I think this is mandatory viewing: Video on retro game pricing distortion and the key players involved

This video is extremely well researched and goes into depth about the explosive pricing bubble we’ve seen over the past two years as well as the players involved. It also discusses Heritage auction site in depth (the one that recently sold the $1.5m copy of Mario 64 that made headlines) as well as how its founder was responsible for the coin collecting bubble that bursted in the late 80s.

This is why I rarely bid on games now and usually just buy from fellow collectors or fairly priced BIN listings. This practice makes it harder for us who just want to own games to play them on original hardware, even if they’re not being sold in new condition.

Basically, rich people involved in auction and grading companies are buying these items at ludicrous prices from each other, and selling them amongst themselves without disclosing their affiliation. The only thing disclosed are the high prices in publicity articles across the internet.

They self-grade very generously which causes the perceived value of the games to vary by six or even seven figures and attempt to resell at higher prices to unsuspecting folks who think that the grading is anything but arbitrary (it isn’t) without disclosing their affiliation to these companies.

Then, they also take percentage fees based on the values of the actions from both the buyer and seller from other listings, further giving them incentives to drive up costs across the board even for copies of games they do not own and aren’t selling amongst themselves. They also do not disclose how many copies are graded and who is buying them so that no one knows how rare these sealed games actually are.

Now, apparently, shares of games are being sold as securities (LOL) without any genuine value being created, just based on betting as to whether the copies will be sold for higher prices.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but please don’t get caught up in this sort of thing. If you want to sell your games to take advantage of the higher prices we are seeing now, then you do you. I am not going to criticize you for trying to make some money on your gaming collection. If you have a collection and need or want some extra cash, go ahead, sell those games fairly for as much as you can. No judgment here.

But please do not support grading companies or auction houses by using their services. They’re scum and exist solely to profit off those who actually enjoy the hobby. All they do is make it harder for the rest of us. They create a zeitgeist around collecting that has a genuine trickle down effect we can all feel.

Sealed games don’t vary in value by hundreds of thousands of dollars based on the quality of the H-Seam. That’s pure made up crap.

Let me tell you what I personally think about this by telling you about my copy of Pokemon Red that I acquired in 2016. I refuse to believe those $300-600 CIB copies of Pokemon red/blue (ungraded) are anything but laughable. There were 31 million (!!!) copies of these games circulated. I bought Red CIB in 2016 for 40-60 bucks or so (which I did think was fair). Now it goes for 10x that amount. $600 for an unsealed copy of Pokemon red simply because it has the box and instructions.

It’s a mark up that makes no sense for the short amount of time that has passed.

Think about it. It is a one-thousand percent increase in value in 5 years.


Things do not increase in value by one-thousand percent in 5 years. Nothing about the game, its series, or the brand has changed so drastically since 2016 to make the value explode by that much.

A 100% increase of value since 2016 to $120? Sure, I could believe in something like that. But a 1,000% increase over 5 years for a retro game? That just doesn’t fly for a copy of a game that simply went from 18 years old to 23 years old. Sure, the pandemic may have some effect here (again, a 100% increase could be reasonable) but I think the real culprit behind a 1000% increase is the fact that WATA has entered the grading scene in 2018. Collecting prior to 2018 vs. after 2018 has been a very different ballgame.

It’s Pokemon. It’s one of the best selling handheld games of all time. Even complete in box, this game is as common as it gets for Game Boy games.

Same goes for Mario 64, SMB on NES, etc. These are the most common carts available for their respective systems. They’re games most retro gamers have picked up for under 20 bucks over the past 2 decades… or maybe for $200-300 sealed at most.

If you ask me, $325 is the upper-end of fairness for a sealed copy of Mario 64 in 2021. Not $1.5 million. That’s a manipulated price. It’s bananas. It’s not what the market is truly willing to pay because a free market didn’t drive the price up like that. It’s actually appalling to think that so many publications out there just think some guy is just that “passionate” about getting a well-graded copy of Mario 64 and ran the story.

The whole thing just doesn’t pass the straight face test.


It’s all BS and all in the states from what I can tel. I wouldn’t eve pay 20 dollars for a ultra common Mario on NES or N64. It’s the most common game on the planet and worth nothing in the grand gaming scene. Ultra rare games are worth money because they are rare. Plain and simple.
Anyone who gets involved in this high bidding game is a moron. Plain and simple. Even if I was a multi millionaire, would I bollocks pay crazy amounts for a common as muck game.

Another thing that baffles me with many “collectors” is they pay way over the odds for some beaten up dirty shitty game with no box or manual. This is stuff I wouldn’t even look at, let alone buy. Stop it guys, this is why prices are nuts (mostly in the US). Its because people are paying good money for junk so sellers will continue to expect the good money for junk.
I’m so glad that isn’t the case over here in Japan.

