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Pokemon generations I to III US box print/variant guide, with contents and population survey


AdamW
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Hi folks! I'm fairly new here, but I did post a few weeks back asking some questions about variations in Pokemon first generation releases. I've been doing a ton of research since then, and now I'm sharing some of my findings. I was gonna post this in the guides section, but there's some very impressive and comprehensive stuff there, and I think I should flesh this out with details on all the gens at least before it really qualifies as a full-on guide. So I'm posting here for now instead. I hope that's OK.

Here are the prints I'm aware of for now. For the games I have systematically logged listings of, I include my population data (as a percentage for each print of all listings of that game I have logged, numbers for all copies and only sealed copies given separately as sealed population skews heavily to later prints), and my best estimate as to 'authentic' contents of each box print. I'll add this data for the other games later.

The code given for each print is the box print code, which is usually printed on all the box's "tabs" (the little flaps under the top and bottom openings). This print code uniquely identifies all distinguishable prints (disregarding date codes for now, see later) I know of except the two variants of Blue #1. This is usually printed across two lines; I've represented the line break as a space. Cartridge codes are the cartridge label print code: this changes when the label itself changes, not when the data on the cartridge changes (only the Gen 1 games have more than one). Manual and packin codes are their print codes, note for Gen 1 the game-specific Player's Guide inserts have the same codes as some of the manual revisions, from Gen 2 onwards these were distinguished. Packins are marked "GSI" for "game-specific insert" if they're specific to the game or pair of games or generation they came with, "NSI" for "non-specific insert" if they're just a generic thing that came in many different games.

"Date codes" are production dates printed on the top-right tab of some y-fold boxes, and in the inside back cover of some printed-in-Japan manuals. More on that later. I am indebted to Kenneth Thrower of WATA for kindly sharing their records of Red and Blue date codes.

Pokémon: Red Version (DMG-APAE-USA) (427 listings surveyed, 60 sealed)

#1: U/DMG-APAE USA. White (pixelated) ESRB 'E' logo. Screenshot on back of box features SANDSHREW:
red1back-smaller.jpg.337703448b568fbd469229f4549a6890.jpgred1tab-smaller.jpg.9da0af9b2b412f104a87f19584440d6d.jpg
Insert: tab/flap style (earlier) (sometimes "upside down", with cart access at bottom), flat style (middle, later).
Cartridge: DMG-APAE-USA (white ESRB) (earlier, middle), DMG-APAE-USA-1 (black ESRB) (later).
Manual: U/DMG-APAE-USA (earlier, middle), U/DMG-APAE-USA-1 (later).
Packins: Player's Guide offer "Pokemon Times" U/DMG-APAE-USA (GSI), consumer safety info U/DMG-USA-6 (earlier) or U/DMG-USA-7 (middle, later) (NSI).
Population: 62.76% (all), 35% (sealed).
Production dates: mid-1998 (release print) (earlier contents), unknown (middle contents), ~October 1999(?) (around Yellow release) (later contents).

#2: DMG-APAE USA. White (pixelated) ESRB 'E' logo. Screenshot on back of box features RATTATA:
red2back-smaller.jpg.f874443b645601093381792a3f51fc59.jpg
red2front-smaller.jpg.7bb4ad997254745f46f2b625a2964893.jpgred2tab-smaller.jpg.c6d0cd16a491ca8d63768ac6deeb8b5a.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-APAE-USA (white ESRB).
Manual: DMG-APAE-USA.
Packins: Nintendo Power ad "HUNGRY?" GP-DMG-USA-3 (NSI), later date codes(?) "Pokemon Stadium March 2000" ad J/CGB-S-UCPS-USA (GSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-7 (NSI).
Population: 27.17% (all), 50% (sealed).
Production dates: July-September 1999 (around Yellow release), verified codes: 990709, 990727, 990820, 990920, 990927

#3: DMG-APAE USA-1. Black (solid) ESRB 'E' logo. Screenshot on back of box features RATTATA:
red3front-smaller.jpg.4a8927463ac8c2be40f8e57a57751651.jpgred3tab-smaller.jpg.a59056855f8d24411c0ef33c09592f59.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-APAE-USA-1 (black ESRB).
Manual: DMG-APAE-USA-1 (earlier), DMG-APAE-USA-2 (later).
Packins: Nintendo Power ad "HUNGRY?" GP-DMG-USA-3 (NSI) (earlier) or Player's Guide offer "Pokemon Times" DMG-APAE-USA (GSI) (later), sometimes "Pokemon Stadium March 2000" ad J/CGB-S-UCPS-USA (GSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-7 (earlier) or DMG-USA-8 (later) (NSI).
Population: 10.07% (all), 15% (sealed).
Production dates: October 1999-September 2002, verified codes: 991020, 991027, 001101, 010409, 10416 (sic, from WATA), 010810, 010905, 010925, 020418, verified manual codes: 010409 (-2)

Pokémon: Blue Version (DMG-APEE-USA) (441 listings surveyed, 65 sealed)

#1a: U/DMG-APEE USA. White (pixelated) ESRB 'E' logo. Screenshot on back of box features SANDSHREW. Mistake on back box text: it reads "Collect up to 139 different Pokemon playing the Red version...trade with a friend who has the Blue version to capture all 150." i.e. it has the same box text as Red:
blue1aback-smaller.jpg.cb19bd8785f4119152c97d68748160fc.jpgblue1atab-smaller.jpg.ed8c19104713f29c51c109989cc7307d.jpg
Insert: tab/flap style (sometimes "upside down", with cart access at bottom).
Cartridge: DMG-APEE-USA (white ESRB).
Manual: U/DMG-APEE-USA.
Packins: Player's Guide offer "Pokemon Times" U/DMG-APAE-USA (GSI), consumer safety info U/DMG-USA-6 (NSI).
Population: 11.34% (all), 4.62% (sealed).
Production dates: mid-1998 (release print)

#1b: U/DMG-APEE USA. White (pixelated) ESRB 'E' logo. Screenshot on back of box features SANDSHREW. Back box text corrected to read: "...playing the Blue version...trade with a friend who has the Red version...":
blue1bback-smaller.jpg.0d04c1f8230b72bc9041222016073c6c.jpgblue1btab-smaller.jpg.ffbde4006a50e7e26c07b5a1b4764730.jpg
Insert: tab/flap style (earlier) (sometimes "upside down", with cart access at bottom), flat style (middle, later).
Cartridge: DMG-APEE-USA (white ESRB) (earlier, middle), DMG-APEE-USA-1 (black ESRB) (later).
Manual: U/DMG-APEE-USA (earlier, middle), U/DMG-APEE-USA-1 (later).
Packins: Player's Guide offer "Pokemon Times" U/DMG-APAE-USA (GSI), consumer safety info U/DMG-USA-6 (earlier) or U/DMG-USA-7 (later) (NSI).
Population: 52.61% (all), 26.15% (sealed).
Production dates: mid-1998 (release print) (earlier contents), unknown (middle contents), ~October 1999(?) (around Yellow release) (later contents).

