Learn how the Video Buyers Guide
Will save you ...

Time & Money.
The Video Buyers Guide gives

You all the Ammunition you'll need.

A complete video buyers guide to help you get Quality coin-op Video games WORKING 100% that will provide you YEARS OF FUN, Instead of….

Buying a Defective game that Doesn't work, that will only cause you Frustration & Headaches

If you use the Video Buyers Guide Checklist when doing your search for classic arcade video games it will dramatically increase your satisfaction level giving you SOLID video games that you'll enjoy!

Get ready to PROTECT yourself & AVOID Buying "BAD" arcade games

Arcade Game Buyers Guide 101

(Note: We will refer to "Shopping", "Shopping Process", or "Shopped" in this Arcade Game Buyers Guide. This means doing the necessary cleaning, repairs, or replacement of parts on coin-op video games before being shipped to you)

1 - Get pictures of the game

  • Make sure it's the actual game the seller is taking pictures of, because some will just use a standard picture they downloaded off the Internet.

  • To prevent someone selling you a game that’s different than the picture sent to you, also called “Bait & Switch”. Get the arcade game serial number (#) from the seller.

  • If you are FUSSY, like me, you'll want one
    that looks great all-around.

  • Look at the sides of the game. Some have painted graphics and some have what they call "side-art" (These are graphical stickers with Vibrant colors) applied over a painted surface. If they are in great condition, then you can expect to pay more for the video game.

    Sometimes if the sides are in “Bad shape” the distributor may just peel off the side art and paint the sides “Black””. So determine if the sides of the cabinet are important to you.

    Note: Some coin-op arcade games are over 20 years old and if they are in "Original Condition" you can expect to see scratches and gouges most of which are caused from machine being moved in and out of arcades. However, a reputable distributor will have either an Artist Specialist or someone on staff that is seasoned in matching paint colors, then doing the necessary touch-ups as part of the “shopping process”. The touch-ups will be un-noticeable and will look beautiful if done correctly.

2 - Marquee

  • This is the top piece of the machine (either painted glass or Plexiglas with graphic applied) that has the name of game along with graphics. It is transparent so the Fluorescent light fixture behind it lights it up.

  • Make sure it looks good to you and does indeed light up. If the starter is bad inside fixture it's easy to replace. If the light fixture is bad this is also easy to replace by getting a Fluorescent light fixture from Home Depot or Lowes, but should be “shopped” and functional before being shipped. You are spending your hard-earned money on this so it should be working when you get it.

3 - Bezel

  • This is the glass or Plexiglas with graphics surrounding the border of glass that covers the monitor or tube. Some have major scratches. Try to get one that has minor or no scratches - It gives you a cleaner view of the monitor.

  • Definitely make sure it doesn't have any cracks or breaks.

  • There are many companies reproducing these Bezels and Marquees for a vast majority of the classic video arcade games like Centipede, Ms. Pac man, Joust, Stargate, to name a few.

4 - What are Dedicated, Conversion Cabinets

  • Dedicated Cabinets - Means just that. Original Factory designed coin-op arcade video game. These may or may not have the original side art. Some are just worn off or damaged.

  • Conversion Cabinets - Is where they make a cabinet or take a dedicated cabinet and convert it into some other game. There are a lot of video games for sale out there that have been converted. They still play the same, but the look is different. You may not have the original side art on the game.

Strike That !

  • You may because of the Reproduction side art that's available. It may still look great as a conversion, but it may not be the original you were looking for.

  • If it's an "Original Dedicated Arcade Video Game Cabinet" you're wanting. Make sure you ask if it's original and has the complete side art.

    If you don't once you get the game and it's not the Dedicated Cabinet you wanted. You're either forced with living with it, Returning it (with you incurring the freight costs), or the UGLY Scenario - The seller just won't take it back.

Which Brings me to UGLY Scenario # 2

This is a BIGGIE

5 - Bootleg or Modified Control Boards

  • Ask if the coin-op video game has the "Original Boards" or PCB's (these are printed circuit boards that make the arcade game function).


    Imagine spending your hard-earned money for a video game you longed for, then it breaks down. You send it out to a qualified repair shop only to tell you they can't fix it because it's not original. (The repair shop probably could diagnose and fix, but it would take too many hours to troubleshoot, therefore costing you excessive money.

  • If you get a bootleg / modified PCB that breaks down you now have to get a whole new Board replacement which in some cases is next to impossible and the one's available could cost you hundreds of dollars.

Here’s Why you want “Original”
PCB Boards in your video games

  • ROMS (Read Only Memory) - It's one thing to replace these if they go bad. They are programmed at the factory and are still available.

  • EPROMS (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) - These are readily available and can be programmed and erased enabling them to be re-used. Most Qualified Distributors have the technical equipment for "programming and re-programming" EPROM chips. They do this by using the "data" that's available from the factories in a downloadable format. So if you have an old game where the sound is going bad - you can get a new one for about $20.

  • Just ask what condition the boards are in and this will alleviate any such Headaches.

