Richard Hescox'artwork for Master Lu
Two Riddles for Sierra collectors

Two Riddles for Sierra Collectors

In a philosophical mood, GN was wondering about two riddles presented by Sierra’s game boxes: the different ways in which the boxes are shrink-wrapped and the fact that some boxes have mysterious pinholes in the bottom, as if an unknown game bug had crawled into the box. But neither half-digested manuals nor dead bugs were ever found inside. GN contacted a former retailer who sold Sierra games when they were published, and he solved the riddles immediately.

The Riddle of the Shrink-Wrapping

Sierra’s game boxes have different shrink-wrapping, and the way of shrink-wrapping is one of the features that collectors may use to identify whether or not a game box is a true Sierra release. The identification is especially important with regard to the so-called Slash versions, the cheaper reissues of popular game packaging. Slash made things very confusing because they did two different things.

#1 They manufactured Sierra software using existing Sierra parts and inventory.

#2 They manufactured Sierra software from scratch. These are the easy ones to tell because everything about the production is lower quality.

The way to tell original Sierra from Slash #1 (when Slash was using Sierra parts) is that Slash never used the original Sierra inner boxes (tan boxes with the Sierra Half Dome logo). All Slash manufacturing used plain white boxes, but often with the original Sierrasleeve. The issue of the shrink-wrapping caught GN’s attention after reading an article at Vintage Sierra about Slash versions, called “Slash releases demystified ( ).” In the article it is mentioned that “true factory sealed Sierra games” have folded corners at the top and bottom, like this:

GN thought it was unlikely that all “unfolded” shrink-wrapped games were “not true factory sealed Sierra games,” even when the original retail price stickers were still glued onto the packages. It appeared that indeed not all (early) Sierra games were published in shrink-wrap with folded corners, and this must be a relief for at least some collectors.

Space Quest - PC: Master carton of 24

Four copies of SQ: shrink-wrap is not folded

The very first Sierra boxes with sleeves came in white master cartons (24 and 48). These boxes did not have the folded shrink-wrap, and include games such as Space Quest, Mixed-Up Mother Goose, Manhunter 2, and other ones.

Master carton with 48 copies of Space Quest I for the Atari ST: shrink-wrap is not folded

Later on Sierra went to a different manufacturer or the manufacturer switched style. They used brown master cartons of 24 and the shrink-wrapping became folded.   

If a game like Manhunter 2 that was published in 1989 doesn’t have the folded shrink wrap, it means that Sierra published their games in this style for couple of years (1987-1989). But, for example, there exists an EGA version of Manhunter 2 with folded shrink-wrap (and a tan box). So the year 1989 becomes confusing with regard to the two styles of shrink-wrapping, and one wonders whether Sierra used more than one company to manufacture the software during this period, or went to a manufacturer who used both styles. In any case these games are still identifiable as true Sierra games when they have the tan box.

With games from the early nineties the problem becomes harder. In this period Sierra started to package games like Space Quest 4 and 5 or King’s Quest 5 and 6 in solid-white two-piece boxes with a sleeve. So the tan box with the Half Dome logo is no longer decisive. Non-folded boxes could be genuine, but could also be a Slash version or are-wrapped product. Re-wrapping wasn’t that uncommon when a distributor took backcopies that were unsold from the stores. If such a game has no system requirements label (or a printed white one or the box comes with a yellow value priced label), one may assume that it is a Slash release. But in other cases doubt will remain, as Slash used Sierra inventory. And it seems that Sierra switched again between manufacturers or in shrink-wrap style in the early nineties. For there exists for example a Space Quest 4 version with folded shrink-wrap, while the various versions of King’s Quest 6 (in the white, blue, black and red box with the small blue system requirements sticker) were published by Sierra with non-folded shrink-wrap.

After the big white inner boxes Sierra changed packaging again, by publishing the games in flip-top boxes like those of Leisure Suit Larry 6, King’s Quest 7, Police Quest IV, or Space Quest 6. It looks like that the folded shrink-wrap was no longer used for these boxes.

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