Path: spies!sgiblab!!pacific.mps.!linac!att!cbnewse!ofoz
From: (steven.s.ozdemir)
Subject: Frequently Asked Questions about Buying Games from 
an Operator
Organization: AT&T
Distribution: na
Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1993 14:42:43 GMT
Message-ID: <>
Keywords: basics to buying video games
Lines: 833


The principal authors of this FAQ were Doug Jefferys 
( and Steve Ozdemir (  
Although we did most of the writing work ourselves, we couldn't 
have produced this FAQ without the help of our loyal reviewers, 
a few of whom include:

Hedley Rainnie (
Steve Phillips (
Jeff Turner (

If we missed any names in that list (and we probably did), let 
either Steve or myself know and we'll put you on the list in the 
next revision.

We'd also like to take a moment to thank those of you who helped 
us out but wished to remain anonymous.  Your contributions to 
this FAQ were highly valuable to us and will no doubt prove just 
as valuable to the readership out there...

To our readers:  if you liked this FAQ and found it useful, we'd 
love to hear about it.  While you are reading feel free to hit 
"r" and send us a short note saying if you liked what was in the 
FAQ and want to see more FAQs like this.  Your comments will 
help us to improve the FAQ and probably sow the seeds for the 
creation of more useful goodies in the future.

Finally, this FAQ was created by volunteers.  While we've done 
the best that we can to ensure accuracy, some of the information 
in this FAQ may not apply equally well to all geographic regions.  
As with anything on the net, your mileage may vary...

---------------------------cut here-----------------------------

Last Updated:   1 March 1993


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 making deals 
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.

This FAQ is divided into six sections:

SECTION ONE:    Where did all the games go?
SECTION TWO:    Who's who?
SECTION THREE:  Know your operator
SECTION FOUR:   Strategies for dealing with operators
SECTION FIVE:   Wheeling and Dealing
SECTION SIX:    Miscellaneous questions

SECTION ONE:  Where did all the games go?

Q:  Why can't I find my favorite game anymore?

A:  Simple.  Your favourite video game doesn't make the operator 
    enough money to justify the floor space it takes up.  
    Perhaps you should have put more quarters in it when you had 
    the chance.

    Sometimes games are retired due to high repair and 
    maintenance costs regardless of their popularity.  For 
    example, Missile Command's large trackball was known to have 
    problems with pins wearing down, and the HV flyback 
    transformer in Tempest's color vector monitor was notorious
    for its high failure rate.

    Regardless of the reason for its retirement, if you want to 
    play, it'll be up to you to find your game and buy it.  
    Making this process simpler and easier for you was why we 
    wrote this FAQ.

Q:  So why couldn't I buy it when it was in the arcade?

A:  If you're playing a game on the street, the game is still 
    making money for the operator.  We'll get into "how much 
    money" in the next question, but keep in mind that unless 
    you offer the operator at least three times the game's 
    monthly earnings, he won't even consider selling it to you.

Q:  What happened to my favorite game while it was at the 
    arcade, and where did it go when it left?

A:  Here's a rough sketch, based on the authors' experiences, of 
    what the first few years of a game's life is like.

    An operator makes money by buying video games for 
    $2500-$3000 and running them for several months.  Note that 
    there are exceptions:  "Hard Drivin'" machines, for 
    instance, can cost upwards of $10,000 and will be "run" for 

    After the first week of operation, the operator will 
    probably have $200-$400 inside.  If a game costs $3200 and 
    the operator gets $200/wk, it takes the operator 16 weeks to 
    make back his original investment. Anything that comes in 
    after that is pure profit.

    Unless you can offer the operator more than he will make 
    from a machine over the next three months or so, you can 
    forget it.  This is why you never hear of anybody buying new 
    machines from an operator.

    After the operator has been running the game for about 18 
    months or so, the game becomes "old".  It doesn't earn much, 
    perhaps only $20-$50/wk or so.  Since the operator has 
    limited space in the arcade, the game will be replaced with 
    a new game when an opportunity arises.  The new game takes 
    up no more space than the old one, but it earns more MONEY.