6 – Wiring Inside Cabinet

  • The distributor should do a thorough check looking for any wires that are “BARE” or have exposed wires. If a “bare” wire comes into contact with a metal surface, it can cause a “SHORT”, which may damage your PCB’s (Printed Circuit Boards) permanently.

  • They need to also check to make sure all wires are terminated (connected) properly.

7 - Front Cabinet

  • Make sure it's appealing to your eye. Older coin-op video games may have scratches or marks from people abusing the games. Most games are painted black in the front and are easy to touch-up. A reputable video game distributor will paint or touch-up as part of the shopping process (more on the shopping process later).

8 - Bottom of Cabinet

  • Being that these video games stand on the floor makes them susceptible to water. If the game does you'll notice the wood expands where it came in contact. It may be extreme or minor.

  • We've had some of our games with minor water damage. A simple fix is to buy aluminum or metal 90 degree corner molding (can pickup at any Home Depot, Lowes, or local hardware store). Sand the outer surface; drill 3 holes, prime, then spray paint with appropriate matching color. Once dry screw to area in question. Also, make sure the screws are 3/4" or short enough so they don't go through cabinet (you may also want to paint the tips of the screws). It does the job, Look Great and is …

Almost INVISIBLE !!!

9 - Control Panel Overlay

  • Exactly what you thought. It's the vinyl graphical overlay that fits over the control panel where the buttons, joystick, trackball, etc. are located.

  • Find one that doesn't have any cigarette burn marks, missing pieces from being torn or scratched, and control panel overlay's that have a lot of cracks.

  • Even if the control panel overlay is in BAD shape - Don't Worry - There are companies who produce "Reproduction" overlays that are 100% exact duplicates of the original. Here's just a few of the reproduction makes: Centipede, Millipede, Ms. Pacman, Pacman, Joust, Robotron, Stargate, Defender, Asteroids, Dig Dug, etc., etc.

10 - Arcade Game Controls

These consist of Joysticks, Buttons, Trackballs, Optical Guns Steering Wheels, and Gun Control Joysticks (i.e. Helicopter or Jet-Aircraft Flying Simulators)

  • Joysticks - These have what they call "Leaf Switches" underneath the control panel that control the direction of the game. These get worn or burnt over the years from excessive play. A reputable company will adjust, or replace as needed.

  • Grommets - Most Joysticks have Rubber Grommets included in the control mechanism as in Ms. Pacman, Pacman, and Robotron to name a few. Grommets get worn from excessive play over the years making the Joystick Sluggish and not firm. These are typically inexpensive from $10 -$25/each and pretty easy to replace for the average person.

11 - The Joystick Test

  • The Video Buyers Guide Test to see if the Joystick Grommet is still good try this simple test. Take the joystick and move it all the way to the left, then let go! If the Joystick moves back to the center quickly and stays there, then it is good. Make sure you try this in every direction.

12 - Control Panel Buttons

  • These are used to start the game or used to fire at a target on the screen by rapidly hitting with your hand.

  • Most are solid and some are transparent with a light bulb underneath that shines through. The light can be Flashing or Constant. This adds to the visual effect of the game.

  • There are leaf switches underneath the control panel used to activate the button switch when depressed. These wear due to excessive use and should be replaced.

13 - Steering Wheels and Gun Joysticks

  • These have Bearings, Gears and Grommets included in the housing.

  • Be VERY CAREFUL when buying coin-op arcade games with these types of controls. WHY ? Because they are expensive to repair or replace. Especially the ones that have a "Vibrating" Mechanism inside the housing controls because these tend to loosen and wear parts in the housing.

  • A "Quality Reputable" arcade game distributor will closely look at and test these controls and do the necessary repairs as part of the "Shopping Process" before selling the game.

14 - Trackballs

  • These are used on Games like Golden Tee, Centipede, Millipede, Capcom Bowling, Let's Go Bowling, etc. The wear due to excessive use.

  • There is a 2-1/4" diameter ball this is actually a "Cue Ball". The other is a 3" ball.

15 - The Trackball Test

  • The Video Buyers Guide Test to see if the bearings and rollers that are incorporated into the housing are still good. Just move the ball fast with your hand in one direction. If the ball rolls fast, smoothly, does not slow down quickly, and you don't hear the bearings making a loud noise. Then it is good.

But, don't stop here!

  • Do this same test in every other direction (i.e. 12 o'clock, 3, 6 and 9, then 1:30, 4:30, 7:30, and 10:30 o'clock).


  • Because there are 3 rollers and 6 bearings in the housing where the ball comes in contact and rolls over. Only rolling the ball in one direction won't give you and Accurate outcome.

(Note: If you have to replace these yourself it's breeze and only costs about $36, which includes a new ball)

16 - Optical Guns

  • These are used on Shooting Games like Area 51, Maximum Force, Lethal Enforcers, Area 51 Site 4, etc.

  • You Guessed it - These guns use "Optical Cables" which transmit a light source to the gun and then onto the screen.

  • Make sure there are no cuts in the cables, even though the Optical wires have a "Metal Sheath" over them to reduce cuts doesn't mean they are indestructible.

  • Each Optical Gun assembly costs around $120/each, without installation. So avoid having to replace by asking "How good are the cables and guns"?

