing: “I am the original owner of these 2 NWC controllers. I got them when I attended the NWC in 1990 in NJ. My father's friend who worked for the stadium where the event was held, was able to get these for us through a contact within Nintendo that day. I thought they were a really cool keepsake at the time and used them until 92 or 93. Pretty much the time I was done with my NES. My true passion was and still is vintage GI Joes. I ended up packing these guys away in the early 90's. After speaking  with a colleague at work about the NWC recently, I remembered I still had them. I located the NWC controllers and tested them both. They worked perfectly! I sent them away to the VGA to get graded and cased up. I took a picture of them before sending them off, and left the polybag on the case when taking the pictures after they returned from the VGA with 85 GRADES. (It looked like it would be a real pain getting them wrapped up nicely again so I just left them in it) When doing research on these controllers I could not find a COMPLETE SET like them anywhere, and even more so in NEAR MINT condition. Just to put the grades into perspective, the NWC World Champion's personal #1 Controller scored an 80 with the VGA. Based on the rarity of this possible one of a kind set, this may be your only chance to acquire these pieces of gaming history as a whole!”

o   April 2013 eBay sale of ungraded Controller #1 for $1500


Public Sales/Offers of NWC controllers since 2013 (that I could find)

o   Jan 2014 ebay sale of VGA Graded #2 Cart 85+, badly coiled – by ‘Earlyworm’

o   June 2014 NintendoAge sale of 4 controllers – by ‘Gwyndion’

o   1) Brand New! #1 NWC Controller- $3,000

o   2) Used NWC #1  Controller - $2,200

o   3) Used NWC #1  Controller - $2,200

o   4) Used NWC #2 Controller- $2,200


Wata Facebook May 2020

o   These unique controllers were made specifically for the 1990 Nintendo World Championships to be used by players at each of the kiosks for competition. They are numbered as “1” and “2,” and while both are extremely rare and difficult to come by, the number 2 controller is even more so.

From THOR: (polygon.com)

o   The number 1 controller was actually used in the touring NWC and a few have surfaced over the years. The majority have been the “number 2” version. This number 1, is only the second one I have seen. The grade is silver, but that is understandable since these gems were used by thousands of kids in numerous cities.

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On 8/15/2020 at 7:42 PM, ThePhleo said:

Back on NintendoAge a user by the name of Gwyndion had both for sale at one point. I remember trying to acquire them right before NA went down.

So he still owned at least two of the controllers as of 2018 to your knowledge?  I tried reaching out to him to get more background info on how he came to own four NWC controllers but I did not get a response.  There must be an interesting story on how he managed to attain them.

Given all of the pictures Ive accumulated as well as the sales history online, etc, it appears that less than 15 of these have appeared to have survived at this point.  Any one person owning four of them is fascinating.

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