I remember playing video games as a kid in the 80s and what a fun time is was. Favourites of mine included games such as Outrun, Operation Wolf, Operation Thunderbolt, Final Fight, The Punisher etc etc. What great games these were. How pleasing was it then to later discover that a group of highly talented programmers had actually written a multitude of differing emulators capable of running all these games on a home PC. What was often missing was the original feeling of playing a real arcade machine. A step closer to that experience was the release of the HotRod and later the X-Arcade controllers which used genuine arcade parts for it's controls.

What was still missing was a unique part of what made the arcade experience - popping a few coins into the machine and it miraculously giving you those precious credits in which to begin the fun. Silly as it may sounds but that was all part of the fun. And back then popping a 1 into a machine was a rare treat!!!

So I thought to myself, having an arcade machine at home would be great considering they have come down in price incredible and can be picked up from specialist dealers or off EBay for a very modest amount. But the trouble with having an arcade machine is that they take up valuable space which most people don't have.

So how to get closer to that arcade experience. Well it had to involve using coinage to activate the credits because pressing a button or key on the keyboard wasn't all that satisfying. So I decided to design an actual coin mechanism housing unit which could be connected up to the PC in some way which would actually actuate the credits on a game. And this is what this page is dedicated to.

This page includes details of 2 versions of coin boxes I have made. One uses a mechanical coin mech made by good old Happ Controls and the other using an electronic Coin Controls "Sentinel" coin mech. Both are of almost the same design, one just being slightly larger to accommodate the larger coin mech.

Both versions of the coin boxes are virtually the same consisting of a front panel where the coins are placed and the obvious rejection bay (in case those little coins fail to register). As an added sence of authenticity I made both boxes lockable using a tumbler cam lock which were also used on arcade machines to secure them from the obvious. Mine didn't really need this but oh what the hell, it's all part of the fun.

A lot of original arcade games featured 2 player action which also often meant that they had 2 coin ports, one for each player (Games such as X-Men). As my design only included a single coin shute, I included a front panel switch which would alternate between player 1 and 2 coin shutes.

The actual design of the box was produced in DesignCad and built using 12mm MDF, a few screws and a pot of paint. Below is a set of the designs in meta format and jpg format. (Excuse the drawings, they may not comply to BS 308 standards - I can just about remember what I did on my aerospace degree course!!!) Note: To best view the images they must be viewed at 100% otherwise it appears as though half the detail is missing

Description: MetaFile: JPeg:
Mark 1 - 3 view drawing m1_draw.wmf m1_draw.jpg
Mark 1 - Wood Requirements m1_draw.wmf m1_draw.jpg
Mark 2 - 3 view drawing m2_draw.wmf m2_draw.jpg
Mark 2 - Wood Requirements m2_draw.wmf m2_draw.jpg
Mark 2 - Rear Panel m2_panel.wmf m2_panel.jpg

So then on to my first attempt at a coin box. At first I really didn't know where to begin. I know I wanted a coin mech but didn't know where to get them. I then stumbled across a company called Happ Controls who seem to be one of the major suppliers of components to the arcade industry. They had a variety of different coin mechanisms, panels and boxes. I didn't really want to be spending a fortune on a project that might not work. So I decided to go for the basic coin mech and a single front panel. As I'm in the U.K. I went for the 10p coin mech but as a result of ordering the single front panel also got the American 25 cents mech with it. As the design of these mechs and panels is standard, it is very easy to take one mech out and replace it with another.

So I received the coin mech and front panel from the U.K. division of Happ Controls and began designing the box based on the coin mech and the front panel. Other controls were also required which would be used to connect the coin box up to the PC via the X-Arcade controller. Also the light on the coin mech would require power and I didn't want to use the mains supply so opted for batteries but wanted some way of turning off the light when not in use. So a switch would be in order. But I didn't just want to use some little rocker switch so I thought I would get a switch with a bit more style to fit in with the rest of the design. So I used a cam lock switch which requires a key to activate it. Yes I know it's pointless but hey, might as well do things properly right!! Most of the parts were ordered from either RS Components or Maplin and are listed below

Part No: Qty: From: Description: Used For:
40-0023-00P 1 Happ Controls Single Front Panel Receiving coinage
42-3116-00 1 Happ Controls 10 pence coin mech Validating coinage
752-183 1 RS Components Security, lock, tumbler, raised bezel, 21x30mm Lock on back door of coin box
FE44X 1 Maplin Min Key Switch Locking switch for light circuit
HF84F 2 Maplin Line Socket Scr 3.5 Coin 1 and 2 switch

The wiring of the coin switch took a few attempts to get right but eventually it worked and a pulse was sent to the respective mono jack output when a coin was inserted based on the position of the front panel switch. Below is a simple, if rather crude, circuit diagram showing (on the left) the coin selector switch connecting the coin mech micro switch to the mono mini jack outputs which will later connect to the X-Arcade. On the right is the light switch circuit.

