Last Updated: 1 March 1993

                       INTENT AND DISCLAIMERS:

                          Copyright 1993

The authors hereby grant permission to reproduce and distribute 
this document for personal use, subject to the condition that 
the document (along with any copyright and disclaimer notices) 
is not modified in any way.

The opinions expressed within this document are those of the 
authors only and not necessarily those of their respective 

This FAQ was created to assist beginning and established 
collectors by providing useful information about dealing with 
the current owners of video games. Because this hobby can 
involve deals that can be in the $1000s, the reader is advised 
to use the following information carefully.

This FAQ is provided for informational purposes only. Although 
the authors have made every effort to provide accurate 
information, they cannot guarantee the accuracy or usefulness of 
any of the information contained herein due to the complexity of 
the issues involved.

The authors take no responsibility for anything arising as a 
result of anyone using the information provided in this FAQ, and 
the reader hereby absolves the authors of any and all liability 
arising from any activities resulting from the use of any 
information contained herein.

If you're new to collecting, we advise you to read the "Buying 
From an Operator" FAQ before proceeding; it explains in detail 
many of the jargon terms you'll encounter in this FAQ.

Q:  What goes on at an auction?

A:  An auction consists of two parts: a preview period and a 
    bidding period.

    During the preview period, all the items are available for 
    inspection. This is to allow the buyers to inspect the 
    merchandise and decide for themselves what they're willing 
    to pay for it. In the case of video game auctions, this 
    usually means that you will be allowed to power up the 
    various games and play-test anything of interest.

    During the bidding period, the auctioneer will offer each 
    game up for sale and accept bids on it. The auctioneer will 
    first power up the game to show that it is indeed 
    operational and is worth bidding on.

    The auctioneer (and/or the company who employs the 
    auctioneer) gets a percentage of all proceeds. Sometimes 
    this percentage is included in the winning bid or gets paid 
    by the seller of the game, but sometimes it is added onto 
    the "hammer price", and the buyer is responsible for paying. 
    Ask  the people running the auction before the bidding 
    starts and keep the answer in mind when bidding...

    Then the fun begins. The auctioneer asks for a starting 
    price (an "opening bid"). If nobody accepts this bid, he 
    will lower the opening bid until someone accepts his offer. 
    He will then slowly raise the price as other customers show 
    interest in the item. As the price rises past the personal
    limits of the various bidders, the bidders stop bidding. The 
    last person to make a bid (i.e. the one willing to pay the 
    most for the item in question) "wins" the bid and gets the 
    item. Bidding then proceeds to the next item.

Q:  Sounds like fun. How do I find out where an auction is being 

A:  You can find out about auctions by looking in the Yellow 
    Pages under "Amusement Machines" and asking the people at 
    the other end of the lines if there are any upcoming 
    auctions in your area.

    You can also find out about auctions by looking in Replay 
    magazine (the trade journal for operators). You can order a 
    single copy of Replay by sending $5.00 to Replay Magazine, 
    PO BOX 2550, Woodland Hills, CA, 91365.

Q:  Okay, I've found an auction. What should I bring with me?

A:  The most important item to bring is an extension cord. 
    Preferably 100' or more, with multiple plugs. A good 
    solution is a self-dispensing spool of cord with four 
    outlets in the center. It's lightweight, compact, portable,
    and helps to prevent tangled cords. There will likely be 
    over a hundred games available, and very few of them will be 
    in reach of the cords dangling from the warehouse ceiling. 
    The warehouse will supply the power, but it's up to you to 
    get the power to the machine you want.

    Many auctions are held in rented buildings that don't have 
    any dangling cords -- sometimes they won't even have outlets 
    available. At these auctions, the only chance you have to 
    see if a game works is when the people running the auction 
    power it up just before sale.

    The second most important thing to bring is a flashlight. 
    This will enable you to examine the games for signs of water 
    damage, rough handling, pirated boards, poorly-performed 
    conversions, banged-up control panels, and so on.  Most 
    warehouses are poorly lit, so a small flashlight can be 
    invaluable when determining the condition of a machine.

    The third most important thing to bring is cash. At most 
    auctions, there will be a "bidding deposit" (usually around 
    $200 or so) which you must have in order to get a bidder 
    number. This is only a deposit, so rest assured you'll get 
    it back at the end of the auction, even if you don't buy
    anything. If you do buy something, the deposit will be 
    credited toward your purchase. Some auctions will permit the 
    use of credit cards, provided you pay a surcharge of around 
    5% for the privilege. As this is by no means guaranteed at 
    any given, cash is still the preferred way to go.

    You should also bring some food. Depending on the number of 
    lots offered, the bidding can take quite a while - sometimes 
    several hours. Make sure you're equipped to spend a long 
    time standing in a crowded warehouse...

    Bring a pen and paper. Usually there'll be a piece of paper 
    listing all the lots for sale, but you'll want space to 
    write down phone numbers of people you meet, descriptions 
    and notes about some of the games you're interested in, and 
    the winning bid for each game.

