Explore Atari Advertisements in Retail Christmas Catalogs (10-15 mins)

Task: Explore Atari Advertisements in Retail Christmas Catalogs

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Time: 10-15 mins


If you grew up in the United State in the early 1980s the Christmas catalogs from Sears, J.C. Penney, and other department stores were the bomb. We all spent days ogling all the amazing toys in the leadup to Christmas. I have wonderful memories of going through the catalogs and making Christmas lists. Of course, electronics were king in the early 1980s and all of these catalogs featured video games consoles and games as well as home computers. I have compiled below a representative list of catalog pages for Atari. Enjoy the memories!

Atari 400 and 800 from the 1982 Sears Wishbook
Atari 400 and 800 from the 1982 Sears Wishbook


Here is a great archive of Christmas catalogs including those from J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, and Sears. I link to these below.


Here is the Sears Tele-Games system and cartridges.


The Atari VCS appearing for the first time in the J.C. Penney Christmas catalog.

Sears Tele-Games


The Atari 800 makes its debut in the J.C. Penney catalog along with the 810 disk drive and 820 printer. Here is the Atari VCS in the same catalog.

Here is the Atari 400 in the Search Wishbook.


Nice Atari 800 system and the 2600 VCS in the J.C. Penney catalog.

Sear featured the Tele-Games system but no computer.


The Atari 2600 VCS with lots of games advertised by J.C. Penney. No Atari 400 or 800 in this Christmas issue!

Here is the Sears Tele-Games ad for this year.


The Atari 2600 in the J.C. Penney catalog. This one also had third-party cartridges from Activision and Imagic. Note the Le Stick for sale. The also listed the Atari 400 and 800 in this issue. It is interesting that they listed the Atari home computer next to the typewriters instead of TVs, stereos, or video game consoles.

Montgomery Ward finally lists the Atari 2600.

The Sears Video Arcade II.


J.C. Penney listed the 2600 and the new 5200. They also listed the new 600XL and 800XL home computers.

Montgomery Ward finally got serious about Atari offering the black Vader 2600, 5200, and the 600XL, 800XL, and 1200XL. This was of course the Christmas kicking off the video game crash and you can definitely see more real estate (~20 pages!) for gaming consoles and home computers.

Sears finally offered the 2600 instead of its own Sear branded units along with the 5200. Sears also offered the 800XL this year.


In stark contrast to 1983, the J.C. Penney catalog had NO video game consoles or home computers advertised! Wow.

Montgomery Ward had some listings. Here their listing for the 800XL. Note the awesome computer desks for sale with Atari computers featured. They also included the 2600.

Sears offered the 2600 and 5200 this year. No Atari computers.


J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, and Sears advertised typewriters, TVs, and stereos this year but no Atari video game consoles or home computers.


There were no Atari items listed for 1985 and 1986 so I stopped there. You can see pretty clearly the build up of advertising to 1983 and then the major decline thereafter. These are so much fun to browse. Be sure and look at the pages before and after each listing. They often contain listings for cartridges, peripherals, etc.