Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Video Games Will Sell For Comic & Baseball Card Prices

Value of Rare Video Game, Action Comic, and Baseball Card

On March 14th, 2009, Action Comic #1, the first comic book featuring Superman, sold at auction for $317,000. In 2007, a Honus Wagner baseball card sold for $2.8 million. And some day soon, video games will be cashed in for similar outrageous prices.

Not every video game will sell for thousands of dollars. Not every comic book or baseball card fetches these high prices either. But, some video games will likely sell for more than $100,000 or even a million dollars some day. Most likely it will be a game like Nintendo World Championship, which already sells for $20,000.

Expensive Collector's Items Need to Be Rare

The most expensive baseball cards and comic books are rare. There are only between 50 to 60 T206 Honus Wagner cards and fewer than 100 Action Comic #1's known to exist.

Nintendo World Championship Gold and a few other video games definitely meet this criteria. There are only 26 NWC Gold cartridges in existence and 90 NWC Gray cartridges. Only five copies of Air Raid for Atari 2600 have ever been found. Another handful of video games also fit the "rare" distinction, giving them immense worth.

The Item Needs A Good Story

Nintendo World Championship GuideSome games, comics, baseball cards, and other rarities only have one or two copies in existence because they were prototypes and never actually released. But, that doesn't automatically make them valuable to collectors. The item needs a good story behind it to entice collectors.

Action Comic #1, for example, is the first comic book to feature Superman. It’s considered the first superhero comic. Honus Wagner is thought to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He also forced the American Tobacco Co to stop production of the baseball card because he didn't want to be associated with tobacco. Both great stories.

Nintendo World Championship has a great history too. The game was part of a Nintendo promoted competition where gamers from all over the country competed to get the best score in Super Mario, Rad Racer, and Tetris. The game stopped players after six minutes and twenty-one seconds. The finals were held at Universal Studios and the 26 winners received NWC Gold as one of their prizes.

Mass Market Popularity

Honus Wagner Card with PhotographersTomorrow's collectors are today's common fan. Since the 1900's, baseball card trading and collecting has been a favorite of boys. When those boys grew older and had more disposable income they were willing to spend a lot more money on their collections. Previous owners of the Wagner card included Wayne Gretzky, Wal-Mart (they purchased it for a baseball card promotion), and the CEO of an investment company. Comic books have been very popular since the 1950's so kids who became fans of comics during this golden age are now in their late 50's and 60's (an age when many people have their highest income).

Research by the NPD Group in early 2008 shows that 72 percent of Americans play video games. So there are millions of gamers out there who can help increase the price of the video games eventually.

Value Increases With Time

Wagner Baseball Card with Price ChartTime helps increase the value of the best collectibles and is the leading factor currently holding back video game prices. The Honus Wagner card was released in 1909, so it has been on the market for exactly one hundred years. During the 1930's the Honus Wagner card sold for $50. Using the $2.8 million price in 2007, the card had a compounded return of 15.3% per year over the last 77 years.

Action Comic #1 is 71 years old this year. It's compounded return since 1938, when it originally sold for 10 cents, is 23.5%.

Time is indeed the factor keeping video games from the ski-high prices baseball cards and comics are now raking in. Video games became popular in the 1980's with Atari. And it wasn’t until a decade later in 1990 that the Nintendo World Championship took place. NWC cartridges were given away and there are no records of the original prices the game sold for so it is hard to calculate a percent return for the game so far. Assuming you could have offered one of the winners of these cartridges $1,000 for it the rate of return would be 17.1%. Right in between Honus Wager and Action Comic.

Given Enough Time NWC Will Be Worth $100K or More

Nintendo World Championship (and a few other games too) have all the makings of valuable collector's items. There is a very limited supply. It has a great story behind the game. And it has popular appeal with millions of people who play games. The only thing keeping NWC Gold cartridge from selling for more money is time. In ten, twenty, or thirty years when kids who grew up playing NES games have money to spare, they will be the collectors willing and able to pay top dollar prices for these treasures.


Anonymous said...

An interesting thing to think about is that the NWC cart doesn't function on it's own like most other collectibles. You need an NES, a TV, a controller and mad skills to enjoy it properly, whereas a comic book or baseball card you really just need eyeballs. They were made for visual admiration and don't have the complicated dependencies that a game does.

Still, I imagine someone who's paying $20K for a cart won't be attempting to play it very often (just as most people won't hop into bed and read a copy of Action Comics #1).

JJ Hendricks said...

Great comment thesimplicity. It does take some more to enjoy the game fully than it does for comics, baseball cards, or art.

With a $20,000 investment an NES, TV, and two controllers (you need both to get the game to start) is a pretty small investment.

Anonymous said...

Games will always have the chance to grow in value. Depending on the title, system, era, and so forth, we can conclude that, as always, games have different values. An in-package copy of the original Legend of Zelda will always hold more market than, say, Battletoads. I was fortunate enough to grow up with the birth of gaming, and I have seen how my gems have increased in value significantly. Sealed copy of Chrono Trigger, New, in-box Virtual Boy (even though a joke, very rare to find) and more. So yes, games will always have the potential to grow in value. :)

Unknown said...

You say that "NWC cartridges were given away and there are no records of the original prices the game sold for so it is hard to calculate a percent return for the game so far", however you stated in your other article that you determined the cart's authenticity by contacting its previous owners.

Not only would it be very interesting to know how much they paid for it, but it would be interesting to know the stories of how they came to find it & buy it. I guess eBay has been around a good 10 years, so neither story may be as interesting as "I bought it from this kid who won the semi-finals", but it would also be interesting to know if either of them regrets either the money they spend on it originally or selling it.

Anonymous said...

Rarity does increase value, but also the fact that it was rare in ones youth also increases the value. It is sad commentary about human beings that we only want what we can't have. Sorry all I think of is that using the money spent on any of these items to help others would be a better investment. You can't take posessions like that with you so I guess these people are trying to be the modern day Pharaoh. I wonder how many slaves (by wages) are being used to fund these ridiculous prices.

Anonymous said...

Good article and analysis. I dunno about it being worth $100,000 in 20 years, though. Quite possibly, but will future gamers really want a cart from a system they didn't grow up with? The people who are paying a great deal for the Gold NWC carts these days are the people who actually grew up in the era of the NES. I mean, today's 13-year olds play the PS3 and Xbox 360 and most won't touch the NES in my experience. Would they want a cart for a system they have no experience with when they're 35 years old and have a lot more disposable income? It doesn't sound like they would, but collecting is a strange beast.

Another point to consider: They analogy can be put to baseball cards and comic books, but kids are still growing up with virtually the exact same format after all these years, a testament to their longevity. There's also longevity of the characters as well; people are still reading and collecting Batman, Superman and Spider-man. Will gamers desire to own carts be maintained in 20 years when things start moving toward digital download? Only time will tell.

Airwaves, Baseball Cards, and Me said...

Although the recent mania surrounding Stephen Strasburg's baseball cards certainly bring to mind the Honus Wagner horse trading, I don't think we'll ever see a single card approach those values again. The 80's and 90's brought a gigantic overproduction of cards. Alex Rodriguez alone appears on over 18,000 cards. EIGHTEEN THOUSAND!!!

Video games might hold their value a little more.....especially if they are still in the box.

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