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Plugged In

Rare Legend of Zelda cartridge is now the world’s most expensive video game

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Tom Curtin didn't get what he was asking for one of the rarest video games ever found, but you won't hear him complaining too much about that.

Earlier this week, Curtin launched an eBay auction for an exceptionally hard-to-find The Legend of Zelda prototype cartridge. The price? A whopping $150,000. That proved too steep, but a buyer quickly stepped forward and offered $55,000 — and just like that, there was a new record for the most expensive video game in the world.

"I still think there's some more values with it, but I was happy with what I got," says Curtin. "Zelda belongs atop the video game world."

Up until now, the record was held by a copy of Stadium Events that sold for $41,300 back in 2010.

The buyer has gone to lengths to stay anonymous, even insisting that Curtin agree to a non-disclosure agreement about his identity. Curtin can say, though, that this person has one of the world's largest collections of rare video game memorabilia. The prototype cartridge itself -- which contains a fully playable, pre-release version of NES classic The Legend of Zelda -- is thought to be unique, hence the abnormally high asking price.

Curtin didn't actually have the Zelda cartridge for very long. He bought it about three months ago from Jason Wilson, a leader in the prototype collectible field who had owned it for about 10 years previously. Curtin had planned to keep it, but soon noticed his collecting habits were shifting from cartridges and systems to original prints of cover art. That's when he decided to put it up for auction.

Because the cartridge is a piece of video game history, Curtin, who is an account manager at Oracle in Boston, wanted to ensure the buyer was reputable. And while he's limited in what he can say, he does note "I do believe it's going to a good home."

While the Zelda prototype cartridge was the crown jewel in his collection, Curtin is hardly bereft of video game memorabilia. His collection, he says, fills an 8'x 8' room and includes a Magnavox Odyssey, sealed classic games, and original artwork from Mega Man and Castlevania.

The one regret he has is that despite playing the cartridge a bit in a YouTube video to verify its authenticity, he stopped short of playing it through completely. That's something he hopes to rectify.

"I am going to reach out to the buyer and ask if I can play it through before I send it," he says.

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