Museum of the Game ®

International Arcade Museum® — Killer List of Videogames®

FAQ / HELP: Videogame and Pinball Buying and Selling

Advice for New Buyers and Sellers


This FAQ/HELP page is intended to help Buyers and Sellers of coin-operated arcade games buy machines with knowledge in order to avoid as many problems as possible.


In short, sellers may ask any price they want for their merchandise and should not be criticized for their choices. It is each user’s responsibility to research the fair market price for an item. Pricing is a highly subjective matter affected by many factors and thus it would be practically impossible for forum moderators and the users of the system to all agree on when a price critique is not longer valid and becomes ‘thread poisoning.’ Additionally, differences in price are normal due to a variety of differences:


Condition - The cosmetic and mechanical condition of a machine is one of the most important factors in price. Mint conditioned machines will often sell at an exponentially higher price that one in a poor, ugly condition. Some aspects of condition can easily be seen in on-line photos (ie: a side art cabinet decal half missing). Some other damage, including light cigarette burns, mildrew, and general wear and tear might not be easily seen in a photo and only be realized when the machine arrives and the result is disappointment.

Here is some pricing guidelines on a random, imaginary machine as posted on our forums by one of our members, “modessitt”.

1) Bad-shape - doesn't work, has some cab damage, gutted/converted, etc. - $0-50
2) Good physical condition and complete but not working $25-100
3) Works, but not very pretty $100-200
4) Works and looks good, but nothing has been done to it in over 10 years. $200-400
5) Works, all internals have been rebuilt-as-new, but cab or artwork shows some wear. $300-600
6) Works, all internals have been rebuilt-as-new, all outside artwork and cab has been restored-as-new. $500-3000 (EDOT, SW cockpit, etc)
7) Still perfect as the day it came from the factory, home-use-only, and never played - just wiped with a diaper. $750-3000+

We’ve seen a few pinball machines from the 1990s sell for $6,000 to $10,000 each because they were popular titles and brand new in the box (NOS) when similar machines in great, restored shape would only bring $3000.

Eagerness of the Buyer - Personal passion about a machine, easy of finding a substitute, wealth of the buyer, and many other factors can effect the price of a machine, especially if a seller detects and understands these aspects of a buyer.

Eagerness of the Seller - some sellers are just testing the waters, or will only sell at item for a price greater than what the piece could easily be replaced for, or already had a few great sales recently. Some may have trouble paying their rent or want to put the money into something else and will be willing to sell a machine at an unusually large discount for a deal completed quickly.

Economy - Machines tend to bring lower prices in times of large job loss and economic downturn. Prices for most used machines in 2009 are less than they were in 2006. Lower and mid-priced machines tend to suffer the most in times of economic downturn while rare, unique, and the most highly desirable items may remain relatively unaffected.

Monitors – Monitor size, type (CRT or Plasma), and the number of monitors in the machine affect its price.

Nature of the Seller - Sellers and dealers often have higher prices, particularly in cases where a machine is sold by a hobbyist that simply wants the machine out of his or her life. Unlike Costco and Wal-Mart, arcade dealers typically have extremely high operating costs. In fact, Costco excels at turning over its inventory at and average of around 12 times per year, meaning it typically receives payment for its inventory before it even has to pay its suppliers. Many dealers of classic (used) arcade machines have inventory turns of once a year or less. If Costco receives some defective inventory, a manufacturer arranges for it to be picked up and replaced. Arcade dealers often option machines in need of repair or restoration, and often have machines that develop problems while sitting in inventory for a year or more. The arcade dealer has to fix these issues at his own cost. While a dealer may sell at machine at a heavy discount if the machine has been sitting around a long time, is hard to sell, and the dealer simply wants it gone, it is more likely that a machine might be priced at 50% to 300% more than a similar machine on eBay or Craigslist. A lot of what a customer is often getting for this premium is a working, restored machine that is cosmetically attractive, may include a warranty, is currently and easily obtainable (including to overseas buyers), and the likeliness of honest disclosure of its condition from the dealer which usually values its reputation. Additionally, the dealer often includes some hand-holding that experience collector/bargain hunters do not need (ie: “How do I take the machine in and out of free play mode”). The integrity, efficiency, and quality of work of dealers varies tremendously though, and is not necessarily any better (and can be worse) than that found in other users on these forums or elsewhere. Dealers can often be negotiated with, though please remember they are running a business, and probably a barely profitable one. You can always make them an offer, which they might accept or decline.

Nature of the Buyer -- Experienced collectors able to do simple (or complex) repairs themselves are much more likely to be highly price sensitive than non-collectors who just want a machine for the business or game room. Many of these experienced buyers buy only a minority of their purchases from dealers, as they are amply able to conduct due diligence on machines they find for sale and to repair any problems that arise. While experience collectors tend to be more price sensitive than retail buyers, so of course do dealers, who when buying have to think about their inventory costs and selling at a profit.

New or Preowned -- Naturally a new game will cost more than the same machine used.

