An incredibly rare plastic-sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES has sold at auction for a world record-breaking $660,000. That hefty price tag makes it the most expensive price ever paid for a video game collectible.
The copy of Super Mario Bros., sold this week by Heritage Auctions, is a copy from the game’s fourth printing run. This means that it did not have the “Game-Pak NES-GP” code and is missing the “™” trademark symbol normally seen to the right of “Nintendo Entertainment System,” which was officially added to all black boxes in early 1987.
“For Nintendo, it was just stuff they had to do internally, but collectors are using this information now,” Chris Kohler, editorial director at Digital Eclipse, tells IGN. “It’s not like a collector cares if there’s a “™” on their box or not, but it’s the ability to use that information to figure out what the earliest printings are.”
The copy of Super Mario Bros. ranks at a 9.6 on the WATA scale, a rubric commonly used to rate comic book value.
“So if you’re an expert in comics, you know a 9.6 is very hard to get on the WATA scale, especially for black box NES games because those are so old,” Kohler said. “They really narrowed it down to when was this copy on sale, when did Nintendo start tweaking parts of the box?”
Kohler notes that many of the players who grew up with classic video game franchises like Super Mario, Zelda, or Punch-Out are now comfortably in their 40s and 50s, and likely possess much more disposable income they can spend on collector’s items.
“The constraint of video game collection 20 or 30 years ago was that there just wasn’t a lot of money being thrown around. Stadium event copies would sell for $30,000 but because there would only be a small number who could pay that much. The fact that this [copy of Super Mario Bros.] sold for $660,000 means that there’s at least two people who would have paid over half a million dollars for it, probably more.”
Kohler added that this particular copy of Super Mario Bros. sold so high is in part because sealed copies have proven incredibly difficult to find.
“The fact that you just can’t find nice sealed copies of this kind of indicates that when something like this does come up you should probably jump on it,” Kohler said, noting that there are currently no known sealed copies of Super Mario Bros.’ first printing. “So I think there’s people who are jumping on it now thinking that it may go up and it probably will go up in the future and also just that they may never have an opportunity to buy one.”
The previous record price for a video game collectible was $360,000 for the unreleased Nintendo PlayStation prototype, which sold in February 2020. The highest price for a single copy of a game was $156,000 for a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 in late 2020.
Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer/auctioneer for IGN.