#2: DMG-APEE USA. White (pixelated) ESRB 'E' logo. Screenshot on back of box features RATTATA:
blue2front-smaller.jpg.85c74ba6a87c673b1ed577b360159304.jpgblue2back-smaller.jpg.6bc0a8bbf713f6079e65f391ab467587.jpgblue2tab-smaller.jpg.f4171c6d12fc55f8f59a08474f0f66ff.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-APEE-USA (white ESRB).
Manual: DMG-APEE-USA.
Packins: Nintendo Power ad "HUNGRY?" GP-DMG-USA-3 (NSI), later date codes(?) "Pokemon Stadium March 2000" ad J/CGB-S-UCPS-USA (GSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-7 (NSI).
Population: 23.58% (all), 43.08% (sealed).
Production dates: July-September 1999 (around Yellow release), verified codes: 990705, 990727, 990906

#3: DMG-APEE USA-1. Black (solid) ESRB 'E' logo. Screenshot on back of box features RATTATA:
blue3front-smaller.jpg.d61defb06bedec5d826d41e38a470b47.jpgblue3tab-smaller.jpg.246b0e79b148c714541d067edf712fd5.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-APEE-USA-1 (black ESRB).
Manual: DMG-APEE-USA-1 (earlier), DMG-APEE-USA-2 (later).
Packins: Nintendo Power ad "HUNGRY?" GP-DMG-USA-3 (NSI) (earlier) or Player's Guide offer "Pokemon Times" DMG-APEE-USA (GSI) (later), sometimes "Pokemon Stadium March 2000" ad J/CGB-S-UCPS-USA (GSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-7 (NSI) (earlier) or DMG-USA-8 (NSI) (later).
Population: 12.47% (all), 26.15% (sealed).
Production dates: July 1999-September 2002, verified codes: 990727, 991020, 991027, 000214, 000918, 001101, 010509, 020725, 020903, verified manual codes: 001101

Notes on #1a and #1b: based on the unchanged print code, observed contents of multiple copies of both variants, and information from @Renmauzo (thanks!) it seems most likely the error was spotted between batches of the initial release print run and corrected, but the boxes with the error were used, not junked. There was no error on Red's box, so Red boxes from the initial print run before and after Blue's text were fixed are identical. The switchover from U/DMG-USA-6 to U/DMG-USA-7 consumer safety happened after the "Red text" error was fixed, I believe, as I have seen no copy of #1a with U/DMG-USA-7, but I have seen copies of #1b with U/DMG-USA-6.

Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition (DMG-APSE-USA) (442 listings surveyed, 91 sealed)

(note: ordering here is tricky to establish, and still somewhat up for debate, see later for details on my theory)

#1: DMG-APSE USA. White (pixelated) ESRB 'E' logo. Box is what WATA refers to as a "Y-fold box" - the bottom is folded, it is not a flap like the top:
yellow1front-smaller.jpg.abe8c3c2ead865608efba749cc0c1203.jpgyellow1tab-smaller.jpg.7179aca9f11b84e2a92d066fcea379c2.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-APSE-USA (white ESRB).
Manual: DMG-APSE-USA.
Packins: Player's Guide offer "Pokemon Times" DMG-APSE-USA (GSI), sometimes (possibly 990914 copies?) "Pokemon Stadium March 2000" ad J/CGB-S-UCPS-USA (GSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-7 (NSI).
Population: 43.89% (all), 45.05% (sealed).
Production dates: July-September 1999 (release print), verified codes: 990729, 990817, 990914

#2: U/DMG-APSE USA. No ESRB logo. Box is what WATA refers to as a "double-ended" box - both ends are flaps:
yellow2front-smaller.jpg.d71f2164cd704702cda93a702691f6df.jpgyellow2tab-smaller.jpg.2c9b9676e58eca4c45f30497aaf81714.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-APSE-USA (white ESRB) (earlier) or DMG-APSE-USA-1 (black ESRB) (later).
Manual: U/DMG-APSE-USA-1 (earlier) or U/DMG-APSE-USA-2 (later).
Packins: Player's Guide offer "Pokemon Times" Red/Blue version U/DMG-APAE-USA (GSI) (earlier) or Yellow version U/DMG-APSE-USA (GSI) (later), sometimes "Pokemon Stadium March 2000" ad CGB-S-UCPS-USA (GSI), consumer safety info U/DMG-USA-7 (NSI).
Population: 31.22% (all), 29.67% (sealed).
Production dates: September? - at least November 1999

#3: U/DMG-APSE USA-1. Black (solid) ESRB 'E' logo. Double-ended box:
yellow3frontbott-smaller.jpg.e334715a8fc632c596ca0b71fb0aa1b1.jpgyellow3tab-smaller.jpg.0320ffa419ae791373e96b40dbd6d93d.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-APSE-USA-1 (black ESRB).
Manual: U/DMG-APSE-USA-2.
Packins: Player's Guide offer "Pokemon Times" Yellow version U/DMG-APSE-USA (GSI), "Pokemon Stadium March 2000" ad CGB-S-UCPS-USA (GSI), consumer safety info U/DMG-USA-7 (NSI).
Population: 11.99% (all), 7.69% (sealed).
Production dates: November 1999? (tentative)

#4: DMG-APSE USA-1. Black (solid) ESRB 'E' logo. Y-fold box:
yellow4frontbott-smaller.jpg.9438e8abbbf517a36acd84d974569af4.jpgyellow4tab-smaller.jpg.572fb6e98c173daa49061685b5435494.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-APSE-USA-1 (black ESRB).
Manual: DMG-APSE-USA-2.
Packins: Player's Guide offer "Pokemon Times" Yellow version DMG-APSE-USA (GSI), sometimes(?) "Pokemon Stadium March 2000" ad J/CGB-S-UCPS-USA (GSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-7 (NSI) (earlier) or DMG-USA-8 (NSI) (later).
Population: 12.9% (all), 17.58% (sealed).
Production dates: September 2000 (around Gold/Silver release), April 2001 (around Crystal release?), August 2002, verified codes: 000914, 010409, 010810, 020829

Pokémon: Gold Version (DMG-AAUE-USA)

#1: DMG-AAUE USA. Black (solid) ESRB 'E' logo. Y-fold box:
gold1tab-smaller.jpg.301114d7e0151593872dddeec7028442.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-AAUE-USA.
Manual: DMG-AAUE-USA.
Packins: Player's Guide offer DMG-AAUE/AAXE-USA (GSI), Pikachu N64 ad T-DMG-AAUE/AAXE-USA (GSI) (earlier) or T-DMG-AAUE/AAXE-USA-1 (GSI) (later), consumer safety info DMG-USA-7 (NSI).
Production dates: July-September 2000, September 2001 (around Crystal release), verified codes: 000811, 000901, 010925

Pokémon: Silver Version (DMG-AAXE-USA)

#1: DMG-AAXE USA. Black (solid) ESRB 'E' logo. Y-fold box:
silver1tab-smaller.jpg.3f5094fd2f6a728c23a8ebf9fa275206.jpg
Cartridge: DMG-AAXE-USA.
Manual: DMG-AAXE-USA.
Packins: Player's Guide offer DMG-AAUE/AAXE-USA (GSI), Pikachu N64 ad T-DMG-AAUE/AAXE-USA (GSI) (earlier) or T-DMG-AAUE/AAXE-USA-1 (GSI) (later), consumer safety info DMG-USA-7 (NSI).
Production dates: July-September 2000, September 2001 (around Crystal release), verified codes: 000731

Pokémon: Crystal Version (CGB-BYTE-USA) (185 listings surveyed, 11 sealed)

(ordering here is not certain)

#1: U/CGB-BYTE USA. Double-ended box. Colors generally duller than #2. Back text, fourth bullet is correct: "Gold & Silver series Pokémon":
crystal1back-smaller.jpg.4b567ebe709c2da5cae76db0f980893f.jpgcrystal1tab-smaller.jpg.d809cc1de4dc95fe2dcdb483c5d0156f.jpg
Cartridge: CGB-BYTE-USA.
Manual: U/CGB-BYTE-USA.
Packins: Crystal "Pokemon Power!" Nintendo Power / Player's Guide ad U/CGB-BYTE-USA (GSI) (earlier) or U/CGB-BYTE-USA-1 (GSI) (later), "Get $3 Back by mail when you purchase Pokemon The Movie 3" ad UNCODED (GSI), consumer safety info U/DMG-USA-8 (NSI).
Population: 56.22% (all), 36.36% (sealed).

#2: CGB-BYTE USA. Y-fold box. Colors generally brighter than #1. Typo on back text, fourth bullet: "Gold & Silver se{ies Pokémon":
crystal2back-smaller.jpg.84063fe46a260e3cf27efe35b87f9293.jpgcrystal2tab-smaller.jpg.4b91a469375f566d259b22957c184989.jpg
Cartridge: CGB-BYTE-USA.
Manual: CGB-BYTE-USA.
Packins: Crystal "Pokemon Power!" Nintendo Power / Player's Guide ad CGB-BYTE-USA (GSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-8 (NSI).
Population: 43.78% (all), 63.64% (sealed).
Production dates: October-November 2011, verified codes: 011023, 011102 (note: some boxes do not have a date code)

Note: Crystal #1 is the last double-ended Pokémon box print I'm aware of. From here on, all boxes are y-fold.