    Since the operator doesn't know what to do with the old 
    game, it usually gets dragged downstairs or thrown into a 
    warehouse, where it sits unused for several years, waiting 
    to be sold, converted, "parted out", or even taken off to 
    the dump!

Q:  Okay, so it wound up in a warehouse.  What happened to it 

A:  The game sat there for some time, waiting to be sold, 
    converted, parted out, or dumped.

    Conversion is the process of turning one game into another.  
    Ever wonder why you keep seeing the cabinets for some of 
    your old favorites with the "wrong game" inside 'em?  
    Conversions are the reason.

    The more specialized the parts for a game are, the less 
    likely they are to be converted.  The control panel for 
    "Stargate", for instance, has zero conversion value.  (For 
    those of you who've never seen one, it's unique in the video 
    world, containing a two-directional joystick and six buttons 
    -- IN ADDITION to the one- and two-player start buttons.  
    Moreover, all seven controls were intended to be operated by 
    one at a time...)  Games with such proprietary hardware 
    schemes such as this are likely to sit more or less intact 
    until sold or dumped.

    At the other end of the scale are JAMMA-based games, in 
    which only the game logic needs to be changed; the controls 
    and other hardware are completely interchangeable.  These 
    games are almost always converted quickly and re-introduced 
    to circulation.

    The longer a game sits in a warehouse, the more likely it is 
    that parts of it will disappear, either for use in repairs 
    ("parting out") or for use in other conversions.  As the 
    game's earning potential approaches zero, or as a lot of its 
    parts disappear, it'll eventually wind up in the dumpster.

    Not all of this news is bad news, though.  When a game gets 
    converted, for instance, its boards are often left over 
    afterwards.  This is why warehouses can be a good source for 
    boards as well as complete games.

    We'll get into the risks and rewards of buying boards later 
    on in the FAQ.  For now, let's stick to the sale of complete 

    The sale of a game can take two forms:

    The games are sometimes taken to auctions and sold to the 
    general public.  The "general public" includes other 
    operators (who might have fewer games in their arcades and 
    still want the game), or collectors (who often attend 
    auctions and buy games there).  See the Auctions FAQ for 

    The games can also be sold to collectors who manage to get 
    into the warehouse.  Getting you into that warehouse, and 
    informing you on what to do when you get there, is the goal 
    of this FAQ - How to Buy from an Operator.

    If the game is not sold and the warehouse is full, the 
    operator will, without a moment's hesitation, throw the old 
    game into the dumpster in order to make room for newer 

    Again, the MONEY principle is at work.  Newer retirees are 
    more likely to command a higher price (more MONEY) when 
    sold, and the operator doesn't want to spend MONEY on 
    buying more warehouse space.  You will hear more about the 
    MONEY principle later.

SECTION TWO:  Who's who?

Q:  Who are distributors?  What do they do?

A:  Distributors sell new (occasionally used) games from 
    manufacturers to operators.  Some distributors also perform 
    repair, reconditioning, and conversion work for operators.

Q:  Who are operators?  What do they do?

A:  Anyone who owns a video game and makes money off it is an 
    operator.  The guy who runs your local arcade is an 
    operator.  The owner of the company which puts games at 
    "locations" such as your corner store is also an operator.  
    Even the people who run "Starcade" at Disneyland are 
    operators.  Operators operate their games at locations to 
    make MONEY.

Q:  Now that I know the difference between operators and 
    distributors, where should I go to buy my games?

A:  Keep in mind that operators consider collectors as small 
    potatoes.  They consequently dislike dealing with 
    collectors, and tend to avoid it wherever possible.

    If an operator is unwilling to deal with you because he 
    considers you to be small potatoes, the distributor (who 
    often considers some *OPERATORS* to be small potatoes) is 
    going to be even less amenable to dealing.

