Retro game collecting has been a big deal for a while now, but the focus has mainly been on old console games. The record for the most expensive game ever sold is a sealed edition of Super Mario Bros. that was auctioned for $2 million last August, whereas classic “big box” PC games have rarely been priced over $1,000—until recently. PC game collecting is heating up.
“I think the market for console games has hit its peak and attention has turned toward the big box PC games, which is why we’re seeing sealed versions start to go for such high prices,” says Stephen Kick, CEO of Nightdive Studios, which specializes in retro PC remakes and remasters. “Collectors are buying them up and having them graded as investments.”
If you were lucky enough to grow up in a PC gaming household in the ’90s, you probably remember a shelf or two of these big box PC games, which often contained goodies like manuals, guides, cloth maps, figurines, and other collectibles. Those precious little treasures have a way of getting lost, making complete big box editions of PC games tougher and tougher to find. If you happen to have one tucked away somewhere, you may be surprised what someone will pay for it. As much as I wanted this Japanese release of Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, $250 is more than I’m willing to pay—and that’s nothing compared to the sticker shock on this list.
You may not want to start building a collection immediately, though. Joel McCoy, admin of the Big Box PC Game Collectors Facebook group, believes today’s prices are the result of a speculative bubble.
“On value, right now there seems to be actual value, and bubble value. It seems to me that whatever force drives comic book speculation has taken over a segment of console collecting and is starting to creep into PC gaming… It’s actually pretty difficult to find PC games that routinely sell for more than a thousand outside the crazy investor bubble. We did a rundown in our chat when we first heard you were working on this, and we had a hard time coming up with many.”
This certainly raises issues with a definitive list of the rarest and most expensive of these games, and may even lead down a path of philosophical musing on what even is value or collectability in the face of such market fluctuations and speculative manipulation.
For the purpose of this list, we present the highest prices that collectible big boxes have actually sold for, leaving it up to the reader to determine if they are actually worth that much. (Except for the second-to-last entry of section two, which just doesn’t make sense.)
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