Pokémon: Ruby Version (AGB-AXVE-USA)

#1: AGB-AXVE USA. "Seal of Quality":
rubytab-smaller.jpg.65e067c7f62bd3807de554b291925c64.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-AXVE-USA.
Manual: AGB-AXVE-USA (earlier), AGB-AXVE-USA-1 (later).
Packins: "Level up!" Nintendo Power / Player's Guide ad AGB-AXVE-USA (GSI), "$10 OFF e-Reader" offer T2-AGB-AXVE-USA (GSI) (earlier), "Meet the Battle Trainer's Challenge!" Battle-e Card explainer C-AGB-AXVE/AXPE-USA (GSI) (earlier), "Gentleman Nils" e-Reader card 129-B001 (GSI) (earlier), "Pokemon 4EVER" movie ad P-AGB-AXVE-USA (GSI) (earlier), FireRed/LeafGreen poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA-1 (GSI) (later), consumer safety info DMG-USA-10 (NSI) (earlier), DMG-USA-13 (NSI) (later) or DMG-USA-14 (NSI) (later), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI) (later) or DS Lite ad "Your Game Boy Advance games will look better than ever! / NOW AVAILABLE ONYX CORAL PINK" T-AGB-USG-USA (NSI) (later).
Population: 100%.
Production dates: ~Early 2003 until at least ~November 2004.

Pokémon: Sapphire Version (AGB-AXPE-USA)

#1: AGB-AXPE USA. "Seal of Quality":
sapphiretab-smaller.jpg.9ecacdba3150bb0ed34d831955b82f26.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-AXPE-USA.
Manual: AGB-AXPE-USA (earlier), AGB-AXPE-USA-1 (later).
Packins: "Level up!" Nintendo Power / Player's Guide ad AGB-AXVE-USA (GSI), "$10 OFF e-Reader" offer T2-AGB-AXVE-USA (GSI) (earlier), "Meet the Battle Trainer's Challenge!" Battle-e Card explainer C-AGB-AXVE/AXPE-USA (GSI) (earlier), "Lady Astrid" e-Reader card 129-B002 (GSI) (earlier), "Pokemon 4EVER" movie ad P-AGB-AXVE-USA (GSI) (earlier), FireRed/LeafGreen poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA-1 (GSI) (later), consumer safety info DMG-USA-10 (NSI) (earlier), DMG-USA-13 (NSI) (later) or DMG-USA-14 (NSI) (later), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI) (later) or DS Lite ad "Your Game Boy Advance games will look better than ever! / NOW AVAILABLE ONYX CORAL PINK" T-AGB-USG-USA (NSI) (later).
Population: 100%.
Production dates: ~Early 2003 until at least ~November 2004.

Note: There are basically two 'generations' of contents for Ruby and Sapphire. Earlier copies (including release day copies) included the e-Reader related stuff - the $10 off offer, and an e-Reader card and an explainer that were sealed together. They also had an ad for the Pokemon 4EVER movie. Later copies ditched the e-Reader related stuff because it had more or less failed by then. Instead of it, they have the FireRed/LeafGreen poster and either the Game Boy Advance SP ad or the DS Lite ad. Both generations of loadout are 'real' and should be counted as CIB, but they shouldn't be mixed and matched - you should never have the FireRed/LeafGreen poster together with any e-reader stuff, for instance.

Pokémon: Emerald Version (AGB-BPEE-USA) (354 listings surveyed, 36 sealed)

#1: AGB-BPEE USA. "ONLY FOR" triangle at top left:
emerald1front-smaller.jpg.12ba08ae17bc8a6877ca97ebd984cbfd.jpgemerald1back-smaller.jpg.f1320854a681997b32cba05ee74d91a2.jpgemeraldtab-smaller.jpg.8193b8a7522149690c45a19267f3120d.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPEE-USA.
Manual: AGB-BPEE-USA (earlier), AGB-BPEE-USA-1 (middle), AGB-BPEE-USA-2 (later).
Packins: Emerald Nintendo Power ad NL-AGB-BPEE-USA (GSI), Emerald "Balance of Power" poster T-AGB-BPEE-USA (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI) (earlier) or DS Lite ad "Your Game Boy Advance games will look better than ever! / NOW AVAILABLE ONYX CORAL PINK" T-AGB-USG-USA (NSI) (later), consumer safety info DMG-USA-13 (NSI) (earlier) or DMG-USA-14 (NSI) (later).
Population: 99.72% (all), 100% (sealed).
Production dates: 2005-2006.

#2: AGB-BPEE USA-1. "PLAYS ON DS*" lighter blue circle overlaid on triangle at top left. Note on back top right: "Game Boy Advance game plays on Nintendo DS in single player mode.":
emerald2front-smaller.jpg.09c7b40e6a40d044122a66a426c1aaf9.jpgemerald2back-smaller.jpg.5002b1fb9021be145b0ef37790c6ad7c.jpgemerald2tab-smaller.jpg.3bbc33242832220f05d739f9d9edaca3.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPEE-USA.
Manual: AGB-BPEE-USA-2.
Packins: Emerald Nintendo Power ad NL-AGB-BPEE-USA (GSI), Emerald "Balance of Power" poster T-AGB-BPEE-USA (GSI), DS Lite ad "Your Game Boy Advance games will look better than ever! / NOW AVAILABLE ONYX CORAL PINK" T-AGB-USG-USA (NSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-14 (NSI).
Population: 0.28% (all), 0% (sealed)
Production dates: ~2007.

Pokémon: FireRed Version (AGB-BPRE-USA) (360 listings surveyed, 27 sealed)

#1: (WA)AGB-BPRE USA. Wireless adapter included. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Wireless Adapter accessory (included)". "MADE IN JAPAN AND PHILIPPINES" printed on top flap of box. Typo in back text: "All new wireless adapater comes packed...":
firered1frontbot-smaller.jpg.d9abd33dc1c93728adfeaf6dcbfaa416.jpgfirered1back-smaller.jpg.df22c7e2bec51571ea03c4baa6a828de.jpgfirered1backtypo-smaller.jpg.d4ea70eea4b9760c04ded4c15951a3db.jpgfirered1tab-smaller.jpg.600df3a3c8f821393aca91bf0045c787.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPRE-USA.
Manual: AGB-BPRE-USA.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPRE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI), wireless adapter instructions AGB-A-WA-USA (NSI technically, though probably only came with these games and the adapter sold alone), consumer safety info DMG-USA-12 (NSI).
Population: 29.72% (all), 22.22% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 1,000,138 copies (#000000001-#001000138).
Production dates: July 2004, verified manual codes: 040706.

#2: (WA)AGB-BPRE USA-1. Wireless adapter included. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter accessory (included)". "GAME MADE IN JAPAN; ADAPTER MADE IN PHILIPPINES" on label stuck to top flap of box; it is assumed that "MADE IN JAPAN AND PHILIPPINES" is printed beneath the sticker, but not confirmed. "adapater" typo corrected in this and all subsequent prints:
firered1frontbot-smaller.jpg.d9abd33dc1c93728adfeaf6dcbfaa416.jpgfirered23back-smaller.jpg.6f317639261ee18b86897d732ebb487c.jpgfirered2backnotypo-smaller.jpg.aa284b6527c8654f3b48e76d8cf1edf2.jpgfirered2tab-smaller.jpg.0fd5eea3223e95110139bc373d9c6138.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPRE-USA.
Manual: AGB-BPRE-USA-1.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPRE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI), wireless adapter instructions AGB-A-WA-USA (NSI technically, though probably only came with these games and the adapter sold alone), consumer safety info DMG-USA-12 (NSI).
Population: 8.33% (all), 3.7% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 325,062 copies (#001000139-#001325200).
Production dates: August 2004, verified manual codes: 040803.