    It is possible to deal with a distributor, but it's *rare*, 
    and since the techniques used for dealing with operators and 
    distributors are roughly the same, the remainder of this FAQ 
    will concern itself with dealing with operators.

Q:  Who are the collectors?  (Okay, we are... so what do *WE* 

A:  The short answer is -- *WE* are!  What we do should be 
    obvious -- we collect video games.  Different collectors 
    tend to have different objectives.  There are three general 
    classes of collectors out there, and they are as follows:

    -  Beginning collectors who own one or two games and are 
       looking to expand.  This category also includes the 
       people who have yet to start their collections.  Although 
       we discuss auctions in a separate FAQ, we highly 
       recommend them as a way to get started in the hobby; even
       if you don't buy anything at an auction, you'll at least 
       get a feel for the state of the market in your area.  And 
       they can be great places to meet fellow collectors.

    -  Intermediate collectors who own between three to six 
       machines and have probably converted at least one cabinet 
       to play more than one game.  Auctions and get-togethers 
       for bulk buys are common ways of getting games at this 

    -  Serious collectors who own more than six machines and 
       have converted several cabinets.  Serious collectors are 
       often starting small inventories of parts, and they 
       probably sell at least some of the games they fix.  Most 
       serious collectors acquire their wares through bulk buys 
       with operators.

    Remember that these are only generalizations.  In your 
    travels, you will likely encounter people who fit into more 
    than one of these categories.  You may also encounter people 
    who fit into none of these categories.  This hobby is 
    *ABOUT* video games, but it is *NOT* a video game in and of 
    itself -- it doesn't matter what "level" you're working at, 
    so long as you're enjoying yourself.

SECTION THREE:  Know your operator

Q:  What makes operators tick?

A:  Very simply.  In fact, one word will suffice.


Q:  So this is the MONEY principle, right?

A:  Right.  The MONEY principle is simple:  OPERATORS LOVE MONEY.

    It's a simple rule, but its importance cannot be overstated.  
    MONEY gets you in the door, MONEY talks to the operator, 
    MONEY pays your way when you're inside, and MONEY can even 
    help you get your favorite game away from the operator at 
    the lowest price possible.  The strategy section of this FAQ 
    will describe all of this (and more) in detail.

    Operators own games for one reason - to make MONEY. If 
    operators were allowed to run porno shows on their games in 
    order to collect quarters, they'd do it.  Operators are not 
    interested in the art of game design.  They are not 
    interested in the impact that these games have had upon
    society.  And they are certainly not interested in packaging 
    up the boards for your favorite game and sending it halfway 
    across the country - not for you or anyone else.  Not when 
    he can make several times as much money by sitting back and 
    letting players pump quarters into his games.


    Read that sentence again.

    You and I, however, only want to wrestle our favourite games 
    away from these "operators".  So how do we do it?

    Suffice it to say that whatever the answer is, it lies in 
    MONEY.  This should be kept in mind as you read the 
    remainder of this FAQ, and should be foremost in your mind 
    whenever you deal with an operator.

Q:  How do I contact an operator?

A:  If you wish to use the phone, you can get phone numbers from 
    the following places:

    -  The "Amusement Devices" and "Vending Machines" sections 
       of your Yellow Pages directory is the best place to start.

    -  See those stickers on games which read something like 
       "For service, call 555-5555".  Call one of these numbers 
       and see who answers.

    -  The sides of trucks seen at auctions sometimes have phone 
       numbers and company logos written on them.

    -  Go to an auction and put up a posting saying "MONEY FOR 
       JUNK" with your phone number on it.  It can sometimes 
       work wonders.

    -  Replay magazine often has useful contact information.  To 
       order a single copy, send $5.00 for a "Sample Copy" to:

                  Replay Magazine
                  PO BOX 2550
                  Woodland Hills, CA

    If you're physically present at the arcade, start working 
    your way up through the ranks.  Start with the person behind 
    the coin counter or a technician.  These "front line" people 
    can give you information on what's sitting down in the 
    basement, and may be able to set you up with the arcade 

    Often a combined approach (visit an arcade, ask a few 
    questions, get a phone number, go home and call the next 
    day) is the most effective.