Number of Simultaneous Players -- Sometimes the same is available in different configurations supporting different numbers of players. A good example is Rampart. An original machine supports three players and tends to be a lot more desirably than ones built with factory conversion kits which supported two players.

Regional Differences - An area’s cost of living and relative economic strength tend to affect prices of large arcade machines. Don’t expect the best deals in Los Angeles or Manhattan.

Supply vs. Demand - The scarcity of one item vs. another will effect its price if all other factors, including demand, stay constant. The scarcity of supply vs. demand is much more of an important factor than the scarcity of an item itself. Many scarce items have low values because no one wants them, while some relatively common items are very popular and thus their pricing holds up well.

Three D’s - Northing separates both commercial operators and collectors from their machines faster than the three ‘D’s -- death, divorce and disasters, the later including all sorts of disasters from floods to job loss and bankruptcy. Often in these situations machines will need to be sold quickly, and as such, will be liquidated at discount prices.

Type of Cabinet - Often the same machine is available in a standup standard upright version, a jumbo or sitdown (aka cockpit) version, or a cocktail table. A price for one cabinet format is not necessarily applicable to another format.

Warranty - Most machines are sold ‘as is’ or on a ‘working on arrival’ basis. Some dealers will offer a 90 day warranty on these machines, though the costs of remote service are not insignificant, and will often result in increase in price on the machine of several hundreds of dollars or more, particularly if the machine is a model known to have problems often, such as the videogame – pinball hybrid ‘Baby Pac-Man’.


Aging: Many classic machines, especially electronic ones (ie: videogames) are ten, twenty, or thirty years old. The may have capacitors on circuit board that are “drying up” or other problems slowly developing. If you buy a classic machine understand at some point it will likely need repair, regardless of how little or much you use it.

Auctions: Auctions are both a way to find fantastic bargains, as well as easy ways to buy yourself problems. Buying from eBay auctions subjects you to a number of risks, but the largest tends to be disappointment in condition--as mentioned before, machines often look better in pictures than in person. Buying from in-person auctions add a whole new selection of risks. In this case, sellers are anonymous, and often use these traditional auctions to get rid of their problems. We’ve seen pinball machines with missing playfield parts that were not obvious unless you were quite familiar with the machine. We’ve also seen a machine with a bad case of mildew. It stunk, but you couldn’t tell when it was in a large 20,000 square foot high-ceiling open warehouse, with hundreds of other machines, an auctioneer, and a few hundred bidders…

Bezel: The bezel (frame around the monitor) should not have any breaks or cracks, or the price of the machine should be discounted. The plexiglass above the bezel and the monitor should not have graffiti or damage to it either, or again, the machine should be priced accordingly.

Coins or Free Play: Some dealers have advertise that an advantage of buying a machine from them is that it can be delivered in either pay mode or free play. Many modern amusement machines can be easily switched back and forth by flipping some internal switches inside the machine. For those that can't, it is generally easy to add a credit button or wiring start buttons to add credits and start the game.

Controllers: Some controllers don’t work well when they get worn. Joysticks can get sluggish and not flip back to center. One or more may not work in all directions as leaf switches disintegrate, or may skip or work inconsistently. We’re been surprised how many times no problems were volunteered by a seller yet when we asked the simple question (“How are the controllers”), we would get an answer like (“one is great, the other sticks or drifts a little”).

Foreign Games: Some individual game units were intended for a foreign market. They might be set up for a different electrical system (though unlikely). More likely to be a problem is that it might have foreign (ie: Japanese) roms in them, causing the messages during game play to appear in the foreign language. We see these types of machines occasionally both on eBay and at physical auctions.

Insurance or Trackable Shipments: Sellers and Buyers should consider shipping in ways that are traceable and insurable. Buyers should note that insurance companies do not always pay out claims even when the seller has properly packed an item. Note that for many types of items many shippers may limit their liability to $500 or less, even if purchase insurance. Also note that UPS is known to deny claims for improper packaging but effective early 2008 they started guaranteeing packaging done by UPS Stores (before, even if you bought insurance, they might deny a claim packed by their own stores!). The International Arcade Museum and its officers have purposely insisted that some high value items shipped via UPS are packed by UPS Stores, and been glad we did when UPS has mistreated the packages (even though we insisted and paid for extra packaging damage occurred but at least the claims were honored.) When using UPS, FedEx, or DHL, tracking is almost always included. However, when using USPS (United States Postal Service), use delivery confirmation if tracking is not otherwise available. For shipments shipped without insurance, Sellers should consider spending the $.50 to add "delivery confirmation," as it may prevent a Buyer from labeling a Seller a scammer if the item is "lost in the mail.".

Intermittent Problems: Many machines may have intermittent problems, like freezing in the middle of a game or monitor jitters. When evaluating machines with these problems, keep in mind that the problem almost never go away by themselves, and usually eventually get worse or result in the complete breakdown of the machine. At which time, of course, be prepared to learn how to fix the machine or to pay someone to fix it for you.

