A prototype Super Famicom sits in front of the ending of Super Mario World.

Image: Yahoo! / Nintendo / Kotaku

An original prototype of Nintendo’s Super Famicom, Japan’s (superior) version of the SNES, was up for auction with recent bids pushing the grey piece of gaming history north of $3.2 million. Then, earlier today, the auction was abruptly pulled offline, potentially over fraudulent bids.

The prototype for sale on Yahoo! Auctions Japan differed from the final system in few different ways. The most notable is a fire-engine red power button on the front instead of the dark grey one Nintendo eventually went with. The experimental version also had a headphone jack and a volume dial on the side, as well as an expansion port on the front instead of underneath the console.

The Super Famicom prototype is what people would have seen in magazines ahead of the console’s 1990 release. It was a window into the future as existing fans twiddled their thumbs on the NES before making the 16-bit jump to next-gen hits like Super Mario World. “I think this has extreme nostalgic appeal because we all spent so long staring at these prototypes and dreaming of a time we could finally buy this amazing new Nintendo,” Digital Eclipse editorial director Chris Kohler wrote on Twitter.

While the price started in the mere hundreds, it’s now jumped well beyond what anyone seemed to expect. “I’ve had my eye on this since it was around $800 and figured I’d be willing to pay up to like 10 grand for it,” tweeted localization specialist John Ricciardi. “It’s now over $640,000 lol.” Less than 24 hours later, the price only continued to spike, reaching over $3 million before the auction was suddenly pulled offline.

A screenshot shows the Super Famicom prototype on Yahoo! Auctions.

Screenshot: Yahoo! / Kotaku

Compare that potential price to the mythical Nintendo Play Station prototype from back when the Mario maker was working with Sony on a next-gen console with a disc drive. That piece of hardware never came to be as the two companies famously went their separate ways, and that window into an alternative gaming history went for just $360,000 a few years ago in 2020.

With an end date of May 12, the Super Famicom prototype auction still had a few days left to go. At this point it it’s unclear if and when the piece will be re-listed, and if it will actually end up being one of the most expensive gaming collectibles ever or not.

Update 5/8/2024 11:15 a.m. ET: Added information about the auction being pulled.

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