Philips = Philips head screwdriver
Tri-wing = Tri-wing head screwdriver 1Bit may not be long enough to reach screws without removing plastic 2Works for most games 3Check game’s internal circuit board to identify the battery needed. It should be labeled either “CR2025” or “CR2016“. 4The Sega Dreamcast’s VMU requires the use of two (2) CR2032 batteries.
Game Cleaning Tips: Restoring the Outside of your Retro Gaming Cartridge
We all know the joy of finding a retro video games. Perhaps it’s one you’ve wanted to play for a long time, or maybe you’ve finally hunted down a super rare one for the collection. Unfortunately, 20+ year old games are rarely in top condition. I’d like to go over some tips for cleaning the outside of your retro gaming carts. (If you want to clean the game’s contacts inside, check out our internal cleaning guide.)
I’ve cleaned hundreds if not thousands of NES, SNES, N64, Genesis, and other retro game cartridges. While that often means just a quick touch up, many times it’s involved super extensive marker, dirt, and sticker removal. Murphy’s Law suggests that the rarer the game, the more likely it is that someone will have put a name, sticker, or some other horror on the label. Anyway, through trial & error, talking with fellow gamers, collectors, game store owners, and people at pawn shops, I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit. I’m always open to your tips and suggestions. This guide covers some of the wisdom I’ve learned along the way. As always, proceed at your own risk and do your research and safe testing before trying to clean your rarer games.
First off, it’s handy to be able to open the games. This generally isn’t 100% necessary, but it’s insanely helpful if you have grime in the cracks between the game’s casing, etc. Additionally, it’s quite useful if you ever want to change your video game’s battery in order to regain saved game functionality. There are two main bits that you’ll want to pick up if you’re a collector. Both of these bits fit into your standard screwdriver handle. Additionally, both game opening security bits can be purchased at our eBay store.
3.8mm Game Security Bit allows you to open your Original 8-bit NES, SNES, N64, and Game Boy game cartridges. If you’re an old school Nintendo game collector like me, this is a must have.
4.5mm Game Security Bit allows you to open your Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and Game Cube consoles. Additionally, it’ll allow you to open your Sega console and Sega Genesis & Mega Drive game cartridges.
CLEANING THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR GAME
First things first, grab a couple rags and your favorite cleaning supplies. As you’re looking around, here’s what I suggest:
Old Tooth Brush
Removing Dirt: Spray a rag with Windex or some similar sort of cleaner, and start scrubbing that plastic. Just be careful not the wet the game’s label. If the label itself is dirty, you can still attempt to clean (with caution). If the label still has its gloss finish, you’ll probably be ok. If it’s more of a worn and faded matte finish, be especially careful. Oh yeah, you can use a dry or slightly moistened old tooth brush to clean dust and grit out of those harder to reach places on the cartridge.
Removing Magic Marker: It’s pretty common to find a person’s name written in magic marker on old games. People did this to prevent games from getting mixed up during sleepovers, etc., but it’s a big eye-sore now. Your main two tools for removing magic marker are magic erasers and rubbing alcohol.
Magic Eraser: If you’re using a magic eraser, just lightly moisten it, and start scrubbing. Since this is basically a specialized sponge, be careful not to let the water run from the sponge onto anything that might be damaged.
Rubbing Alcohol: If you’re going to use rubbing alcohol, just moisten an area of your rag, and start rubbing the ink/marker covered area. Given time, these two methods should remove most marker and probably any nearby dirt.
Removing Stickers & Tape: Lots of game stores & rental places put stickers on games. Dealing with these is probably the worst part of cleaning games. Use extra caution (and a ton of patience) when removing with stickers. Here are a few methods for removing stickers:
Peel & Scream: Well, this is the obvious method and definitely the worst one. Sort of like taking off a band-aid, you can grab a hold of that sticker, peel it fast, and pray for the best. Extra prayer is recommended if the sticker is on a label, since prayer is about the only thing preventing this method from destroying the game’s label underneath. In reality, you shouldn’t use this method unless the sticker is on a safe area of the game’s plastic.