#3: (WA)AGB-BPRE USA-2. Wireless adapter included. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter accessory (included)". "GAME MADE IN JAPAN; ADAPTER MADE IN PHILIPPINES" printed directly on top flap of box:
firered1frontbot-smaller.jpg.d9abd33dc1c93728adfeaf6dcbfaa416.jpgfirered23back-smaller.jpg.6f317639261ee18b86897d732ebb487c.jpgfirered2backnotypo-smaller.jpg.aa284b6527c8654f3b48e76d8cf1edf2.jpgfirered3tab-smaller.jpg.d95b914e9cd80b3ab66a31d8da98075d.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPRE-USA.
Manual: AGB-BPRE-USA-1.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPRE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI), wireless adapter instructions AGB-A-WA-USA (NSI technically, though probably only came with these games and the adapter sold alone), consumer safety info DMG-USA-12 (NSI).
Population: 5% (all), 0% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 308,069 copies (#001325201-#001633269).
Production dates: September 2004, verified manual codes: 040922.

#4: AGB-BPRE USA. Wireless adapter not included, "Get Connected" logo bottom left, "E" bottom right, no "Player's Choice" band. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter accessory (each sold separately).":
firered4frontbot-smaller.jpg.7148a1302404ee81ad10551c61ffcda2.jpgfirered4back-smaller.jpg.e2bb661760c8510d622ef6cc308548c1.jpgfirered4tab-smaller.jpg.d9bf5a316d1435560ff02a44700c064f.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPRE-USA (usually with an A rev stamp code, indicating game version 1.01).
Manual: AGB-BPRE-USA-2.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPRE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA-1 (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-12 (NSI) (earlier) or DMG-USA-14 (NSI) (later).
Population: 13.06% (all), 14.81% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 398,549 copies (#001633270-#002031818).
Production dates: November 2004 (presumed), ???.

#5: AGB-BPRE USA-1. Wireless adapter not included. "Get Connected" logo bottom right, "E" bottom left, "PLAYER'S CHOICE" on yellow band at top front, "ONLY FOR" in blue triangle at top left front. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Wireless Adapter accessory (both sold separately).":
firered5frontbot-smaller.jpg.4d3456f955680e5f770aa10e9d8073b4.jpgfirered5fronttop-smaller.jpg.e1e8dec34f0c8af9e5b59bdb4cc41b7d.jpgfirered5back-smaller.jpg.c1ddc88a9d9296ac09d4cdd89fb89c12.jpgfirered5tab-smaller.jpg.9be8a48673e42fbf57ce982fba56fc78.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPRE-USA (usually with an A rev stamp code, indicating game version 1.01).
Manual: AGB-BPRE-USA-2.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPRE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA-1 (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI) (earlier) and/or DS Lite ad "Your Game Boy Advance games will look better than ever! / NOW AVAILABLE ONYX CORAL PINK" T-AGB-USG-USA (NSI) (later), consumer safety info DMG-USA-14 (NSI).
Population: 42.22% (all), 55.56% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 1,090,272 copies (#002031819-#003122090).
Production dates: ~2006.

#6: AGB-BPRE USA-2. Wireless adapter not included. "Get Connected" logo bottom right, "E" bottom left, "PLAYER'S CHOICE" on yellow band at top front, "PLAYS ON DS*" in blue circle overlaid on triangle at top left front. Note on back top right: "Game Boy Advance game plays on DS in single player mode." Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Wireless Adapter accessory (both sold separately).":
firered6front-smaller.jpg.3ac7ce314c957bea38f9d03a09889e8a.jpgfirered6back-smaller.jpg.5e4c3d4800b4b827164cc262094e0285.jpgfirered6tab-smaller.jpg.aba4303df7c30b0b91ccc258d783dee5.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPRE-USA (usually with an A rev stamp code, indicating game version 1.01).
Manual: AGB-BPRE-USA-2.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPRE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA-1 (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI) (earlier) and/or DS Lite ad "Your Game Boy Advance games will look better than ever! / NOW AVAILABLE ONYX CORAL PINK" T-AGB-USG-USA (NSI) (later), consumer safety info DMG-USA-14 (NSI).
Population: 1.67% (all), 3.7% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): minimum 11,566 copies (#003122091-#003133655).
Production dates: ~2007.

Pokémon: LeafGreen Version (AGB-BPGE-USA) (377 listings surveyed, 60 sealed)

#1: (WA)AGB-BPGE USA. Wireless adapter included. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Wireless Adapter accessory (included)". "MADE IN JAPAN AND PHILIPPINES" printed on top flap of box. Typo in back text: "All new wireless adapater comes packed..."::
leafgreen1frontbot-smaller.jpg.6a5709335c08faeb7dfc192f4eb6d797.jpgleafgreen1back-smaller.jpg.be532366ca1b7187da59110f2386b60f.jpgleafgreen1tab-smaller.jpg.a74894001dec2425f2e3c713528f610e.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPGE-USA.
Manual: AGB-BPGE-USA.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPGE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI), wireless adapter instructions AGB-A-WA-USA (NSI technically, though probably only came with these games and the adapter sold alone), consumer safety info DMG-USA-12 (NSI).
Population: 39.26% (all), 30% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 1,000,138 copies (#000000001-#001000138).
Production dates: July 2004, verified manual codes: 040706.

#2: (WA)AGB-BPGE USA-1. Wireless adapter included. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter accessory (included)". "GAME MADE IN JAPAN; ADAPTER MADE IN PHILIPPINES" on label stuck to top flap of box; it is assumed that "MADE IN JAPAN AND PHILIPPINES" is printed beneath the sticker, but not confirmed. "adapater" typo corrected in this and all subsequent prints:
leafgreen1frontbot-smaller.jpg.6a5709335c08faeb7dfc192f4eb6d797.jpgleafgreen23back-smaller.jpg.89bde76d32d41a30dd98502c548a81e9.jpgleafgreen2tab-smaller.jpg.b96d376a40a9d09fcb1c87f55adeb6ae.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPGE-USA.
Manual: AGB-BPGE-USA-1.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPGE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI), wireless adapter instructions AGB-A-WA-USA (NSI technically, though probably only came with these games and the adapter sold alone), consumer safety info DMG-USA-12 (NSI).
Population: 9.55%(?) (all), 10%(?) (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 325,082 copies (#001000139-#001325220).
Production dates: August 2004, verified manual codes: 040803.

#3: (WA)AGB-BPGE USA-2. Wireless adapter included. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter accessory (included)". "GAME MADE IN JAPAN; ADAPTER MADE IN PHILIPPINES" printed directly on top flap of box:
leafgreen1frontbot-smaller.jpg.6a5709335c08faeb7dfc192f4eb6d797.jpgleafgreen23back-smaller.jpg.89bde76d32d41a30dd98502c548a81e9.jpgleafgreen3tab-smaller.jpg.91aed088db5d59cb13d0f22211aee926.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPGE-USA.
Manual: AGB-BPGE-USA-1.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPGE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI), wireless adapter instructions AGB-A-WA-USA (NSI technically, though probably only came with these games and the adapter sold alone), consumer safety info DMG-USA-12 (NSI).
Population: 2.65%(?) (all), 3.33%(?) (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 179,045 copies (#001325221-#001504265).
Production dates: September 2004, verified manual codes: 040922.

