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World record for most expensive video game auction is now $870,000

A golden, 8-bit Zelda cartridge sits atop a mess of gold coins.

The world record for most expensive video game sold at auction has now been surpassed by a staggering amount, thanks to a sealed, “9.0”-rated copy of 1987’s The Legend of Zelda.

A boxed copy of the game’s first printing on the American NES sold on Friday via Heritage Auctions at a staggering $870,000, soundly surpassing the previous gaming-auction high of $660,000. That honor went to a rare, sealed copy of the original Super Mario Bros., also for the American NES, only three months ago.

This week’s Zelda auction began with an astonishing opening bid of $110,000, yet that amount was merited by its particular rarity. The copy in question was part of a late-1987 production run dubbed “NES R,” which preceded the game’s wider initial production run in early 1988 (dubbed “REV-A,” as per a marking on its box). The latter was a much wider run that coincided with the console’s explosion in American popularity, and it, too, featured a foil-gold cartridge. Thus, don’t assume that your shiny Zelda cartridge in an old drawer is somehow worth close to a million dollars—especially since this auction happens to come in a sealed, original box.

Gaming historians know of one other production run that came before NES R, but it’s unclear whether those “NES TM” copies ever left Nintendo HQ or were stored in similarly boxed-and-sealed fashion. As Heritage itself claims in the auction’s listing page: “Essentially, this copy is the earliest sealed copy one could realistically hope to obtain.” (The company forgot to add the crucial “unless your dad works for Nintendo” tag there, of course.)

This NES R copy of Zelda was the highlight in Heritage’s latest gaming auction spree, which, as of press time, includes the following jaw-dropping results, all for boxed-and-sealed gaming classics. This list of particularly high prices is largely attached to special indicators of a game’s earliest production run, with two crucial “circles” in mind: the circular Nintendo Seal of Quality on early NES games, and a round Nintendo-branded sticker that guaranteed the box in question hasn’t been opened yet.

  • Super Mario World, SNES: $360,000
  • Super Mario Bros., NES (“No Rev-A”): $228,000
  • Final Fantasy, NES: $204,000
  • Mario Bros., NES: $156,000
  • Contra, NES: $150,000
  • Super Mario Bros. 3, NES (a rare print of the “Bros.” text aligned to the left): $120,000
  • Final Fantasy III, SNES: $96,000
  • Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, SNES: $96,000
  • Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, NES: $84,000
  • Tecmo Bowl, NES: $45,600
  • Battletoads, NES: $38,400
  • Tengen Tetris, NES: $33,600

Additionally, a rare Nintendo World Championship cartridge sold in today’s auction for $180,000, and its listing alleges that its owner traded a rare Tom Brady rookie trading card for the cart. The same listing points out that said rookie card has been sold at auction for as much as $555,000. That’s some real salt in the collector wound there, Heritage.

As of press time, the full gaming auction in question is still ongoing, and it includes every console generation imaginable, with opening bids in the tens and hundreds of thousands for the likes of Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Crash Bandicoot 1, Tomb Raider 1, and more.

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