Q:  Okay, I've got the phone number, but I still don't seem to 
    be getting anywhere.  What's going on and how can I do 

A:  Getting the phone number is only half the battle.  The whole 
    organization of receptionists, technicians and arcade 
    managers is set up to prevent people from talking to the 

    The reason for this is that *ANYTHING* the operator could be 
    doing would earn him more money than dealing with a 
    collector who is only likely to spend $100-200.  For 
    example, the average operator can take in just as much money 
    in a SINGLE DAY by leaving his phone off the hook and letting
    people pump quarters into a row of Mortal Kombat machines...

    If you are in an arcade, keep in mind that (in most cases) 
    only the operator has the authority to sell you a video game.  
    The arcade managers and technicians generally do not.  
    Although these people are often valuable sources of 
    information, you'll usually have to keep working at it until 
    you reach the "man at the top".

    One last note.  OPERATORS NEVER RETURN PHONE CALLS.  (Well, 
    maybe not "NEVER", but trust us, it's rare...)  So if you 
    manage to talk to one and want to continue dealing, you have 
    to take the initiative.

    Some operators have also become "jaded" through deals with 
    beginning collectors that never spent much money, expected 
    perfectly-working games, and always wanted warranties.  If 
    this is the case for your operator, expect considerable 
    difficulty in overcoming his prejudices if you wish to deal 
    effectively.  Sometimes there's just no winning, and you're 
    best off trying your luck elsewhere.

SECTION FOUR:  Strategies for dealing with operators

Q:  I've made contact!  What do I say I'm looking for?

A:  Don't be overly specific.  Telling an operator that you are 
    "looking for Battlezone" simply tells the operator that he 
    can ask any price he wants for it - thereby making more 
    MONEY.  This is a case of the MONEY principle working 
    against you.

    On the other hand, if the operator has no interest in the 
    collector's desired item, the collector can often buy it for 
    next to nothing.  The key is NOT TO BRING ATTENTION TO THE 
    DESIRED ITEM.  An excellent way of doing this is by 
    including desirable items in bulk buys.  Indicate interest 
    in "oh, some old Atari boards", then buy a pile of them, even
    if half of them are for games you don't really want.  The 
    Battlezone board will be much cheaper as a result, and you 
    can probably use the rest of the boards for parts at a later 

    The MONEY principle can also be used to your advantage.  If 
    you casually mention that you're willing to "clear out some 
    space" for him by "taking some old games off his hands", you 
    can improve your chances.

    After all, the operator is only going to be throwing the 
    junk away in a couple of years.  If he sees that he can save 
    on storage or disposal costs by selling you something, 
    you're in business.  He makes MONEY from the sale, and he 
    saves MONEY by letting you take the games off his premises.

    The higher the potential for making MONEY, the more eager he 
    will be to deal with you.  Bulk buys (where you state that 
    you're willing to buy three or more games, for instance), 
    are especially attractive. Making purchases with cash 
    sweetens the deal still further.  He can see the MONEY 
    right in front of his face, and he'll want to get his hands 
    on it.

    The key is to convince the operator that he wants to sell 
    you the goods.  Ask him how much it costs to rent/heat the 
    warehouse.  Does he have space problems?  Wouldn't it be 
    nice if a dozen machines which he'll never operate again 
    disappeared and several hundred dollars CASH appeared in 
    their place?  (A hint:  emphasize the word "CASH", should 
    you elect to bring this question to your operator's

    Ask him why he still has those ancient vector monitors 
    around anymore.  Ask him if he even has any machines out 
    that could use the parts sitting in the pile in the corner.  
    Why pay to keep a batch of Defender boards when all your 
    Defender cabinets have been converted to other games or
    scrapped?  (A hint:  make sure he tells you what is useful 
    *BEFORE* you start rummaging through boards, otherwise his 
    list of useful boards may grow during your conversation...)

