An anonymous buyer paid $ 1.56 million for a 25-year-old copy of Super Mario 64 in its original box, a record price for a video game, according to the auction house that sold it.
Heritage Auctions said it received 16 bids ahead of and during Sunday’s live auction for the 3-D Super Mario game in mostly pristine condition, which sold for about $ 60 when it was released in 1996 and the best-selling game on the Nintendo 64 console.
The highest bid was $ 1.3 million, according to Heritage Auctions, which added a 20 percent buyer’s premium to the hammer price to bring the total to $ 1.56 million.
The price has shocked gaming and collectors circles, even after a recent spike in five- and six-figure sales of rare video games to investment-minded buyers. The sale was closed just two days after Heritage Auctions announced that an early production copy of The Legend of Zelda from 1987 sold for $ 870,000.
Valarie McLeckie, consignment director for video games at Heritage Auctions, said in an interview on Monday that she was amazed at the outcome of the Mario 64 auction.
“I was blind to be honest,” she said. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected the realized price to become a reality.”
The game, which was part of a private collection, is sealed in a clear plastic sleeve similar to the anti-theft boxes used in retail stores. It includes certification from Wata Games, an authentication company that certifies its “like new” and factory-sealed condition in its original shrink wrap.
Ms. McLeckie said video game characters often evoke a sense of nostalgia, especially Mario, who first appeared on Nintendo gamers’ screens with his brother Luigi in Super Mario Bros. in 1985.
In the original game, Mario has to save the peace-loving mushroom people from the Koopa, a turtle tribe known for its black magic. The game has spawned an enduring theme song and multiple variations, including Super Mario 64, in which Mario faces a series of obstacles and enemies as he tries to save the kidnapped Princess Peach from the villain Bowser.
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“He’s like Mickey Mouse in video games,” Ms. McLeckie said of Mario. “It’s just so recognizable and really goes down with a wide audience.”
Chris Kohler, video game historian and editor-in-chief of Digital Eclipse, a video game studio that makes collections of classic games, said in an interview Monday that he expected an older video game to fight for the sales record. He said collectors could find copies of Super Mario 64 – not in mint condition but with the original packaging – for much less.
“That was what blew my mind on this sale,” he said.
Mr Kohler said he remembered spending part of his first paycheck on Super Mario 64 when it was released.
“If you’d told me at this point that someone was going to buy a sealed copy for $ 1.5 million in 25 years, I don’t know what I would have done,” he said.
According to Kohler, many buyers are new to video game collecting and have moved on from comics and coins.
Don’t expect an unboxing video from the buyer that the auction house didn’t want to identify. Ms. McLeckie laughed when asked if the collector would actually play the game.
“I can safely say they will leave it that way,” she said.
In April, an unopened copy of Super Mario Bros. bought as a Christmas present in 1986 but left in a desk drawer fetched $ 660,000, a record at the time, according to Heritage Auctions, which also brokered the sale.
A 1987 edition of The Legend of Zelda sold for $ 870,000 on Friday. Heritage Auctions said it was one of two sealed copies from the game’s earliest production runs that have been authenticated.
As the sales records continue to collapse, the ensuing frenzy has left serious and casual gamers alike rummaging through their drawers and closets.
“As you can imagine,” said Ms. McLeckie, “I had a lot of inquiries this morning from hopefuls that their video game might be worth a million dollars.”