As It Happens

$826K for a copy of Super Mario Bros? It's all about the packaging

Super Mario Bros. is the first video game Valarie McLeckie can remember playing, and now she's helped sell a copy of it at auction for a record-shattering $660,000 US ($826,650.00 Cdn).

The discarded 1986 Christmas present set a new world record price for video game sold at public auction

An unopened copy of Super Mario Bros from 1986 has sold for $660,000 US ($826,650 Cdn.) at auction in Texas. (Heritage Auctions)

Story Transcript

Super Mario Bros. is the first video game Valarie McLeckie can remember playing, and now she's helped sell a copy of it at auction for a record-shattering $660,000 US ($826,650.00 Cdn).

Originally a Christmas present in 1986, the game sat unopened in a drawer for 35 years before setting the world record price for a video game at public auction, according to Heritage Auctions.

"It's very special to me," McLeckie, the video games director at Heritage Auctions, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"I can't even begin to describe how honoured I feel to have been able to bring this to market and, you know, work with this person and help them maximize this game's potential. It's definitely one of the moments I'll treasure most in my career."

The game, sold at auction in Dallas, eclipsed the previous world record of $114,000 US ($142,785.00 Cdn) for a copy of Super Mario Bros. sold by Heritage Auctions in July 2020.

McLeckie says she cannot divulge any identifying information about the buyer, or the lucky person who will reap the profits from the sale. 

"I think the specific story was that they had bought two copies for siblings and didn't realize they only needed one. So they held onto the other one because they couldn't return it," she said.

"They knew they had something special on their hands when a well-meaning relative posted photos of it online. And it, as you can imagine, sort of blew up from there."

Valarie McLeckie is the video games director for Heritage Auctions. (Heritage Auctions)

Super Mario Bros. was first released by Nintendo in 1985 as a successor to the 1983 arcade game Mario Bros., and it continues to be one of the best-selling games in the world. 

"The love for Mario just continues to permeate through our culture," McLeckie said. "Nintendo just launched their third theme park in Universal Studios Japan, and they're still developing Mario games to this day. So, you know, he's basically a mainstay in our culture."

But McLeckie says it's not the game itself that drove up the value at this particular auction. It's the packaging.

The game, produced in 1986, is one of the earliest copies ever produced with plastic shrink wrap rather than a sticker seal. By 1987, Nintendo had changed the look of its packaging and its trademark, McLeckie said. That's what makes this find so rare, she said. 

She says she hopes the buyer will keep it in its pristine condition and never take it out for a spin.

"My stance is that if it's been left untouched and sealed after all this time, it's probably best to just leave it as it is," she said. 

Heritage Auctions has invested a lot of time and energy into "formalizing the video game market into a collectibles category," McLeckie said, and she expects to see the company reap further rewards from the sale of vintage games. 

"I would like to think that this just marks a milestone in the overall path of where this market will go," she said. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. 

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