Sunday, February 17, 2019

Super Mario Bros. Cartridge Sells for More Than $100,000 - Plus Heritage Auctions' FIRST Video Game Auction

If you’re into retro gaming, you probably heard about the recent record-breaking sale of the factory sealed Super Mario Bros. NES cartridge selling for more than $100,000 through Heritage Auctions, one of the biggest, most prestigious auction houses in the world.

You can watch a concise, informative video by Kelsey Lewin on why that cartridge is worth so much here:

Prior to that record-breaking SMB sale, Heritage tested the waters on video games by including several in their Jan. 13 Sunday Internet Comics, Animation, & Art Auction. I wrote about that Jan. auction for AntiqueWeek. You can read the full text of that article below.

Video Games Go Mainstream with Heritage Auction

By Brett Weiss

It had to happen.

Retro video game collecting has been mainstream for well over a decade, with prices for desirable games skyrocketing exponentially, and Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, one of the biggest auction houses in the world, is finally getting in on the action.

“The key to making it happen was Wata Games,” said Heritage Vice President Barry Sandoval, referring to the video game grading service. “We toyed a little bit with the idea of selling video games, but what sold us is that one of Wata’s principals, Mark Haspel, used to be with CGC. That he was involved made us take it seriously. CGC has graded somewhere between three and five million comic books. That’s a good model to follow.”

Heritage dipped its toes in the vintage video game waters by offering 25 boxed games—some of them factory sealed—at its Jan. 13 Sunday Internet Comics, Animation, & Art Auction. More than 30 collectors bid on a factory sealed 9.4 B+ (Seal Rating) copy of The Legend of Zelda (1987), a groundbreaking action role-playing game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES, which debuted in the U.S. in 1985, revived the console industry after the Great Video Game Crash of 1983. Zelda was the top video game lot in the auction.

“We thought Zelda would sell for a few hundred dollars,” Sandoval said. “It went for $3,360.”

To get an idea of the value of specific games, Sandoval said Heritage “checks out eBay and other websites,” but they “don’t put estimates on these types of auctions.”

“It’s up to the bidders to determine the worth,” he said.

Sandoval said he is a “former collector” whose interest is in Atari, but he explained that Atari is a “smaller niche” and that the Nintendo Entertainment System is the go-to console for “big money.”

The NES was indeed well represented at the auction, with high prices commanded for such popular titles as:
·         Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989, 8.5 CIB), $312
·         Super Mario Bros. (1985, 8.0 CIB), $312
·         Wario's Woods (1994, 9.4 A+ Seal Rating), $228
·         Mega Man 5 (1992, 6.0 CIB), $216
·         Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990, 6.5 CIB), $210.

Nearly two dozen bidders competed for a factory sealed (8.5 A Seal Rating) copy of Excitebike, a motorcycle racing game that was an NES launch title, meaning it debuted with the console in 1985. It went for $1,140. The game was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, known best for creating such iconic Nintendo titles like as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and Starfox.

Another top earner was Dragon Warrior (1989), the first game in the long-running Dragon Quest role-playing game series. Seventeen bidders drove the price of an 8.5 A (Seal Rating) example to $660. As a promotional tool, Nintendo of America had offered the game free to new and renewing subscribers to the company’s Nintendo Power magazine.

The highest price realized for a game released for a console other than the NES was Double Dragon (1988) for the Sega Master System, which was the closest thing the NES had to a serious competitor during the late 1980s. A 9.6 CIB copy went for $204. The auction also included some loose (cartridge only) Super Nintendo games. The Super Nintendo EntertainmentSystem (SNES), released in 1991, was the follow-up console to the NES.

Sandoval sees correlations between video games and comics. A relatively modern type of collectible (the first video game console was the original Magnavox Odyssey, released in 1972), video games evoke comic books in several ways. Both are colorful and cartoonish, both are meant to be used (as opposed to merely looked at), and the fan demographic is similar.

However, there’s one key difference in terms of collectability. Unlike the vast majority of comic books released during the late ’80s and early ’90s, which are worth practically nothing, a fairly high percentage of video games from this time are quite valuable, especially complete in the box.

Sandoval said that is because “comic books from that era were preserved in large numbers,” thanks in large part to the speculator boom in which people were hoarding comic books in hopes that they could one day sell them in order to send their kids to college. Video games, on the other hand, were often thrown out or sold for pennies on the dollar at garage sales and flea markets once the next big gaming console would come along. And few people kept the boxes and manuals, a consideration not relevant to comics.

Sandoval said Wata will at present only grade games from the Nintendo NES and forward, meaning they don’t deal with video games released for such relics as the Atari2600, Intellivision, and ColecoVision. Currently, they are primarily interested in systems produced by Nintendo and Sega. Sandoval hopes this will change at some point in order to “round things out.”

