Video game collecting
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Video game collecting is the hobby of collecting and preserving video games, video game consoles, and related memorabilia. Most video game consoles, and their games, are considered to be collectors' items years after their discontinuation due to their functional longevity and cultural significance. Collectors usually narrow their search to games holding characteristics they enjoy, such as being published for a specific video game console, being of certain genre, or featuring a specific character.
There had generally been some interest in collecting older games among video game enthusiasts, with selling and trading using Internet auction sites like eBay growing in the early 2000's. As players got older, games from the consoles of their childhood often gained "retro" status, typically around 15 to 20 years after release, making not only playable versions of those games valuable, but also raising the perceived value of games still within their original packaging. Collectors started recognizing that numerous games from the past were rare and considered collectors' items and many were vying with others to complete a full set of titles for a specific platform, commonly the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Various third-party assessors entered the market around this time to support the collectors in rating the condition of the game and packaging so that buyers and sellers could negotiate fair deals. For example, the Video Game Authority was a division spun off from the Collectible Grading Authority in 2008 specifically to aid in the assessment of video games.
Larger interest in this hobby grew during the 2010s, driven by collectors from other forms of media like comics and coin collecting that saw video games as a potential new venue for long-term investments, rather than as nostalgia. This created both benefits and drawbacks for long-time collectors. The larger interest led to the discovery of troves of older games in near mint condition, often still in the sealed packaging, which became desirable collectors items, but at the same time, the demand for these games elevated the prices that games went for at auction sales, raising the cost of collecting. Further, these collectors from outside of the video game area did not recognize the value of certain titles as key moments in video game history and instead considered all titles equally valuable, further affecting the costs of the hobby.
With the newfound interest with particular attention to the quality of the game's packaging, the company Wata Games developed a set of guidelines in 2018 for grading a game's packaging, game media, and manuals that aligned with the 10 point scale used by Comics Guaranty for comic books and other similar industry standards. A 10.0 grade on Wata's scale is considered a perfect mint condition game. Wata also provides clear plexiglass packaging for displaying and shipping the game as well as labeling related to its rating, to help preserve the condition of the game and packaging. With Wata's ratings and "slabbed" packaging, Heritage Auctions began accepting video games as part of their auctioned items in January 2019.
In February 2019, Heritage Auctions sold a near-mint copy of Super Mario Bros. with a 9.4 Wata rating that went for just over US$100,000, at the time the highest sale of a video game at its time. The copy of the game had been sealed with a sticker, representing one of the earlier runs of the title before Nintendo had switched over to shrink wrap packaging, thus contributing to its collector's value. This sale had made the news and drew further interest into the video game collecting field. Heritage's sales in the video game area grew greatly in 2019, holding hundreds of video game auctions with 13 games going for at least US$10,000. A sale of 40 different NES games in various sealed quality went for a total of over US$1 million in October 2019, the largest single-sale of any video game-related auction to date.
In July 2020, a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. sold for US$114,000, becoming the highest sale of a single video game. The game also had a 9.4 near-mint condition on the Wata scale, but had came from a limited production run when Nintendo was transitioning from the sticker seal to shrink-wrap, as evidenced by the presence of a cardboard hang tab on the back.
A 9.8 rated copy of Super Mario Bros., also with the hang tag packaging, was purchased by Rally Rd. for US$140,000 in a private sale in August 2020, which they plan to offer "shares" of US$50 increments to investors towards a potential future sale while keeping the sealed game itself secured in a environment-controlled vault. A 9.2 rated copy of Super Mario Bros. 3, featuring an early print of the game's cover, sold for over US$156,000 in November 2020.
While all video games can be seen as collectible, some are noteworthy for being particularly rare or desirable, which in turn contributes to high values. Prices may vary depending on condition of the packaging, paperwork, whether the item is sealed, how many inserts are retained, and whether the spine card is still present.
Notable rare games include:
- Air Raid (1982), Atari 2600, NTSC-U. 12 known copies. The only copy with package known to exist sold for $31,600 in 2010.
- Pepsi Invaders (1983), Atari 2600, NTSC-U. 125 copies produced.