    Writing down the winning bid isn't just for your benefit, 
    it's for our benefit too. Trust us, if you go to an auction, 
    the r.g.v.a. readership would *love* to hear about it, and 
    they'd also love to see a listing of winning bids. It'll 
    help all of us keep an eye on the state of the market across 
    the country.

    Above all else, make sure you've got appropriate 
    transportation. See the next question for more details.

Q:  What was that about transportation?

A:  Okay, remember in that last question when we said that the 
    most important item to bring was an extension cord?

    We lied-- The *MOST* important thing is transportation.

    Transportation determines *EVERYTHING* about how you deal 
    with an auction.  The more space you have, the more you can 
    buy. If you can swing it, always try to have more space than 
    you need.

    When the auction is over, everybody who has bought something 
    has a fixed amount of time to get their stuff off the 
    premises (sometimes they have a day, other times they have 
    to get it off by the end of the auction or a few hours after 
    the end of the auction).

    The closer you are to the auction, the better. The question 
    of whether or not you are "close" to the auction can be 
    rephrased as "Do you have enough time between when you buy 
    your last machine and when you have to remove it from the 
    premises to go home and pick up a trailer to drag the stuff 

    The advantage of being "close" is that you can get a trailer 
    of the appropriate size for your purchase, and if you 
    haven't bought anything, then you save yourself the rental 
    charges and the time for the extra trip. If you're at an 
    auction several hours away from home, however, you'll have
    to rent the trailer in advance, and you'll only be able to 
    buy games for which you have space.

    By and far, a trailer is the cheapest form of transportation, 
    although pickup trucks and vans will do if you're just 
    starting out and don't plan to buy much. A trailer costs 
    roughly $20 to rent and $300 to buy, and is probably the 
    most valuable item a video game collector can own.

    Whatever mode of transportation you're using, make very sure 
    that your games are well-secured. Video games are extremely 
    heavy creatures, and the last thing you want is 200 pounds 
    of extra wood, glass, and metal plowing its way through the 
    windshield (passing through the back of your head en route) 
    should you have to slam on the brakes. Also remember that 
    the extra mass of the games can affect the handling of your 
    vehicle; if you're driving in winter weather conditions, be 
    extremely careful on sharp turns and allow extra distance 
    when stopping.

Q:  Why is everything sold "as-is"?

A:  The main reason auctions are held is to get rid of older 
    equipment. If the equipment doesn't work, the operator who 
    originally sold the equipment doesn't want to have to deal 
    with it again - EVER!

    On the other hand, most of the games at an auction will 
    work, and because of the preview period, you'll probably 
    have an opportunity to examine the games beforehand to 
    determine any repairs that need to be made.

    This is why the preview period exists. You wouldn't want to 
    buy something and bring it home, only to find that it's a 
    gutted hulk with the wrong parts in it. Use the preview 
    period to your advantage; that's what it's there for.

    Even if there is no preview period, most games will be 
    powered up at least once before the bidding (by the 
    auctioneer's people) in order to demonstrate that there's 
    something worth buying in the cabinet.

Q:  I'm only after parts. Should I go?

A:  Probably not, although you may meet with other collectors 
    who may prove to be valuable contacts in the future.

    Auctions rarely have boards, monitors or control panels for 
    sale. These are usually obtained through other channels 
    such as operators, parts houses and other collectors.

    The "everything must work" principle combines with the 
    "as-is" principle to explain why boards and monitors are 
    rarely found at auctions. With the exception of JAMMA-based 
    boards (which are very easy to test in any JAMMA-compatible 
    cabinet), it is extremely time-consuming to test a wide 
    variety of boards. Since an auction is an attempt to sell a 
    large quantity of merchandise in a short period of time, it 
    follows that boards and monitors will not be found at 
    auctions. The returns simply do not justify the time it 
    would take to auction them off.

Q:  When should I arrive at the auction?

A:  This depends on your strategy.

    If you're looking for a specific machine (like most 
    beginning collectors), it pays to arrive early and 
    completely go over the machine(s) that you will be bidding 
    on. If the specific machine you want isn't there, then you 
    can go home with only an hour or two of the day wasted. If 
    the specific machine *IS* there, then you power it up and 
    make sure that you really want it. If there are multiples of 
    the machine you want, you have time to play all of them. 
    Decide for yourself what condition the machines are in and 
    what you'd be willing to pay for each of them.

    Generally, if there are multiple instances of a given 
    machine and the price is important to you, the second or 
    third machine from the last will be the cheapest.

    If you're looking to buy a lot of machines at a really good 
    price, arrive late. By arriving late, you ensure that the 
    crowd has thinned a bit (you have less competition and the 
    prices are lower). Usually the oldest games are left for 
    last, so by arriving late, collectors of older games can 
    avoid having to wait around until the newer (higher-priced) 
    games are sold.