Windex: Using Windex you can lightly moisten the surface of the sticker. Let it sit for a minute or two. The Windex should soften up the sticker over time and will let you scrape it away with a fingernail. As a note, this method is extra risky if the sticker is on the game’s label. Additionally, it obviously doesn’t work on waterproof stickers, vinyl stickers, etc.
Blow Dryer: It turns out that blow dryers (aka in man-speak as “heat guns”) are pretty awesome for removing stickers. The idea is to use hot air to heat up the sticker. The sticker’s glue generally starts to soften and loosen up when heated. When done just right, that means you’ll hopefully be able to simply heat and peel off the sticker. The trick here is tons of patience. A stubborn sticker may need to be heated, partially peel, reheated, peeled a little more, reheated, etc. Since thrift stores seem to love using packing tape to bundle items, this method is pretty good for removing that sort of material as well.
Goo Gone: Once the sticker is off, it’s time to get rid of any sticker residue. Goo Gone is great for this. Just apply a little to your cleaning cloth and start working on that goo.
If you haven’t already, check out our YouTube videos for cleaning & repair tips. If you want to clean your game’s internal contacts, check out our internal cleaning guide. Best of luck as you’re restoring your retro gaming collection, and happy retro gaming!
I hope this guide will give you some ideas for cleaning your cartridge based video game collection. If you have any cleaning tips or suggestions for this guide, just send me a message or post a comment below, and I’ll be happy to add them.
As with any guide, experiment and find out what works for you. Feel free to check out the Video Game Museum Amazon and eBay stores for rare vintage games and cartridge opening bits. Most of all, happy collecting and have fun!
Recently, a guy named Henry sent me an e-mail asking for help identifying a strange Sega Genesis accessory. I’ve come across one of these in the past and frankly have no idea what it is. From these photos (which aren’t the clearest), you can see that it has a number of pins that connect to the Sega Genesis’ board where the Sega CD would normally attach. When attached, it sticks out of the system slightly. Thus, it seems like it must have a purpose.
I love eBay for being both a marketplace and a living museum of video game history! Here are the fantastic items that I’m watching this week.
CALTRON 6 IN 1 NINTENDO NES ORIGINAL GAME SEALED RARE
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Fortune Hunter Edition …why are the most expensive items often sold by zero feedback sellers. Is that (A) a guarantee that the listing is a scam, (B) simply a sign that someone wants to sell the item anonymously, or (C) some honest guy who simply never used eBay before?
SNES Donkey Kong Country Competition Complete Nintendo
Soap Panic CIB Famicom Bubble Bath Babes NES Complete
AV Pachi Slot Big Chance CIB Famicom Hot Slots NES
Unique Atari 2700 (2600) RC Stella Prototype Console You can read more about this console in the Atari Museum. Bidding still has about a day to go and this gem is going for $1,150.00 USD!
Unique Atari 2600 CX-2000 “Val” Prototype Console Also featured in the Atari Museum. Bidding still has about a day to go and this gem is already up to $2,500.00 USD!
SEGA Channel Hoodie
Atari Video Music model C-240 Innovative Leisure RARE!!
Lair Artbox Promotional Reel (Playstation 3, 2007)
Nintendo Super Mario Bros 1989 Puppet Kooler Cup Weird!
Nintendo Game Boy Advance Store Display Kiosk + Mario
Rare Mario Chain Chomp Soccer Ball Collectible Awesome…looks like these were used to promote Super Mario Strikers. Anyone know if these are actually rare or not?
VERY RARE Super Mario 2 Dixie Cup FULL SET 1989 For the Mario collector who has everything…
Nintendo Super Mario Bros 1989 Puppet Kooler Cup Weird! Yup, weird.