    The whole idea behind this line of questioning is "Mr. 
    Operator, why don't you let me take these parts/machines 
    that will not make you any MONEY (and which will never be 
    used to repair anything that makes MONEY, and which cost 
    MONEY to store or dispose of) off your hands.  I'm even
    willing to PAY YOU MONEY for the privilege of doing you this 

    Once you explain things that way (and especially if you 
    suggest a bulk buy), you should end up getting a great 
    price.  Generally, since you can select what to take, about 
    50% to 75% of the stuff you take will be useful or valuable 
    to you.  The rest of it will probably be useful or valuable 
    to the other serious collectors on the net, so you can 
    actually make some money yourself!

    The only problem you will encounter is that you have a VERY 
    LIMITED TIME to select all the stuff you will haul off; this 
    is discussed in another question.

Q:  I'm in the warehouse.  What now?

A:  Remember those old contests where the "prize" is "a one 
    minute shopping spree"?  That's what you do.  You hurry.  
    Time is MONEY in the video game business, and you should 
    know by now what MONEY means to an operator.  Since 
    collectors rarely have much MONEY and are often shunned by 
    operators, if you've managed to get this far, you probably
    won't get a second chance.

    For instance, if you go to an operator and spend an hour and 
    a half rummaging through old boards and play-testing half of 
    the machines in the warehouse, take down some prices and 
    then leave, the operator will probably feel that he didn't 
    get enough MONEY for the time he lost in dealing with you.  
    As a result, you will probably not be welcomed back for a 
    second visit, even if you *DO* intend to buy this time.

    (To give you an idea of what *WILL* make a visit "worth it" 
    to an operator, about the only times we've heard of 
    collectors having been invited back for a second visit is 
    when they'd purchased over $1500 worth of goods...)

    Keep this in mind as you "power-shop".  You will NOT be 
    coming back for the things that *YOU* forgot, let alone to 
    pick up something for somebody else.  You have only one 
    chance to pull out as much as you can, and you have to do 

Q:  I've made a deal!  Now how should I pay for what I bought?

A:  This is a simple question.  Since cash is about the only 
    form of money that operators will accept, you've really got 
    no choice!

    The reason for this is that operators don't have the time or 
    inclination to worry about things like bounced checks or 
    credit cards.  Cash is simple, direct, *VERY* easy to 
    handle, and gets to the point.

    Cash is good.  It helps the MONEY principle work for you, 
    rather than against you.  Bring plenty of cash with you when 
    you meet with an operator, and make sure that it's visible.  
    A fat wad of twenties in your shirt pocket is probably as 
    good a bargaining tool as any strategy mentioned in this FAQ.

SECTION FIVE:  Wheeling and Dealing

Q:  Which games are most worth buying?

A:  This is a tough question.  The economics of supply and 
    demand determine what is worth buying and how much it should 
    cost.  Both change often, but a good guide to what was in 
    demand recently is the VAPS membership list.  If it's 
    popular with VAPS members, odds are it'll be popular among 
    other collectors too.  Ranges of sample prices have also 
    been sprinkled throughout the text of this FAQ and can be 
    used as guides to help you in your dealings.  (Keep in mind 
    these prices will eventually go out of date as the FAQ gets 

Q:  What parts will be the most useful to me if I (like most 
    people) don't have much money or space?

A:  Go for monitors, boards, and control panels.  Cabinets are 
    large, heavy, and difficult to keep around.  For the same 
    reasons, and due to their high shipping costs, they're also 
    hard to sell to other people.

    If you're buying in bulk, get as many monitors, boards, and 
    control panels as you can.  Here's why.

    -  If you trade equipment with other collectors, you get the 
       first pick from the bulk deal and can keep the best stuff 
       for yourself.  This is the main reason why anyone deals 
       in bulk board buys in the first place.

    -  It's much easier to throw in a new board set and control 
       panel on a game than it is to rewire a whole cabinet.  
       See the Conversion FAQ for more details.

