Retro game collector accused of selling complex counterfeits for $100,000

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The retro PC game collecting scene was rocked by an unexpected scandal last week when a prominent community member, who was also a moderator of a major Facebook group, was accused of selling fake copies of classic games.

Enrico Ricciardi, who for years has been an active member of the community as a buyer, seller and source of advice, has been kicked out of the Big Box PC Game Collectors group after several members presented evidence they claim prove that many of the boxes, floppy disks and artwork he sells to people are not what they appear to be.

The members of the group collected all their evidence and their accusations in a public documentsaying that after a member received a suspicious game, a supposed copy of Akalabeth from 1979: World of Doomwhich was developed by Richard Garriott before he launched the Ultimate series and is one of the first RPGs ever made – they started digging into other titles that had been sold by Ricciardi, and found that many of them were also a bit off.

When comparing Ricciardi’s games to originals owned by other members, the band quickly found a number of discrepancies with the former, such as hand-cut instead of machined game labels, markings on stickers supposedly decades old that could only have been done with modern printers and slight differences in things like fonts and logo placement. You can see these examples yourself here and here.

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The most damning evidence presented, though, was that in many cases the disks that had been sold by Ricciardi were blank, something many buyers were only discovering now that they had been prompted to check. If you’re thinking to yourself “why didn’t these guys check that before?”, we’re talking about disks and tapes that are in some cases over 40 years old, which as the Big Box PC Game Collectors members explain, means doing this isn’t always the best idea:

These disks are 40 years old, and the software is widely available online via emulators at this point. The goal in getting these games is not to play them, but to collect them (people who collect baseball trading cards do not trade them much either). “Testing” a 40-year-old disk can risk damaging the disk. Further, some collectors do not have access to the computers which originally ran these games.

With multiple members having now compared the games they received from Ricciardi to other, legitimate copies, it has become clear that he has been selling these intricate fakes for years (since at least 2015, by their reckoning), covering everything from old Sierra and Origin games to “multiple copies of Ultima: Escape from Mt. Drash, Akalabeth and Mystery House.”

Wildly, it’s even believed that while most of Ricciardi’s fakes were sold directly to buyers, the group says “there is at least one black box Ultima 1 that we think may be fake that was graded by WATA.”

It’s estimated that Ricciardi has been involved in “at least €100K in transactions of suspected counterfeit game items”, which at time of posting works out to be roughly USD$107,300. That’s…a lot of money, as you’d expect for games both this old and this important, though as the group explain it’s unclear whether legal action is pending, or ever will be, as they say “those affected are choosing the best course of action for them and do not wish to discuss it publicly.”

If you are a collector and this scares you a little, or if you are just an outside observer curious to know how it all works, the Big Box PC Game Collectors group has an “anti-scammer guide” which is worth reading.

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