    Also, by the end of the auction, the auctioneer is tired and 
    won't be trying to squeeze every last penny out of the 
    crowd. Simply put, the cheap, old games that will sell for 
    less are most likely to be found at the end of an auction. 
    If you're on a budget (or just like old games), why go early?

Q:  What kinds of games are generally available at auctions?

A:  There will be at most a handful of recent games (i.e. less 
    than two years old) because the newer games are still making 
    money hand-over-fist for their operators, and the operators 
    will be loathe to auction off their best money-makers. There 
    will be a few older games (pre-1985), but as most of these 
    have already worked their way through multiple conversions, 
    so don't expect to find them every time.

    As of this writing (early 1993), you can expect to find the 
    following distribution of games:

    - New games (post-1990) ----------- 5% 
    - Middle-aged games (1985-1990) --- 75% 
    - Old games (pre-1985) ------------ 20%

    Of the "old games", only half of them can usually be 
    considered "classics", so don't be surprised if you go to an 
    auction and find yourself interested in only three or four 

    The reason for this distribution is that games from the 1985-
    1990 era can still make money in arcades, but they're far 
    enough past their prime that their original owners are now 
    looking to free up space for newer and better moneymakers.

Q:  What factors determine the price of games at an auction?

A:  The price of a given game is determined by the type of 
    people bidding on the game as well as the rarity of the game 
    in question.

    If the crowd at the auction is composed largely of big 
    operators who don't think they can make money from your 
    favorite game, then the price will be lower than the 

    If the crowd is composed of home consumers -- people who 
    love the game and don't know its real value -- then the 
    price may go upwards of twice the game's market value.

    If the crowd is composed of people who know the value of 
    your favourite game (i.e. medium-sized operators and 
    serious collectors), then you'll see your game going at 
    market value.

    The more rare the game in question is, the higher a price it 
    will demand. Expect especially high prices for old, rare 
    games at auctions where the proportion of home consumers and 
    beginning collectors is high. Expect astoundingly cheap 
    prices for old, common games at auctions with a high 
    proportion of distributors in the crowd -- you may be the 
    only person present who doesn't already own the game!

Q:  How rare is my favorite game?

A:  Here are a few rules of thumb that you can use to determine 
    whether or not your favorite game is rare:

    - If several instances of your game are at an auction, 
      chances are it isn't very rare.

    - If your game had a huge production run, it probably isn't 

    - The older your game is, the more rare it is likely to be. 
      Anything from the early 1980s, for instance, is likely to 
      be quite rare.

      For example, if you're interested in black-and-white 
      vector games, the following paragraph may illustrate what 
      we're getting at.

      On one hand, the games haven't been in arcades for a long 
      time and are practically worthless to operators, so 
      they'll tend to be rare. On the other hand, Asteroids had 
      a huge production run, and there are still a lot of games 
      out there. If you see an Asteroids machine at an auction, 
      you'd know not to bid very high because the game is 
      relatively common. It'll show up at another auction 
      sometime soon. (the authors of this FAQ, for instance, 
      have seen dozens of these machines in warehouses across 
      the country). On the third hand, Asteroids Deluxe had a 
      fairly small production run and was never as popular as 
      the original game, so you should probably take advantage 
      of the opportunity to buy as soon as it arises.

Q:  I'm in a fierce battle for my favourite game, and the prices 
    are getting pretty steep! HELP!

A:  Bidding wars are bad news.

    Remember, if you need a rationalization to avoid bidding on 
    a given game, or you want to console yourself after losing a 
    bid, remember that there are other auctions, any one of 
    which might also have your game in it. Moreover, you still 
    have your money, so you can now bid on something else in the

Q:  Why are the prices so cheap?

A:  The reason that the prices are so cheap for "old" games is 
    that the operators can't make any money on them. This is why 
    (provided you're at an "honest" auction) the prices are by 
    far the cheapest you'll see as a beginning collector or as a 
    person who wants a specific machine.

    We highly recommend this as a way to pick up your first 

Q:  Anything else I should know?

A:  If you've never been to one, go to one and sit through the 
    whole thing.  It's good experience, and you don't have to 
    buy anything.

    For the most part everything works and will work when you 
    get it home, but there are no guarantees. Everything is sold 
    "as-is", and all sales are final. This is why it is 
    important to play-test anything you intend to buy, if at all 

    If a game won't power up, it will be sold at the end of the 
    auction as "broken" (or "was working an hour ago") and will 
    go for next to nothing.

    Prices will vary from region to region, and even within 
    regions depending on the auctioneer. For the most part, 
    however, "old" games will sell for between $50 and $250, 
    depending on its age, condition, the number of instances of 
    the game present, and whether or not it was sold at the 
    start or end of the auction.

    Living in California seems to add about $50-$100 to the 
    prices, and some people report that "classic" games are 
    often harder to find in the California area.

    Cocktail tables will add $100 to the price of the machine, 
    since so many people in the crowd can easily take home a 
    cocktail table.

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