Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Hang UP with Hang Tabs

Hang Tabs, what's the big deal?  A quick video about them.

When one thinks of hang tabs, I think most people think about the Original Nintendo (NES) but maybe more people should think of Sega. Sega owned the lion share of hang tabs, starting with the Master System and not ending until the 32x, while the NES only saw a limited run of Hang Tab boxes. The NES  released its first batch of games, commonly referred to as the Black Box games due to the predominately black boxes the games came in, with hang tabs built into the cardboard box.(Side Note: it wasn't just Black Box Games that had hang tabs, some games like Castlevania are known to have hang tabs.)

These hang tabs would allow retailers to hang the games from the peg boards to be easily displayed. At the time I am sure this sounded like a great idea, and I am sure it helped the upstart Nintendo gain display space it might not have otherwise acquired. Well turns out the idea was far better than the reality, the hang tab made for  some very awkward situations. Turns out if you hang an 8oz to 10oz fully boxed game complete with instruction, poster, cart and various other inserts from a tiny cardboard flap it will rip after not so long. Now if that seems crazy please check the video you will see that Stack-Up, which weights nearly 1 pound has a hang tab...Brilliant. Another scenario that came out of these hang tabs was security. If a game couldn't be shrink wrapped, what was to stop people from taking games out of the boxes?  My first copy of Ice Climber, a hang tab that wasn't shrink wrapped,  was not in fact Ice Climber, it was Tennis...what a let down. Toys-R-Us didn't want to take the game back either, but my mother eventually convinced them it wasn't a scam, that we were the victims and after about 3 hours I was finally at home climbing icy mountains to my hearts content. I later in life heard from guys who worked at stores that sold Nintendo games say that they would some times take the games home to play them for awhile and then put them back. This is not to say all hang tab games were left open for the plunder, many had security stickers placed over the flap. This idea produced more damaged boxes as well, as those stickers were prone to tear the first layer of the box off if you tried to remove it, your other option was to cut it and leave the ugly sticker on. Now some of you are probably saying, hey wait I have sealed Hang Tab games, sealed in shrink wrap. Yes of course,  many many many were still shrink wrapped, but some retailers opted to open and hang the games up, and as time would show, this was not the greatest idea.

Hang Tab VS Non Hang Tab Variants.
I talk briefly about this in the video but here is the run down as I understand it, and mind you I am not an expert when it comes to black box games. Hang Tabs are in general were the first batch or batches of the games to come out, they saw wider circulation  and higher print runs then the non hang tab versions. Hang Tab versions are less rare but are slightly more collectible. In a world where rarity is king this anomaly is created by the fact that Hang Tab boxes are usually damaged, so to find a collectors quality one is difficult. Non Hang Tabs more rare but a little less desired.  Price wise on eBay they are about the same, most sellers don't know anything about hang tabs and a lot of times neither do the buyers. These are not a hard rules, exceptions exist and to find out more about that I suggest visiting the Nintendo Age forums, they are filled with knowledge and good people.

The Sega Hang Tab
Most Sega games that come in the standard Sega Clam Shell Case have hang tabs built right into the case. The clam shell design had been a staple of Sega games since the Master System, and this lasted all they way up until the 32x. When Sega turned to CD as their new format of choice the clam shell design was abandoned, but the idea of the hard case was not. Collectors of Sega Games aren't split exactly but there is a divide amongst them, one side is very pro hang tabs, and one which just finds them to be a nuisance because they are difficult to shelf and store. Hardcore collectors prefer hang tabs on all their games, and truth be told if I was going to sell an expensive Genesis game I would make sure it had a hang tab, but the reality is if you need a good hang tab box, they aren't that hard to find, any sports game will do the trick.

No good comparison can be made between Nintendo hang tabs and Sega hang tabs, they just aren't comparable. It is sad that one of Sega's best ideas, the hard shell game case, has also made it less collectible. Nintendo and SNES collectors suffer long searches for mint boxes and rare games that  have their box, often times having to pick up the same game over and over and over just for box upgrades. SMS and Genesis collectors have it easy, the durable clam shell case protected the game, manual and the art work. The result of these hard cases is that more small print run games survived, thus making them less rare and easier to find complete, which keeps the collector cost down, this blessing is a double edge sword to collectors who view their collection also as an investment. The original Sega clam shell design was innovative without trying, we only need to look at modern game and cases to see the clam shell influence. Sega game cases are kind of an odd story, the clam shell is one of the finest , most durable game cases every made (hang tabs aside) and the Saturn and Sega CD cases are absolutely some of the worst most fragile pieces of garbage a game has ever had the displeasure of resting in.

Thank You Reading...Sega fans be sure to watch the last 30 seconds of the video.


  1. Thank you for the informative video and post, I never knew about NES hang tabs and thus will know to look for undamaged ones in the future.

    The ending was painful to watch. You shouldn't mangle games just because they're obnoxious to store. It's no better than chopping off the top 6 inches of a painting because it doesn't fit where you want to hang it (which incidentally has happened to some works). I know that it's up to opinion, but as far as I'm concerned it's just destructive.

  2. I'm not advocating for people to destory hangtabs, but what I am saying, as far as Genesis and Master System games go, is that it's not a big deal. TO circle back to your analogy, it is not like cutting the painting, it is like changing the frame. The cases are fairly generic, and often times have been switched out. In some instances the same game might have two different style cases depending on the factory that produced them and the date in which it was produced. Don't pay more for an mint hangtab, it may not even be the original. Now if we are talking about NES games where the hangtab is a pieces of the actual game box, then yes I would agree that cutting them would be shameful and wrong.

  3. Very interesting article, and although when I was younger (circa late 1987 to around early 1989), we sometimes ended up accidentally breaking off the hangtags on our Sega Master System games, but it didn't really other me much at the time.

    Fast-forward some 25 years later, and today I am utterly shocked and horrified at the notion of mutilating a Sega game box, even accidentally, which is why I've recently been so picky when purchasing OOP copies of Sega games (both SMS and Genesis) on eBay, making absolutely certain that a given game is as mint as possible, and possessing that hangtag.

    Also, lined up on a shelf, it becomes extremely annoying to me now (being very OCD, haha) to see a Sega game without a hangtag amidst a sea of them on either side, so this is now doubly-important to me when shopping around for titles.

    1. I understand the need for hangtabs if you have decided to go that way.As I am very particular about how my Sega shelf looks so I understand the OCD of it. My buying was not limited by hang tabs, most because I bought so many Sega games I could switch it to one that is complete with a matching box type, as the Sega clam shell has a few different versions. Thanks you for reading and posting.