That $2 million Super Mario Bros. auction may have been rigged

Complete-in-box retro games have been in the news a lot lately due to their sale prices rising. The most famous recent example of this phenomenon is a copy of Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System selling for $2 million. In a video investigation, journalist Karl Jobst claims that the grading company, Wata Games, and the auction company, Heritage Auctions, behind these sales are artificially raising the value.

Wata is behind the grading of the previously mentioned $2 million Super Mario Bros, a $1.56 million Super Mario 64, a $156,000 Super Mario Bros. 3, and more. Jobst states that Wata’s president and CEO, Deniz Kahn, and Heritage’s co-founder, Jim Halperin, have been working together to manipulate the market and cause retro game prices to artificially rise.

In his video investigation, Jobst brings up the previous record holder in the video games world, a copy of Super Mario Bros that was graded by Wata and sold for $100,150. He notes that this copy was allegedly bought by Halpern, game collector Rich Lecce, and Just Press Play founder Zac Gieg.

Heritage Auctions publicized this world record-smashing sale with a press release that included a quote from Wata’s Kahn on video game collecting’s upward trajectory not slowing down anytime soon. So, Jobst sums up, an auction house chairman created a press release for his own record-price purchase and then used that to advertise that same game going up for auction in the future in his auction house.

Jobst goes even further, claiming that the interviews and television appearances by Kahn on shows like Pawn Stars are also a part of this scheme to inflate retro game prices and further put Wata on the map.

Jobst’s investigation goes much deeper, looking at the claims that none of the buyers of these high-price games are actual collectors, as well as the recent purchase of the site NintendoAge, which was shut down to, as Jobst says, “control the flow of information about the value of video games.”

You can watch the full video investigation on YouTube.

In a statement sent to Digital Trends, Wata Games disputed Jobst’s claims. “Wata Games is the trusted leader in collectible video game grading and we’re honored to play a key role in this booming industry that we are incredibly passionate about,” says a spokesperson. “We’re humbled by the support of our thousands of customers who trust us to provide accurate and transparent grading. The claims in this video are completely baseless and defamatory, and it is unfortunate that Mr. Jobst did not contact us to give us the opportunity to correct him.”

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