We've seen plenty of expensive Nintendo auctions taking place over the last few years, but not many items have been as interesting as this one.
This weekend, a Super Mario Bros. 3 prototype was sold at auction for a whopping $31,200. The listing was a first for Heritage Auctions, being the first time that the auctioneer had ever sold a Nintendo-developed prototype or any prototype featuring Mario.
Interestingly, the prototype was actually made from a cartridge which originally housed a copy of Kid Icarus, as you can see from the label still visible on the cart. The words 'Super 3' have been written over it, just as hastily as someone might write over an old homemade VHS tape, with various parts of the cart being cut open for EPROM replacement.
Here's some info from the Heritage Auctions listing:
"...This prototype was made from a gutted cartridge for Kid Icarus. Sections of the cartridge have been cut away to expose the EPROMs (Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory). In every sense of the word, these EPROMs are the "heart" of the prototype, as they are what contain the pre-release data for Super Mario Bros. 3.
Two of these are labeled to reflect this. Both are labeled in hand by one of the developers, the top "SM-3" and the bottom reading "SMB3" with February 1990 dates on both. It can be assumed that this indicates this cartridge is from one of the final stages of the game's development, considering it was released in the US in February. "Super 3" has been scrawled in what appears to be blue marker across the front of the cartridge on the Kid Icarus label, in a seemingly hurried and casual fashion by a Nintendo employee."
Heritage Auctions says, "We have often heard from prototype collectors that developers tended to repurpose spare parts lying around the company to fashion them into prototypes."
As you might expect, this is quite the find. It's not every day that you see a NES cartridge that's been hacked into and modified by Nintendo itself, and it's definitely not every day that you see any kind of Nintendo prototype escape from the company's hallowed halls.