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TheStreet Open House

4 Pop Culture Classics That Beat Their Replacements

Hendricks is aware of just how lucrative the vintage Nintendo market can be for sellers, but also how costly it can get for a gamer with a taste for rare titles. Back in 2009, he paid $17,500 for a rare, gold Nintendo World Championships 1990 cartridge used at Nintendo live events more than 20 years ago. While the cartridge is still great for playing mini versions of Super Mario Brothers, Rad Racer and Tetris, it's also one of only 26 ever produced and one of about 13 still in existence. That same year, he sold the only copy of Nintendo Campus Challenge for $20,100.  

Five-figure cartridge are only getting more common as supplies dwindle and demand increases. In July, Hendricks paid $12,000 for a copy of Nintendo PowerFest '94, a game that asked players on Nintendo's live tour to get the highest combined score on Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Kart and Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. Though there were 100 made, only two are still in existence. That's a bargain compared with the price of a sealed copy of Bandai's Stadium Events fitness game. Nintendo bought the rights to this game and re-released it in the U.S. as World Class Track Meet, but 200 survived and a sealed copy sold on eBay (EBAY) two years ago for $41,300.  

Current: CDs
Classic: Vinyl  

It's a bit of a stretch to call CDs "current" when roughly 60% of all album sales are digital downloads, but if you're looking for a hard copy it's still the format of choice.  

They're also dying a well-documented death. Slacking CD sales fueled a 13% dip in album sales from 2009 to 2010, according to Nielsen Soundscan. More recently, CD sales dropped 5.7% in 2011 and tanked by 11.8% in the first half of 2012. That's down from 101.3 million CDs sold in the first half of last year to just 91 million in the early months of 2012.  

But you can't blame CDs for a consumer base that would rather spend the $5 to $10 Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) charge to download an album than the $16 to $19 a big box store charges for a new CD, right? Overall album sales grew a sluggish 1.4% in 2011, but Nielsen Soundscan notes that sales of vinyl LPs grew a staggering 28% during that same period.  

Granted, it's an extremely niche market that makes up less than 4% of all album sales, but it's the only physical product gaining any ground in an increasingly online industry. Vinyl sales jumped from 2.8 million albums sold in 2010 to 3.9 million last year. That doesn't seem like a whole lot when you consider Adele's 21 sold 5.82 million copies in the U.S. alone last year (including just 16,500 on vinyl) while the top-selling vinyl record of 2011, The Beatles' Abbey Road sold only 41,000 copies and was originally released 43 years ago.  

It's a big deal, however, when you realize that even buyers on discount-happy Amazon are shelling out a minium $16 a pop for the wax version of a Beatles album they could buy for $13 on iTunes or for $7 if they wanted a new CD version. Once relegated to thrift stores and esoteric collectors' shops, consumer vinyl is in the middle of a full-priced comeback that makes big, grooved versions of Jack White's Blunderbuss (which sold an industry-leading 18,000 copies in the first six months of 2002), The Black Keys' El Camino and Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel ... coveted commodities. Record fans will still buy hard copies of full albums -- they just decreasingly want to buy a version with a sound they can download for less.  

Current: Multiplexes
Classic: Indie theaters  

Let's just say for the record that, in the aggregate, the multiplexes are winning in decisive fashion.  

The number of indoor cinema sites -- actual movie theaters -- in America has declined steadily from 7,151 in 1995 to just 5,331 last year. During that same span, the number of indoor screens showing movies in the U.S. ballooned to 38,974 from 26,995. Multiplexes are getting bigger and small timers who can't pay the tens of thousands of dollars to switch to all-digital equipment are closing shop.  

So how, exactly, are the indies winning? On average. With overall movie revenues declining in four of the past eight years, including two straight slumps in 2010 and 2011, value matters. The average cost to see a movie during those years has risen from $6.21 in 2004 to $8.02 this year, while the number of tickets bought has plummeted from 1.51 billion to 1.28 billion.  

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