Published: March 17, 2020
Review by Anne Kugielsky, Photos Courtesy Heritage Auctions
DALLAS – When Heritage Auctions announced it would be offering the last known “Play Station” prototype developed by Nintendo and Sony in the early 1990s, collectors took notice. There was a lot of excitement and hype in the video collecting world that overflowed into more traditional collecting groups. Thousands of online views were recorded, and collectors cast 57 bids for the prototype, which sold at $360,000 – the highest price for a video game item ever sold at auction. Heritage believes this is the only surviving example of 200 pre-production consoles spawned from the partnership between Nintendo and Sony (Sony and Nintendo ended their unfulfilled partnership in 1991).
“It’s hard to imagine that at one time these two rivals came together to create a video game console, making it an incredible historical piece representative of both companies,” consignment director of video games at Heritage Auctions, Valarie McLeckie, said.
It was a more traditional entry that took the top spot in the March 5-8 auction, however, and it came as no surprise when one of the finest known copies of the issue in which Spider-Man made his first appearance (Amazing Fantasy #15 [Marvel, 1962] CGC NM 9.4) soared to $795,000.
Amazing Fantasy #15 is one of just six copies known to exist with a 9.4 grade – there are only four known copies with a higher grade – of the issue considered the most valuable and in-demand comic book of the Silver Age (1956-1969). The final price was the highest by a wide margin for a 1960s comic sold through Heritage Auctions (the previous high was $492,937).
Vice president of comics at Heritage Auctions, Barry Sandoval, said, “The Spider-Man #51 cover was in the range we were expecting. We thought the Amazing Fantasy #15 CGC 9.4 had a shot to get a couple more bids, though we’re certainly satisfied with the result as it’s the highest price we’ve ever realized for a 1960s comic.”
The final total for Heritage Auctions’ Comics and Comic Art Auction was $10,760,781. According to Eric Bradley, director of public relations at Heritage, “In all, 17 different consignors will receive settlement checks of at least $100,000.”
Heritage Auctions co-chairman Jim Halperin said, “This was an exceptional auction that further strengthened Heritage’s position as the premier auction platform for comics, comic art and video games. Comic art, in particular, fared well, and the demand for the Play Station console reflected its importance in the evolution of video games and gaming systems.”
In the original comic art category, one of the more iconic Spider-Man covers ever offered through Heritage Auctions, John Romita Sr’s Amazing Spider-Man #51 cover “Kingpin” original art (Marvel, 1967) prompted offers from two dozen collectors before it sold for $312,000. The image is the Kingpin’s first cover and second overall appearance. The artwork had been in the same collection for nearly 30 years, and never had been offered before at auction.
Sandoval said, “Significance, condition (grade) and scarcity all play into the determination of any comic’s value. Which factors count the most varies from one lot to the next.”
Scarcity was the dominant factor when a beautiful, never-restored copy of Superman #1 (DC, 1939) CGC VG-3.5 off-white to white pages sparked bids from more than 40 collectors before finishing at $288,000 to a phone bidder. The issue, which has proven elusive to find in unrestored condition, is recognized as one of the three most valuable comics in the hobby. “This issue is revered as a book with great historical significance because it is an entire issue dedicated to one character, and one who originated in comic books, rather than in comic strips or cartoons,” Sandoval said.
Nearly three dozen collectors pursued Captain America Comics #1 (Timely, 1941) CGC FN/VF 7.0 off-white to white pages until it closed at $186,000. “That it is in this condition and unrestored makes it a coveted rarity that could move up from its current no 8 spot on Overstreet’s Top 100 Golden Age Comics list,” according to Bradley.
The original comic art category once again proved to be the source for many of the top lots. For example, a mail/fax bidder won Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland Sunday comic strip from the New York Herald, 1908, dated 9-6-08 with a bid of $168,000.
Another cover original art by John Romita Sr., “Hero for Hire #1,” (Marvel, 1972) sold at $156,000; and his Amazing Spider-Man #72 cover original art (Marvel, 1969), went to $84,000, both going to bidders at Heritage’s website, www.ha.com/live.
“If you bought a licensed Marvel product in the ’70s or ’80s it almost certainly had Romita art or was done in his style.” Sandoval said. “So if you like Marvel you probably like (or love) Romita art too. His style is essentially the house style of Marvel.”
What would a comics auction be without Batman or Superman, and this auction fulfilled collectors’ desires with the Batman #1 (DC, 1940) with a rating of VG 4.0 from CGC, which sold at $117,000; and also from the Golden Age (1938-1955), Superman #1 (DC, 1939), CGC FR/GD 1.5 realized a remarkable $90,000.
Rounding out the top lots in original art was a daily comic strip by Bill Watterson, “Calvin and Hobbes,” dated 2-6-87 (United Feature Syndicate, 1987), which sold at $102,000-just the second time any daily comic strip artwork has brought at least $100,000.
McLeckie said about video game collecting, “Adults often collect what they loved as children, and video games were such a huge part of the childhood of multiple generations. Video game collecting has existed for many years at this point, but the formalization of the market is in its nascent stages. The introduction of an impartial third-party grading company, Wata Games, has certainly played a large factor in the emergence of new collectors because their service has made this collectible much more approachable for them.”
The auction featured a selection of vintage video games, including a graded and sealed cartridge of the rare Stadium Events: Family Fun Fitness Wata 9.2 A+ sealed NES Bandai 1987 USA (NES Bandai, 1987), which brought 30 bids before going for $66,000, a sealed copy of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! [Rev-A, Round SOQ, Mid-Production] Wata 8.5 A sealed NES Nintendo 1987 USA that drew $45,600, and Super Mario Bros. [Oval SOQ TM, Late Production] Wata 9.8 A+ sealed NES Nintendo 1985 USA, which brought $20,400.
“We’ve observed that the strongest interest in the market is currently for high-grade, sealed Nintendo Entertainment System titles that are either notably rare or for blue chip series (such as Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, etc). However, there are collectors who would much prefer to collect high-grade, sealed copies of their childhood favorite games for other consoles. It will certainly be interesting to see how the market for vintage video games evolves overtime.” McLeckie concluded.
All prices, with buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. For further information, www.ha.com or 877-437-4824.
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