Those grading companies are total scams.
Being the toy focused chap that I am, I have seen bollocks happening on AFA graded figures and was checking into them, and there is no reason to assume they an any “official” form of grading at all. The graders qualifications are unproveable and what weight can they carry?. All they do is supply a box to put whatever inside. On top of that, they have been known to grade knockoffs as genuine articles too. Well one that I can recall, but regardless. A total and utter scam.
Haven’t watched the video yet, just wanted to share my feelings on these grading companies.

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Excellent video showing first hand evidence.

Grading made sense for coins and cards, as you can still see and experience the entire thing inside the coffin.

Even comics, at least you can see the cover perfectly for display, with the iconic original art which is a huge part of the original presentation.

But for games? Almost zero of what is good about the game can be experienced when it’s locked away in a box.

Who wants to just look at this?

To be fair this artwork is pretty dang cool. But yes I fully agree.

I’m in agreement with a lot of what you said, and I haven’t watched the video yet, but I do think you’re a little off on how rare sealed games are.

Once enough time has passed, and with Super Mario 64 especially, enough time has passed, sealed copies are very rare. As in, probably in the low thousands, maybe even hundreds for a rarer game from the same era. If you want a game that’s sealed, it’s definitely difficult to come by. It seems like there are “a lot” because you can find ten on ebay, but beyond those, there just aren’t many out there. People tend to open things immediately upon purchase.

Now, with videogames, does that mean it’s that much more valuable than a complete, opened, mint copy you can actually play? Probably not for me because I want to play it. Also because opening one of those sealed ones immediately decreases its value by a lot, so opening it would be dumb now when you can just get another cart only or complete one for much less and actually play that while retaining your sealed game.

So yeah, the grading and auction house stuff is definitely suspect. I get that. Realistically though, pre-PlayStation era stuff is rather rare and systems that sold fewer numbers also have a lot of rare games. At the end of the day, the value is what the market sets for it because no new copies are being made anymore. It would be nice if things stayed cheap, but that’s not how any collectors market will ever work and this is a collector’s market.

Also, rest assured that this is the current bubble. Things will settle again eventually. There will then be another bubble. That bubble will be higher than the current bubble. That’s the ebb and flow of these things.

I really think you should watch the video. It shows motive as to why this is happening in a very articulate and professional manner. This bubble is manufactured by a few players in the market who are engaged in self dealing. It’s not a natural ebb and flow. Specific people are named, one of whom was previously investigated for market manipulation, and evidence is offered that is really compelling.

Let’s talk about this because I do think it’s an interesting topic in general.

Old video games that are sealed are certainly very rare. Absolutely. But they aren’t so rare that none exist. They exist in numbers, whether that’s in the 10, the 100s or the 1000s.

But for argument’s sake, let’s just say that a CIB copy of Super Mario 64 that is opened is worth $200 in mint condition. I think you and I could agree that is more or less a reasonable asking price in today’s market, if not a bit on the generous side.

So how does the addition of some wrapping + an H-Seam make that same exact thing suddenly worth seven figures? Even with the perceived rarity. 12 million copies were sold. Let’s say only 100 sealed copies exist today - which would make a sealed copy exceedingly rare right?

But at one point, millions copies of the same exact game were sealed and available on the market. Millions of people have experienced tearing into that h-seam without a second thought. And no reasonable person would spend literally seven figures for that same experience today since it was so common to do so in the 90s. Even rich people understand the value of money (perhaps better than most of us) and understand that they’d be throwing away a small fortune for some plastic wrapping that was considered literally discardable garbage by the rest of society. The value of these things are being propped up specifically to create a bubble that a few key players can use to skim some transaction fees off the top until it all falls apart around anyone who bought into the farce.

Even if it’s the last copy of Mario 64 that is sealed in existence, the fact that it’s rare doesn’t make it less absurd that the value is that high. Again, because it’s only plastic wrapping that separates the new from the used.

These record breaking auction prices are not simply the result of a rational market reacting to rarity (or even the perception of rarity). That premium experience of buying SM64 brand new is, at most, worth a few extra hundreds or so over the CIB mint version.

And sure, you’ll point out that my valuation sounds totally subjective, but it’s no more subjective than anyone else’s valuation and you and I are as much experts on this subject as any grading company - I assure you. In fact, if anything, my statement is more objective since I’m willing to bet it’s closer to the consensus of the retro community than the $1.5m number that was sold for such much due to the 9.9 grading. And the retro community’s stance on this is what will determine the genuine (non-bubble) value of an item when the bubble eventually pops.