Leg-levelers: Leg levelers (aka ‘feet’) on the bottom of machines are usually very inexpensive to replace, though some sellers won’t take the time or hassle to do so. With missing, bent, or damaged levelers, a machine is much more likely to scratch floors and rip carpet.

Lock-bar damage: Many pinball, videogame, and other arcade machines have had extra holes drilled in them to support a reinforced security bar around the cash box. Often when these machines are later sold, the ugly security bar is removed and the holes filed with painted bolts. While most of the time these “repairs” do not measurably affect the price of the machine, it is worth noting that a few collectors will not want to purchase such a machine, or will want to pay less for one.

Manuals: If a machine does not come with a manual, look up the game page for the machine on If a link to a manual is not available at the bottom of the page, consider searching or requesting that the seller include a manual with your purchase. A manual is useful not only for troubleshooting problems that might occur but also in setting difficulty and other game setting options.

Marquee: Does the marquee (top sign above the monitor displaying the game name) light up? If not, it probably should. Is the marquee peeling or flaking away? Sometimes marquees look ugly in person but look great in a small photo.

Monitor: Ask the seller if the monitor is in great shape. Does it have any burn-in? Burn-in might not be visible in a photo the seller provides, especially if that take a picture of the game during the same screen output as has burned in. Does the monitor flicker? Does it make noise? Is the color off? Is it bright? Has it been ‘re-capped’? Re-capping a monitor involves replacing some monitor parts, is acceptable repair and maintenance, and generally does not diminish the value of the monitor or the game.

Original Parts or Poor Replacements: Many games are available with replacement control panel overlays. While some people replace damaged overlays with original replacements, others replace them with good quality reproductions and others replace them with poor substitutes that look nothing like the original. Machines with poor substitutes will never bring top dollar and may be harder to sell at an ‘average’ price in the future.

Pictures: If you are purchasing a machine you can’t see in person, ask for extensive pictures, including from the front, the left side, the right side, a control panel close-up, and a screen closeup. Ask the seller to confirm that the pictures they sent you are of the actual machine they are selling. Some internet sellers have been known to advertise photos taken from Sometimes when a machine’s side art is in poor condition, a seller will peal off the side art and paint the machine black. In typical videogames this isn’t normal, and would suggest a lower machine value than normal. Note: Some times missing side art is a clue that a machine is a conversion, and not an original dedicated machine (and typically worth less).

Pinball Machines: Besides the standard factors about cabinet condition and functioning, pinball machines bring with the additional potential issues. Does its computer and displays work properly? If any of the displays show anything that looks weird, it’s a non-uncommon sign of a problem. Are any playfield parts missing? Have any been replaced incorrectly? Is there playfield wear that is unsightly and not easily repairable? Do all the pinball bumpers and flippers have ‘spirit’, or does they seem anemic? Bumpers or flippers in need of repair will result in a slow, boring game, and will possibly make it impossible for a ball to reach some areas of the playfield during normal play.

Price Comparisons: If you see a forum post or Craigslist listing in which a seller says something like “only $1000, these things are going for $1800 on eBay,” be very suspicious. Are many sellers really that stupid as to only ask $1000 for something they easily know they can get $1800 for?

Be equally suspicious of any wording like “now 40% off.” Arcade machines are not an efficiently traded commodity for a variety of reasons, including the fact that rarely are there two machines of the same model for sale at the same time in identical condition. As such, it is easy for sellers to post any ‘normal’ price they want. “40% off” could really mean “twice as much as its worth.”

This same advice applies just as well to jewelry purchasing as it does for arcade machines.

Do you own price comparisons. Do a Google Search for the machine you are interested in, search eBay (especially completed auctions), and search these forums. Ask an experienced friend for help if you can and need to.

Repair: Some sellers, usually dealers, will help you with future repairs on your purchase (for a fee). A few might even provide in-home service. Some are not able to help at all. If such service is important to you, ask before you buy.

Size: Most "upright" video games were designed to fit through most modern "standard" width
doorways (approx 32"). Some larger games and "sitdown" type driving video games
can also be fitted through standard doorways as they come in two sections. However, there
are a few larger games that cannot fit through a standard doorway. Some will only fit through a standard doorway if you disconnect the control panel first. If it doubt, check the game dimensions before purchasing, not when the machine shows up on your door step.

Value: Value is what YOU think it is. If someone wants twice as much for a machine than it has sold for before, but it only trades infrequently, only one or a few people have one available now, and you want one now, it’s OK to pay a retail or greater price. Alternatively you can wait, buy nothing, or buy something else. It’s your choice.

Water Damage: A water damaged machine rarely looks the same as one that is not water damaged, and may have other issues (ie: mold, mildew, or rusty components inside). Some dealers will rework or repair the machines (especially the bottoms) and will not volunteer such information. It never hurts to ask what cabinet repair (if any) has occurred.


While it usually isn’t critical to keep every one of these factors in mind when you purchase a classic arcade game, having a general understanding of these factors and potential issues, along with some basic due diligence, might help prevent some heart ache and aggravation and instead help you to have pleasant game room purchasing experiences.