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Why is this edition of Super Mario Bros. a record $ 114,000?

A sealed, early copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES, which was sold at Heritage Auctions for $ 114,000 on Friday, setting a new record for the retail price of a single video game.

The online auction broke the old record set by selling a $ 100,000 “sealed” sticker. Super Mario Bros. Early last year. At the time, the seller behind this $ 100,000 issue told Ars that “it is probably the wrong move to sell long term”.

For context, the Guinness World Records certified the world’s largest video game collection, which was auctioned in 2014 for $ 750,000. This collection contained over 11,000 games, including over 8,300 in their original packaging.

Why is it so valuable?

Heritage Auctions video game specialist and show director Valarie McLeckie, who supported this record sale, tells Ars that this “3-code variant” of Super Mario Bros. dates from the middle of 1987. This makes it “a little easier to find” than the game’s earliest test market editions from the late 1985 and early 1986, which were only sealed with a small round Nintendo sticker (the previous sale was $ 100,000) from this earliest batch). . This also means that it is not one of the first shrink-wrapped copies of the game to go back to mid-1986.

The fact that this copy of the game contains a cardboard hangtab in this shrink wrap “speaks for a vintage level” that puts it in a diluted class. “I would guess sealed cardboard hangtab copies [still available today] Number in the single digits, ”said McLeckie.

Remaining specimens that are in a condition good enough to receive a Wata Games certified rating of 9.4 out of 10 are even rarer. “It’s particularly impressive in this class,” said McLeckie.

“Oddly enough, the plastic wrap was added before the box cut shape was changed to remove the cardboard hang tab,” emphasizes the Heritage Auction. “This rendered the functionality of the cardboard hangtab completely unusable because it was under the plastic seal.”

“When you consider that this game was printed from the late 1985 to the early 1990s, the number is [mid-‘80s] Cardboard hangtab copies of the late 90s copies are very rare, “McLeckie told Ars.” Most of these earlier copies were bought and opened because they were closer to the game’s release date. “

While Heritage protects the seller’s anonymity at his request, McLeckie said that this extremely valuable copy of the game “comes from outside the collecting hobby”, which she described as “very curious … a loft finding scenario”. McLeckie suspects that it was simply “bought” [in 1987] and put it somewhere and forget it. Whoever had it was lucky enough to keep it in a safe place. “

“When I told it [the seller] What I actually had, I wanted to be conservative when I gave the estimate so as not to give false hope, ”McLeckie continued. But then a sealed hangtab copy of Super Mario Bros. sells for $ 40,200 despite a wata valuation of only 8.0. “So … I thought, ‘Well, if an 8.0 were sold for it, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it sold for six digits.’ But I tried not to actively anticipate it. “

Are we in a price bubble for classic games?

Friday’s record sales are a continuation of a trend in which selling prices for certain sealed games have risen sharply and rapidly in recent months. Selling prices have increased recently, particularly for NES games. a sealed copy of Mike Tyson’s punch-out! For example, recently sold for over $ 50,000. Games for later systems were also offered heavily; an early sealed copy of God of War sold for the PS2 for $ 2,640.

This represents a shift compared to collecting previous games when extremely rare game variants like Nintendo World Championships and Stadium events tended to get the highest prices. Now instead: “After what we saw [collectors] tend to be most interested in what they loved most as children, ”said McLeckie. And that means sealed copies of well-known (and often heavily produced) games of the highest quality, hard to find.

“There is a shift in what people want to add to their collections these days,” McLeckie continued. In the early days of collecting games, when the graded state was not the focus, “it was easier for people to find what they liked as children. Then they went on to the next step; People wanted to complete system sets. From this perspective, people will be looking for some games rather than others. The rarity factor has played a much bigger role than recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if [rarity] will regain importance in the future. “

As the prices of sealed games rise so quickly, some collectors and observers see the beginnings of a bubble in the market and expect the prices to eventually return to a more reasonable level. But McLeckie disagrees.

“I firmly believe that this is as respectable a form of collecting as comics,” she said. “We have just started to formalize this market. On the whole, people are just starting to adjust to the fact that it is a rarity-based system. “

“Things will change over time,” she continued. “Where we see fluctuations, only time will tell. [But] I firmly believe in the strength of this market. Video games have established themselves as an important piece of popular culture, and we all like to celebrate the start of our favorite pastimes. I have no doubt that people will continue to do that. “

Listing image from Heritage Auctions

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