‘Legend of Zelda’ auction sets bar for the most expensive video game at $870,000


Link’s wallet has never been large enough to carry this many Rupees.

Just a few months after a record-setting auction turned a sealed copy of Nintendo’s original Super Mario Bros. into the most expensive video game — at an eye-popping price of $660,000 — that record has fallen. Another NES classic, The Legend of Zelda, is now the title-holder.

In a Heritage Auctions sale that ended Friday, a sealed copy of the very first Zelda game sold for $870,000. Even though this particular copy scored a (slightly) lower quality rating than Mario, the rarity of the item boosted its value significantly.

This version of Zelda, described in the listing as a “true grail among games,” is notable for its age. “This is the only copy from one of the earliest production runs that we’ve ever had the opportunity to offer,” Heritage notes in the description, and that production run only lasted a handful of months.

The distinction here is a major difference-maker for serious collectors. There are little clues on every NES package that indicate which production run the release comes from. This copy of Zelda is from a run dubbed “NES R” (for the ® that appears next to the “Nintendo Entertainment System” logo on the box).

That “NES R” production run dates back to late 1987, and it was preceded by only one other run (dubbed “NES TM”). The auction listing notes that since only one copy of an “NES TM” version is known to exist — and it’s not clear if or when it will ever be sold — that makes this particular Zelda “the earliest sealed copy one could realistically hope to obtain.”

The fact that it’s in great condition no doubted helped boost the sale price as well. While the Mario copy that sold in April rated higher — Wata 9.6 A+ Sealed — this copy of Zelda is still in stellar condition, with a Wata 9.0 A Sealed rating. (Wata Games does professional video game grading for collectors, in case that’s not clear.)

Make no mistake, though: It’s the rarity and age of this copy that made it such a pricey buy. As Heritage notes, “there has never been a single public opportunity” to buy a copy of The Legend of Zelda from this early in its life.

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