Save At The Arcade By Buying Tokens On Ebay

If you still thrill to the joys of a real arcade, or take your kids to Chukee Cheese’s or Kings Dominion or other amusement parks, you can save on tokens by getting them on eBay. After reading about how you could do it on this Mighty Bargain Hunter’s post, we found a few auctions which looked decent:

1000 21.9mm Namco Arcade Amusement Tokens
(60) Kings Dominion arcade game coins tokens

(Photo: georgehotelling)


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  1. roche says:

    Since when did The Consumerist start advocating theft?

  2. PinkBox says:

    Isn’t it like $10 for 50 tokens?

    The eBay ad you have listed has a 99 cent bid for 49 tokens, but it is $4.99 for shipping. You’re only saving $4.

    And who WROTE that ad? Yoda? :P

  3. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:


    How is it theft?

  4. AnnC says:

    @roche: Are you saying that buying tokens from anybody but the establishment that uses the tokens is theft? Most people will disagree with that because the establishment already has the money (the ebay seller paid money to get the tokens).

    Or are you implying that people selling the tokens are thieves? I can easily see how people can have some tokens left after a large party (although the 1000 token auction does sound suspicious).

  5. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    Fuck the tokens, I want the Tron and Star Wars cockpit.

  6. legotech says:

    Its probably the same deal as the old Subway stickers…employees steal the tokens from the back and they or a buddy auctions them. You used to be able to get an entire roll and pack of frequent shopper cards for Subway on eBay for relatively short money, which is why Subway no longer has that program. This one’s more difficult for the company to subvert. The entire reason they use tokens in the first place is the hope that customers will leave with them in their pockets and its free money, in order to subvert the token theives they’d have to go back to using quarters and then there’s no bonus for the company.

  7. Framling says:

    So if I run an arcade and buy a bunch of tokens from TokenCorp to use in my token machines, and some kid comes in, buys one token to see what kind I use, goes home, and buys three thousand tokens from TokenCorp himself, how did he not just rip me off for three thousand tokens?

  8. RumorsDaily says:

    This is fine if the tokens were legit tokens actually purchased at the individual or chain of arcades in which they will be used. It seems slimy if the tokens are generic or work across multiple chains.

    You might as well use slugs.

    That being said, I actually bought Subway tickets off ebay and used them until my local store told me they wouldn’t accept any more from me. Then they discontinued the ticket program. Oh well.

  9. gorckat says:

    I don’t recall seeing any ‘No Outside Tokens’ at the arcades in Ocean City, Maryland during the time I lived there or my last vacation a few months ago (my wife and daughter were rocking the Deal or No Deal while my buddy and I played the shoot’em ups :p).

    It seems to be a Letter vs Spirit thing…

  10. INconsumer says:

    save at the arcade by buying a game system and stay home!

  11. Mojosan says:

    It seems to be a Letter vs Spirit thing

    It’s more like a “I can get away with stealing so I will” thing.

    If you owned a business, would you want people doing that to you?

  12. Ben Popken says:

    Wow, I didn’t even think about scamming. I figured people would just look for their arcades. I was thinking more like big chains. Having spent many a happy hour inside a dark room filled with electronic bleepings and bloppings machines kept alive by my constant stream of quarters, I would never want harm to come to an arcade owner!

  13. UpsetPanda says:

    The problem with buying them off eBay or anywhere else but the place itself is that they already have the money that was spent by the person selling the tokens, but they don’t have YOUR money, the money you would have if you went there without tokens. Granted, you might not have gone if you didn’t have the tokens off eBay, but the price you pay for the tokens doesn’t go back to the company.

  14. Scuba Steve says:

    I can see how this could lead to theft by employees. I do not see how buying tokens cheaper elsewhere is considered theft.

    That’s like saying drinking before you go to a bar is theft!

  15. cuiusquemodi says:

    @CoffeeCup: What, exactly, entitles the arcade owner to MY money specifically? Assuming that the tokens were bought on the up and up, then the arcade owner has his revenue from the sale of those tokens. When I buy a used book, am I stealing from the publisher?

    Now, that said, there’s really no way of knowing whether the tokens were bought on the up and up, is there? Caveat emptor, and all that.

    It seems to me that this in some ways serves the arcades right for using the tokens (which, by their own admission, have NO CASH VALUE) in the first place in order to seek unredeemed credit. If they stuck with using real coins, they wouldn’t have the problem, would they? A quarter will always cost 25 cents; no risk of arbitrage there.

  16. thetango says:

    ACAMBRAS (Consumerist Moderator) wrote:

    > How is this theft?


    I think there is an insidious nature to this post in that there is an outstanding question as to the authenticity of the tokens, especially the tokens listed as “1000 21.9mm Namco Arcade Amusement Tokens”.

