Arcade Artwork: Getting committed buying collectors for your reproduction project

For all of the great arcade websites that exist for collectors to interact and collaborate, I have not come across many articles that I would consider a “primer” series stepping a potential future collector through the process of having arcade artwork reproduced. There are a lot of small nuances and skills that go into a run of reproduction artwork and we are going to try to cover all of the main points in this series.

Primer 1: Arcade Artwork – Getting committed buying collectors for your reproduction project

Here are the areas we are going to cover in this part of the primer;

This is the second part in a primer series to an article series that we are calling Arcade Artwork: From Screen to Screen. Keep following Rotheblog as we walk you through all of the pieces of having a piece of arcade artwork reproduced.

Did you read the other Arcade Reproduction articles?

No? Well you might want to check out the arcade artwork parts you missed.

Gathering interest for your project

Mappy Sideart Artwork
You research is done and now you have an answer, it appears as if repro Mappy sideart has never been produced. Now you need to get some interest in your project and hopefully get some level of commitment from those arcade collectors that will buy a set of artwork, if not prepay for a set. I have included an example image of the Mappy sideart if you aren’t familiar with what it looks like.

Arcade Reproduction Artwork is NOT cheap to produce

I want to include this important note right off the bat. Vinyl is expensive, and the screen printing process is time consuming, so good, quality artwork, no matter where you go, is expensive. Unless you live in China;) I don’t see a set of arcade game sideart usually sell for less than $65 (typically smaller pieces like Donkey Kong), and 90% of cabinet game artwork sells for $100-$200. So, just be ready to pay a sum that includes the artwork plus shipping in the $100 range. If you have set out to try to reproduce this artwork for less, you are foolish and haven’t done your research, and you will probably offend some people along the way when you ask them why it isn’t cheaper.

Ok, back from the sidebar. In your previous search, any collector who posted after 2005 claiming they wanted Mappy artwork could be potential buyers. Depending on how much work you want to take on, you could contact collectors who posted before then, but I would guess that some of the Mappy machines has changed hands since then. You have those links bookmarked, start a Word document and add usernames and email addresses to it.

When gathering up potentially interested collectors names, you are going to want to shoot for about 30 total names. Why 30? Well, you probably won’t run more than 20 sets of sideart (If you finance this project, expect to need anywhere from $1,000-$5,000 to produce all of the artwork up front for resale), and ThisOldGame probably won’t do a run of artwork under quantities of 10. With 30 names this gives you a good base that you will probably need to fill out further as the project morphs, and trust me, it will (unless you’ve done this before and in that case, why are you still reading:).

Of those 30 names, you may get 10 interested parties. Post in the Klov forums to see if any other collectors are interested, you may get another 8 or so there and between the other forums you might be able to get another 12. But make sure to post in all of them, BYOAC, Dragon’s Lair Fans, RGVAC and the Vector / Raster List.

Now you have your 30 potentially interested arcade collectors

If you get 30 initial commitments, which is a lofty goal, you may get 66% of those arcade collectors who will actually buy a set of Mappy sideart to restore their cabinets or save for an artwork collection. The other third will back out for one reason or another, and it will happen.

This is a sample forum post format that you might use to generate interest for your artwork;

Taking pre-orders on Mappy Sidart Artwork Reproductions
My name is (X), and I am trying to find out if any other collectors might be willing to help me make a Mappy artwork repro project possible. I have contacted ThisOldGame and they have agreed to do a limited run of 20 sets of Mappy sideart. So far I have stitched together scans of the artwork, sent them off to Jeff Rothe at Rotheblog to make vector artwork and separations, and the files are now waiting to be printed.

If you are interested in a set, please pm me. Sets of Mappy sideart will cost (X) + (X) for shipping. The artwork will be shipped rolled in cardboard tubes, and according to Rich the artwork could be finished printing as early as the third week of May.

Thanks a lot for your help.