According to Sandoval, Heritage’s strategy going into video game sales is to start off slowly with internet auctions, get bidders used to the idea, and then come in later with the more expensive stuff for their signature auctions with live auctioneers and bidders.

“This will give people results to look at to lend the idea more credibility,” he said.

Sandoval called the Jan. 13 auction “just the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to video game sales.

“We’re going to auction more every week, and we have some real rarities on tap for our large February Signature Auction,” he said. “For example, we have a ‘not for resale version’ of Halo for the Xbox that may go for as much as $10,000.”

Friday, February 15, 2019

Old School Gamer Magazine -- FREE SUBSCRIPTION!

How about a FREE digital subscription to Old School Gamer Magazine! You can read the new issue for free HERE, or you can get a free digital subscription HERE.

Colorful, fun, and nostalgic, Old School Gamer Magazine features articles by some of the best writers and most important industry insiders in the business, including programmer Warren Davis (creator of Q*bert), historian Leonard Herman (author of Phoenix, the first true video game history book), celebrity icon Walter Day (famous video game scorekeeper), college professor Michael Thomasson (who once held the record for world's largest video game collection), and others. And it's all FREE, with no strings attached! Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

FREE BOOK for Reviewers and YouTubers - The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 2 (N–Z)

Attention writers/journalists and YouTubers: If you would like to review The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 2 (N–Z) in advance of its April 28 release date, please email me your request and the URL of the site where the review will appear. I will have my publisher email you a PDF of the book. You can reach me at Thanks!

Volume 2 of The SNES Omnibus is a fun and informative look at ALL the original Super Nintendo games released in the US starting with the letters N-Z. More than 375 games are featured, including such iconic titles as Star Fox, Street Fighter II, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Tetris Attack, and Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Each game, whether obscure or mainstream, is covered in exhaustive detail. In addition to thorough gameplay descriptions, the book includes reviews, fun facts, historical data, quotes from vintage magazines, and, best of all, nostalgic stories about many of the games from programmers, authors, convention exhibitors, video game store owners, YouTube celebs, and other industry insiders. The book also features more than 2,000 full-color images, including box art, cartridges, screenshots, and vintage ads. Plus, there’s a gorgeous centerfold starring your favorite SNES characters. Includes nostalgic stories by such gaming celebs as John Jackson Miller (best-selling author of Star Trek and Star Wars novels), David Warhol (Intellivision programmer), Steve Woita (Genesis and Atari 2600 programmer), Rusel DeMaria (author of SNES strategy guides), Kelsey Lewin (popular YouTuber), John Riggs (popular YouTuber), John Lester (popular YouTuber), and many others.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

SNES Omnibus Writer Spotlight #40: Erin Hawley

Erin Hawley, a.k.a. The Geeky Gimp, is one of many gifted contributing writers for The SNES Omnibus project, but her stories stand out because they are directly tied into her physical limitations. This not only gives the stories added weight and poignance, but makes a strong case for video games being a positive force for good. Further, she’s a terrific writer, as you can see from her story about F-Zero, reprinted from The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol.1 (A–M):

I’ve never played sports competitively. Growing up, I went outside with other neighborhood kids, getting my wheelchair stuck in the dense foliage of our backyard while playing hide-and-seek until the street lights came on, but I was never on a school baseball or basketball team. I was all right with that, as suffering through my brother’s games and practices were enough sporting for me. But there was one thing I excelled at and could contend in—racing video games.

The clearest and most nostalgic memories of my childhood took place in front of our friend’s TV, sitting crossed-legged on their carpeted floor, playing F-Zero. My brother and our pals would race the tracks, trying to beat each other’s high scores. I would repeatedly win, expertly dodging those bumpers and taking curves like a master pilot. Years of driving my motorized wheelchair gave me the skills to outplay everyone on those retro highways.

Maneuvering F-Zero’s hovercars felt natural and gave me the same thrills as driving my chair down a steep blacktop driveway. In F-Zero, when you pull to the side of the track to recharge, there’s a risk of losing control of your vehicle or slowing down enough for other cars to pass. You’d either take that chance or pray you don’t bang into another wall in the next lap. It was exhilarating to make such a decision in that instant, and it mimicked the choices I made when I went “off-roading” in my chair. Of course, I wasn’t flying at F-Zero speed, but the danger was real. Over 20 years later, I’ve slowed down and put safety first, but my driving hand is still flying. - Erin Hawley

Here's Erin’s bio from the SNES Omnibus books:

Erin Hawley is a writer, editor, and digital content producer living in New Jersey. She started playing games on the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64, and now spends her extra time streaming PC games on Twitch. Erin’s blog, The Geeky Gimp, focuses on disability representation and accessibility in nerdy media. You can find her work at, and follow her on Twitter @geekygimp.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Review Fix Interview with Brett Weiss - SNES Omnibus Vol. 2

I was recently interviewed by Patrick Hickey Jr. of Review Fix, and he was kind enough to let me reprint it here for your perusal. Enjoy the interview!

