On Monday, Heritage Auctions sold an unopened copy of the 1996 Nintendo 64 game Super Mario 64 for $ 1.56 million. According to the auction house, there were 16 bids, and the final price is the highest ever for a single video game. The vintage video game trade has flourished over the past three years, especially during the pandemic, but this selling price has shocked and scratched even experienced collectors.
“I and many others in this room are just blown away by these results,” said Donald Brock Jr., co-owner of Columbia Comics. “If you look at collectibles since the pandemic, it exploded. You would think that the money would tighten up a bit, but it has been done the exact opposite. “To put Super Mario 64 sales in perspective, Brock notes that the first cartoon to sell for $ 1 million was Action Comics # 1, which featured Superman’s debut, in 2010. It was printed in 1938, so the comic was 72 years old before it reached a sales price of one million dollars. The first baseball card to sell for more than $ 1 million was the T206 Honus Wagner in 2000; the card was printed in 1909, so it was 91 years old at the time of sale. Unlike, Super Mario 64 is only 25 years old and still shaved past $ 1 million during Monday’s auction. “It’s a very short time to reach that peak,” Brock said.
There are several trends that have converged to increase this rapid increase in vintage video game speculation. A large contingent of comic book collectors, for example, has moved into space in recent years in an attempt to diversify investments. There also seems to be a tendency among cryptocurrency investors to withdraw money and collect video games. “You tend to see some increases in buying games when cryptocurrency is doing very well, and sometimes it corrects a little bit when it goes down,” said Josh Hamblin, owner of the SideQuest Games store in Portland, Oregon. His business used to consist mostly of people who came to “buy some games to play on the weekend”, but he has recently found that collectibles have become a significant part of the store’s revenue and have taken up more of his time. Hamblin also said that collectors are usually people in their late 30s or 40s who grew up with these games and now “have the extra money to play with some collectibles.”
The titles that achieve the highest prices are typically Nintendo games from the 1980s and 1990s, especially those for the company’s NES console, which came out in 1983. As is the case with comics, the titles that have the first appearances of characters from famous franchises like Super Mario, Zelda and Pokémon are the most sought after. Although Super Mario 64 has Mario’s first 3D rendering, the character had played in many console games before that and first appeared in Donkey Kong. This, combined with the fact that there are scarce titles than Super Mario 64, many collectors have been confused as to why it was the one who broke the $ 1 million ceiling. “It’s really shocking that it was this game,” Hamblin said. “N64 Mario gets a bad rap with a lot of collectors not a good game.” He noted that he had expected the NES game The legend of Zelda, which just sold for $ 870,000 at an auction on Friday, to be more valuable than Super Mario 64. However, Hamblin said that the special nostalgia that this obviously well-known collector had for the Nintendo 64 Mario may have been a driving factor in the high selling price.
In fact, given that Super Mario 64 has already sold for well over a million, and that there are undoubtedly several valuable titles out there, it is likely that this will not be the only seven-digit video game auction. “If this is the true price, there are copies of The legend of Zelda who should sell for more than this. It’s a really high quality sticker seal Mario that should sell for more than this, ”said Brock. “There are other copies of the game that are previous prints of these popular franchises, which, if this trend is true, should be sold for more than $ 1.5 million.” One of the main reasons why these vintage video games have skyrocketed in price so quickly is that there are just not that many unsealed versions for sale. Unlike collectibles such as action figures, there has not traditionally been a culture around keeping video games untreated and in their original packaging – most of the time people buy a game to open and play. Thus, there is currently more of an imbalance between supply and demand for unsealed vintage video games.
So what do you do with a video game worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or more? There is almost no chance that any of these collectors are actually playing these games; instead, they keep them as trophies in their private collections or wait to resell them at a later time for profit. In both cases, the games must be kept in perfect condition. Copies for sale are often classified based on their condition by companies such as Wata Games, which evaluated Super Mario 64 cassette for Monday’s auction. To keep games in good condition, collectors will often store them in safe deposit boxes in a bank or in plexiglass bags. Spills must be protected from UV rays, which can cause the packaging design to fade and reduce the value. Dry, temperature-controlled rooms are optimal since oxidation is a nightmare for collectors. For example, Hamblin plans to buy a collection of 200 sealed PS1 games from Georgia, but the humid climate had caused some rusting on the pins that held the game manuals together, which dramatically affected the condition. It turns out that Mario’s most dangerous enemy may not be Bowser, but rather moisture.