Let’s break down why this format of a post to generate interest for any arcade artwork project is so important.

The Title – Rich with keywords for people searching now and in the future, using the term ‘pre-orders’ indicates that you aren’t a bush beater, that you are further along in the artwork reproduction process and this artwork will actually come to fruition. Some of the hesitation you get from collectors in commitment will be because they don’t believe you’ll actually follow through and they’ll lose their money.

The body text – You state what you have done so far with very specific information. You establish with the readers that you are on the ball, you have done your due dilligence, and you only need pre-orders to have the Mappy artwork actually made. Collectors will be more likely to send you pre-order money, or give a confirmation that they will buy a set if they feel like the artwork will actually be produced and not fall through the cracks like 90% of the projects started by collectors.

The cost details – Again, this shows that you aren’t wishy washy and have all your details lined up. You know the cost, you are letting them know how the artwork is shipped and an expected arrival. You might also make your pricing more simple and find out an approximate average rate that covers your cost and the shipping to anywhere nationally, and just say ‘Sets of Mappy sideart will be (X) shipped’. That way they know when to expect the artwork and hopefully, they can follow up with you if the sideart is delayed. Collectors are very patient because most are familiar with the tremendous work involved in reproductions, and they know that these projects are rare opportunities to get a piece of hard to get arcade artwork.

You may get a ton of collectors interested! Who knows?

Granted, these are conservative numbers. Darin Jacobs did runs of the Mappy control panel overlays and marquees, and I am sure he did more than 20, so you might find there is more demand than you think. But prepare yourself to be underwhelmed and that way, you won’t be surprised.

Getting Artwork if you don’t have it

This is tricky. When you first approach the reproduction shops there is an assumption that you have the arcade game for which you are making repro artwork, but this isn’t always the case.

In this case, if you have a Mappy with complete but imperfect sideart, or if it is 85% complete you should be ok to work from what you have. In the case of the Mappy sideart, the artwork is basically mirrored from one side to the other, so you may need to scan in pieces from one side to patch holes for the artwork that you might have on the other. It is possible, and we’ll get into scanning in one of the next articles.

Turn to the collecting community for artwork

If you don’t have scans, a NOS piece, or an original arcade cabinet with an almost complete piece of the artwork you are trying to reproduce, you need to turn to the community. Fortunately, we have a great community of collectors that like to share publicly what games are in the collection. There are two primary websites that catalog what arcade games collectors have;

  • VAPS – Video Arcade Preservation Society
  • GGDB – Great Game DataBase
VAPS ScreenshotGGDB Screenshot

VAPS is great, but is barely maintained beyond making sure that it is always online. It has been in an ‘upgrade’ stage, as the notice says on the homepage, for the duration of the time I have been collecting. GGDB is what VAPS should be, a nice design, great user interface and controls and regularly maintained. The main disadvantage of GGDB, is that you don’t get contact information for the collectors like you do on VAPS. (This is the one nice thing about VAPS, is that they protect collectors from Spam. Make sure to check the emails for the portion you need to remove to make the email valid) So, while you might find the name of a collector who has the game you seek on GGDB, but isn’t listed on VAPS (not likely), you won’t be able to drop them a line. You’ll have to use the major arcade resource websites to do general informational searches for their contact information.

How to use VAPS

You don’t need to sign up for VAPS to search the site, but you will need to sign up to get the email addresses, so go ahead and make an account. As best as I can tell, you can’t search the site by game, only by collector. Again, VAPS is a poor website with terrible search functions. No worries, here are the only two URL addresses you need;

  • Klov – http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=8617
  • VAPS – http://www.vaps.org/members/game_detail.php?klov_id=8617

The most important part you need is the ‘klov_id=8617’. You find the Klov ID by visiting klov.com, type in the name of the game you are looking for, and a results page will come up. Choose your appropriate result, and then look at the URL to view the KLOV ID. Highlight and copy that number.

