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

  • Most boxed copies of Super Mario Bros. look a lot like this at a quick glance. But they won't sell for $114,000. Heritage Auctions
  • That cardboard hangtab in the back is a big part of the reason this copy sold for such a premium. Heritage Auctions

A sealed, early copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES sold for $114,000 Friday at specialist house Heritage Auctions, setting a new record for the sale price of an individual video game.

The online auction surpassed the old record set by a $100,000 sale of a "sticker-sealed" Super Mario Bros. early last year. At the time, the seller behind that $100,000 edition told Ars that it was “probably the wrong move, long-term, to sell.”

For context, the Guinness World Records certified the world's largest video game collection sold at auction for $750,000 in 2014. That collection contained over 11,000 games, including over 8,300 in their original box.

Whys it so valuable?

Heritage Auctions video game specialist and consignment director Valarie McLeckie, who helped shepherd this record sale, tells Ars that this “3-code variant” of Super Mario Bros. dates back to mid-1987. That makes it “slightly more attainable to find” than the very earliest test-market editions of the game, from late 1985 and early 1986, which were only sealed with a small circular Nintendo sticker (the earlier $100,000 sale came from that earliest batch). That also means its not among the very first shrink-wrapped copies of the game, which date back to mid-1986.

Still, the fact that this copy of the game features a cardboard hangtab inside that shrink-wrap, “speaks to a level of vintage” that puts it in a rarefied class. “I would suspect sealed cardboard hangtab copies [still available today] number in the single digits,” McLeckie said.

Remaining copies that are in good enough condition to earn a Wata Games certified rating of 9.4 out of 10, as this one was, are even rarer. “In this grade especially, its quite an impressive piece,” McLeckie said.

“Strangely, the addition of the plastic wrap came before the box cutting die was altered to remove the cardboard hangtab,” as the Heritage Auction site points out. “This rendered the functionality of the cardboard hangtab completely useless, since it was under the plastic seal.”

“Considering this game was printed from late 85 until the early 90s, the number of [mid-80s] cardboard hangtab copies to those later 90s copies are very few and far between,” McLeckie told Ars. “Most of those earlier copies were purchased and opened, because they were closer to the time of the games release.”

  • Wata Games' chief grader examines a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. (from a much-later printing than this record sale). Wata Games
  • The grader looks through a jeweler's loupe to identify any signs of resealing, restoration, color touching, or tampering. Wata Games
  • Checking for seal and box authenticity. Wata Games
  • Yup, the box has a back. That checks out. Wata Games
  • Wata Games grading labels sit ready to be placed in their banners before the games are encapsulated. Wata Games
  • Snapping a label banner in place as part of the encapsulation process. Wata Games
  • Finally, the game is safe from routine handling damage (and from any chance of actually being opened and played any time soon). Wata Games
  • Of the millions of copies of Super Mario Bros. ever sold, this is the rarest and most valuable known to still exist. Wata Games

While Heritage is protecting the anonymity of the seller at their request, McLeckie said this ultra-valuable copy of the game “came from outside the collecting hobby,” which she described as “very curious… an attic find scenario.” McLeckie said she suspects it was simply “purchased [in 1987] and put somewhere and forgotRead More – Source