1980 PAC-MAN TELEPHONE IN COUNTER DISPLAY BOX WORKS! This is hands down the coolest phone I’ve ever seen. More photos are below…
Xbox Live 4′ Store Display Sign 360
Nintendo 64 N64 4′ x 10′ Store Display Sign
Nintendo Game Boy 4′ x 10′ Store Display Sign
Vintage Sega Genesis 4′ x 10′ Store Display Sign
Vintage Super Nintendo SNES 4′ x 10′ Store Display Sign
rare vintage Nintendo Gameboy fiber optic sign display
RARE 1996 Nintendo 64 Promo Banner Display Sign N64 Wii
You have to respect a guy who does his research when it has to do with retro-gaming history! Greg Pabich contacted me a few weeks ago wanting to identify a couple of old Action 52 cartridges that he’d been keeping in a box for the last two decades. It’s quite clear that Greg’s been doing his homework, so I figured he should get the proper recognition for it.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the notorious Action 52 unlicensed cart for the original Nintendo, the back story is possibly just as, if not more, interesting than the games themselves. A guy by the name of Vince Perri ran a company named Active Enterprises LTD what was partially based out of Miami, FL and partially based in Nassau, Bahamas. History of Active Enterprises is quite hard to come by. They made the Action 52 for the NES in 1991 and for Sega Genesis in 1993, produced Cheetahmen II using recycled carts from the Action 52, and then disappeared. In fact, they actually disappeared before Cheetahmen II ever hit the market, thus making the 1996 discovery of about 1500 Cheetahmen II carts a huge surprise to the gaming community.
Using some good old fashioned sleuth work, Andrew Harris at “The Warp Zone” attempted to contact Vince Perri to find out the history of Active Enterprises. Yet, strangely, each person he contacted gave him the identical “WHY DO YOU WANT TO KNOW THIS?” response. Perhaps each was Vince Perri answering separate e-mail addresses with different aliases. Or perhaps it was just a coincidence, but Vince Perri seems defensive enough that one can only wonder what he’s hiding. Did he think Jason was a lawyer digging up a cold case or perhaps that Jason was someone to whom Mr. Perri owed money? Who knows, maybe he was just shy.
Years passed with nothing but silence on the history of the Action 52, and then I got an e-mail from Greg Pabich. During the 90s, Pabich owned a video and game distributorship.
I owned a very large preplayed movie and game distribution business located in Dallas, TX. I set up the game buy back/trade in programs for Babbages, Toys R Us, Software, Etc. and others. We also built the opening store inventory (movies and games) packages for the Blockbuster franchisees in North America, Hawaii, Mexico, Canada, Panama, ETC, ETC See: http://www.inc.com/magazine/19971015/1482.html
During the course of his business dealing, Pabich was contacted by none other than Vince Perri. Vince had a pitch and invited him to Miami to discuss it.
I was introduced to Vince Perri, one of the owners of Active as a potential U.S. distributor of the Action 52 cart. I went to Florida in either late 1990 or early 1991 to discuss the “deal.” He had a large warehouse/office building and appeared to be a legitimate business. I was discussing the purchase of many 1,000’s of games and it involved a tremendous amount of money. In a business like I was in that was full of con artists, I was wary because I was told the carts were going to be assembled “offshore”–the Bahamas according to Perri–and that they must be paid for in full–IN ADVANCE!
He did not have pallets of finished games in evidence, only a handful of what he called “Prototypes” of which I returned with one (which he was very reluctant to part with). There were employees and activities going on (mock ups, advertising posters, promotional stuff, etc) and Active appeared to be a real business. He never mentioned any partners.
We talked and talked, had dinner and I left Florida knowing that the deal was too shaky for me to risk a million dollar upfront payment being wired to the Bahamas…
In hind-sight, Mr. Pabich seems to have made a wise choice. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, the Action 52 collection of games is a pretty horrible set of 52 mostly unfinished buggy games. From the game play alone, it’s no surprise that they went under. However, we can also see from Pabich’s account of the interaction that Active was shaky from the beginning.
Anyone familiar with Craigslist-based scams knows that you don’t wire or accept money wires (Western Union) from Nigerians offering to buy or ship an item for a too-good-to-be-true price. Perhaps the second most feared country for scams is the Bahamas. Luckily, Pabich chose the cup without the proverbial iocane powder. He didn’t put down the cash and, instead, walked away with a piece of gaming history: one of the earliest known Action 52 carts.
Although Mr. Perri isn’t here to verify the exact history of Pabich’s blue-boarded Action 52 cart, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s a prototype. Let’s take a look at the evidence to that point.
The cart’s plastic casing is held together with metal screws. Most Action 52 carts contained no screws whatsoever and instead were held together with something like clear plastic rivets. It makes sense to start with hand-built prototypes that could be assembled and disassembled quickly by hand.
