Even though Super Mario 64 is not one of the rarest or oldest video games on the market, it does hold a certain level of icon status. So much so that a factory-sealed copy of the 1996 Super Mario 64 game recently sold for $1.5 million at an auction over the weekend. While vintage video game collecting has certainly been on the rise in recent years, this marks the highest amount of money paid for a single video game in auction history.
The factory-sealed copy received a condition grading of 9.8 out of 10, which means the game was practically undamaged. In total, it sold for $1,560,000 at the Heritage Auctions House, breaking the record for highest-selling video game at an auction.
Again, Super Mario 64 is not that rare when compared to other vintage video games that have sold for high prices in the past, however, experts claim that collectors are more focused on getting their hands on collectables, rather than the rarest game or piece of memorabilia.
Editorial director at Digital Eclipse, Chris Hohler, recently discussed this auction and the overall rise in vintage video game/science fiction collection.
“Well, I figured the first million dollar game was imminent, but I didn’t think it was gonna be today…or Super Mario 64.”
Video game rarity has many different forms in the eyes of a collector. Super Mario 64, for example, sold close to 12 million copies when it first dropped, however, the packaging was extremely prone to damage. So a pristine copy of the game in its original packaging is almost unheard of, hence its rarity and high price.
“There are discussions of how many first-print sealed Mario 64’s may exist, but no matter what the number is, there are certainly only a tiny fraction with a 9.8 rating,” Deniz Kahn, the CEO of Wata Games, which rated this particular copy of Mario 64, said in a statement
“We often receive factory ‘case-packs’ of N64 games where all six copies included have not been circulated. Even in these undistributed ‘case-fresh’ copies, most often the results end up with two or fewer 9.8s, and oftentimes none.”
Experts still think the $1.5 million price point is almost unheard of. Heritage Auctions recently sold a multitude of other vintage video games, all with a quality rating of 9 or above, and the highest that someone paid for them was $38,000. Preservationist and director of the Video Game History Foundation, Frank Cifaldi, explained in a statement that the game sold barely hit five figures outside of Heritage: “I 100% agree it being a 9.8 puts it at a completely different level but a sudden jump from $30k to $1.5M feels wrong.”
“In other spaces such as Comics, Coins, or sports cards, the difference between the second highest grade and the highest grade can be a 2x+ multiple in value and sometimes much more,” Kahn explained.
“Attaining the finest known example from a condition standpoint drives a certain type of collector’s behavior, specifically the collector who wants the absolute best.”
“All that being said, this price is still shocking but shows the level of emotion involved in how prices are realized in an auction scenario,” he said. “This was a case of several collectors, at least two, who fit the profile of wanting the absolute best of an iconic relic of pop culture that exists. This is the economics of a collectible market at play, and we get to see some incredible things happen,” Kahn said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.