ReviewFix chats with author Brett Weiss, who discusses the creative process, vision and goals for his new book, The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and ItsGames, Vol. 2 (N–Z).

Review Fix: What was the reception like for The SNES Omnibus Vol. 1?

BrettWeiss: Overwhelmingly positive. Readers like the straightforward layout, the large format, the quality of the binding and paper, and the fact that there are tons of photos. More importantly, they love the nostalgic “insider insight” stories written by YouTubers, authors, programmers, and others involved in one form or another in the video game industry. They love the memories associated with the stories, from getting a special Super Nintendo game for Christmas to shopping at Toys R Us and Blockbuster to the comfort a particular game gave to someone going through a rough time. These were fun for me to read as well when I was editing the book.

Readers have also told me that they discovered games they didn’t know about through the book, and that they like the fact that even the obscure games get at least one page of content.

Review Fix: How did that influence Vol 2?

Weiss: The books were basically written concurrently, so the format is essentially the same. However, I did spend a little more time working with the publisher on the positioning of the photos, so readers may notice that. This book has more pages and text because of all those “Super” games, and I made sure to include more photos.  

Review Fix: What games in this volume do you think stand out the most?

Weiss: Most of the triple-A titles get two full pages, such as Star Fox, Super Bomberman, Super Castlevania IV, Super Mario All-Stars, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World 1 and 2, and each of the titles in the Star Wars trilogy. Certain other titles that you might not think of right away get two pages as well, such as Q*bert 3, Shadowrun, and Phalanx. Not only are these great games, I really like the two-page spreads.

Review Fix: What’s your favorite entry? Why?

Weiss: That would have to be Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting. Not only is it a nice two-page layout, it’s got a great story written by my wife about how we would pummel the hell out of each other and how we decided to stop because it wasn’t the best thing for our relationship (we started playing Donkey Kong Country instead). The vast majority of insider insights were written by industry people, but my wife’s story was too strong to leave out of the book. And besides, she’s an insider by marriage and a terrific writer. My son’s got a couple of stories in the book as well. As I’ve said before, you could argue that I’m only the second or third best writer in the family.

Review Fix: What did you feel like once all the work was done?

Weiss: A great sense of relief and accomplishment. Writing a book like this, if you’re doing it right, is a massive undertaking. It can be a lot of fun, but those weeks leading up to the deadline are brutal. It’s tedious going over each page again and again to make sure everything is accurate, concise, and grammatically correct, but it’s very important for posterity’s sake and for the reader. When customers are shelling out their hard-earned money, I want them to be happy with their purchase.

Review Fix: Bottom line, why must someone pick this one up?

Weiss: The nostalgic stories. They’re like a trip back in time to the 1990s, not only in terms of gaming, but the general zeitgeist. Also, instead of slogging through a lot of poorly-written crowd-sourced stuff online, you can read game write-ups that are concise and accurate. The quotes from old issues of Electronic Games Monthly and other magazines are also pretty cool.

Review Fix: What’s next?

Weiss: Good question. Maybe a Sega Genesis Omnibus, if the Super Nintendo books sell well enough. Or maybe a sequel to The 100 Greatest Console Video Games:1977-1987. I think it would be fun to cover the next decade. I’m also busy writing for a variety of magazines, websites, and newspapers, including OldSchool Gamer, CultureMap Fort Worth, CultureMap Dallas, and AntiqueWeek, where I have a national column called The Pop Culture Collective.

Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?

Weiss: We live in an age where some people don’t “get” books. People will ask, “Why should I buy a book? I can just find that stuff online.” Not true. The nostalgic stories in the SNES Omnibus books are original and exclusive to this project. Also, reading a professionally written, professionally edited, professionally published hardcover book you can hold in your hands is a much different experience than reading a bunch of crowd-sourced stuff online.

Volume 2 of SNES Omnibus is a fun and informative look at ALL the original Super Nintendo games released in the US starting with the letters N-Z. More than 375 games are featured, including such iconic titles as Star Fox, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Tetris Attack, and Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Each game, whether obscure or mainstream, is covered in exhaustive detail. In addition to thorough gameplay descriptions, the book includes reviews, fun facts, historical data, quotes from vintage magazines, and, best of all, nostalgic stories about many of the games from programmers, authors, convention exhibitors, video game store owners, YouTube celebs, and other industry insiders. The book also features more than 2,000 full-color images, including box art, cartridges, screenshots, and vintage ads. Plus, there’s a gorgeous centerfold starring your favorite SNES characters.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Rawson Stovall: The First Nationally Syndicated Video Game Columnist

The name “Rawson Stovall” may not mean anything to you, but it should. Back in a time when video game reviews were seldom seen outside of such magazines as Electronic Games and JoyStik, he wrote a syndicated column published in more than 40 newspapers around the country. In fact, he was the first nationally syndicated reviewer of video games in the United States.