Open a new tab or window in your browser, and enter in URL line the VAPS address line and change the number in ‘klov_id=8617’ to the number of the game you are looking for, or paste it in. This will return a list of collectors who have this game in some form, pcb, converted cabinets, or original dedicated arcade games.

Where are other instances of your chosen arcade game located?

Click through the names of the collectors, maybe a few, maybe each and every one. See if there are any collectors within an hour or a couple of hours from you that you could drive to their house. Chances are, you aren’t that lucky. If you are looking for a piece of arcade sideart that hasn’t been reproduced, that probably means the game isn’t hugely popular, and therefore that game may not be easy to come by. If you live in PA, CA, IL or MI, you might get lucky because of how many collectors and games are to be had, but otherwise, you would only be so lucky.

If you are like most of us, your chosen arcade game is a long ways away. Now what? Well, you have a couple of options;

  • Be patient – Try to buy a machine locally, get a piece of NOS artwork, or advertise in your paper to find someone within driving distance of you.
  • Buy a scanner and mail it to a collector – I have not done this to date. I haven’t explained scanning, and there are other considerations here. This option is precarious at best if you don’t know what you are doing. If you do have some graphics skills and knowledge, try this option if you feel confident the recipient is on the ball and will follow through.
  • Work from photos – I hesitate to mention this option here. But, with someone who understands vanishing points, you can almost get straight up photographs, but the details in the photos of the artwork will always be skewed. Fortunately, Photoshop has great non uniform scale, distorting and warping tools to form and straighten that piece of artwork out. You would have to put a disclaimer to all potential buyers of your artwork that you worked from photos and not from flat scans. Demonstrations of the transform tool in Photoshop is also out of the scope of this article but may be touched upon later.
What would I do?

Personally, if this was me reproducing this sideart, this example of Mappy sideart, I would plug back into my network. You need to find one of three types of collector;

  • Find a technically inclined collector – Someone who can do scanning of their machine for you.
  • Suck up the costs – Artwork isn’t cheap (in time and money). Make plans to drive 4-5 hours one way to do the scanning and digital stitching of the artwork yourself.
  • Find a passionate / experienced collector – Someone who has an NOS piece of artwork that you are looking for stashed away somewhere.

If you haven’t done any networking with other collectors so far, you are missing out on one of the best ways to get the games you want. But, everyone has to start somewhere. So, let’s get started via email.

Put your typing and email skills to use

Open up your email of choice. Hopefully it is gmail. Aaaaand, soapbox scene.

Here is a form letter email that I would suggest trying. This is what I have sent out to other arcade game collectors and have had good success. A lot of the principals that you would use in networking to find a job are used here. If you have never done this, whoooooo, you are a newbie. But stick with it, this should help.

(Name of collector),

My name is (Your Name) and I got your name through (Another collector) in (City, State). He is a really great guy, I met him in (when you met) when I was visiting my sister in law, and has been a great source of information. I am new to collecting so I don’t know much and was appreciative of how helpful he was.

Currently I am trying to have some reproduction sideart made for Bally’s Mappy and I saw photos of the one you have. Would you be willing to work with me, using your machine, to get this artwork reproduced? Your machine is quite impressive and looks barely used. To date, I haven’t been able to find any high resolution images on local arcade, and the topics I can find in Klov and RGVAC indicate that this Mappy sideart has never been produced. I hope I don’t offend you if I might ask for a favor. I saw in the photo that the game is tucked away tightly, so if getting at it and working with the artwork is not possible I understand. I know this is a lot to ask, and I would be open to offering you some form of compensation for your time, which is always precious.

Either way, I wanted to introduce myself. I appreciate you taking the time to read this email, and I hope that I may be of some assistance to you even if we can’t work together on this reproduction project.

Thanks (collector name).


(Your Name)

This is the exact letter I sent to Richard Ford to introduce myself, and now he is a good contact of mine. I am thorough, and maybe even a little long winded in my emails, but I have a purpose for each piece in this email, so let’s break it down.

