Words to Watch Out For When Buying Arcade Games or Pinball Machines

I have learned through many years of posts, sales, people, auctions, and similar experiences that there are certain words and phrases that you need to watch out for when buying games, boards, etc.


The first one, and it is a biggie – UNTESTED.  Here is the truth: if dealing with a whole game, and it has an intact power cord, it is never “untested” – somebody tried to plug it in and power it on, guaranteed.  When dealing with intact games, presume “untested” means “I plugged it in, it did not work” – in other words, “broken.”

Now, sometimes “untested” really does mean untested.  For example, if someone just got a great bulk deal on a bunch of boards, and want to move them quickly, they may not want to go through the time and effort of testing each one.  For example, it is not worth building an adapter for a board that sells for $50 working when I can sell it for $30 untested – I would spend more than $20 of my time and materials building that adapter.

Things like power supplies may legitimately be untested because they might not want to risk damaging a board because of a bad power supply (not everyone has a rig to properly test supplies under load).  Same goes for controls, coin mechs, etc.  Might not be worth the time to connect and try out each one.

In general, just presume that Untested means the same as Broken.  That way, you are never disappointed.

Worked [time] ago when I put it into storage, on the shelf, etc.

This is another one.  “It worked 6 months ago when I put it into storage,” or “it last worked two years ago before I put it on the shelf.” Same as above – play it safe and consider that to mean untested or just broken.

It Just Needs This One Inexpensive Part…

This is another favorite of mine.  “It is broken and I am selling it for $100.  It just needs this one little inexpensive $30 part and then it will be worth $400, so this is a great deal!”


If you could make a $30 investment in a $100 item and quadruple its value, you would, right?  Well, so would the seller if they had any common sense.  So either the seller is an imbecile or is lying.  Which do you think it is?

OK, benefit of the doubt – it really only needs a $30 part.  But how hard is it to get that part?  And how hard is it to install?  The head gasket for a motor is inexpensive.  The labor required to tear the engine apart, scrape off the old gasket, clean the mating surfaces, install the new gasket, and put everything back together is another matter.

A Midway 8080 board like Space Invaders Deluxe may be missing its MB14241 chip.  Without it, moving characters are just blocks.  Cost of the chip?  Maybe less than $30.  But that chip is pretty damn hard to find!

One other thing – Never Repair Before You Buy

And never perform anything more than a cursory inspection.  If you find something that the seller did not notice, the sale price might go up.  Same for performing repairs – the price goes up if a non-working item suddenly becomes working.  Sometimes, the item is no longer for sale.

Now, that is not meant to imply that you should not do “the right thing” where appropriate.  For example, if someone is selling a mint Ms. Pac-Man that will not power on for $200, and you see the reason it is not powering on is because the rear door’s interlock switch is out of position…  well, I hope you make the honorable decision.