#4: AGB-BPGE USA. Wireless adapter not included, "Get Connected" logo bottom left, "E" bottom right, no "Player's Choice" band. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter accessory (each sold separately).":
leafgreen4front-smaller.jpg.bb6e6a5e12c1b430e4e0b1624ea2d7b2.jpgleafgreen4back-smaller.jpg.c2d6caaaee8228d2594679244832223b.jpgleafgreen4tab-smaller.jpg.6e408aeda53f7fdaa4ab465c1d0aaa23.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPGE-USA (usually with an A rev stamp code, indicating game version 1.01).
Manual: AGB-BPGE-USA-2 (may have date code).
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPGE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA-1 (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-12 (NSI) (earlier) or DMG-USA-14 (NSI) (later).
Population: 6.37% (all), 16.67% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 236,304 copies (#001504266-#001740569).
Production dates: November 2004, ???, verified manual codes: 041102

#5: AGB-BPGE USA-1. "Get Connected" logo bottom right, "E" bottom left, "PLAYER'S CHOICE" on yellow band at top front, "ONLY FOR" in blue triangle at top left front. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Wireless Adapter accessory (both sold separately).":
leafgreen5frontbot-smaller.jpg.ace9da01c6f9a6e44b18c6003b388865.jpgleafgreen5fronttop-smaller.jpg.05b04adf6f19910d2467998f60ef5843.jpgleafgreen5back-smaller.jpg.635222655cf25e3cbba5613e963f05e4.jpgleafgreen5tab-smaller.jpg.e296c4323d19ad14fa5dc02f3bec4f29.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPGE-USA (usually with an A rev stamp code, indicating game version 1.01).
Manual: AGB-BPGE-USA-2 (no date code).
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPGE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA-1 (GSI), Game Boy Player / Game Boy Advance SP ad T-AGB-AXVE-USA (NSI) (earlier) and/or DS Lite ad "Your Game Boy Advance games will look better than ever! / NOW AVAILABLE ONYX CORAL PINK" T-AGB-USG-USA (NSI) (later), consumer safety info DMG-USA-14.
Population: 40.58% (all), 35% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): 804,288 copies (#001740570-#002544857).
Production dates: ~2006 (copyright date on box was updated to 2006)

#6: AGB-BPGE USA-2. "Get Connected" logo bottom right, "E" bottom left, "PLAYER'S CHOICE" on yellow band at top front, "PLAYS ON DS*" in blue triangle at top left front. Fourth bullet point on back text ends "Game Boy Wireless Adapter accessory (both sold separately).":
leafgreen6fronttop-smaller.jpg.8bf13ea9929a0ea9c2c93795050a8611.jpgleafgreen6backtop-smaller.jpg.112ee58ce93bca07d57cae66efcc8022.jpgleafgreen6tab-smaller.jpg.64adc93dbf1e31021dd02c2b330432a5.jpg
Cartridge: AGB-BPGE-USA (usually with an A rev stamp code, indicating game version 1.01).
Manual: AGB-BPGE-USA-2.
Packins: FireRed/LeafGreen Nintendo Power "GET THE POWER!" ad NL-AGB-BPGE-USA (GSI), FireRed/LeafGreen "Trade and battle in a whole new way!" poster T-AGB-BPRE/BPGE-USA-1 (GSI), DS Lite ad "Your Game Boy Advance games will look better than ever! / NOW AVAILABLE ONYX CORAL PINK" T-AGB-USG-USA (NSI), consumer safety info DMG-USA-14 (NSI).
Population: 1.59% (all), 5% (sealed).
Estimated production (Player's Guide offer survey): minimum 2,971 copies (#002544858-#002547827).
Production dates: ~2007 (copyright date on box was updated to 2007)

Notes for FireRed/LeafGreen:
1. The population numbers for prints 2-4 and 6 are very low, so the percentages would move around quite a lot just by one or two more copies showing up on the market. It's clear that they are each quite rare, and prints 1 and 5 are by far the most common.
2. The numbers on 2 vs. 3 for LeafGreen are questionable; there were several listings where the top of the box wasn't shown, so I could only tell that it was 2 or 3. It would have been statistically unfair to leave these listings out as "unidentifiable", since we need more pictures to distinguish between 2 and 3 than to recognize any other print. My system doesn't really allow for categorization as "2 or 3", so I just arbitrarily called them all 2. I have been able to identify more copies since, but some are still ambiguous. The player's guide offer survey probably gives the most accurate data here.
3. The Nintendo Power ads NL-AGB-BPGE-USA (LeafGreen) and NL-AGB-BPRE-USA (FireRed) actually look identical except for the print codes. They both have both FR and LG cover mons, and don't specifically refer to the exact game they're coded for. So I don't know why they're individually print coded, but they are. I can only imagine it was to do with the unique registration code printed on each copy, that this was game-specific. All copies of this offer have a nine-digit serial number on the MY NINTENDO side which simply started at 000000001 and counted up with each copy printed (per game, not combined); copies from boxes after the first print have a seven-digit serial number on the other side which was reset to 0000001 with each new print run of the offer. The "Player's Guide offer survey" estimated production counts are based on establishing the boundaries between print runs by subtracting the second number from the first, and associating print runs with box prints.

There are various other differences between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 prints especially, some of which you can find discussed in WATA tags. I don't want to highlight those, because you don't need them to identify which print an authentic copy is, and because they can actually be useful for identifying fakes and I don't want to help people who produce those. My contention is: there are only these externally-identifiable prints/variants of the US games, all other factors differ in line with those. If someone thinks this isn't true, follow up and we can talk about it 🙂

What follows are very detailed notes and theories about box contents and production dates. All the main meat was up above, so skip the below if you're not interested in the fine details and the whys and wherefores.

Production order and dates

Two very key things here:

1. The y-fold box prints for Red, Blue, Silver, Gold and sometimes Crystal usually have date codes recording when that specific box was printed. This code if present is printed on the top-right tab, the one under the "N" in the Pokémon logo, underneath the print code. Sometimes it is in a color that makes it very hard to see or read. It is in YYMMDD format.
2. Manuals printed in Japan sometimes have a date code recording when that specific manual was printed. If present it is on the bottom-right hand corner of the last page of the manual (reverse side of the back cover). It is also in YYMMDD format.

I have known date codes (ones I have seen or been given by eBay sellers, and ones recorded by WATA, which were kindly shared with me for Red and Blue) for the following prints, grouping 'paired' prints together on the assumption they were always run together:

Red/Blue #2 (DMG-APAE/APEE USA, white ESRB, Rattata): 990705(b), 990709(r), 990727(b), 990727(r), 990820(r), 990906(b), 990920(r), 990927(r)
Red/Blue #3 (DMG-APAE/APEE USA-1, black ESRB, Rattata): 990727(b), 991020(r), 991020(b), 991027(b), 991027(r), 000214(b), 000918(b), 001101(b), 001101(r), 010409(r), 10416(r), 010509(b), 010810(r), 010905(r), 010925(r), 020725(b), 020903(b)
Yellow #1 (DMG-APSE USA, white ESRB): 990729, 990817, 990914
Yellow #4 (DMG-APSE USA-1, black ESRB): 000914, 010409, 010810, 020829
Gold/Silver #1 (DMG-AAUE/AAXE USA): 000731(s), 000811(g), 000901(g), 010925(g)
Crystal #2 (CGB-BYTE USA, typo): 011023, 011102

From these dates, a picture kind of emerges: Nintendo mostly did prints around the time games were being released, often reprinting older games alongside the new release. We can see that there were copies of both Rattata prints of Red and Blue done around the time of Yellow's release, in mid to late 1999, around the same time copies of the first Yellow print were being run. White-ESRB copies were printed in July and August, and black-ESRB copies in October. But there was also clearly another run of the black-ESRB print done in late 2000, around the same time the release prints of Gold and Silver were being run, and another run again in late 2001, just after the release of Crystal, and yet another in late 2002.

Similarly we can see that runs of the black-ESRB print of Yellow were done alongside the release prints of Gold/Silver (late 2000) and probably Crystal (early-mid 2001) - that 010409 date is slightly early for Crystal release prints, but that's probably what it was, and that Gold/Silver were reprinted shortly after the release of Crystal (and at the same time as the very late run of Red/Blue #3), though there was another run in late 2002, around the release of really nothing else at all, at least in NA - this might have been just a final resupply print to have a Pokemon game still available before Ruby/Sapphire came out, I guess?

The only dates I have for Crystal so far are close together and some time after release, and were likely some kind of resupply print. Interestingly quite a lot of y-fold copies of Crystal don't have the date code, I'm not sure why that would be.

