When you are first starting out in arcade collecting, you might find it difficult to find the arcade games that you want. While sites like eBay and Craigslist have made finding arcade games easier, arcade auctions are still the preferred method of buying machines for many collectors. In this post, we will discuss the entire arcade auction experience from registration to checkout.
The Arcade Auction Experience
Before we get into the details of arcade auctions, here’s a list of some arcade auctioneers. Please check their websites to see what areas they service.
Now that you have located an arcade auction in your area, let’s talk about when to get there and what to take. Most arcade auctions will post a preview time and an auction start time. It is very important to be there during the preview time so you can walk around and get a feel for what you might be interested in. Most auctions allow you to play and inspect (i.e. look to see if a game has boards, power supply, etc.) the games during this time which will give you a better idea of what you want to spend on them. Some items you might want to take to the auction with you are a long (50 ft) extension cord, your arcade toolbox, a flashlight, a hand truck or dolly, tie down (preferably ratcheting) straps, a tarp or something to cover up the games (just in case in rains between your house and the auction location) and perhaps some food and drinks. While the games are suppose to be on free play, many will have locked coin doors so bring quarters with you to try them out. Clipboards and calculators are good things to have too so you can keep up with how much you’re spending.
Once you arrive at the auction location, it is time to register as a bidder. It’s a good idea to get your bidder card early as the registration line tends to get longer the closer you get to the auction start time. Be prepared to share some of your personal information along with your method of payment. Cash is a preferred method of payment at most auctions and the only method at some. Be sure to ask them if you are unsure about what payment methods they accept. Some auctions require you to put down a deposit or leave your driver’s license with them for security reasons. If they take your driver’s license, PLEASE remember to retrieve it at the end of the day.
With your bidder card in hand, it’s now time for the auction to start. Please listen very carefully to the terms and conditions which the auctioneer will typically go over right before they auction the first piece. Most auctions will have a buyers premium (an example would be 10%) and sales tax that will be added to the final price. Please keep this in mind when you are bidding. The price that you win the item for is NOT going to be the out-the-door price. If you are a seller, there will typically be a sellers premium that will be deducted from the final price as well. These premiums are how the auctioneers make money. Also, most if not all items are sold as is so keep in mind what you are bidding on.
When the bidding starts, the auctioneer will usually start the item at a very high price to see if anyone bids. If no ones bids on the item, he will continue to drop the price until someone does. If interest in an item is low, the auctioneer might even drop down to one dollar. With that said, it’s best to hold out as long as you can or until another bidder jumps in. To bid on an item, hold up your bidder card. Once you are in the active bidding group, you can just nod to one of the callers and they will usually take your bid. The auctioneer and the callers will try to work the crowd by saying things such as “the first one is always the cheapest” and “this game looks like it just came out of the box.” Of course, they are just saying these things to get you to spend more money. The auctioneer might also say some useful things such as the condition of the game or any bidding rules (such as a reserve price) that are attached to the piece. Keep a listen for these things as they can be very important. Once the auctioneer says SOLD or GONE, no more bids will be taken and the item will go to the last (or winning) bidder.
Here are some general tips to keep in mind as a bidder. If you are interested in a particular game, try to make your way as close to the game as possible so that the callers and auctioneer can see you and you can hear what’s going on. It’s a good idea to have a maximum dollar amount in your head for what you want to spend on a particular game before the auction starts. This will help you avoid auction fever or overbidding on an item. Watch out for shield bidders or sellers that attempt to drive up the price by bidding on their own items. Sellers can usually buy back their items by just paying the auction fees if they don’t think it’s going high enough. If you mistakenly bid on something, notify the auctioneer immediately. This will keep you from getting stuck with an arcade game you do not want. Be careful who you talk to when you are at the auction. If you start talking about a Galaga you are going to bid on where the cord is loose others might hear you. Instead of getting an easily fixed, broken game for $50 you might be in a bidding war with somebody that overheard you talking. Also, many of the big bargain deals are going to be towards the end of the auction. Auctioneers tend to front load the auction with games they know are going to bring big dollars. By the time you get to the end, many people have either got their items and gone home or are out of money. With that said, the bids are usually lower on items towards the end of the auction. So if you want a game for cheap, plan on staying till the end of the auction.
After the auction is over, it’s time to settle up. When you are ready to leave, make your way over to the checkout table at the auction and show them your bidder card. They will present you with your bill and will accept payment at this time. As we discussed earlier, cash is the preferred method of payment. If the auction company does accept credit cards, there will usually be a fee for the transaction. Take our advice, save yourself some money and bring cash. Once you have checked out, you can proceed to loading your games. Most auctions have a time by which you must have your games out of the building. Keep this time in mind if you have to arrange for transportation of your items.
Here are just a couple of tips about checking out. If you are just a buyer, most auctions will let you check out anytime you want so don’t feel obligated to stay till the end. Give them about 30 minutes or so to get your purchases in the system. Once that’s done you can checkout and haul off your items. Sellers will almost always have to stay till the end to get paid. If a game says “with keys” on the tag, make sure you ask at checkout where you can get the keys from. This will save you the hassle of drilling through a lock.
Overall, the arcade auction experience is usually quite fun. It gives you an opportunity to play all kinds of arcade games, pinball machines and other coin operated devices. It also give you an idea of what different arcade games are going for. Please feel free to leave any questions, suggestions or auction experiences in the comments section below.