- Red Sea Crossing (1983), Atari 2600, NTSC-U. 2 known copies. Produced by Steve Sack, Inc of Inspirational Video Concepts. The yard sale copy found in 2007 was sold on GameGavel for $10,400.00 in a 2012 auction. Another copy was found in Philadelphia and was eventually auctioned off on eBay for $13,800 in 2013
- Stadium Events (1987), NES, NTSC-U. 2000 cartridges produced.[dubious ] Considered the rarest licensed NES game available for purchase in North America. The game's packaging alone has been known to sell for $10,000. One of two known sealed copies was sold for $22,800 on eBay.
- Tetris (1989), Sega Mega Drive, NTSC-J. Three to eight copies produced, supposedly due to copyright issues.
- Nintendo World Championships (1990), NES, NTSC-U. 26 copies of the gold cartridge and 90 copies for the standard gray cartridge. The gray carts were the actual carts used in the Nintendo World Championships tournament while the gold carts were prizes for winning a Nintendo Power sweepstakes. Gold cartridges have sold for over $10,000. The game has been called the rarest and most valuable NES cartridge released aside from promotional cartridges.
- Nintendo Campus Challenge (1991, 1992), NES, NTSC-U. Most copies were destroyed after competitions, except one copy which was sold to Rob Walters in 2006. The copy is believed to be the only one in existence, eventually selling for $20,100 on eBay.
- Nintendo PowerFest '94 (1994), SNES, NTSC-U. 33 cartridges made, only two known to still exist.
- Virtual Bowling/SD Gundam Dimension War (1995), Virtual Boy, NTSC-J. The two rare games make completing the Japanese Virtual Boy collection difficult.
- Kizuna Encounter (1996), Neo Geo, PAL. Fewer than 12 copies exist. However, the Japanese and US AES version is not as rare and is identical except for the packaging and inserts.
- The Ultimate 11 (1996), Neo Geo. 10 known copies. Also known as Tokuten Oh: Honoo no Libero. One buyer reportedly paid $55,000 for both Kizuna Encounter and Ultimate 11.
- Bangai-O: Prize Edition (1999), Sega Dreamcast, NTSC-J. Five copies produced.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle Exquisite Edition (2013), PlayStation 3. One available, includes the game, special packaging and a Swarovski figurine made out of 6000 Swarovski crystals. The game was auctioned at eBay for £687.
- Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn, 1998) was released in limited qualities in the west; used copies sell for hundreds of US dollars, and factory-sealed copies for over $1,000. Japanese copies are far cheaper, but have no English translation and cannot be played on western Saturn consoles.
- Lucienne's Quest (3DO, 1995) is the sole Japanese role-playing game released for the 3DO, and has gained recognition as one of the best games for the system. Its limited western release has led to high demand and prices.
- Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire (PC Engine, 1995) is considered one of the best shoot 'em ups for the PC Engine, and was released in limited quantities exclusively in Japan.
- Shinrei Jusatsushi Tarōmaru (Sega Saturn, 1997) was the last game released by Time Warner Interactive. Only 7,500 copies were produced.
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- Bailey, Jason M. (January 27, 2020). "Collectors Are Spending Thousands on Video Games They Will Never Play". The New York Times. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
- Ricchiuto, Madeline (January 3, 2019). "Heritage Auctions Now Accepting Slabbed Retro Video Games". Bleeding Cool News. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
- Yin-Poole, Wesley (July 11, 2020). "Sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. sells for $114k, becomes most expensive video game ever". Eurogamer. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
- Orland, Kyle (August 13, 2020). "Investment platform pays record $140,000 for sealed Super Mario Bros". Ars Technica. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
- Bankhurst, Adam (November 21, 2020). "A Sealed Copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 Just Sold for a World Record Price of $156,000". IGN. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
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Here Retro features a non-definitive list of the most collectible games in the world at the moment 
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Lucienne’s Quest is the second rarest US release. (...) it is a well regarded RPG, and one of the best games for the 3DO according to those who have been fortunate enough to acquire a copy.
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- Watkins, James (January 12, 2012). "A Look at the Insane, and Insanely Expensive, Psychic Killer Taromaru". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2013.
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