Some of the world's rarest and most sought after video game artifacts are in Dallas, but they won't be in town for long because they are going up for auction to the highest bidders.
And by "highest," we mean at least in the thousands.
"The market before we stepped in was still very strong," says Valerie McLeckie, the consignment director of video games for Heritage Auctions. "There was a lot of potential there, so we wanted to get involved."
The Dallas auction house plans to sell 181 rare and mint-condition collectibles for the Nintendo (NES) and Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems' (SNES) catalogs as well as a one-of-a-kind prototype Nintendo PlayStation console that never made it to mass production.
McLeckie says this will be the second video game auction for Heritage. Last year's auction sold original, unopened copies of NES game cartridges such as the groundbreaking fantasy adventure The Legend of Zelda for $3,360 and Excitebite for $1,140.
This year's auction includes even rarer and more in-demand video game artifacts, such as sealed copies of Mike Tyson's Punch Out! and the original Super Mario Bros. cartridges in their original boxes that will go for at least $15,000 each.
The Family Fun: Stadium Events NES game, a track and field title originally sold with the Family Fun Fitness pack that's the precursor to the NES Power Pad foot-powered controller, is perhaps the most sought after NES cartridge and will also be part of Heritage Auction's catalog. A seller on eBay sold a sealed copy of Stadium Events in 2017 for just under $42,000, according to the gaming blog Kotaku.
The Nintendo PlayStation console is the rarest collectible in the lot and could easily attract the highest bidders. As of Wednesday alone, it's already attracted $280,000, the highest bid out of all 181 video game collectibles in this week's auction. The console is the rarest because it's only a prototype that was never produced for sale and was only rumored to exist.
Maintenance technician Terry Diebold said in a 2017 interview with the Observer that he found the console in a box of goods he purchased in a liquidation auction for just $75 from his former employer, the defunct credit card company Advanta. The prototype console was originally owned by former Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Olaf Olafsson who left the console in Advanta's headquarters in Pennsylvania when he left the company.
McLeckie says the console is priceless, because it's literally one of a kind.
"We have not released an estimate on the Nintendo PlayStation because it's such a unique piece," McLeckie says. "To assign a value to it would be impossible."
The auction house decided to get into the video game collectible market last year thanks in part to a new rating system called WataGames that assigns a numerical value to video games, accessories and other associated collectibles, McLeckie says.
"This market is sort of in its nascent stages at this point," McLeckie says. "The introduction of a transparent, third-party grading system is what's giving new lifeblood to these collectibles."
The new auction market means there's only room for more growth as more collectors throw down their money to be the highest bidder on rare gaming items. McLeckie says she's hoping to find more unique gaming items like promotional standees, banners and artwork that once adorned the walls and floors of game stores and video tape rental shops throughout the 1980s and '90s.
"I think it's a combination of a lot of different factors but video games really just instill a sense of nostalgia," McLeckie says. "I'm sure that for a lot of people, video games were just a huge part of their childhood and as adults, we often go back and want to collect what we had as kids."
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