Rare Copy of 'The Legend of Zelda' Sells for $870K at Auction to Set New World Record

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 11, 2021

This photo provided by Heritage Auctions shows Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda. An unopened copy of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda that was made in 1987 has sold at auction for $870,000. Heritage Auctions in Dallas says the video game sold Friday, July 9, 2021.    (Heritage Auctions via AP)
Heritage Auctions via AP

A sealed and graded copy of The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System set a new record Friday for the most expensive video game to ever be sold at auction.

According to Daniel Kreps of Rolling Stone, the game sold for $870,000 through Heritage Auctions, breaking the record of $660,000 set by a copy of Super Mario Bros. in April.

Video game grading company Wata gave The Legend of Zelda a grade of 9.0. While it didn't fare as well to the 9.6 grade that Super Mario Bros. received, the scarcity of that particular copy of The Legend of Zelda put it over the top.

The Zelda game that sold for $870,000 was a NES R variant. The first production run of the game yielded the NES TM variant, followed by the NES R variant and then the far more common Rev-A variant, per Heritage Auctions.

Only two sealed copies of the NES R variant produced in 1987 are known to have been graded by Wata, and only one sealed copy of the NES TM variant is known to exist.

Since it is possible the NES TM variant will never become available to the public, Heritage Auctions noted that the NES R variant that sold Friday "is the earliest sealed copy one could realistically hope to obtain."

Regarding the sale, Heritage Auctions video game specialist Valarie McLeckie said: "I had a lot of confidence in this game, and, yet, I still feel like the reality of today's bidding exceeded my vision of how it would play out. Making history is never an easy thing. I'm just really proud we got to be part of this yet again."

Much like sports trading cards, the graded video game market has hit an all-time high since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Friday's auction is further proof that there is no end in sight to the video game boom.

Zelda is one of the most popular and recognizable franchises in the history of video games, though, meaning it will take something truly special and unique to top the record it set Friday.