A pristine copy of Super Mario Bros for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) has been sold for more than US$100,000 (A$140,000).
With an original retail price of around $35, it could be the most expensive copy of a video game ever sold.
This particular cartridge is so coveted because it’s part of a very limited “test market launch” for the NES that Nintendo dropped in late 1985 in New York City and Los Angeles.
These copies are different from the run of widely distributed cartridges that populated shelves all over the world at the time because these didn’t come in the usual shrink wrap and were sealed instead with a small matte or glossy sticker.
Wata Games – a company that specialises in grading collectible video games – rated this cartridge a 9.4, which is mindblowing once you realise it was kept shelved without shrink wrap for three decades.
Deniz Khan, CEO and co-founder of the game-grading business told Ars Technica that 2000 to 10,000 copies were made of each of the 27 test market titles distributed by Nintendo with this type of sticker seal.
The game was sold through Heritage Auctions on February 6 for the record-breaking sum of $100,105 (A$140,000) to a group of collectors. The previous record was held by a shrink-wrapped copy of Super Mario Bros that sold for over A$42,000 in 2017.
“I’ve always said personally that I believe that sticker-sealed Mario is possibly one of the most significant video gaming items historically,” Khan told Kotaku.
The only other game out there that could compete in value with Super Mario Bros is, of course, the elusive first printing of The Legend of Zelda, which has a ™ rather than a ® logo on the box.
“There is one known copy and I’ve never even seen a photo of it,” Khan said.
Other notable pop culture auctions include that of the now mythic Action Comics #1, which sold in 2014 for more than $3 million. The item is regarded as the holy grail of comic book collecting because it’s the first appearance of Superman and dates back to 1938. It’s rare, it’s a popular character and it’s culturally significant. According to Kahn, that’s what this copy of Super Mario Bros means to the gaming world.
“I’ve always said, video games are going to go the way of comics, or cars, or coins; it’s only a matter of time until a video game sells for a million dollars,” he said.