Task: Purchase an Atari 5200
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Time: 30-60 minutes
Atari released the 5200 in 1982 as a sequel to the successful 2600 console. It competed with the Intellivision and ColecoVision but was never very popular due to its poor design and lack of backward compatibility. Part of the poor design was its massive size. Also, the joysticks were terrible. I never had one of these back in the day. However, my cousin had one and I recall playing several different games including Pole Position and Countermeasure. I was not that impressed with the 5200 because I had an Atari 800 that played many of the same games and was a real computer with a keyboard.
I was never that interested in collecting Atari 5200s but ended up with six back in the early 2000s when I was frequenting flea markets and thrift stores in the Nashville area. I don’t recall paying more than $10 or $20 each for these. I held on to them and have a decent collection of many of the common and a few uncommon games. My issue today with the 5200s is that they take up so much space in my Atari collection and I don’t really need six.
Today I decided to keep two and sell three on eBay. I discovered one of the six didn’t have an AV cable. I shipped this one off to someone to use for parts since the chips are quite useful. Now that I am older I am quite happy to have a few 5200s in my collection along with the games. I had fun playing some of the games when I was going through the units deciding which ones to sell. The good news is that these are widely available through eBay and other outlets if you are interested in adding one to your collection.
The important thing to know is that there are two versions of the 5200. The release version that came out in 1982 had four joystick ports and built in cable that carries both the AV signal and the power to the unit. This all-in-one cable plugs into a special RF box where you also plug in the power adapter. It is really weird not to plug in the power directly to the unit. Like I said earlier, the design of the 5200 is wacky and very much over-engineered. The later version of the 5200 has two joystick ports and a power adapter that plugs directly into the unit (see image). I like this one much better. Of the six that I had, I kept one of each type.
At the time of the post there were more than 20 Atari 5200 consoles listed on eBay with prices ranging from $50 to $400. The more expensive ones tend to come with the original box and usually some number of cartridges. I personally think that the ones listed for $300 or $400 are way overpriced. You should be able to find one of these in decent condition for $100 to $200.
I also checked Amazon and there were several listed there with similar prices as eBay.
The 5200 is basically an Atari 400 computer in a video game console. There are some differences that make them not 100% code compatible. Something to keep in mind is that it is really hard to find working joysticks. I have about 10 and only one consistently works well. I plan to do a few more posts on the 5200 as I have some old and new hardware additions for it. I think it is worth having one of these big boys but you might not want more than one or two due to the space they take up.