Games: Your old console games could now be better than money in the bank

Even Mario can't believe the prices some of his old games are now fetching
Neil McGreevy

WHEN flaxen Scandinavians ABBA once trilled "it's a rich man's world", they could well have been referring to the mystery buyer who ponied up over a million dollars for a pristine copy of Super Mario 64.

There's still no word on the identity of said mystery moneybags, who nabbed a sealed copy of Nintendo's 25-year-old classic with a winning bid of $1.5 million at auction last month, shattering all records for gaming memorabilia.

They normally end up gathering dust in an attic, but videogame enthusiasts are now shelling out silly sums for hard-to-find retro cartridges. And Nintendo rules the auction house.

Mario 64 is common as muck in second-hand markets, but not in this condition, and when the virtual gavel fell at Texas-based Heritage Auctions in July, the sealed copy of the 1996 N64 game – graded as in near-perfect condition and with its seal intact – stole the crown for the most expensive videogame ever from Nintendo stable-mate The Legend of Zelda: an early production copy of that having shifted for $870,000 just two days earlier.

This, in turn, shattered the previous record, set in April, for an original NES cartridge of Super Mario Bros – the plumber's maiden outing – which sold for $660,000. Heritage said it was "a bit speechless" at the virginal condition of the Super Mario 64 box, and it's this, rather than the fact that it was still sealed, that seems to have jacked up the price.

Still, $1.5 million? For that kind of lucre you could drive a Bugatti Veyron, hire Elton John to warble in your garden or buy Lurgan.

Rumours persist that the eye-watering sum is a publicity stunt, or worse, that rare game auctions are the latest stock-in-trade for money-launderers. But with videogames increasingly released as digital downloads, physical copies will only climb in value, and gamers would be well advised to check that cache in the attic.

A recent study showed that during the first year of lockdowns, the average retro videogame increased in value by 33 per cent, with the biggest gains for Nintendo GameCube, N64 and Game Boy Advance.

Much like those Star Wars figures I now lament having torn from their moorings, if only I could travel back in time and warn 20-year-old Neil not to open his copy of Mario 64, I'd be a millionaire.

In any case, I have a lightly soiled tape of Sam Fox Strip Poker for the ZX Spectrum in the attic – if anyone's interested, bidding starts at 500 thou...

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