Amusement industry auctions are a great place to buy Video Arcade Games. But it helps to do your homework before you go.

There are 3 basic strategies to use at the auction, the first is bid on everything. The second is bid on specific games. The third is to buy only broken games hoping to easily fix them. (Broken games are much, much cheaper).

Bid On Everything

The bid on everything strategy is good to use if you want to build a collection, but you are not looking for any specific games.

Points to Remember
  • You will probably not end up with your favorite games using this strategy. But you will end up with a lot more games for your money.
  • Before you even leave the house to go to the auction you should decide exactly how much money you are going to spend, otherwise you are going to go way over
  • Have a U-Haul truck ready to go to the auction with you. (Or anything else that can hold 5 or 6 arcade games).
  • I would suggest getting to the auction several hours early. Not to examine the machines. But so you can register without waiting in line.
  • When you register they are going to want either your drivers license or a credit card, (so remember to bring them).
  • You now have a couple of hours to waste before the bidding starts. Use that time to chat people up. Make contacts and get phone numbers. A lot of the people at the auction will have games at home they are wanting to sell. (Plus when your prized Dig Dug machine won't turn on it helps to know a few other collectors who will probably help you out for free).
  • While you are meeting people take a little time to play some of the games. Don't waste time playing your old favorites. (You already know what they are like). Instead play the games that you are unfamiliar with. (You may end up with one of them).
  • Before the bidding starts decide the highest price you will pay for a single game. This depends very much on location, your finances and how many people came to the auction. Somewhere between $100 and $200 is usually a good price.
  • The auctioneer will eventually start selling games. You can probably ignore the first 25 of them. More people bid on the first games to come up. Plus many people only have money budgeted for a single game. Once they win one they are out of the bidding.
  • When you are ready to bid listen to the auctioneer. You should bid whenever he calls for a price that is lower than your maximum price. It is that simple.
  • When you run out of money you should go and pay for your games. (to avoid the long line after the last game is auctioned).
  • Depending on the layout of the auction hall there may be quite a wait to get your games loaded on your U-Haul. Use that opportunity to meet a few more people. Congratulate them on their new games. Get more phone numbers. The more contacts you have in the Arcade world the better off you will be.

Bid On Specific Games

This is the preferred strategy to use if you have a lot of money to spend on the arcade game hobby. You are not going to end up with a lot of games for your money. But the ones you do get will be awesome. This is the only way that you are going to get Pac Man, Asteroids, Pole Position, Etc.

  • Decide how much money you are willing to spend before you leave the house. (You may want to talk this over with your spouse first).
  • Rent a U-Haul or other small trailer to take to the auction.
  • You are going to be getting there as soon as the doors open. You will need the time to examine all of the games.
  • Take a few minutes to walk through the rows of games. See which ones interest you.
  • Now you should closely examine every game you are interested in. Play the game, (make sure to play as both players to make sure both joysticks work correctly).. Test the coin mechs. Check the screens for image burn in. Check to see if the game is a conversion, or if it has been repainted.
  • Write down the lot numbers of the games that you really want. Then write down the absolute highest price you would pay for that individual game. Just be aware that most of the games you will bid on will go for around $500 or so.
  • If there is more than one copy of a game you want you should go for the best one. (They don't make them anymore so get the best example that you can).
  • Once bidding starts do not go over the prices you wrote down for each game. It is very easy to get caught up in the bidding and pay way to much for a game.
  • Finally bidding will be over. Hang around a while and talk to people. (There will be a long line to pay at this point anyway).
  • Once you get home you will be satisfied in knowing that you bought exactly the games you wanted.

Bid on Broken games

This is the strategy to use if you are confident in your ability to fix electronics. It is quite simple. Just bid on all the broken games, (and hope you can fix them). I know one rather handy fellow who does this and owns over 50 games. (He rarely pays more than $50 for a game).

If you are smart you can match up the right broken games to make ones that work. For example, you can buy a game with a bad monitor (one that plays "blind"), and a game that turns on and just displays "garbage" on the screen. You can put the monitor from the "garbage" game into the "blind" game, and you will have a good working game. Plus you will have a whole bunch of spare parts left over from the "garbage" game. You will probably pay less for those two "broken" games than you will for a single working game, and you will end up with a whole box of spare parts (or stuff to build a future MAME cabinet).

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