Remarkably, Stovall was only 10 years old when the first installment of his column, “Video Beat,” appeared in 1982 in the West Texas newspaper the Abilene Reporter-News.

A published writer at an age when many kids have a hard time simply paying attention in English class, Stovall was a true phenomenon, appearing on such television programs as The Tonight Show, Hour Magazine, That's Incredible!, and The Today Show. Stovall cemented his reputation as a wunderkind in 1984 when Doubleday published his book, The VidKid’s Book of Home Video Games (a now-hard-to-find tome that sells for around $70 on eBay), where he analyzed 80 video games for such consoles as the Atari 2600, ColecoVision, and Intellivision. He also reviewed the consoles themselves and even offered tips on many of the games.

For many of us who grew up during the 80s, playing video games and dreaming of one day becoming a professional writer, Stovall is something of a legend, so imagine my surprise when he reached out to me via Facebook recently and asked if I wanted to grab some breakfast. He was in town for the holidays (his mother lives near me in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas) and had some time to kill before heading back to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he works as a video game designer. I had to work late the night before, but I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity, so of course I said yes.

Stovall and I hit it off right away, sharing industry trade stories and some laughs. I told him how I broke into writing about video games in 1997 for the now-defunct All Game Guide (a sister website of, and how I wrote the first-ever video game book for McFarland Publishers in 2007 (the company now has an entire division of video game books), among other bona fides, while he revealed how he got his first video game console, and how he came to be a young reviewer. I even got him to sign my copy of his book.

I wasn’t meeting Stovall for breakfast as a journalist or with an article in mind—just as a fellow video game fan and writer—so I didn’t take notes or record our conversation. Fortunately, the introduction to his book contains plenty of info on how Stovall became a whiz kid (ahem, “Vid Kid”) and the first video game columnist in the United States, so I’ll summarize that for you here.

When he was in third grade in 1980, Stovall asked his parents and Santa Claus for an Atari 2600 game console. His request was denied (his dad called video games a “waste of money”), but in the fall of 1981, he raised enough cash selling pecans (gathered from a trio of trees in his backyard) to purchase an Atari system, and then Santa came through with some game cartridges for Christmas.

“Those first games gave me the start I needed,” Stovall wrote. “I played them until I knew them backward and forward and then loaned them to friends, who in exchange loaned me some of their games.”

Later that year, Stovall’s reading teacher assigned the class a project where they would get into groups and do a mock TV program. Stovall and his crew decided to do a show on video games.

“For each show, we reviewed around three games, told of the games to be released, and had a quiz contest,” Stovall wrote. “We also invited guest speakers such as Mr. Jack Williams, owner of the Abilene Video Library, a retail store where I got much of my information, and Mr. Max Martin, manager of the local Chuck E.Cheese Pizza Time Theatre. Mr. Martin caused quite a stir when he brought all of the Pizza Time characters with him.”

One day, as Stovall was talking to Williams about video games in his store, Williams suggested to the young boy that he write an article on the subject since he knew so much about it. Stovall’s mom suggested that he make it a column. Not only would a recurring column give Stovall more room to write about his favorite topic, it would earn him money to purchase a computer. After writing several sample columns, Stovall took his idea to Dick Tarpley, executive editor of the Abilene Reporter-News, and he readily accepted Stovall’s proposal.

After some legwork on Stovall’s part (with the help of his father), other papers ran the column as well, including the Waco Tribune, the San Antonio Light, and the El Paso Times. Early in 1983, Universal Press Syndicate caught wind of the column and began syndicating it in April of that year.

In 1985, Stovall, appearing at a public relations event, was the first person to demonstrate the Nintendo Entertainment System (released in 1983 in Japan as the Famicom) to the U.S. media. Stovall, whose writing also appeared in such publications as Family Circle, Omni, and Woman’s Day, continued writing his column until 1990, when he enrolled in college at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas.

At breakfast, Stovall told me he had discontinued the column because he would have had to start buying the new systems that were out at the time, such as the SegaGenesis, TurboGrafx-16, and the forthcoming Super Nintendo. He also told me that the Atari 2600 and the Vectrex (a short-lived tabletop unit with vector graphics) were the only vintage game systems he still had in his collection.

As we parted, Stovall and I agreed we should hang out at some future point when he would be in town. I’m already looking forward to it.