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What was the better investment in 1985: Super Mario Bros or Apple stock?

Burn your portfolios, tech bros

header image super mario bros apple stock nes worth more

Wanna hear something disgusting? A vintage copy of Super Mario Bros. on the NES was just sold at auction for $114,000.

Admittedly, it’s one of the most influential games ever (it introduces Mario to the world) and the specific copy was given a 9.4 grading, which means it’s in near-perfect condition. Oh, and there’s some weird technicality about a cardboard hanger tag that makes it super rare. But still… $114,000?

This got me thinking — how good of an investment would it have been buying a copy of Super Mario Bros. and leaving it somewhere safe for 20-odd years? Well, I’m going to find out.

After a bit of consideration, I decided that the best thing to compare it to is Apple stock. The Cupertino company has been the darling of investors for years now, with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owning $91.3 billion of it, making up 43% of its portfolio.

So, let’s find out which would’ve been a better investment.

I couldn’t find a specific US release date, but Super Mario Bros. was launched in Japan on September 13, 1985 — so I’m going to use this date.

After a bit of digging, I found the rough price range of NES games from a print issue of Electronic Games Monthly:

NES games super mario bros cost on release

Now, as Super Mario Bros. was a flagship title, let’s just assume that it was one of the most expensive games on the NES. That means it would’ve had a retail cost of $49.99.

Next? Well, we need to find out how much Apple stock cost on September 13, 1985. Which I did:

Apple Stock 1985 super mario bros

It closed at $0.281250 on that day, meaning $49.99 worth of it would leave us with 177.74 Apple stocks. 

Not bad at all.

In terms of dates, the $114,000 copy of Super Mario Bros. sold on July 10, 2020. At close on the same day, a single Apple stock was worth $383.679993.

This means your 177.74 Apple stocks were worth $68,196.14 last Friday. Oof.

Yep, the mint condition copy of Super Mario Bros. is worth $45,803.86 more than all those sweet, delicious stocks.

But don’t tear up your investment portfolio just yet (I know how close you were), as this is a bit of a blip for one main reason: the rarity of this specific copy of the game.

Let’s look at the rarity first.

A bit of browsing on Price Charting shows that even an unopened copy of Super Mario Bros. normally only goes for, on average, $298.26.

super mario bros new price chart
Of course, there’s a fair amount of variation here and none of these new copies were officially graded, but hey, it gives us an idea.

So yeah, if you were thinking of heading to your parents’ loft to try and find that beat-up copy you used to play with your siblings, and make a killing, you might be disappointed.

Anyway, let’s wrap this up and answer the question: what was the better investment in 1985 out of Super Mario Bros. and Apple stock? Well, you know damn well it’s the NES game, people!

Well, as long as it was a very specific version in mint condition. Otherwise it would’ve been Apple stock.

I think all that’s left to say is this: suck it, Buffett.

(Update — July 14, 2020: Whoops, I tried to be a Clever Callum and account for stock splits, not realizing that the prices I used at the start had already been adjusted. This meant I came up with a figure that was way too high and an answer that was incorrect. Sorry!)

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Published July 13, 2020 — 14:42 UTC