The introduction – Networking is all about the trust of the person you are being referred from. If you mention another collector’s name who knows this new collector, that arcade collector you are contacting goes “Hey, (X) is a great guy, so if they know each other, this new guy can’t be too bad.” Bingo, one foot in the door to at least read the rest of the email. So hit this right off the bat. Describing how you met shows that you aren’t all about business, but that you can be a conversationalist, which is appealing to most people. Plus, the last line adds in that you are humble. You are in the position where you are asking for a favor, you don’t want to come across pompus. This collector doesn’t have to help you at all. You may not be new, but you still need to come across as humble and accommodating.

The Body – Get to the point now that he’s read the intro. Tell him/her what you are after exactly. Tell then what arcade machine artwork you’re interested in and how they can help. They’ll know by now whether they are at all interested. Explain what you have done in your efforts to this point so you don’t look lazy and fit the cliche of a ‘fly by night’ person. Again, have some humbleness and give some appreciation for their pride – their games. Every collector that I have met loves to talk about their games, how they got them, or some memory associated with them. Give them some appreciation, and leave yourself a way out. You aren’t demanding they help, you are acknowleding their time is important and that you need their help on a time consuming project.

The Signoff – Thank them, and offer them something for free so you aren’t asking for a favor with nothing in return for them. Kind of like putting coins into the piggy bank, you are making a deposit in someone. You have to give first before you can make a withdrawal.

Use a collector contacting strategy that works for you

That is my tactic. It is time consuming, and it isn’t easy. But I have a great network, and it is always growing. There is a lot to say about likability (Check out ‘The Like-ability Factor’, a NY Times best seller), and knowing how to be accommodating to people’s interests. I used similar concepts in job hunting and have never been out of a job for more than two months.

Wash and Repeat. You may need to send out as many as 15 emails before you get someone willing to help you. Keep going until you do but be a leader, a catalyst. If you can’t get scans or make serious progress with one person in a month’s time, try to find another collector who is willing to help.

Being rude will stop your reproduction in it’s tracks

This strategy may not be your personality, I can think of a couple of collectors I know of who would die before they would type an email like this. I’m just telling you what has worked for me. Some people call it ass-kissing and that is why they despise this method. However, I do believe there is a difference between this email and ass-kissing. Kissing up is fake, and people can spot that a mile away. Do not lie, and don’t say something you don’t mean. But give compliments out like you are a person that has so much money you don’t know what to do with it and are giving it to Pee Pants the Hobo Clown on the street corner. But, I whole heartedly believe you have a better chance of getting a reply to an email and some help with your project to you would with an email like this;

hi, i wuld like to have (X) peece of artwork made i clicked on a link on your wbpage but your site dose n’t work i wuld appreciate a timely response from you – thanks

What this message might say to other collectors

This is a couple of actual emails combined that I have gotten. Now, I responded, because of the type of guy I am. I believe in networks, that you can learn at least one thing from just about everyone, and I believe email is a terrible means of communication because tone is completely lost.

But, it is a terrible first impression, and needless to say I don’t feel obligated to go out of my way for this ‘Jed Clampett’ person I have never met. They can’t spell which makes them look un-educated, they took probably 10 seconds to type this email which says they are an unfocused type of person and even if I spend my time to give them a quote I’ll probably never hear back. They didn’t format their email with spaces, periods, or anything that would make their email easy for me to read. Then they told me, essentially, that I am bad at maintaining my website and that I have to response to them.

Bull. My guess is that this person isn’t very successful in life, and certainly does not deserve a response beyond my automated message. They’re lucky I’m a friendly guy.

Wrapping up the arcade artwork gathering tips

But, you don’t know how to use a scanner you say. You don’t yet know what the proper settings are, the file formats, and even how to use Photoshop to put it altogether. Well, good thing we’re here. We’re going to put you on the right path.

Here are some similar arcade posts

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