On an arcade game the marquee is the nameplate at the top of the cabinet (outside of the US, this part is sometimes called the header). They usually have light fixtures behind them to help call attention to the games title.
There are several different types of marquees available.
- Glass marquee
These are fairly rare. They are a sheet of glass with the graphics silk screened onto them. The industry pretty much stopped using these after about 1982 or so (but lots of early dedicated cabinets had them).
- Plastic marquee
These are a sheet of plastic with the graphics silk screened on. These are also fairly uncommon on modern machines (the only modern machine I can think of that has this kind is the Neo-Geo MVS which also has little slots cut out it for "mini marquees" that show the titles currently available on the machine).
- Plexiglass marquee
This is the most common type. The graphics are printed onto a thin sheet of plastic, which is then placed behind a sheet of plexiglass. Almost all modern games use this type of marquee. These come oversized, and are meant to be cut down to fit your machine.
- Paper marquee
This is as cheap as you can get. The graphics are printed onto thick paper, which is meant to be displayed behind plexiglass (fairly uncommon).
- Sticker marquee
Nintendo Vs. Unisystem games came with big stickers for marquees. They are installed over the prexisting marquee (these do not let a lot of light through).
- Custom marquee
A few games had odd marquee styles like Turbo (Oversized monitor bezel), Dragon's Lair (3 panels printed on plastic), solid plastic (made out of plastic with simple graphics, the colors actually go all the way through. These are very durable), and I even recall a machine with a neon marquee, but the title escapes me.
The silk screened marquees are very beautiful, but they are prone to heat damage (from having lights on inches behind them for years), and are easy to scratch from the backside.
The plastic, paper, and sticker style marquees fade very easily, but are often cheap to replace.
The odd styled marquees will often take the most abuse, especially the solid plastic style (you can scratch those to hell, and they still look good once you turn the light on behind them).
The silk screened style of marquee can be repaired fairly easily with those paint sticks that you can buy at art stores (that can fix scratches, but not heat damage). Other styles of marquees usually need to be replaced when they become damaged (easier said than done for some titles).
Marquees have become a kind of collectable item lately (there are a lot more marquees out there, than there are machines to install them into, due to conversions, and the longtime habit of stripping parts from old cabinets before they get junked). But rarity does not always equal value when it comes to marquees. The most common marquees (Ms. Pac-Man, Tempest, Joust, etc), usually command higher prices than those for the more obscure titles. The major exceptions to that are usually related to variations on the common titles (like the variant Q*Bert marquee that says "*@#!$" instead of "Q*Bert"). Most marquees are valued in the $10 - $25 range (more for glass ones), and they are readily available on eBay for most titles.
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