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Chicago: Selling arcade games and pinball machines

Welcome!

If you have landed on this page, it is likely that you have coin-op equipment – arcade games, pinball machines, jukeboxes or pool tables that you would like to sell. There are a couple of things to know, and I am more than happy to help you as you consider the best approach for your equipment.

Buy or sell arcade games in Chicagoland – What to know

As you are considering to sell your machine(s), think of your game using this simple model – CLAP or Condition, Location, Authenticity and Playable.

Condition

Condition of the machine is key. Your typical buyer will be looking at a couple of things, so review your game with a similar critical eye answering these questions.

  • Is the artwork faded, scratched or missing pieces?
  • How is the bottom of the cabinet? Has it seen any moisture? Are the edges ragged from being dragged around without levelers?
  • Is the cabinet solid? Has there ever been any impact that make it structurally deficient? Are there gouges in the wood?

For each game, the damage depends. Each piece of damage can knock down the price by $25-$50. Some games the extent of the damage will decrease value if the ability to replace parts or restore artwork is difficult.

Location

The location of the game has some bearing on whether you will be able to sell. When you call around to different shops, they will tag on a removal fee – which will cut into your price. Here are the questions to consider and what they mean.

  • Is the game in a basement? Is the game hard to get to, either packed away or in a location that will require multiple people to remove?
  • Will the game require special removal? Is it located in a downtown business district on a higher floor? Is it in a warehouse on a second floor?
  • How far away from the city are you? Is the game being stored remotely in a barn, house, or some other storage unit?

From a collectors perspective, the difficulty to acquire the game will impact the follow through. If you sell to individuals, there are a number of unsavory individuals who at worst – you will not want knowing where you live, to the other side – none of them will follow through and you will end up wasting your time coordinating with people to view / pickup the machines.

Authenticity

Authenticity means a couple of different things to a potential buyer for your arcade / pinball machines. Here are some questions to ask.

  • What do I know about the history of this game? Do I know how I got it?
  • Is this game original? Is the game a knockoff, or a “conversion” (not the original game that was in the case)?
  • Do I have a good story to tell about how I got this game?

Think about how you got the game originally. If you bought it at an auction, you may have less interest. On the flip side, if you bought the game in the 80’s direct, or from an arcade, that can help you command a higher sales price as the game will have switched hands fewer times. You will also want to investigate if the game is original or if it was a conversion. There is nothing worse than to think you have a game that will sell really well, to find out that this is the version that came in a kit that could be installed, instead of original from the factory.

Playable

This may seem like a simple one – Does the game work? Can you play it? However, just like the condition, the working state of the game will impact the price accordingly. Here are some questions / things to think about;

  • When I power the game on, does it play perfectly?
  • When I turn the arcade game on, do lights on the coin door, header, backglass, or anywhere else come on?
  • If I turn on the machine, does it make any sound? If I drop in a quarter or ‘coin up’ the game, can I hear it playing?
  • For arcade games, if I look in the back of the cabinet when the game is on, does the monitor tube glow? Can I hear the crackle of the tube as the game turns on?
  • If I power on my machine, can I hear anything on the inside? If you look on the inside, are there any leds on the boards that come on, or flash?

As you gather the answer to these questions, here are a few things to note.

If you can hear or see the monitor in an arcade game come on, but you have no picture, that is still ok. Monitors are old, and generally are fairly easy to fix. This means you will only have to decrease your selling price a little bit.

If the game does nothing when you turn it on, check the fuses in the back. This is a simple place to start. If you are getting lights on the game, that means the fuses are fine and part of the power supply works.

If you have an arcade machine, and the screen comes on but you have garbage, or a ‘rug pattern’ on the screen – that is not the best sign. It usually means the main gameboard needs repair, and that can be costly. This will eat into your selling price.

Conclusion – Selling your game / machine

Each seller will be different in the extent they want to investigate. I encourage each seller to research the game they have, and do some basic diagnostics. The more you get into researching, testing the game, and listing it the more time it will take. Selling some games can happen quickly, but others with the wrong place can take months or even a year to sell.

I can help you sell your game

If all of this information is overwhelming, I can help. You can contact me directly and I can help you with some basic troubleshooting, or point you in the direction of where to look.