Original D&D game shatters records with $22k sale

An original copy of Dungeons & Dragons sold for a record $22,100 on eBay today, December 9th.

Woodgrain box Dungeons & Dragons original set Handwritten note from Bill HoytStudent handbookBack of note from Bill HoytHandbook written by 6th-grade class

The woodgrain “brown box” edition of D&D was the first commercially sold roleplaying game, released in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). The game, written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, was assembled in the basement of Don Kaye, Gary’s partner in TSR. Only 1,000 copies of the first woodgrain box set were printed, hand-assembled by the original TSR crew and friends, including, of course, Gary Gygax himself.

This particular woodgrain box created quite a stir when it appeared for sale, both for its impressive condition, and for the surprisingly unknown seller. With zero feedback on eBay, there was initial suspicion from some collectors, although it was quickly addressed when the seller herself showed up on The Acaeum, the central location for collectors of Dungeons & Dragons.

In her thread, she introduced herself, with the following explanation:

I know there is a lot of concern because this is a high-priced object, and, frankly, I had ZERO first-hand experience with eBay before i jumped right in and posted this item. So no, there is no feedback, no history, and it might well look like this is some kind of scam.

But it’s not. I acquired this game in 1974 as I described in the history note on the eBay listing. After that, my life did not take me in any direction that included games – I was a farmer, a writer, a Unitarian minister, a community organizer – there was a lot going on. I wasn’t much into possessions of any sort, so never even bought anything on eBay, and really didn’t think I had anything of value to sell.

I recently retired, and had some time to go through boxes that I hadn’t opened in years, There, perfectly preserved in a tightly-sealed plastic box, were a couple of games. The D&D was one of them.

I knew it was old, and probably original, so I asked Uncle Google and found The Acaeum. Yeah – I was surprised to see that a similar set had actually set a price record. So I decided to have a go at learning a new skill – how to sell on eBay. I figured out the basics, took some photos and put it up.

Once, long ago, I used to be the assistant editor of a magazine for coin collectors, so I knew there would be a community of collectors who would be interested in this game. I’m happy to have found The Acaeum and have the chance to tell this story. I hope it reassures those of you who felt uncomfortable bidding on this item. It really is in nice shape, and I think the new owner is going to be very happy. And I really am a real person, and an honest one, and if you win the auction I will send the game to you with lots of insurance on the package. No funny business.

After some discussion, she followed up:

Hi again, folks.

Thanks for standing up for me here. I’m grateful to The Acaeum for giving me a forum to clarify and explain things about this set.

This really is as it seems to be. This is a little treasure that I have somehow managed to keep with me and preserve through a long and eventful life that just didn’t include much gaming – I just never got into it much. Farming, kids, grad school, community organizing, some ministry work, urban agriculture – there was just never time.

The interior pages have no marks, no crayons, no highlighters. It was used only a couple of times and then packed away. There are no stains, the staples are not rusty, no icky smells. The little booklet that was created by the 6th grade Social Studies class is a little hard to read because of the xerox technology of 1974, but it’s really fun.

I never got into using eBay, although I have been a computer user since, actually, 1968 when my brother, who helped develop BASIC, got his teen-aged kid sister to test a self tutorial that he wrote as part of a post-doctorate at Dartmouth. But that’s another story.

I really don’t mind revealing a bit about my life to add to the interest and veracity here. I was a writer and assistant editor for a world coin collecting magazine back in the late 70s, so I know that part of the fun of collecting is the stories behind the pieces.

I do hope this set gets bought by a collector who will continue to preserve it, and maybe find a way to share it with others. And I’m kind of hoping the set stays in the United States – I’ve had an inquiry for more information from one collector in Spain. In fact, as a writer, I wouldn’t mind helping to write something to help preserve the lore of how this set came to be preserved and eventually sold. That could be a lot of fun.

I’m pretty amazed and delighted by the price. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

In addition to the well-preserved game itself, the hand-colored die and student booklet added a good story to the game’s provenance. Combined with media attention as the price began to edge closer to the previous price record (less than $10k, possibly in the $6–$7k range), the price for this box climbed over $10,000 with 24 hours remaining.

In the final minutes, the price crept up, first hitting $10,299 with less than five minutes to go… then topping $11,000 in the last fifteen seconds, and finally jumping to an amazing $22,100.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering? No, there was no free shipping.

No free shipping!

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