Valarie McLeckie, Consignment Director, Video Games, Heritage Auctions

Valarie McLeckie is the consignment director of video games at Heritage Auctions. In this edition of The Friday Five, McLeckie reveals what she looks for when evaluating a video game for auction and how the pandemic has affected the collectables market.

Tell us about your role at Heritage Auctions.

I handle everything that goes into the video game category: inquiries, evaluations, writing the descriptions … I wear a lot of hats.

I have considered myself a collector for most of my life. As I became an adult, I started to take video game collecting more seriously. In the past, I was a big Pokémon fan, as many people of my generation are. Video games were a huge part of my life growing up. I joined the Heritage Auctions team just as they were thinking about getting into the video game category. 

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Heritage Auctions sold a sealed copy of the 1990 NES game Super Mario Bros. 3 for $156,000 US. Why did that item command a record-breaking price?

It’s due to the package variant. Copies of Super Mario Bros. 3, when the game was initially released, had “Bros.” on the front formatted to the left so it appeared over Mario’s glove. After a short time, Nintendo shifted it to the right. It was considered an aesthetic improvement. The packaging with “Bros.” on the left is as close as you can get to being called a first printing. Many of the collectors I spoke with have spent years looking for one. Sometimes you think there are no more left, but life happens and people often forget what they have in their homes.

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What do you look for when accepting vintage video games for auction?

Popularity and significance to pop culture drive what is highly sought-after in this market. Instantly recognizable items in tip-top shape are on the high end of things. Sealed games of the age of Super Mario Bros. 3 are special. For consignors, providing proof of authenticity to their buyers with WataGames certification offers peace of mind that buyers are receiving the genuine article. An objective opinion is highly valued in this collectables market.

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Who is buying vintage video games?

It’s funny, we’ve seen more crossover in the video game category than we expected. We initially thought the crossover would come from comic book collectors but we’ve seen crossover from coins, sports, and other collecting categories. People feel passionate about video games. Due to how big a role video games play in our daily lives — this type of media is consumed more frequently than movies — video games really are for everyone. There’s a strong emotional attachment to the characters.

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How has the pandemic affected the collectables auction industry?

This year, we’ve seen a lot of newcomers to game collecting due to how we’re spending our time these days. We are home more, travelling less, and want to surround ourselves with things that make us happy. 

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Heritage Auctions hosts its signature auction of video games, comics, and comic art on January 14 to 17. Browse the lot on their website.