The retro PC game collecting scene was rocked by an unexpected scandal last week when a prominent member of the community, who was also a moderator of a large Facebook group, was accused of selling fake copies of classic games to people.
Enrico Ricciardi, who for years has been an active member of the community as a buyer, seller and source of advice, has been fired from Big Box PC Game Collectors after several members provided evidence they say prove that many of the boxes, floppy disks and artifacts he was selling to people were not what they appeared to be. .
The group members collected all their evidence and accusations in public documentsaying that after a member received a suspicious game – a supposed copy of Akalbeth 1979: The Realm of Deathwhich was developed by Richard Garriott before he started in Ultima series and it’s one of the first RPGs ever produced – they started to stick around with other titles sold by Ricciardi, finding that many of them were a bit off as well.
Comparing Ricciardi’s toys with original toys owned by other members, the group quickly found a number of inconsistencies with the previous one, such as toy posters being cut by hand rather than shaped, markings on supposedly decades-old posters that could only have been made using modern printers, and slight differences In things like fonts and logo placement. You can see these examples for yourself over here And the over here.
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 is not clear if any legal proceedings are underway, or if they will ever take place, because they say “affected individuals choose their best remedy and do not wish to discuss this publicly”.
If you’re a collector and this is a little intimidating, or you’re just an outside observer curious about how this all works, The Big Box PC Game Collectors has a “Guide to Anti Crooks” which is fun to read.