    -  Boards, being worthless to most operators, tend to be 

    -  You can sell most, if not all of your goods, on the net 
       at a later date.  This helps your hobby pay for itself 
       and also helps others (who may not have the time nor the 
       inclination to do a bulk buy) to get the parts for the 
       games they want.

    -  You can use extra goodies as a source of spare parts for 
       your games.  Control panels are especially useful in this 

    -  If you're dealing in non-working equipment, remember the 
       adage about spare parts - "the more, the merrier".  Even 
       if you're the type who likes to program with a soldering 
       iron, you'll want spare parts to swap in and out during 
       the repair process.

    -  A control panel and related boards occupy much less space 
       than a complete cabinet.  This fact will become 
       increasingly important as your hobby of collecting games 
       evolves, as you will rapidly run out of space for more 

    -  If you're buying JAMMA-compatible hardware, you don't 
       *NEED* anything more than the board, since "one cabinet 
       fits all".  See the question on building your own cabinet 
       for more information.

    -  If you're buying for friends, or are far away from home, 
       you cut down drastically on shipping costs.  See the 
       section on shipping costs for details.  Compare the 
       volume and mass of a control panel and boards with its 
       cabinet.  Which would *YOU* rather carry for 500 miles?

    -  You avoid the horrible situation of the operator/
       distributor throwing the boards away when you aren't 
       there.  The next collector arrives and hears "oh, sorry, 
       we threw a whole bunch of those out last month".  (If 
       collectors got paid a quarter for every time they heard 
       this line, they'd soon have more money than the 

Q:  What risks are there associated with dealing in spare 
    parts?  What should I know about buying or selling boards?

A:  When buying from an operator, try to resist the temptation 
    to test the goods.  If a board set is gathering dust in a 
    corner, both you and the operator can safely assume it isn't 
    working.  On the other hand, if you power up a board set and 
    it *DOES* work, you've just told the operator that the board 
    set is worth something.  Something called MONEY.  Something
    you could still have in your pocket had you bought the board 
    set as "broken" and tested it at home.

    Once you've gotten your parts home, test them out.  If they 
    don't work, don't worry.  If you have some knowledge of 
    electronics, you may be able to fix them.  Even if you 
    can't, broken boards can still be sold on the net -- there 
    *ARE* people out there who can fix them, so they're still
    worth having.

    If you're really worried about the condition of the boards 
    and are willing to pay extra for working boards, you can 
    still ask for testing, but keep in mind that if you're 
    dealing in large quantities of boards, even the friendliest 
    operator will not have time to test them all.  You will 
    therefore still be buying boards of unknown condition.  They 
    may not work even if the operator says they will.  Moreover, 
    you are buying "as is".  If the operator isn't going to let 
    you back in *BUY* a second time, do you really think he'll 
    give you a refund on something that doesn't work?

    If you intend to sell extra boards on the net, we recommend 
    that you start small in order to get a taste of all the 
    hassles associated with just breaking even.  For instance, 
    everyone will want advice on how to hook up the game, and 
    nobody will want to pay for shipping or handling.  You may 
    also have to deal with bouncing cheques and/or COD shipment

    The point is that this isn't a money-making business.  If 
    you could make a killing in the "used boards" market, we 
    wouldn't need this FAQ.  The operators would be selling used 
    boards by the dozen right in the arcades. On the other hand, 
    don't let this scare you.  The authors of this FAQ who have 
    done board deals in the past have always found *SOME* use for
    most of the goodies they've picked up.  Keep your wits about 
    you, use common sense, and you probably won't go wrong.

Q:  I want to deal in whole games.  What is a reasonable price 
    for a game and/or its components?

A:  EVERYTHING depends on where you live, but here is a general 

    -  Once a game stops earning enough money to justify its 
       floor space, its boards are generally worthless to an 
       operator.  These games have no real value except in terms 
       of what they can be converted into. Consequently boards 
       that are more than three years old should go for $10-20 
       apiece if you buy them in bulk.