Here’s how we can test this for sure: what exactly is the difference between 8.0 and a 9.9 graded sealed copy? Literally nothing. But the auction value difference is an astounding $1million. WTF. That must mean that the grading is the thing adding the extrinsic value to these items. Not the opinion of seasoned collectors like you or I or the retro community as a whole.

The WATA grading company has only been around for 3 years and was started by some dipshit with a ponytail who is, I assure you, no more knowledgeable than any other dipshit (ponytails notwithstanding). He’s not some scientist in a lab testing the H-Seam with chemical compounds to arrive at some objective conclusion as to its quality. He’s just some guy who looks at the item (or employs other people who do), and says a number like “9.7” based on what he ate for breakfast that day and what sort of demand he wants to generate for it based on whether it’s his item, his friend’s item, or someone else that can help him engage in self dealing that day.

We all know that the grading is arbitrary, because the same item can get submitted 3 times and get 3 wildly different grades that affects the price by 6-7 figures each time. And the video even shows a copy of a game that was graded wildly inappopriately even by Wata’s published rubric.

Which means that this is all more or less a scheme made up by a few market manipulators to arbitrarily set prices and manifest a made-up perceived quality and rarity. And I assure you the actual market for these types of items (us - you and me. We are the fucking market) isn’t buying into this. Which means that some poor saps who are buying into these hype articles and don’t recognize the self-dealing happening are going to try and invest their hard earned money, get caught with their pants down when the bubble pops, and be left with six-figures less in their account and a copy of Mario 64 in its place that you or I would only buy for a few hundred. Think about it, you buy a 6 figure game - who the hell do you sell that to other than other people convinced that games could be worth 6 figures? And how many of those people exist? Maybe a dozen? That’s not a market.

Again, we are the market. We are the people actually buying this stuff. We post about it, we know about it, and we have a good feel for its value more so than anyone else. It’s just common sense.

You want to talk about a game that is actually worth that much money? A beta copy of Mother 3 on N64 - that’s worth $2.5million, sure. Why? Because it was ALWAYS rare.

A Nintendo Playstation - yes, that is worth it too, (and probably more).

Not Mario 64 with some fucking shrink-wrap. That’s not something the people who know this best (you and me) care about to THAT degree. It’s not worth a mortgage. It’s not worth the value of a life savings. It’s a moderate to a substantial premium over a mint opened copy - yes, but that’s it. Not a life-changing premium by any means. Just a bonus that maybe doubles the value of the item for the niche collector.

It’s just plastic around an exceedingly common item. Like a vintage bottle of wine - sure it will appreciate with age, but steadily. Not explosively. 10 years ago, a sealed copy of Mario 64 was likely worth what a CIB copy is today. And 10 years from now, it will likely be worth about 450-500 bucks. That’s the type of value growth that sounds rational to me.

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Wow, thanks for sharing this video. Watched the whole thing earlier today. I always thought something about the ginormous inflation in price of titles that traditional collectors wouldn’t normally value (i.e. common games that are sealed, rather than rare games) was amiss.

The video was an eye opener because all the events explained within it happened under our collective noses, it really was good to see some investigative work go into piecing together a very credible and believable explanation as to why we got to this point.

And honestly, I don’t see Wata Games or Heritage Auctions adding anything positive to the collecting community. While I think there is a legitimate place for sealed mass produced games to fetch as much as historical rarities, the sheer distortion in pricing makes a mockery of it all.

Checking through the WATA games grading site raises a few flags, having a look at their pricing page:
they would add 2% cost if game is valued over a certain amount, thereby calling into question their neutrality in regards to the cost. For that extra money, they could deliberately raise the price. Also, how to grade a homebrew product? (and why?). Smells very fishy to me. I wouldn’t give them my money.

I saw this shared a lot on twitter. Interesting watch. It will be interesting as well when the bubble bursts.

I’d like to see some sort of formal investigation into WATA, Heritage Auctions and Jim Halperin. I don’t know, maybe he would pay a $2M fine this time, instead of $1.2M(?) for doing the same thing in the coin collecting industry…and then do it again in a few years for board games, vintage cell phones, printers (lol). It really rubs me the wrong way how they’re all so blatant about it too.

Watched the video earlier this evening and it was very well done at unraveling the rabbit hole in detail and also infuriating at what a blatant scam this is, hopefully enough people can make noise so that it eventually gets properly investigated. About a month or two ago these auctions were discussed a bit on the 8-4 Podcast and Mark was theorizing this was all possibly a scam or even money laundering and others mentioned like Pat the NES Punk, Jeff Gerstmann/GB, so more than a few people raising their eyebrows at this for some time. Also, how has the SEC not been keeping tabs on that scumbag Halperin when he’s been up to these deeply corrupt market manipulation schemes since the ‘80s??

