A pristine-condition sealed early copy of Super Mario Bros. sold for a record-shattering $660,000 in an online auction today.
That includes $550,000 to the seller and a $110,000 “Buyers’ Premium” paid to Heritage Auctions. The final gavel came after 13 bidders placed 36 distinct bids, including heavy proxy bidding before the live auction commenced Friday afternoon.
The sale obliterates the $156,000 Heritage Auction record for a video game, set by a rare variant of Super Mario Bros. 3 sold last November. Crowdsourced collectibles platform Rally paid $140,000 for a sealed Super Mario Bros. last year, the previous record for that game.
The seller of this sealed copy, who asked to remain anonymous publicly, told Heritage that the game was purchased as a Christmas gift
in 1985 and sat untouched at the bottom of a desk drawer for 35 years before being discovered [Update: A representative for Heritage Auctions tells Ars the 1985 date was “an error on our part” and that “The owner must have purchased this game in late 1986”]. “It stayed in the bottom of my office desk this whole time since the day I bought it,” the seller told Heritage. “I never thought anything about it.”
“As soon as this copy of Super Mario Bros. arrived at Heritage, we knew the market would find it just as sensational as we did,” Heritage Auctions Video Games Director Valarie McLeckie said in a statement. “Even so, the degree to which this game was embraced outside the market has been nothing short of exceptional, and that aspect of this sale has certainly exceeded our expectations. Though, I suppose we can’t be too shocked; who doesn’t love Mario?”
Unlike some earlier high-priced Super Mario Bros. sales, this copy isn’t from the earliest production run of the game, which had a box sealed only with a small sticker and which was only sold in New York City during the NES’ late 1985 test-market run. But this copy is one of the earliest shrink-wrapped editions of the game, sold only for a short time in late 1986, according to WATA Games’ guide. This copy also received an incredible 9.6 out of 10 on WATA Games’ quality scale, with an “exceptional” A+ seal in “near-mint” condition. It also still has an intact hangtab, meaning it never had its seal pierced for hanging it in a store display.
To put this sale in some context, the only known extant prototype of the unproduced Nintendo PlayStation—a unique and important part of video game history—sold a year ago for $380,000 (with the buyer’s premium included). And back in 2014, a “world’s largest” collection of 11,000 video games sold for $750,000.
While this is the oldest shrink-wrapped copy of Super Mario Bros. Heritage has auctioned thus far, others could still exist among the millions and millions of copies of Super Mario Bros. ever produced. Then again, Heritage Auctions video game specialist and consignment director Valarie McLeckie told Ars Technica last July, “I would suspect sealed cardboard hangtab copies [still available today] number in the single digits.”
Elsewhere in Heritage’s current auction, a rare, sealed Mega Man variant that misidentifies Dr. Wily as “Dr. Wright” on the box has been sold for $144,000, the first non-Mario game to sell for a six-figure sum. A very highly graded copy of Super Mario Bros. 3, meanwhile, sold for $52,800.
Listing image by Wata Games