The PCB (printed circuit board) is a unique blue color. Normally, they’re green and sometimes (although less commonly) black. The label is also blue, while all other known labels are clear.
“Made in America” appears to be hand stamped on the PCB (printed circuit board) rather than being factory printed.
Board is 3/4 inches shorter than others.
It does not utilize capacitors as do the other versions. The capacitor was generally used to defeat Nintendo’s lock-out chip and wouldn’t be needed in a prototype version.
The PCB has EPROMS and no production PROMS. The production carts contained PROMS that are labeled ACTION 52 as all other production carts do.
Both pieces (top and bottom) come from different molds than the production carts. The arrow and the word TOP is missing on the front; all references to ACTIVE ENTERPRISES, PAT PENDING AND MADE IN U.S.A are missing from the reverse. The side flanges on the top piece are FLAT instead of curved.
“MikeSanders” (aka Andrew Harris) at Cheetahmen Corner and the guys at Nintendo Age give a good account of the unique nature of Greg Pabich’s cart. Putting all this information together, I have to agree with Pabich when he recalls Perri’s referring to the cart that he received as a “prototype.”
I also have to applaud Mr. Pabich for his time and effort in researching this cart. Clearly, he’s done his homework in trying to establish the game’s history. In addition to the original photos that he sent me (See my original post), I just received a fantastic batch of photos from him. In them, we have a rare side-by-side comparison of each variation in the Action 52 game that he could get his hands on.
Photographed we have the following Action 52 carts:
Pabich’s Blue Prototype
Production w Black PCB
Production 023-N507 REV. A
Production 023-N507 REV. B
Cheetahmen II 023-N509 REV. 0
Production Sega Genesis
Take a look for yourself at the gallery of 30+ detailed and close-up photos below. What do you think? Is Greg Pabich’s Action 52 cart a prototype or simply a rare variant?
Plus, check out the clearance category for items priced at 40% off! And if that isn’t lovely enough, you’re always welcome to use the “Best Offer” feature to make a reasonable offer on other items in the store. Hopefully, you can find something to give your favorite retro gaming veteran.
Here are a few pretties from my eBay watch list that I figure my fellow video game collectors will enjoy:
Radiant Silvergun (Saturn) SS RARE NO RESERVE!!! Currently at $160.00 USD and climbing. (Ended April 24, 2010 at $165.00 USD)
RARE NES Game Action Replay GAR save Nintendo games!! I simply love my GAR. I picked it up in a lot of 8-bit Nintendo stuff about a year ago. Beat a level, save, beat a boss, save… It’s a pretty simple idea for us now, but doing this is the 80s was unheard of. Little did any of us know that this sweet gem would have allowed us to finally beat impossible (and beloved) games like Battletoads or Double Dragon III…or give us extra opportunities to make insane jumps in Ninja Gaiden. (Ended April 22, 2010 at $97.00 USD)
ATARI LYNX P.I.T.S FAHRSCHULE/ NEU * NEW /NO ATARI 2600 (Ended April 24, 2010 at 375.00 EUR; about $481.50 USD)
MagiCard Ultra Rare Blue Label Atari 2600 Cartridge R10 If you thought Air Raid was the only rare Atari 2600 cartridge to keep an eye out for, think again. Here’s one more to watch for. (Ended April 24, 2010 at $6766.67 USD)
*SIGNED* World of Warcraft Collector’s Edition The seller states that this was signed by the development team. It’ll be interesting to see what this goes for. (Ended April 27, 2010 at $530.00 USD)
I hit the usual flea market this weekend and found a number of rare and interesting retro games and accessories. My top find was a loose copy of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (sadly in rough shape). Surprisingly, this is actually a decent game to actually play. Since Michael’s death the game has become quite hard to find and has been hovering at about $40-60+. Putting this one in the eBay store.
My other favorite find was a Turbo Touch 360 controller for the Sega Genesis. It still blows my mind that there was anything touch sensitive 20 years ago. I can’t say it’s the best controller out there, but it’s not that bad either. As you can see from my finds, I love toying around with weird turbo and programmable controllers. This one is staying in the collection.
Taiko Drum Master for PS2 was a great find especially since it’s complete in box. I’m not sure whether to hold onto this one or not, so it’s going into collection/eBay limbo.