Several months ago I bought a near mint, complete, boxed copy of Mario 64 off eBay for $250 as part of a personal project/goal of mine to own all of the main, core Mario platforming games from Famicom/NES to Switch and Mario 64 was one of the spendier ones and had been a gap in my collection for many years. Whoever owned it must have only used it a few times because overall the box is in great shape and the cart, manual, warranty and Nintendo Power inserts themselves are all flawless and look brand new. After the ridiculous Mario 64 auction stories started hitting I couldn’t help but think it seemed ridiculous that a sealed copy versus my near mint copy could legitimately be worth hundreds of thousands let alone a million dollars just because it was sealed and arbitrarily graded?

That depends.

Sometimes a shop goes under and their stock gets warehoused. There are examples of whole crates of brand new retail games being found, seals intact. The is the main source of sealed games by volume, very few individuals sat on sealed Mario 3s from 1990.

So while the likelihood of an actual rare game popping up sealed is almost nil, all you needed was one Toys R Us warehouse from 1999 and another 500+ sealed Mario 64s can appear.

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Yea, exactly. Makes no sense at all.

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I’m aware of this. I know everyone doesn’t know people’s background, but on top of spending years as a writer for a number of gaming publications, I also have worked in retail for almost 30 years now.

The thing is, warehousing isn’t what it was back then. No one sits on anything anymore. The reason we have shortages post-pandemic is because most companies now handle inventory on a just in time basis and this has been a thing for many years now. You don’t buy extra thinking you have a hit on your hands like you did back then. There’s a ton less guesswork, and one of those things people bitched and moaned about for years (Electronics Boutique and others pushing pre-orders) is why it’s like that now.

So the likelihood of sealed in box things appearing out of nowhere is way lower than it was. It’s damn near impossible unless it’s an independent retailer and unfortunately those are mostly dead now, especially in videogames, unless they’re dealing specifically in Retro and Used.

@Peltz I watched about half the video, and as I noted to you when I initially replied, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. It’s also somewhat clear that the Auctions guy and the Wata guy are in the grey area of legality at best and breaking the law at worst.

I also shop at and own many games purchased at Just Press Play, the retailer owned by Zac Gieg, who is noted as partial owner of the SMB cartridge early in the video. His stores are by far the best Retro stores I go to save Complete In Box (run by a former employee of his who struck out on his own), and the prices there are perfectly reasonable. None of the Wata or VGA graded stuff is even on display. They do that entirely through Ebay. They are also a Limited Run Games retailer and carry that entire line in stores.

Is it possible he knew what the other two guys are up to by pumping up the value of sealed video games? Yes. Do I know that for sure given how his stores operate? Absolutely not. The prices there are very much in line with my expectations.

Anyway, I get that we all value sealed games differently from the rest of the world. We also value specific games more highly due to their rarity and quailty than most would as well. No average gamer who decides to collect some videogames is likely to go looking for M.U.S.H.A. or Gunstar Heroes because they have no idea what those are or why they’re valuable to gamers. Those people will go looking for the familiar, Super Mario Bros and all its iterations being the most familiar of course. Are there millions out there? Yes. Are there millions out there for sale right now though? Not really.

We have to take that into account. Scarcity only matters when it comes to you attempting to locate a game when you want to play it/own it. Right now there are 2539 listings when I put “Super Mario 64” into ebay. If I change that to Complete In Box, that goes down to 37! Some of those results are not even the N64 version but rather the DS remake and still others are the JPN version. Given how many millions of people out there have likely played the game but may not own it, that makes it rather hard to come by in complete condition. Given all that info, I’d argue that $200, which is the last sold complete SM64 I see right now is too low! It’s scarcity is rather high!

The good thing is that it takes people awhile before this sinks in so for the most part, as long as you’re not looking for something that’s complete and intact, you can pay that price or a lot less just to play the game. I very much disagree that this invented bubble is raising the prices on loose or even complete games. It’s simple scarcity that’s causing that. We’re always one day further away from the last printing of any specific game every single day. They get tossed, left in closets, water damaged, burned up, etc. For many, games were as disposable as comics or magazines. Is it possible there are piles of used SM64s in a warehouse at Gamestop? Maybe… but all that space costs money, and in retail, we hate spending money for something we’re not selling.

