Yes, that's right...$95,000.00!
That was the winning bid at the Gen Con So Cal Game Convention auction for an original shipping case (10 sealed display boxes) of the first Magic: The Gathering expansion: Arabian Nights.
A constant stream of visitors to the auction ogled the fantastic display in the showcase. Members of the auction staff were (unsuccessfully) prodded to reveal details regarding this amazing consignment. Did it belong to Peter Adkison, the owner of Gen Con and former CEO of Wizards of the Coast? How could a full case have survived the ten years of collectors' euphoria and playing this first ever (and very limited) printing of Magic? How many serious bidders were there and what were the prices being discussed? Is it true that Saddam Hussein was caught by triangulation of his cellular telephone as he was bidding on the case?
On Saturday night shortly after 9:30pm, after an amazing and poignant introduction of the consignment by Peter Adkison himself (in full costume!), the auction for the case of Arabian Nights "bricks" commenced. There were several proxy bidders who requested that their bids be removed because they wanted to bid in person. The proxy sign was in place onstage for one bidder who was not present. And there was a telephone bidder communicating with an auction staff member.
Lead auctioneer Frank Mentzer began the bidding at a mere $1,000, for which everyone in the room raised their bid cards. Then it got serious. Frank set the bid increments higher as the auction progressed. By the time the bidding reached $70,000, Frank had to admit that he had never seen numbers this high in all the years he has been auctioneering.
The proxy bidder sign onstage dropped after $90,000. The next increment brought the high bid to $95,000. There was a pregnant pause as confirmation was made with the telephone bidder. Yes! That bidder was still in! Once...twice...fair warning...SOLD! The room erupted in cheers!
Teri's note: I was taking video on my digital camera and got the entire bidding sequence. When Frank shouted "SOLD!", I turned the camera to pan the room and get a shot of the auction staff member talking to the telephone bidder. My camera ran out of memory right then. I turned my head back to the stage to see Frank's head down on the table; he was clearly overwhelmed (and I wish I could've gotten that photo)! And I later overheard someone say that Peter (sitting in the audience) had turned white with shock!
So indeed, the one absolute that got answered that night was $95,000.00 was paid by a telephone bidder for the extremely rare full case. Scrye magazine, a leading price guide for collectible card games, listed the value in their January 2004 issue as ranging from $67,500.00 to $87,500.00 based on the per-"sealed display" price.
Teri's note: The next day, we ran into Peter as the convention was winding down. He was still overwhelmed by the previous night's events, and let us in on a little tidbit. The $95,000 bid was more than what he paid for the entire Arabian Nights print run!
Here are some of the other top prices paid for items in the auction:
- $550.00 Set of 7 fossilized "Dinosaur Dice" in a lockable wooden display case by Crystal Caste.
- $220.00 "To the Aid of Falx" RPGA Module R1 in original shrink-wrap.
- $180.00 "Dune" RPG Hardbound Rules Set by Last Unicorn Games and autographed in person at the auction by the author, Owen Seyler.
- $165.00 "Talisman" boxed 2nd Ed. by Games Workshop.
With the success of the auction and the great venue chosen by Gen Con LLC, we are certain that next year's auction will be even bigger and better.
The Gen Con auction staff wishes to thank everyone who attended and made successful the inaugural auction at Gen Con So Cal this year. Special thanks go to Peter Adkison and the entire Gen Con LLC staff for their continued active support for the best game convention auctions anywhere.