There's also a general pattern of prints happening around July to October; I think this is simply because Nintendo organized US production heavily around the holidays, which is the busiest sales period. Those boxes would've been intended to be on shelves in the US ready for the holiday sales period of that year, I think. There are early year prints too, though.

The double-ended boxes have no date codes, but we can try to infer their print dates from other information.

Red and Blue

From all the details of what's actually on the various boxes - the "Red text" error, and the Sandshrew screenshot itself being kind of an "error" as Sandshrew is only catchable in Red - plus what people who have release date copies have said in various places, plus what's actually inside the boxes, it seems likely that all the boxes sold on release day were the double-ended, white ESRB, "Sandshrew" boxes, and this print was the first print. Most copies of it were likely printed in mid-1998. These "early production" boxes have tab-close cartridge pockets, and came with U/DMG-USA-6 consumer safety sheets. For Blue, the "Red text" error boxes are almost certainly the very earliest production.

I think it's almost certain that there were additional, later runs of the #1 print. These later production boxes have flat, open cartridge pockets, and came with U/DMG-USA-7 consumer safety sheets. There seem to be "middle production" boxes which still had white-ESRB cartridges and manuals, and then "later production" boxes which have black-ESRB cartridges and manuals. These "later production" boxes were likely produced in fall or winter 1999, possibly after some #2 and even #3 boxes.

We have several actual dates for the other two prints, which are recorded above. Dated copies of #2 (white-ESRB, Rattata, y-fold box) dates to July-August 1999, so just before Yellow's release. There are several printings of #3 (black ESRB, y-fold box), the first around July 1999 so still around Yellow's release, later ones done around Gold/Silver and Crystal releases. WATA reports that they have seen copies of the y-fold prints with no dates; we do not know when these were produced. It does leave open the possibility that some were produced earlier than July 1999. I tend to believe it's unlikely they were produced much earlier, as there do not seem to be believable listings with DMG-USA-6 consumer safety, which you would have expected with earlier production.

WATA also noted the black-ESRB y-fold boxes with July and August 1999 dates; it's odd that print dates of white-ESRB and black-ESRB y-fold boxes overlap like this, we do not know why Nintendo printed both at once for a while, but it definitely seems to be the case. They may not have wanted to mismatch boxes and carts and manuals, so kept printing white-ESRB boxes till they used up all the white-ESRB carts and manuals?

Yellow

Yellow is way trickier. Here are prints again up front, as I number them: #1 white ESRB y-fold, #2 no ESRB double-ended, #3 black ESRB double-ended, #4 black ESRB y-fold. I think everyone can agree that the two black ESRB prints must come last, but the ordering between #1 and #2 and between #3 and #4 is up for debate. This is my theory. It relies on a key idea: I believe all y-fold boxes were printed in Japan, and all double-ended boxes in the US. There is a strong correlation between y-fold boxes having manuals and packins printed in Japan, and double-ended boxes having manuals and packins printed in the US. Many printed materials state their print location on them somewhere, so you can track this, and I have. I also believe from this that the U/ prefix indicates "printed in the US", and all double-ended boxes have U/ prefixes on their print codes.

We at least know #1 was printed some time before release, from the date codes. So we can be pretty sure that was a print sold on release day. As #2 has no date codes we have to try and infer when it was printed. As mentioned above, I believe #1 was printed in Japan, and #2 in the US. The other significant factor for me is the box contents. I'm gonna focus on the cart, manual, and Player's Guide offer.

For print #1 things are consistent. It came with cartridge DMG-APSE-USA with a white ESRB logo, manual DMG-APSE-USA also with white ESRB logo, and Player's Guide offer DMG-APSE-USA with a picture of Pikachu.

The box contents for #2 are much more variable. The most common set of contents - found in about 65% of listings - is cartridge DMG-APSE-USA-1 with a black ESRB logo, manual U/DMG-APSE-USA-2 (also black ESRB logo), and player's guide offer U/DMG-APSE-USA (same as the one in #1, but printed in the US). But about 35% of listings come with cartridge DMG-APSE-USA (white ESRB), manual U/DMG-APSE-USA-1 (black ESRB, but missing two pages which were added in -2) and player's guide offer U/DMG-APAE-USA (which is the same one as came in Red/Blue #1 boxes, and features the Red/Blue cover mons). There are enough copies with those things in them that I tend to think some copies really came with those items, the listings can't all be bad Frankensteins.

Putting together the print locations and the varied contents of #2 boxes, my theory is this: #1 (white-ESRB, y-fold, by my beliefs printed in Japan) was the first print, and was intended to supply all copies to be sold on release day. But they didn't print enough of it to satisfy release day demand. I'm guessing the numbers were set relatively early in 1999 and were a best guess. Then, much closer to release date - maybe in August or September - Nintendo realized they had underestimated demand and they needed more copies for release day. But they also realized they didn't have time to print those copies in Japan and ship them to the US for release. So they decided, very much at the last minute, to also start printing copies in the US.

This accounts for two things: why the no-ESRB logo print exists at all, and why there seems to be such a messy history around what went into copies of it. The answer to both is: it was a late rush job to satisfy unanticipated demand. No-one in the US was expecting to print any copies of Yellow until this last-minute plan, and they were in a rush to get production up and running and get boxes out of the factory no matter what. So they made several mistakes.

In the process of recreating the cover art for the double-ended box template, and probably because they were being nagged by ESRB about the logo switch, they left the ESRB logo off the box entirely. They also muffed a manual print, leaving two pages out of the manual print that was initially put in the boxes (U/DMG-APSE-USA-1), then fixed it in U/DMG-APSE-USA-2. They also didn't get going with the player's guide flyers till after they already had the boxes going, and just stuck Red/Blue player's guide flyers in until they had the Yellow ones ready. They started out with white-ESRB carts, then switched to black-ESRB carts; the carts must have been flown in from Japan, and in the hurry they didn't switch over to printing black-ESRB labels right away.

With all the 'mistakes', they didn't junk anything because they just wanted copies done no matter what; if it had a box and a cart and a manual and a flyer it went out the door. The mistakes were fixed on the fly for later copies.

My theory about #3 and #4 follows on from the above. I think the black-ESRB double-ended print was just another "correction" to this overall emergency US print effort, because the contents of #3 boxes is usually the same as the contents of late #2 boxes. Same cart, same flyers, same manual. So I think after they fixed the flyer, and the cart label, and the manual error, they finally got around to slapping the black ESRB logo on the box for the last few copies printed in the US (it's quite a rare print as we saw above). I've seen a convincing original-owner listing of a no-ESRB box with a cart made in November 1999, so I think the no-ESRB boxes were still being turned out at least as late as November. I think all the double-ended copies, #2 and #3, were printed in one big rush just before and just after the game came out, until Nintendo were confident they had sufficient supply for immediate demand, and shut down the US print operation. Then #4 (y-fold black ESRB) copies were printed in Japan, later, as resupply prints around the release of later games (they may also have printed some in October 1999 and shipped them over to be sold shortly after release, but I haven't found any yet if so).

So on release day, I think you could actually have got a copy of #1 or #2 or possibly even #3, depending on which supply line your store got its copies from. But I do think the #1 boxes were produced earlier.

Gold and Silver

I've looked through quite a lot of listings so I'm fairly confident there's only one box print each for these (though there's always the possibility of a very rare later print). Note we have tab codes a year apart (September 2000 and September 2001) that were definitely the same box print code, so we know the box print didn't change over at least that length of time.

Crystal

Crystal is simple but difficult: I just don't really know! The differences between the two prints are the box style (and so, by my beliefs, printing location) and the fact that the y-fold box has the typo on the back text but the double-ended box doesn't. You'd expect that would make the double-ended box later, as usually errors are fixed as time goes on, not introduced. But it's possible it was the other way around. To me, the Yellow ESRB logo mess and some interesting properties that hold across all Gen 1 y-fold boxes and all Gen 1 double-ended boxes suggest that someone actually had to do quite a bit of work to print "the same" box in the "other" style, it wasn't just a "email me the file and we'll reuse it" kind of deal.