Finally, even though I suspect we’ll post again, that video is very manipulative in its presentation. We all want retro game prices to stay low, but that’s used in the video as a means of pushing you into considering his information in only one way. And again, I don’t condone price fixing/price inflating as it seems has been done by Wata and Heritage, but there’s way more reasons why retro video games are becoming more expensive than just a couple guys bullshitting people about how a game is sealed and all the other methods they’re using to drive up price on specific items.


Some very good points for consideration there frm @DaveLong .

I watched the video yesterday and found it very interesting. It got me thinking, I have a recently bought sealed firepro Wrestling factory sealed, which I haven’t as yet opened. Should I submit it for grading? Could boost my 200Y purchase into the hundreds of dollars!
Joking aside though, it looks like the scam is pretty much targeting investors/speculators more than gamers themselves. Like the dentsist guy who was talked about in the video. Surely the only way that it could drive prices up for your average game connoisseur would be through random folks buying random games with the thought that they could be worth something later. However, hopefully this casual “investor” would have the intelligence to have a look into the grading situation before jumping on the bandwagon.

So, really it would seem the main people who have anything to gain from this is the auction house and that guy and WATA. Seems whack that essentially two entities could drive pricing so much. Very shrewd move and I hope they get in trouble for it.

For sure, and this may start being an issue of maybe Wii era onward when that stuff really became ubiquitous? Maybe one gen earlier?

But to this day people are finding crates of TRU games in some liquidation warehouse, or even stores just getting into their own warehouse. I personally got some clearance sealed NES games in Australia (actually really the last gen of sealed games here) from a Kmart in maybe 2010? Like $1 each, someone had obviously found a heap out back and dropped them on the floor in a big box to sort through.

These will eventually mostly dry up of course.

And in the meantime, consumer and publisher behaviour shifted. Starting around PS1/PS2, more people really started collecting sealed games on a consumer level. And/or bought games to play but never opened them due to massive backlogs (I remember reading about people buying launch day PS360 games for $60+ and then realising they hadn’t opened them and it was already down to $20 etc).

I guess more adults buying games with their own money as the industry matured into its 30s, more super consumers evolved. On top of this, disc based games could be overproduced with less money lost, so lots of sealed games in bargain bins after heavy price drops. Surely many of us have gotten brand new Wii/PS3 etc games for a few bucks in the last few years? I certainly did.

So there are now more of them out there from these sources from PS2 onward.

‘Complete In Box’ is a very specific phrase. The majority of copies of Mario 64 which come with box and manual will not have that phrase. Some may be small variations

plus box and manual

And some will simply not mention it, and rely on the pictures


Using US ebay, and searching

“super mario 64” -ds -japan -japanese -import -pal

selecting the game manually, US region and US shipping manually, I got 809 listings and at least 100+ with a box and manual, even more with one or the other. Percentage would be even higher if I could exclude obvious Chinese repros. At a single point in time. I’d estimate at least 10k boxed complete copies of Mario 64 move through ebay each year?

Online retail might have made things more efficient, but I was surprised to find a number of rare 3DS games found their way on to the UK charts last week:

The usually stagnant 3DS chart also sees some activity this week – shock! – with NIS Americas’ Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers , Stella Glow and Etrain Odysey Untold making re-appearances. This would suggest an online retailer has discovered a stockpile somewhere. Either that or they’re reprints, although this does seem unlikely.

Soul Hackers in particular has been going for around four times its original asking price for a complete in box preowned copy, does make you wonder how much of this stuff is sitting in warehouses. 3DS is probably the last system where we might see genuinely limited games due to market circumstance.

What do people make of stuff from Limited Run and the like? I appreciate the fact the games get to exist on disc and game card, but it seems like a large chunk of the people buying them are doing so to sell on rather than for the game itself.

It’s very strange, because why do people pay the inflated prices? LRG have open pre-orders for all but the extreme special editions and Vita games etc. Just buy them at launch. But almost everything they produce can be sold for a profit on ebay in a few months, some for a huge profit.

Like yeah every now and then I regret skipping something and may pay a bit extra to grab it later. But hundreds of dollars?

I’ve ‘accidentally’ become a reseller sometimes, when I see something I bought worth so much on ebay I sometimes sell. Sold The Messenger, Shelter Generations, Qbby Amiibo and many more all for massive margins, because I saw whet they were going for and $400 is worth more to me than The Messenger, if only because I can buy 7 other games with that cash.

I appreciate that LRG supply games that normally wouldn’t get made, but I have found that their prices are far too high for me to make the commitment of buying from them. So retty much any game from LRG is considered a lost game to me in that it might as well not have been done, because I won’t buy it.

There’s always digital. Usually you can buy the same game for a lot more reasonable prices on the eShop.