    -  Raster monitors go for $50-100 because operators can 
       reuse them in other games.  Although the required 
       horizontal sync frequency can differ from manufacturer to 
       manufacturer, the required changes to the monitor's
       circuitry are minor.  Operators' technicians can perform 
       these changes and thereby reuse the monitor.

    -  Vector monitors, on the other hand, are practically 
       worthless.  Very few operators these days feel they can 
       make money from these old vector games.  Furthermore, 
       since vector monitors operate on different principles 
       than raster monitors, nothing on such a monitor is 
       reusable.  The only value a vector monitor has is its 
       rarity -- operators know that collectors want these 
       monitors, and consequently they tend to go for $25-50 
       apiece in bulk deals.

    -  Older games (those over five years old) go for $150 to 

    -  Newer games (between one and five years old) are worth 
       up to $1500.

    -  Brand new games can cost up to $3000.

    Note that rare games are an exception.  Operators know which 
    games are rare and which games are popular.  Unless you are 
    making a *VERY* large bulk buy (20 games or more), the 
    operator will demand more for these games.

Q:  So now that you've said all that, what should I buy?  Tell 
    me quickly, because I'm in the warehouse now and only have 
    about 15 minutes or so in which to make up my mind!

A:  The moral of the story is:

    -  Scarf any old boards you can find.

    -  Scarf any vector monitors you can find, especially if you 
       are interested in this type of game and are willing to 
       buy or store spare parts.  These parts are becoming rarer 
       by the day!

    -  Scarf any control panels of games you'd like to have, 
       even if the board sets aren't there.  This is 
       particularly important in the case of rare or classic 
       games.  If you intend to become a serious collector, 
       scarfing control panels of games is a *MUST*!

    -  Be wary of buying raster monitors, especially if the 
       monitors are new.  Ask yourself why the operator is 
       willing to give you a perfectly good monitor if he can 
       put it into his next conversion, thereby saving himself 

Q:  How much does it cost to ship a video game?

A:  Shipping a game costs $150 as a *MINIMUM*, and upwards of 
    $300 if you want a reputable company to do it.  When people 
    find out that their $200 game is going to cost $300 to ship, 
    they buy locally.  80-90% of all games traded on the net are 
    bought and sold within a two-hour drive of the location of 
    the game.

    If you're buying for a friend, make sure they're willing to 
    pay these costs.  Otherwise you'll wind up with what they 
    didn't want to pay to ship -- and what you probably didn't 
    want in the first place (since you were willing to sell and 
    ship it to them in the first place).

    If you want to ship the game yourself, the best method is 
    to use a trailer.  Trailers cost about $20 to rent, plus the 
    cost of your gas, and unless you own a pickup truck, they 
    are by far the cheapest way to move a video game.

    A used trailer will cost about $300 and will probably be the 
    most useful item in a serious collector's inventory.  (The 
    second most useful item, by the way, is an "appliance-moving 
    dolly" or "refrigerator dolly"...)

    Always keep in mind that boards, monitors, and control 
    panels can be carried in the back seat of your car, so 
    shipping costs are equal to the cost of gas and a few hours 
    of your time.

    Also, keep in mind that shipping can be rough on old games.  
    Expect to perform some minor repair work if your game has to 
    be carried over long distances.

SECTION SIX:  Miscellaneous questions

Q:  Why hasn't anybody started a "locator service" on the net?  
    Why won't people buy games on my behalf?

A:  Consider the following sequence of steps, all of which would 
    be required were such a service to be set up.

    1)  Find an operator who's willing to deal.
    2)  Get a price on a video game from the operator.
    3)  Advertise on the net through the locator service.
    4)  Get a reply via e-mail.
    5)  Buy the game from the operator.
    6)  Work out shipping and handling through the net.
    7)  Ship.

    From the middleman's perspective:

    Notice that two visits to the operator are required.  If 
    operators tend to avoid collectors (because there isn't 
    enough MONEY to make it worth their while), what are the 
    chances that our prospective middleman is going to get a 
    second visit with the operator?

