Thoughts About the Value of Bronzeage PCBs

I know that there are many people out there who would disagree with my opinions about what the "value" of these really old, pre-microprocessor TTL video games is. The reality is that ideas of "value" are highly subjective, and mine are entirely based on my experience with this stuff.

I think that asking $70 plus shipping for the average "untested" pre-microprocessor bronzeage board is pushing it. In my experience, "untested" means that it has not been plugged in since its cabinet was parted out back in the '70s, and it will probably be a basket case.

If these boards were shown to be working, I think that would bring their value up to about 200 dollars.

"Why do you think these things aren't worth much," you may be asking. Several reasons: on average, it takes me about $40 to $100 of replacement parts to fix each board. (QWAK! was a bit of an outlier at more than $250 because I needed a light gun.) This is assuming some hard-to-find part like an NE566 or a MFC6040 isn't at fault; those things are expensive. On top of that, It can take 6 or so hours to fix a board depending on its complexity and what is wrong with it. That will rack up a pretty big bill with a repair guy pretty quickly.

Something very few people consider is that it is very easy to buy an "untested" board that turns out to be unfixible. What are you going to do when an undumped PROM that has motion codes is faulty? What are you going to do if an obsolete and unavilible part is at fault? Are you going to scalp it off another board? Is it going to sit on your PCB shelf? What happens if you spent $70 on a board like I did, only to find out that the LM323 shorted the +5v line with the unfiltered 16 volt AC line? Everything on that board is going to need to be replaced. At $2 per chip, you've got to ask yourself if it is worth it.

Even if the board is working, the sad reality is that it will probably never live anywhere again except on your test bench. The whole reason individual boards are for sale is because some operator axed the cabinet, and figured it was the only part worth saving. People who are willing to make a new cabinet for their boards seem to be exclusively limited to Major Havoc collectors. This is why I'd say the price of a working board is about $200, because it is the price of a not working board + potential repair costs.

When it comes to "untested" pong clones, I think $40 shipped is about as much as they are worth. There is no shortage of them. Any old board will do inside your cabinet. Remember that they can still be basket cases too. It only takes one shorted pin to hold the clock line at 0 volts. Even if they were working, I don't think that does anything to increase their value. What collector can't fix a pong clone?

With the exception of Color Gotcha, Crossfire, Maneater, etc. rarity has pretty much nothing to do with value. Literally everything within this hobby is "rare". Just because it is "rare" doesn't make it valuable. I bought the whole "rare" thing when I bought my Olympic Tennis boards. Now, I am much less naive. Exidy TV Pinball is rare, but is it valuable? What about Electra's AVENGER or UFO Chase?

I also think that a lot of Ebay sellers actually shoot themselves in the foot when they try and sell these things for crazy amounts of money. I won't waste my time negotiating with a seller of an unreasonably-priced board. I don't know how many other collectors are like that. A year goes by. The board doesn't sell. Does the seller drop the price or throw it out?

If you were an Ebay seller, would you rather list something for $500 and throw it out, or for $80 and get a buyer? To get the highest sale price, I'd recommend doing a week of bidding beginning at a low price. If the bidding ends with no sale, list it as a 'Buy It Now' with 'or Best Offer' turned on.

So yeah, that's my opinion on this stuff. Another good opinion piece about the value of arcade games was written by Bill of Billtronix/Bill's Classic Arcade (under "Just my 25 cents"), and I agree with everything he said, even though it might sound like our opinons are quite different.

Got comments or a different take altogether? Feel free to send me an email. I love getting stuff from other collectors!

This page was published 8/30/2020

This page was last edited 1/5/2022

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