On top of that, the Crystal y-fold boxes do not always have date codes, but all the ones I've found with date codes are from after the game was released. Also, the double-ended box is more common, and it is a strong trend that the first print is one of the most common, or the single most common. Another indication is cartridge stamp codes. There was a v1.0 and a v1.1 of the international game code for Crystal; when the cart has 1.0, the stamp code is just two digits, when the cart has 1.1, the stamp code has an "A" after it. My data shows a relatively strong trend that double-ended boxes come with non-A carts and y-fold boxes with A carts; there are exceptions but the trend is clear (of 24 double-ended listings with visible stamp codes, 19 were non-A, 5 were A; of 10 y-fold listings with visible stamp codes, 8 were A, 2 were non-A). So I'm tentatively favoring the double-ended print as #1 here.

Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald

At preset I know of only one box print each for Sapphire and Ruby. There are prints I can think of that "might exist" (e.g. Sapphire/Ruby with the non-"of Quality" seal and/or "PLAYS ON DS*" blob), but I haven't actually found any yet. They do not have tab date codes and their manuals don't have date codes, so we don't have a lot of information to estimate what date range production happened over. I only have one interesting nugget: there are some listings for copies of Ruby and Sapphire that include the FireRed/LeafGreen poster that came in all FireRed/LeafGreen boxes. I suspect these copies were later resupply copies printed alongside the release of FireRed/LeafGreen, and they put the FireRed/LeafGreen poster in those boxes too. I think it replaced a flyer for one of the movies on DVD/VHS, but I'd have to double check.

The rare "PLAYS ON DS*" print of Emerald can be dated to 2007 by a copyright date on the back (and the fact that all PLAYS ON DS* boxes seem to date to late 2007).

FireRed and LeafGreen

These don't have date codes on the boxes, but there are date codes on the original and first revision manuals (from first, second and third print boxes), and on copies of the second revision manuals from earlier fourth print boxes. Later fourth, fifth and sixth print boxes copies with second revision manuals with no date code, but copyright dates on the boxes at least let us date the fifth print (regular Player's Choice) to 2006 and the sixth print (PLAYS ON DS* Player's Choice) to 2007. The date codes I have for manuals are 040706 in both my first print manuals, 040803 from both my second print manuals, 040922 from both my third print manuals, and 041102 in my LeafGreen fourth print manual. So the first print dates to July 2004, the second to August, and the third to September; the game was released on September 9th, so the first two prints were likely on shelves at release time, and the third shortly after. The fourth prints (no wireless adapter, not Player's Choice) started as early as November 2004, which surprises me a bit. So the fourth prints were the only one produced for the end of 2004, all of 2005 and possibly part of 2006. Per the player's guide offer serial number survey I'm fairly sure there were multiple runs of at least the FireRed fourth print over this span, though I can't date them specifically. I guess for 2005 TPC's main focus was Emerald, then for 2006, as they did not have a new main series game, they decided to make Player's Choice releases of FR and LG their main push.

Contents and population data

The contents and population data are based on a survey I have been doing of eBay and Heritage Auctions listings. I try to find every listing with an identifiable box and record the box print and all available details of the contents and any visible date codes. I check listings available for delivery to Canada, the US and the UK. The dataset starts in November 2020 and I update it daily, I'll update the numbers in this post periodically. Where I am certain there are multiple listings of exactly the same box - by the WATA or VGA serial number, or by the seller's serial number (one store in particular sells and relists a lot of the GBA games, but happily posts inventory numbers on the listings so I can spot dupes), or by some particularly unique wear, I de-duplicate those so the box is counted only once. (The WATA/VGA serial numbers are super fun, actually, because you can trace the sales history of specific boxes; I've seen a couple of cases of games that were sold by HA being flipped for twice the price a couple of months later on eBay, for instance). There are almost certainly other cases of the same box being listed multiple times that I can't realistically catch, so you cannot safely take my listing counts to be a precise count of the number of different boxes that were available for sale over any given period.

My estimates as to 'authentic' contents for each box print are based on the raw numbers I have for what cartridges, manuals and other packins are found in the listings for each box, plus some reasoning about what combinations are 'plausible'. Examples:

* There's no reason for any box to have come with two consumer safety pamphlets or in general any two different Nintendo Power/Player's Guide ads
* Conversely it seems to have been more or less a Nintendo policy that every game come with some kind of Player's Guide/Nintendo Power ad, whether generic or game-specific, and a consumer safety booklet; if a listing doesn't at least have both of those, I generally will not consider it possible that it's complete
* I'm very reluctant to credit printed-in-Japan items in double-ended boxes or printed-in-US items in y-fold boxes as the correlations for that not happening overall are very strong
* Printed material revisions should generally be higher in later boxes. If box -1 has manual -2 it doesn't make sense for box -4 to have manual -1, for e.g. They don't always increment in lockstep, but they shouldn't be moving in opposite directions.

If it doesn't make the post too long, I'll add a snapshot of the raw numbers for the contents and population surveys later.

 

 

Edited by AdamW
minor style fix
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1 minute ago, Hybrid said:

Misprint?

If it's a mass produced misprint, do you even get up in the morning to look at it?

OP thanks for sharing. I sure didn't know about the misprint version (at least until I saw your Facebook post earlier today). Too much variant info is spread across social media or only exists in the hearts of man. Can't wait until the inevitable next attempt to centralize all the video games info.

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Edited to replace "misprint" in various appropriate ways in context. @DefaultGen, I don't really use Facebook - that must have been someone else. I posted this info in the Game & Collect Discord earlier today, so someone may have shared it from there. Or it's just a "simultaneous discovery" thing - the "red text" info at least has been sorta subtly around for a while.

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Just now, AdamW said:

Edited to replace "misprint" in various appropriate ways in context. @DefaultGen, I don't really use Facebook - that must have been someone else. I posted this info in the Game & Collect Discord earlier today, so someone may have shared it from there. Or it's just a "simultaneous discovery" thing - the "red text" info at least has been sorta subtly around for a while.

Oh, someone else definitely posted it in one of the games groups then. Also I think misprint is a fine word to describe it, same as the Final Fantasy 7 misprint is called that. Hybrid collects and documents misprints so now he has to add this to his fancy database.

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Yeah, I guess whether it's an "error" or a "misprint" depends whether Nintendo already had both box texts ready to go and just stuck the wrong one in the printer for Blue, or whether at first they just copy/pasted the box text and didn't think about whether it was correct for both versions! I don't know which scenario it was. I'd love to hear any kind of inside story on this, though I've no idea who'd have it! I'm just some schmuck on the internet, staying up way too late looking at box pics...:D

Edited by AdamW
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Hey, thanks! I was not aware of that one - for some reason I've mostly been hung up on box types. I know both fold and flap variants of Crystal exist, I don't know the precedence. Wonder if that misprint matches the box style? I'll have to look at it. Thanks for the Gold too!

 

edit: at least of my Crystals, the y-fold box has the misprint, the flap box is corrected. I'll have to check other listings and see if that's consistent.

Edited by AdamW
clarify "hung up on boxes"
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Right. If my survey is about accurate - it's a small sample size, but it probably is - the error text is about 1 in 10 copies. That's...uncommon but not really "rare" like an obscure game they only printed 500 copies of or something. Again it's like Left Bros. - there are quite a lot of copies of Left Bros. out there, really. ~10% of all Pokemon Blues ever made is still a lot of copies.

I do bet that *sealed* copies of the error should genuinely be quite rare just because of the inherent bias to later prints, in surviving sealed copies. Past listings of sealed copies (mainly from HA as only a couple have been up on eBay recently) definitely skew to later prints.

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Adam, it case it helps your research any, my copies of Red and Blue were pre-ordered and picked up on launch day, and my copy of Blue has the corrected text. I would then have to assume that Nintendo would have noticed the error mid-production and shipped all launch copies together, some having the error and the bulk of them being corrected.

That's purely conjecture on my part, but it seems a logical conclusion since I don't have the test error but did pick mine up on launch day. Anyway, hope that helps your info gathering.