    For arguments sake, let’s say that those tokens just happen to work in Chuck E. Cheese’s game systems. You (the Consumerist) are basically informing people of a way to “cheat” Chuck E. Cheese out of money, and for people to make profit (claim a prize at Chuck E. Cheese) based on that cheating*.

    This, in my limited view of the world, is a fraud — you are gaining something via fraudulent actions. Chuck E. Cheese is expecting you to pay for _their_ tokens, not use slugs, or tokens that just happen to work in their systems.

    Now, it goes without saying that you (personally you, and the Consumerist) aren’t saying “Cheat! Go on! Cheat them out of a prize!”, but as a few people have attempted to point out, this post comes close to implying that you are.

    As others have pointed out in this thread, it seems that token fraud (and Subway sticker fraud for that matter) is a well-known issue.

    I would have liked to have seen a warning about the authenticity of the tokens or maybe a comment that only tokens from a business should be used at that business.

    Just my two (now) worthless tokens ;),


    * I have never been to a Chuck E. Cheese. My view of the situation is that you play games by plugging in tokens into the game, and take the tickets won at those games to a counter where you claim a prize. Right?

  17. avantartist says:

    at least the arcade won’t have to reorder tokens from TokenCorp. i imagine it’s probably a wash the number of tokens that leave said arcade vs. the number of tokens that come into said arcade that weren’t purchased there.

  18. Aladdyn says:

    I used to be a manager of Aladdin’s Castle, which was owned by namco. You have to audit your tokens every week and a large number of tokens missing (as if someone stole them) would get you fired, so I dont think that someone is just selling tokens out of a “backroom”. Also the audit would show if large number of tokens were being bought and not being used in the machines. So im guessing that someone at namco would be able to find out where these tokens are coming from one way or another.

  19. Kogita says:

    The main reason Token are used, is to seperate the money from the ‘high risk’ employees, and putting all the money in one place, the token machines. The tokens are purchased over and over again, and can be put back into the token dispensers by the lowest on the food chain, there is little incentive to steal them, with no real cash value, unlike quarters.
    On the other hand, I once got enough tickets to win one of the good prizes, by using a 3 year old to get all the skeeballs into the small corner holes, so I’m not exactly the saint.
    @Scuba Steve:
    It’s closer to saying that printing your own tickets for the theatre is theft.

  20. JNighthawk says:

    A lot of places have deals based on how much you spend on tokens. $6 of tokens for $5, $12 of tokens for $10, etc.

  21. swalve says:

    @cuiusquemodi: Wow, a lot of people here don’t understand ethics. You are using the machines without giving the arcade owner any money. That’s wrong.

  22. nicoles says:

    I’ve been the tech for a number of arcades. People using other arcades’ tokens has always been a problem. You’re not actually giving *any* money to the arcade you visit if you do something like this. The only time that an arcade sees money is when you buy your tokens there, or purchase something from the concessions stand.

  23. Scuba Steve says:

    @Kogita Alright, that’s probably the better way to look at it. In the end its the game you’re taking, and its using tokens that weren’t provided by the company providing the game.

    Its a complicated situation, but it’s probably best to view it as theft of services as worst, and downright rude at best.

    Must suck that ebay lets all this theft happen. Also, shouldn’t the token vendors stop selling to the general public? Aren’t they assisting theft?

  24. cp87 says:

    Hey all. My family is in the arcade industry. We have been since before I was born. This is legit as long as you buy tokens that were sold by the establishment that you’re redeeming them at. Don’t buy the generic tokens and use them. And don’t use tokens from one arcade at another. It is illegal (theft) and seriously hurts our business. We’ll usually just kick people out, but some places do prosecute.


  25. cuiusquemodi says:

    @Kogita: By eliminating one risk (theft), you take another (inflation). If people behaved honestly, this would be a much easier decision. Moralizing aside, they don’t, or at least enough don’t to make the decision more difficult.

    @swalve: If the tokens were stolen, I agree with you. I just think that, once the tokens are legitimately bought and paid for (from the establishment where they are to be used), does it matter who paid for them? Was I committing an offense against Chuck E. Cheese as a child because my parents bought the tokens instead of me?

    This is a fine point since, of course, there’s no way of knowing how the tokens were obtained. Myself, I would be averse to using eBay tokens on this basis.

    @JNighthawk: And by taking advantage of these sorts of deals, I would have a legitimate arbitrage. Buy $12 in tokens for $10, sell them for $11 (either as a package or in smaller groups). Retailers sell goods for more than they paid for them; does this somehow make retail stores bad?

  26. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    OK — that makes sense. I guess using another arcade’s tokens isn’t cool. And I see Ben (who authored the post) has read and responded to comments too.