    If a dozen other people on the net manage to find the game 
    at the same time, what are the chances that you (the person 
    making the buy) will be the one lucky enough to make the 
    sale?  Not very good.

    You will either have wasted the operator's time (because you 
    didn't buy the game) and you can forget about dealing with 
    that operator again, or you will be the proud owner of a 
    game which you didn't want in the first place.  (Let's face 
    it, if you wanted the game, you would have bought it for 
    yourself and not offered to sell it...)

    From the end buyer's perspective:

    Wait.  I only wanted *ONE* game.  Now I've got 10 people who 
    want to sell me the same game and I can only buy one.  That 
    means 9 people who won't be very eager to deal with me 
    through the net again because I just cost them their contact 
    with their local operator.  And I've also gotta pay shipping 
    and handling (upwards of $150-200) for a game of unknown 

    I suppose I could have asked the sellers to send me a 
    picture of the game through the (snail) mail first.  But 
    that would have cost more money, taken more time, and 
    annoyed more operators.  Again, more people unlikely to deal 
    with me...  (to say nothing of the fact that most of the 
    pictures were taken in dark warehouses and I couldn't even 
    see the game...)

    From the net's perspective:

    The problem with locator lists is that not all copies of the 
    list can be updated simultaneously.  The end buyer may 
    forget to take the game off the list - then someone else on 
    the list find the game and get stuck with it.  Often times, 
    the end buyer will forget to include the cost of shipping 
    into their calculations - and back out of a deal upon 
    discovering that the cost of shipping exceeds the cost of 
    the game itself.

Q:  If "bigger is better", why doesn't the net organize group 
    trips to warehouses?

A:  Group trips are good ideas in theory, but in practice they 
    turn out to be very complicated.  If you've ever organized 
    a social gathering of net.acquaintances (even if only from 
    your local area), you already know what we mean.  Now 
    imagine how hard it is to get six different people to show 
    up from halfway across the country at a predetermined spot 
    - ON TIME - in order to go to the one and only meeting with 
    the operator.

    Even if everybody makes it there on time, if all six people 
    try striking separate deals with the operator, they'll wind 
    up taking too much of his time and the deals will fall 

    If you *DO* manage to organize a group visit, it's a very 
    good idea to make up a joint "grocery list" BEFOREHAND.  
    Everyone involved must be prepared to contribute a certain 
    amount of money for a given game; once this is decided upon, 
    you can all visit the warehouse and offer ONE PRICE FOR THE 

    Haggling over individual games during a bulk buy is a very 
    poor way to conduct business.  The "one-price-takes-all" 
    strategy will save the operator's time, thereby increasing 
    the chances that you'll be allowed back at some future date 
    - and will also likely result in a better price for the 

Q:  Can I build my own cabinet?

A:  Yes, but don't expect to save money by doing so.  It's 
    somewhat cheaper than shipping a cabinet, but it's very 
    time-consuming and the results depend entirely on one's 
    carpentry skills.  One of the authors has tried it -- it 
    cost about $125 and took about three weeks.  None of the 
    authors have heard about anyone else attempting this feat.

    There may be an advantage to building your own cabinet it 
    you have an interest in JAMMA-based games.  For JAMMA 
    aficionados, a huge cabinet capable of holding 10-20 boards 
    would be of considerable value.

Q:  Anything else I should know?

A:  Connections and reputations are the key to this hobby.  For 
    example, if you develop a reputation for being cheap (by 
    buying only things you really need and when the pieces are 
    in good condition), you won't be invited to go on all the 
    bulk buys because you won't be buying much if the warehouse 
    is a dud.  On the other hand, you'll always be invited to go 
    on the really high-quality buys, because the other 
    collectors will know you're likely to buy a lot.

    Keep in mind that you can develop both your reputation and 
    contacts any way you like.  The collecting community is NOT 
    an "old-boys" network.  If you develop a lot of contacts, 
    you'll have a reputation that'll get you more connections, 
    and so on...

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