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So from what I'm reading here, and I don't see the error, but I guess it's cut off on the blue one there as you said, it seems if the post just above the last here is on the nose, maybe the rarity is far more than assumed if he preordered and had his mailed from Nintendo(or whoever) as his is correct and that blue is an issue, a very very handsome profit issue if someone had that sealed up still.

I have a read one, I guess by what you're saying, and here are just a couple pics, mine is a 2nd version given the white ERSB and the pokemon showing in the image on the back?

 

EDIT: I'm not fishing, this is 100% NFS.  I just wanted clarity on it, and curious how since red seemingly wasn't glitched does the print run affect this in any way?

DSCN0057.JPG.4f85dce802ab7f6b8d7eeff825a564a6.JPGDSCN0047.JPG.b8b49697ee9dd4eae1400d8c36ebed69.JPG

Edited by Tanooki
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There's no error for Red, it's specific to Blue. The error is that the text for Red wound up on the Blue box - so Red was correct all along.

Look at the pic I posted of the two Blues side-by-side. Read the text of the first bullet point on the back of the box. On the right-hand (error copy) it says the same as your Red - "Collect up to 139 different Pokemon playing the Red version. Using the Game Link cable (sold separately), trade with a friend who has the Blue version to capture all 150". That's obviously wrong for a *Blue* copy, right? It should only say that on *Red*. That's the error.

On the left-hand (corrected) copy, the text is changed to say "Collect up to 139 different Pokemon playing the Blue version...trade with a friend who has the Red version".

AFAIK, they didn't print any Reds with Blue text, or anything. Whenever they noticed the error and fixed Blue, they didn't change Red at all. So Reds printed *before* and *after* they fixed the text error on Blue, up until the screenshot change happened, are identical.

Nice sealed Red, BTW 😄 Yes, in my scheme it's the second Red print, equal to third Blue print. (I did consider calling the error print "print 0" or something so the numbers would line up, but it seems a bit weird.)

Edited by AdamW
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As for rarity - i guess we could only really tell with more certainty by doing a survey with a larger sample size, somehow, or from inside information. If there's a database of old eBay listings someone has access to, or something, they could look there. Once you know what you're looking for it's pretty easy to run through listings and identify them. I'd be *surprised* if it was actually far rarer than three months of eBay data suggests, but of course it's possible.

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Ahh yeah I missed the small print, so blue is red, and red is red, then blue is blue when fixed.  Makes sense.  I was fixated on the cut off screen cap.

That's what I was kind of getting asking about red even if it is the most definitive of the three.  What are the frequencies, can a charting be done of it.

It's bad enough quite frankly given the rampant abuses on ebay (etc) of how much these things cost now particularly for Pokemon games on what their values are.  They had been a pretty decent consistent, but when you start seeing sealed games go from the low hundreds into the mid thousands exceeding into the 10k+ range it's disturbing, as it too plays into what you're going on about here.

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I'm pretty new to games, as I said, but it seems to me there's kind of a "two worlds" thing between hobbyists and high-roller speculators. Most hobbyists don't really seem to care that much about variants and are not super anal about condition: they want a copy of the game, that's all. Some people do, and I guess I'm one of them (my day job is software QE, so I'm kinda obsessive about this kind of detail :>). But the high rollers really care *a lot* about it - they want the earliest identifiable copy, and they want it sealed, and they want it in *impeccable* condition.

I think the Blue error print thing is gonna matter much more to that high roller market than to hobbyists, again seemingly like Left Bros. If you just want a copy of Left Bros, you can get one without forking over a kidney, if you're not particular about condition. Carts run like 30-40 bucks, and a boxed copy is like 150 to 300 depending on condition. But if you want a *mint, sealed* copy, then you're into crazy territory. From HA listings, a WATA 9.2/A+ Left Bros. went for $156k in November last year; in the same auction this January, a 9.6/A++ Right Bros. went for $29k but a 9.0/B Left Bros. went for $41k. And high rollers usually care *a lot* about condition, so that's a huge difference.

If anything my guess is this will play out kinda the same; in the hobbyist market where people are happy with a vaguely-decent shape open copy, the "red text" will command a bit of a premium, but nothing outrageous. In the HA market it might go nuts. I'm really curious to see if it changes the picture for Red vs Blue for the high rollers; in recent auctions Red has gone for *way* more than Blue, for no really obvious reason (Charizard factor?)

For your copy of Red - my numbers again were, from 39 copies I found, 25 were #1, 11 were #2, 3 were #3. So your print is somewhat less common than the first, but rather more common than the third. As to how that affects value it really depends how much people value the rarity of a variant versus precedence, I guess. Personally I'm trying to get *all* the variants, but as I said it seems to me like the high-roller market (where your sealed copy would go :>) cares about precedence a lot, so I suspect they might still value a copy of Red #2 somewhat lower than a copy of Red #1 even though #2 is rarer. It's only a guess, though.

Edited by AdamW
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Well I've been at the Nintendo thing at home since 85, second hand since 95, and really never stopped though I got curbed hard early this century.  I never really sought out sealed stuff, but I like to know than not, so I try and keep up.  Pokemons mystery I never really thought of much as it's sooo sooo mass produced.  I figured you did the research so I'd ask.  You're right, it's a guess, and I couldn't figure it either.  On one hand it's not the first print, yet the first print of red was where a mass majority of them came from and unlike the spotty fubar'd copies of blue/red mix, it's hard to say.  If around your 40~ copies a 1/3 of them were mine, few were in the tail of it, and a vast majority of them fell into the first...maybe someone would pay more for the lesser run copies?  I guess it would depend on the pokemon fan+sealed persons logic on the matter. Would they care more about first run, or least run when throwing cash at it.

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So I just figured out an actual box art difference between the two Pokemon Yellow prints with black ESRB logos. Here's one:

pokemonyellowblackesrbdoubleendback.thumb.jpg.a82983d958616589e54feb0e88b3eed7.jpg

that's the one with a double-ended box, picture from HA. Here's the other, with a y-fold box, picture from my own copy:
IMG_20210201_163530.thumb.jpg.b1a6578d7f6fe812a4e879397a3850a8.jpg

Check the Pikachu behind the top screenshot. He moved! He's further to the right in the double-ended box art, you can see more of his tail and the tip of his ear is just about bleeding onto the side of the box. On the y-fold box he's further to the left, most of his tail is hidden behind the screenshot. My copy of the white-ESRB print of Yellow, matches the y-fold black-ESRB print: he's further left (let's call it "left-Pikachu" and "right-Pikachu").

Hey, and it gets funkier, because now I know to look for it, *he moved on Red and Blue too*. SANDSHREW prints have right-Pikachu. RATTATA prints have left-Pikachu. But that's weird, because the precedence doesn't make any sense. On the one hand, for Red and Blue, right-Pikachu is early and left-Pikachu is late. But on Yellow it seems to be the other way around - white-ESRB has left-Pikachu, but one of the two black-ESRB prints has right-Pikachu.

I think Nintendo's late-1990s box art team was involved in an extremely long-term plan to mess with me. 😛

edit: hmm, after charting it out, left-Pika and right-Pika - and one other thing that varies between boxes which I haven't mentioned yet - all track perfectly with the box type, regardless of Red, Blue or Yellow. This is fun, but it still doesn't answer the question of why two prints of Yellow with a black ESRB logo exist in the first place...

Edited by AdamW
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*go to check my one pkmn blue box to see if it's the red text and it is*

Meowth has blessed us on this day.

Thanks for the info. I always suspected that might be a first print but couldn't find anything about how to identify one. I would say the reason I suspected that is not because I had analyzed any of the text or screenshots on back but because when I had 2 copies of the box and was deciding which one to keep I noticed one had a larger cartridge holder fold than the other, seemingly designed to hold a clear plastic game boy case as opposed to only the cartridge. I actually have no idea if Pokemon ever shipped with a clear plastic case like older GB games or not but it fits perfectly so I wonder if when the different cartridge holder folds are taken into consideration there may be even more box variants.

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  • The title was changed to Pokemon generations I to III US box print/variant guide, with contents and population survey

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