Shigeru Miyamoto might be famous to anyone who knows their Mario from their Sonic, but it's easy to forget this wasn't always the case – and even today, there are people who might not be aware of the great man's legacy. So, when non-gamer Tony LeCroix had a chance meeting with the legendary game designer at the end of the '80s, it's perhaps not massively surprising that he didn't know who he was.
"I was in the music business, and in 1989, I was working for a country band," LeCroix tells us. "We were playing at a festival in Japan. The promoter owned a country bar that was named Good Time Charlies; his name was Charlie Nagatani. After the concert, he invited us to his bar. Upon arriving, he introduced me to his friend that could only speak broken English, but enough to communicate." No prizes for guessing who this 'friend' was – but suffice to say, LeCroix and Miyamoto hit it off thanks to their shared love of music.
"We stood at the bar and talked about music," says LeCroix. "He was very interested in the stringed instruments that I took care of, such as the guitars and mandolins and so on. We just talked about music as we shared some beers together. At the end of the night when it was time to depart, he asked me for my autograph; jokingly, I told him I would give him mine if he would give me his. As I pulled out my business card and signed it, he did the same. I noticed after he signed his name he quickly drew a little character on it. I am not a gamer and had no idea who the little fellow was that he drew. A while later in life, I saw someone playing a game and recognized the character – it was Mario!"
This amazing chance encounter led to LeCroix owning something that, while perhaps not blessed with massive commercial value, has plenty of sentimental value. However, it wasn't until very recently that he actually caught up with Miyamoto's achievements.
"I kept this card for 32 years," he continues. "Earlier this year I retired, and with time on my hands, I looked up on the internet 'Shigeru Miyamoto' and realized what he had achieved in his lifetime, and how important he was to the gaming community." Sadly, it's at this stage where the story takes a turn for the worst.
"I was curious to see what this card might be worth and began trying to find an appraiser," LeCroix adds. "I came across an ad for an auction house that specialized in gaming and contacted them – at this time I would rather not disclose their name – and I was convinced to send the card to them for an upcoming auction. They claimed this would be the 'featured' item. I sent them the card and now they call me and say the card is missing."
Of course, items go missing in the post all the time, but LeCroix is convinced that there's some foul play here. "I truly believe my card was stolen from me and will probably show back up in the future," he tells us. "I honestly doubt that I will ever get my card back, but I would really like to get the word out to the gaming community about the true story of the history of this card, and how it came about and how it was taken away from the original owner."
While it's likely that Miyamoto has signed many other cards from this period, the illustration and signature make it fairly unique and easy to identify. If the card does show up for sale, there's a small chance it might get reunited with its rightful owner – the man who shared a common passion for music with Miyamoto in a Japanese bar 32 years ago.