Proof, an online source of curatorial journalism run by lawyer Seth Abramson, has compiled and published an enormous treasure trove of sales data for all sealed and graded copies of NES games sold publicly since January 2019 across the six most major platforms for such sales. These platforms include Heritage Auctions, eBay, Amazon, ComicLink, Evolve Comics & Collectibles (but it’s “essentially moribund” now), and Mercari. The intention of this data collection was to illustrate for the first time exactly how scarce (or not) sealed and graded copies of games in the NES library are, especially because game condition grading house WATA does not release data on how many copies of games it has graded. And Proof effectively, well, proves that the massive amounts of money paid in recent headline-grabbing auctions and sales, such as $2 million for Super Mario Bros., wildly overvalue how much these games are actually worth.
Long story short, the lists of sales data for sealed and graded NES games demonstrate how many copies have been sold since 2019 and how many copies were graded at least WATA 9.0 or the grading equivalent by another grading house. It finds, for example, that 65 sealed and graded copies of Super Mario Bros. 3 have been sold since 2019, and 35 of them were at least 9.0-grade by WATA standards. It is the most commonly sold game in sealed and graded condition, followed by Friday the 13th, Dragon Warrior, and Super Mario Bros.
Although it’s ultimately all one collection of data on display, Abramson breaks the data up into a few segmented lists to further highlight which games are genuinely scarce. The first two lists of games represent games he would recommend never buying for investment purposes because the data supports that they are just not rare. (For example, sealed and graded copies of Zoda’s Revenge: Star Tropics II are not as rare as you’d think.) That being said, Abramson does not offer up this massive sales data on sealed and graded NES games for the purpose of investment advice in the first place. He makes explicit that it’s just “a market analysis by a video game collector, not a financial adviser.”
Still, this NES game sales data is extremely useful and may become a thorn in the side of investors hoping to make a hefty payday off of commonly bought WATA-graded games. I would recommend reading the full report, as it’s really interesting for its own sake, but here are its conclusions (which it elaborates upon in the full report):
- A much greater percentage of the NES graded-games market is “complete-in-box” (“CIB”) games than many realize. [But note that CIB is a much different distinction than sealed.]
- Either no one has any factory-sealed boxes of NES games, or no one is selling those boxes.
- Because there are so many more NES games than Atari 2600 and Intellivision games—810 as compared to 528 and 136, respectively—individual NES games are actually much harder to find than many would expect.
- Seven-figure sales aside, what’s really stunning about the NES market is the large number of unwarranted four-figure deals it sees weekly.
- Some stunningly acclaimed games and/or historic have never appeared on the market during a three-year period of analysis.
- This said, NES games are generally much easier to find than Atari 2600 or Intellivision games.