Even Super Mario Bros. can be a rare find.
Could you ever imagine a video game as common as Super Mario Bros. being considered ridiculously valuable? It turns out that day has come.
As reported by Kotaku, a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. for the original Nintendo Entertainment System has sold for $30,100.44 on Ebay. Retro game store DKOldies initially put the game up for auction starting at one cent, along with other mint condition NES games. According to CEO Drew Steimel, the intent was to get rid of games that had been sitting in his office for quite some time.
The buyer of the sealed Super Mario Bros. allegedly purchased many of the other sealed NES games being sold by DKOldies. Among those being offered was a copy of Kid Icarus that sold for over $11,000.
While this story is fascinating on its own merits, it also goes to show how rarity can be a bit more complicated than it appears at times.
For all intents and purposes, Super Mario Bros. is not a rare game. On the contrary, the Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt cartridge is considered one of the easiest NES titles to find! So why exactly is Super Mario Bros. selling for over $30,000? Did the buyer get ripped off?
Simply put, the devil is in the details. Though it usually goes without saying, the condition of this cart goes a long way in increasing its value. Remember, many retro games of this era came in fairly flimsy boxes that rarely lasted more than a couple months, let alone the decades this Super Mario Bros. copy did. You could make the argument that any NES game would be valuable in mint condition, but for a game as iconic and beloved as Super Mario Bros., it turns the game into something of a historical piece as well.
And that brings us to the second point: this is the original black box print of Super Mario Bros. Remember how I said the Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt cartridge is one of the easiest NES games to find? Well, not all copies of Super Mario Bros. were created equal. As Super Mario Bros began to be bundled with Duck Hunt and, eventually, World Class Track Meet, the original standalone cart became rarer. That’s not to say the original cart is necessarily rare, mind you. In fact, you can still find it relatively cheaply on ebay if you’re so inclined. However, this does contribute to why a mint condition copy would be considered so valuable.
This is a stipulation that can be easy to overlook if you aren’t careful. Some may scoff at claims that massively best-selling games like Final Fantasy VII for the original Playstation could be considered rare, but under the right conditions, they indeed can be. In the case of the aforementioned example, all it takes is to try to find a copy without the “greatest hits” label to see values going up exponentially for a sealed copy.
That is to say nothing of how the market itself determines the value of rare items. Considering the auction for the sealed Super Mario Bros. started at a penny, it was the demand, not the seller, that ultimately set the value of the item.
Now, would you or I consider a copy of Super Mario Bros. to be worth over $30,000? Maybe after I win the lottery, but otherwise I’ll stick to Nintendo’s virtual console for my Mario fix. Yet is it fun to observe the market for rare and sealed items? You bet! Watching how the most die-hard (and admittedly wealthy) collectors act is great for all of us, since it lets us live vicariously through their shoes. So to whoever the buyer of this incredible copy of Super Mario Bros. is, congratulations on your amazing find! Keep it secret, keep it safe.