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Exclusive interview with the man who sold, and lost, a video game world record

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On Saturday, January 25, 2014, news was buzzing about the end of an eBay auction that led to a record-breaking sale. A "Nintendo World Championship" NES game cartridge with a torn off label ended with a closing bid of $99,902, the highest amount ever paid for a video game.

This was a major event, as this total was $86,797 higher than the previous record breaker, a copy of “Stadium Events” NES cartridge that sold on eBay for $13,105 in 2010. Not only was eBay seller, muresan, ecstatic to have part of his collection bring in such a huge sum, but the long time Nintendo collector had also broken a genuine world record.

Then the following Monday tragic news broke on Destructiod.com when, in an email to the website, muresan wrote, "The unfortunate reality is the second I approached the winning buyer with payment options, they retracted their bid claiming it was a “mistake.””

However there was either a typo the email, or he was misquoted, as the article also states muresan expressed, "I’m not offering the item to other bidders in the auction to see if any of them are honorable individuals.”

But that “not” should have been a “now” as muresan explained in this exclusive interview about how he reached a video game world’s record, for at least a few hours.

The name muresan is the eBay user ID of Stephen Ross, a collector of Nintendo games for over 25 years. “Everyone’s known me as “muresan” for as long as I’ve been online…that being the moniker I took after Gheorghe Muresan, the 7’7” Romanian Center who played for the Washington Bullets of the NBA back in the mid-90s.”

In your auction you mention that this copy of the Nintendo World Champion cartridge is the “infamous "Mario" NWC cart”. Can you share any of the history of it up until it came into your collection?

Stephen: “DreamTR” sold me the cart probably back in the early to mid 2000s (memory fails me). He had picked it up in a trade with “thomaser” from Norway. Apparently, “thomaser” purchased it from an Alt Newsgroup auction back in 1998. He had bought the cart off another unknown individual but that’s about all I know as to the transactional history.

Is it true that the high bidder backed out of paying? What did they have to say for themselves?

Stephen: Unfortunately, it is true. I was 99% positive the 99k bid was false which is why I approached the buyer the second after the auction ended. They replied rather quickly stating it was an accidental bid (possibly from their two year old playing with their cell phone.) They were profusely apologetic, which I took into consideration, but in the end simply cost me time away from my family as I’ve been dealing with this ever since.

Have you had any luck with eBays “second chance offers” to the folks who were outbid, or will you try and post the auction again?

Stephen: As I eluded previously, I’ve spent countless hours on this after the auction closed trying to find an honorable individual. The problem with Second Chance Offers (SCOs) is it takes a minimum of one full day to hear a reply from the bidder. I think I sent out 4-5 SCOs with very little to no response. I’ll try to repost it at one point in time, but I’d like to set the terms. Set a very steep Buy It Now price with the option to accept best offers. I hope to encourage honest to goodness buyers and eliminate immaturity. I’ll have to hold off on this until eBay raises my selling limits because right now I’m capped at 20k per month and this recent auction shows that I’ve sold near 100k for the month even though I haven’t. Until eBay fixes it, I can’t relist it at a higher price than 20k.

Is eBay going to take any action against the fraudulent bidder?

Stephen: The only thing eBay does in situations such as these is to issue the bidder a Non-Paying Bidder strike that goes on their account record (behind the scenes.) If the account receives three strikes, eBay either suspends or bans the account. I don’t know which one exactly but that’s about the extend to what they’ll do. They consider themselves a facilitator of the auction, not the enforcer; unless you’re the buyer and the seller tries to do wrong by you. Buyer protection is their utmost concern. The problem is it’s at the Seller’s expense.

As a seasoned collector, are there other “Holly Grail” games you have in your collection?

Stephen: Maybe not Holy Greyl (there’s a joke there somewhere) worthy but quite rare. A number of prototype NES cartridges, test cartridges (Zelda included), NES carts from the company “Sachen”, with various others in the NES family. Virtual Lab & Space Invaders for Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. A few competition carts for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Various NEO GEO home cart system games. The Zelda and Mario games for the Phillips CD-I system.

How large would you say your collection is?

Stephen: Me being the nerd that I am, I have all my NES games in an Excel spreadsheet. Those carts alone total 846. They range from complete to cart only. Aside from that, we’re talking various games from Atari 2600, Atari Jaguar, Colecovision Odyssey2, Commodore64, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, NEO GEO Home System, NEO GEO CDz, Turbo Grafx 16, CD-i, 3DO, Virtual Boy, Neo Geo Pocket, Gameboy, GB Advance, Nintendo DS, 3DS, Sony PSP, Playstation 1, 2, 3, XBOX, X360, Gamecube, SNES, N64, Wii, and a few others I’m probably forgetting. Aside from that, I’ve got actual electronic display signs. (My prize among these is the neon tubed “Funcoland” sign, alongside the electronic wonder “World of Nintendo” display sign.

You’ve been collecting for over 25 years, but are now selling it off. Why have you decided to let your collection go?

Stephen: It’s been a long time coming. Whether they go to a well-known collector already, or I begin the venture of a collector-in-training for another generation, I’m just ready to hand off these items to those who will truly appreciate them. My priorities have shifted in recent years as I’ve been blessed with a wonderful wife (wed nearly six years ago) and two beautiful daughters (nearly four and one.) Spending time with them means far more to me than holding on to my past life. Time to go make others happy with what I have to offer.

--

Stephen has since re-posted the rare cartridge in a new auction. You can find this, and other rarities from his collection via his eBay sellers page.

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