You might think spending $ 60 on a new AAA video game is a lot, but three video game enthusiasts just spent more than $ 100,000 on a single game, and they don’t even plan to play it. The record-setting price for the game makes a bit more sense when you find out it’s an ultra-rare sealed early copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES.
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) launched in Japan in 1983 as the Famicom, but it wouldn’t come to North America until two years later. Nintendo wasn’t sure how the NES would be received in the US, so it started the rollout in several “test markets” like New York and Los Angeles. The games produced for this initial run are known as “test market games,” and that’s what makes the newly sold copy of Super Mario Bros. so valuable.
Gaming enthusiasts believe Nintendo made between 2,000 and 10,000 copies of each test market game. There were 17 of them (later expanded to 27) including Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, Soccer, and Duck Hunt. These games were not shrinkwrapped like later NES releases, and the boxes had small Nintendo stickers sealing them closed. The small production numbers along with the lack of plastic wrapping mean it’s extremely rare to find a sealed copy, and the original Super Mario Bros. is particularly coveted.
Rumors recently began circulating on game collecting forums that a prominent member had a test market copy of Super Mario Bros. If authenticated, it would be the only known copy in existence. The seller (who has opted to remain anonymous) had the item evaluated by video game grading firm Wata Games.
The evaluation confirmed this was indeed one of the original US NES cartridges, which is an important distinction. Later runs of the game are only worth around $ 1,000 sealed and in perfect shape. Wata Games also noted the box’s original stickers were in amazingly good shape. Unfortunately, we don’t know how the seller kept the box in such pristine condition for 30 years.
The seller said he’d only consider offers of $ 100,000 or more, which takes most game collectors out of the running. Eventually, three prominent game collectors stepped up to split the $ 100,150 cost via Heritage Auctions. The extra $ 150 was to cover the seller’s fees. The new owners liken this item to Action Comics #1 (the first appearance of Superman) for comic collectors. A perfect copy of that book sold at auction several years ago for $ 3.21 million. It’s not unthinkable that a copy of Super Mario Bros. like this one could eventually be worth that much.