We have all seen games advertised as "fully restored" or "professionally restored". Those terms seem pretty sensible (as opposed to the oft abused "mint" or "like new"), but the problem is that we all have our own individual expectations of what a game restoration should include. From my perspective, I'm not expecting the Obsessive Perfection level of restoration: as much as I sit in wonderment reading about folk who completely strip everything off the game and polish/chrome/repaint/replace every part (right down to the transformer!) so that it is likely cleaner than it was when it left the factory, that way lies madness.
Here are my ideas of what a "game restoration" could mean:
Stage 0: Game is Basically Functional (technically not "restored", but just alive)
- - Flippers and other solenoid devices all work fully
- Controlled lamps all work, but some may be intermittent due to bad sockets
- Switches all functional, but not completely adjusted to always register (maybe missing caps, or just dirt as well)
- Displays have all digits functional, but possibly not pristine condition (e.g. slightly cooked segments)
- Possibly some annoying-but-not-fatal functional flaws (e.g. occasional sling-shot chatter)
- Possibly some compromises on mechanical parts (e.g. nuts on the back of the machine-screws holding the coil-stop bracket due to a stripped mounting plate), but basically sound (e.g. playfield posts are wiggle-free)
- No wiring hacks, unless absolutely necessary, and they must be highlighted if present
- Any high-heat connectors should be at least reflowed, and if possible rebuilt
- Game should be able to be played for several hours without glitches, but possibly not trusted to be left on overnight
- Rubbers are clean and stretchy, but not necessarily brand new
- Legs may be rusty, but at least correct and with working casters
- Game is not filthy (should pass the white-glove test on the playfield), but cosmetically may have "issues"
Stage 1: Game is Fully Restored (but not "mint")
- - Everything is completely and reliably working, electronically and mechanically, including all controlled lamps, switches, etc.
- No compromises on functional mechanical parts, and all are original (possibly some "better than original" replacements)
- Some non-critical items may be missing or substituted with non-original versions (e.g. inspection tags, circuit-board standoffs, etc)
- Displays are excellent condition (no cooked segments)
- Any stripped screw-holes should have been repaired so that the screws will not loosen with play
- No wiring hacks whatsoever
- Game should be able to be played for several hours without glitches, and can be trusted to be left on overnight
- All rubbers are new
- Legs are not rusty or bent, but possibly scratched
- Game is very clean, including non-playing areas such as the backs of plastics, posts, etc.
Stage 2: Game is Factory Condition, aka "mint"
- - Game is very clean, including non-playing areas such as under plastics.
- All posts, visible screws, and top-side metal parts are either new or polished
- All woodwork is either re-stencilled, or at least re-touched to look as new
- Playfield, Backglass, and all plastics are either minty originals, have been professionally touched-up, or are good-quality reproductions
- New condition legs and casters
- Dirt is limited to back of playfield, wiring harness, and other non-functional areas that would require a complete strip-down to clean
Stage 3: Game is Pristine (beyond "mint")
- Everything has been disassembled and put through a polisher, including under-playfield parts
All woodwork is restored/rebuilt, and repainted in factory colours
Probably the transformer has been repainted!
You could eat off of the inside of the cabinet
Game is better than Factory New condition, and could be in a museum
In the particular case of my Seawitch, I paid for what I was expecting would be a solid Stage 0 restoration (knowing the restorer well, I certainly wasn't expecting a Stage 1!). This was complicated by the game being operated by the restorer for 3 months (this was with my permission, but not with any cut of the proceeds going to me -- another story for another time!). As a result, I can't guarantee that it wasn't cosmetically great at one point, but it certainly was disgustingly dirty when returned to me, and several rubbers were getting ready to let go due to use. One rubber was installed incorrectly so that it was touching a lamp, and was actually cooked. The RipTide ball-guide had two broken angle-brackets, and had been scraping paint off the playfield. One flipper was dragging due to WD40 on the shaft (I mean, come on!)
More egregiously, there were several power-supply connectors wires that were down to one or two strands of wire connected to the spring-clips, which meant that the game stopped booting due to a wire breaking completely off the connector (with more ready to go anytime). Yes, the power-supply pins had been replaced with new: Great! How about going the next 2 inches and fix the wires too! Also, the index pins on the power-supply connectors were not replaced (and in fact the male side on the board had a pin where there should be an index "gap", so you couldn't even put one in!). The result was that the power-supply connectors could be randomly plugged in incorrectly. I consider this last to be the worst violation of Stage 0, since all it would have taken was to jam a toothpick in!
Arguably, all of this was my own fault for having someone else do the work rather than taking care of it myself, but let's just say there were extenuating circumstances as to why it played out the way it did, and it won't be happening again I can assure you!
To finish up with, some final, crusty-old-man, pet peeves:
- - Original mechanical parts should be preserved as much as possible, and substitutions noted
- I don't like seeing Robertson screws anywhere in a game: NO game ever manufactured used Robertsons!
- Similarly, deck-screws have NO place anywhere on or under the playfield!
- Wood-screws in a machine-screw location (e.g. the flipper coil-stop mounting screws) are an abomination!