17 - Monitor / Tube

This is where you get your enjoyment. A lot of people miss this one when buying a video game.
What could go wrong with a monitor?

  • First off. A monitor that has been used in an Arcade where it is left on all day for years start to get what they call "Phosphorous Burn" The same as the old computers having an image permanently burnt into the monitor screen (That's why they came out with "Screensavers").

  • A little or slight burn is okay, but a lot doesn't give you the "Vibrant Picture" that makes the game. It's easy to see from a close-up photo, but it's best in person.

18 - The Screen Burn Test

  • The Video Buyers Guide Burn Test. Look at the monitor screen while it's off. If you notice a little burn it's okay, but a lot is not good. The best way is to look at the screen by shining a flashlight on it because some companies hide deep phosphorous burn monitors by placing a "Smoked Plexiglass" behind the monitor to hide the burn and it's hard to see the burn marks without the flashlight.

(Note: If you have to replace a 19" colored monitor it costs $200 on the low-end and $350 for a 25" monitor and that's without labor. So see if you can get a new monitor or a good used one from the video game distributor to reduce future problems).

As you Can See

Left Picture - Centipede monitor that shows a lot of "Phosphorous Burn". The picture still looks good after it is warmed-up, but would look "crisper" with new monitor.

Middle Picture - Joust Monitor that has very minor "Phosphorous Burn". Picture looks Great!

Right Picture - Area 51 Monitor with no "Phosphorous Burn". Also has a New "Cap Kit", which makes the picture look brand new.

19 - Monitor Chassis

The chassis drives power to the monitor and have these little "caps" that resemble tiny, tiny batteries - Called Capacitors. And they're important to you because

  • If you notice that the picture is blurry. This can be fixed with what they call a "Cap Kit" - short for capacitors.

  • With new one's installed it will Sharpen and Bring Back to Life those Awesome Colors to the monitor almost as if it were brand new.

  • The cap kits only cost from $10 to $30 for the kit of capacitors. The cost is in the labor time to install.

  • If you find a game that has been shopped with a new "cap kit" - It's a BONUS in your Pocket.

(Note: Arcade Game Video machines that have a "Screensaver" installed called "Attract Mode" is great because you won't have to worry about Phosphorous burn.)

20 - Leg Levelers - Yep, these go on the bottom of cabinet!

  • Make sure they are all there and in good condition or new. These are very inexpensive and video game distributors have a lot of these on hand. It's a simple one to forget to ask.

  • Nothing will drive you up a wall Faster when you move your video game on your nice berber carpet and snag the carpet with a worn leg leveler or from the bottom corner of the cabinet because there was no leg leveler installed.

(Note: It also makes it easier to slide and move the game).

21 - Shipping & Packaging

I can't STRESS the enough

  • Make sure the game is properly crated, palletized, secured to the pallet, and shrink-wrapped.

  • Some companies even build a plywood box to protect the cabinet.

  • Best is shipped "Insured".

  • Definitely inspect for damage (i.e. Fork lift marks, etc.)in the game before signing for.

  • A digital camera is the best way to protect yourself, just in case you find damage after you've signed for it.

22 - Warranty

  • Avoid buying games sold "As-Is", unless you like tinkering and know how to fix and repair arcade games properly. Although you'll get a better price off the bat it may cost you more in the long run. After all, who wants to be trying to fix a game when you could be enjoying it. (If you do buy "As-Is" make sure you follow the steps in the Arcade Game Buyers Guide).

  • The best is to buy a coin-op video game with a 30-Day warranty. This usually will cover all aspects of the game. So just in case something goes wrong with the PCB's (printed circuit boards) you can easily take them out and ship back for repair.

23 - Repair Department

  • Look for a coin-op video game distributor that has its own "Repair Department". They typically have the arcade game replacement parts in stock. This also insures you are buying from a Qualified dealer that knows what they are doing.

  • If you ever need a repair done when it's out of warranty, the odds are in your favor the repair costs will be lower for two (2) reasons:

1st - The dealer won't have to receive your boards, then send out to someone else, therefore marking up the repair costs.

2nd - You're more likely to get a break on the repair costs because you purchased the game from the same dealer.

(Note: Some companies say they do repairs. In actuality they send out to another source. So ask if they do indeed have a repair department on site).

One company we found that mirrors the steps in this Video Buyers Guide is BMI Gaming We also discovered they offer a coupon # GV50, which gives you $50 off any new video game purchase. Use it.
Hey - $50 Bucks is $50 Bucks.

I hope you enjoyed this issued. Please use it whenever you want to buy a video game. Whether it's from a distributor, reseller, local newspaper, Ebay, or the guy down the street.

There are a lot of people out there that want to get rid of a bad game they have. So use the guide to protect you from getting games that aren't going to last or that are broken.

It's an "Addiction"! Once you get that first great quality video game home. You'll start getting the urge to get another, then another, ...etc.

Remember it's a fun hobby and a great relaxer from the "Everyday Grind". Only if you get games that work, look great, and you don't have to work on.

Have fun playing,


Tony Dembeck