    I guess I never really thought about it, because I haven’t been in an arcade in well over a decade. I have just enough hand/eye coordination to drive a car, and I suck at all video games. If the arcades had Sudoku, well then I might play…

  27. roche says:

    I haven’t had the chance to come back here since I posted my reply because I was at work, but swalve pretty much sums up my point. You are using someone else’s goods with paying for them and that is theft.

  28. roche says:

    I meant to say without paying for them…..

  29. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    You know, that’s just a lot of trouble to go through to save $4 (all considerations of legality aside).

    NH used to offer residents highway toll tokens at 50% discount, and I knew people who would buy a roll of highway tokens and use them in the arcade. Again, that seemed like a lot of trouble to go through and it was fraudulent from both the point of view of the state and the arcade.

    If you’re buying tokens from another source and using them in an arcade, you certainly aren’t giving the arcade any money. When was the last time anyone said “Hey, come on into my business and use my resources for free!” Sounds like fraud to me.

  30. The Doctor says:

    Oh, Ben…Chuckee Cheese and Kings Dominion? Did we go to the same high school? Seriously…v. v. DC centric…anyways…seems like a decent plan since all that shit (chuckee cheese and kings dominion) is a rip off.

  31. mbhunter says:

    Hi everyone. I’m the author of the article that was linked to in this post.

    Here’s what I agree with. I agree that using generic tokens, or slugs, in an arcade is theft. I wouldn’t use tokens that I knew were stolen.

    But I cannot see how using genuine Chuck E Cheese tokens at a Chuck E Cheese is theft, even if I didn’t buy them at that particular Chuck E Cheese. The large majority of the locations are corporately owned and operated, so in this instance, CEC Corporate likely did already get the money. So if I buy 1,000 genuiue CEC tokens off of eBay, that’s 1,000 tokens that someone didn’t use, but paid for in one way or another. (I’m assuming that they weren’t stolen, but I’m not sure how anyone could know or even find out.) Some exonumia dealer bought those 1,000 tokens for $50 (say) and sells them to me for $100. I get the tokens for 10 cents each, and I can play 1,000 games at any CEC of my choosing without spending any money there. But again, CEC already has the money from the original transaction.

    Unless the tokens are explicitly made non-transferrable, I’d just call that smart buying. The original purchaser’s loss is my gain, but CEC doesn’t suffer because they already got paid for the tokens.

    Now, I can’t see that the manager of a particular CEC would especially _like_ me coming in there and playing the games without purchasing the tokens there because that affects his bottom line, and maybe his quarterly bonus (I don’t know any of this). I suppose he can instruct his employees to be vigilant about people bringing in their own tokens, but that would kill his business, especially since the patrons are under the impression that CEC tokens can be used at any CEC.

  32. Jesse in Japan says:

    Next you’ll have people selling those tickets you get from those ball tossing games.

  33. Riddar says:

    @lukeinnj: “seems like a decent plan since all that shit (chuckee cheese and kings dominion) is a rip off.”

    You make a convincing argument. It being a ripoff makes it OK to steal their services, after all.

    To the post… I really don’t like this idea at all. There is no way that money is getting into the correct hands with this one. There are so many loopholes in which your arcade owner gets screwed by you.

    Someone buys them in bulk from the company. An employee stole them. Someone had leftover from a DIFFERENT arcade. Heck, what stops an Chuck E Cheese manager three states over from deciding to sell tokens on eBay to boost sales, while customers use them at other locations across the country saving him the costs?

    Even if it was a chain, then your location has higher costs to lower sales, meaning you are still stealing from and hurting that location.

  34. RandomHookup says:

    Seems like there was a discussion on this in “Steal This Book.” Hoffman had figured out what foreign coins worked in the NYC subway system in lieu of tokens and purchased them cheaply from a coin dealer. Of course, there was also a chapter on making bombs in the book, so I don’t endorse the methods.

  35. mmcnary says:

    I used to go out to St. Charles to the Aladdin’s Castle (not as many new, cool games) where the tokens were 8 for $1, buy $20 bucks worth, then go the Aladdin’s Castle at Westport Plaza where all of the new, really cool games were at and play for 1/2 price. Was I stealing, or just taking advantage of the knowledge I had concerning the value of the same token in different locations?

  36. IndyJaws says:

    Back in the early 80’s while in Jr. High, I went on a school trip to Spain. Some of us discovered that the Peseta (1 cent) coin was the same size as an Aladdin’s Castle token. I’ll admit to bringing back a few hundred…

  37. @legotech:

    There’s also the fact that they don’t have to give the Brinks man (or whomever handles their money) sacks and sacks of quarters. In theory, all the metal stays in house and bills are what come and go.

    This seems to have poked a little hole in that system.

  38. rmz says:

    Most arcades around here have switched to a card-swipe system. It’s been many years since I’ve even held a token :<

  39. Lavanaut says:

    @ROCHE “Since when did The Consumerist start advocating theft?”

    Exactly. It’s that simple.