So I had built the first version of the coin box which worked fine. So why build another one that does effectively the same thing. Well although the coin mech worked and did it's job it, it really didn't simulate what I remember of the arcade machines. Most machines I have seen in America accept only one coin, this usually being a 25 cent coin. But in the U.K. most of the modern machines accept a variety of coinage which allows for a different number of credits to be purchases usually with a discount for larger coins. As I remember from playing most games, and in particularly my all time favourite "Operation Wolf", 1 credit would cost 30p, 2 for 50p and 5 for a 1. But the current coin mech I had only supports one coin at a time. So I would have to start looking for a different mech. Searching as many sites and pages as I could came up with very little. Then I turned to our good friend EBay to see if there were any on there. Luckily there was a perfectly working Coin Controls "Sentinel" mech fitted with a credit control unit which cost a mere 12. So I received the coin mech and scratched my head in an attempt to work out how to power the thing up because these mechs, unlike the previous one, require a 12v DC supply to work. After many searches, emails and phone calls I finally got the information I needed about how to get power to the mech and how to set the dip switches on the Credit Unit to achieve what I had remembered from the original arcades. As technical details seem to be a bit thin on the ground, I have put together a section about how to power up these devices and the dip switch settings for the credit control unit. See Sentinel Coin Mech Technical Info

The difference between the Sentinel mech and the original Happ Controls mech was that the Sentinel mech was a lot larger. So I couldn't use the same box but I did like how the design had turned out so I just used the same design and extended a few of the dimensions. This is why both boxes look almost identical.

Another part that I was going to require, which might have been difficult to find, was a front panel suitable of fitting to the Sentinel coin mech. And with more amazing luck I found an auction on EBay which was for loads of bits from an old cigarette machine that this guy was dismantling. In the list of bits was a Coin Controls C220 coin mech (similar to the Sentinel except for name as far as I can tell!!!) and a front panel. And for real nostalgia it was the same front panel design as I remember on the Operation Wolf machine I used to play. Oh how wonderful!!! And even better than that I won the whole lot of bits for 5. Bargain!! Thank you EBay!!!

So I began work on the new coin box trying out a few improved techniques for making it's construction even better. Again like the other box it was made out of 12mm MDF which was cut to the right sizes and then screwed together and finally painted (FYI: The mark 1 coin box was painted using a brush but I thought I might get a better finish if I sprayed it - unfortunately not but that just might be me - that's why the finish on the second box doesn't quite look up to scratch!) Luckily enough thanks to consistent design, the holes on the front panel matched those on the Happ Controls front panel.

Once the box was completed, it was a case of putting all the parts into it and giving it a test. I wrote a little Visual Basic test application which would test the connections on both the coin ports. And by amazing chance it worked first time. So it was just a case of adjusting the dip switches on the Credit Control Unit to achieve the desired costs for the credits.

Part No: Qty: From: Description: Used For:
- 1 EBay Coin Controls Front Panel For Sentinel Receiving coinage
- 1 EBay Sentinel coin mech (1, 50p, 20p & 10p) Validating coinage
197-7901 1 RS Components Rocker Switch Black (DPDT) Coin Selector Switch for front panel
GU49 1 Maplin SPST 16A Rocker Power switch on back panel
JK02C 2 Maplin Line Socket Scr 3.5 Coin 1 and 2 switch
??? 1 Maplin Female power connect Power inlet for 12v DC power supply

Once the coin boxes were made, they had to be connected to the PC somehow in order to activate the credits in the games. There were 2 options.

Well the first option would be good because it won't require the X-Arcade to be present but it would mean additional expenditure on a card that would simulate keyboard input. So I opted for the second as chances are I would always be using the X-Arcade with it. As I had only had my X-Arcade controller for a few weeks, I didn't want to start modifying it, in case I damaged it or invalidated it's warrenty. So I came up with a fairly simple solution that seems to work well.

First what I did was to remove the bottom cover from the X-Arcade to see what I should be connecting to. Any connection to the X-Arcade would have to be to the 2 side buttons which are used to insert coins. I didn't want to solder anything to the switches but found that the protective rubber covers could be removed easily. Once I had connected some wire to these switches, I would need to wires to run outside the X-arcade unit so they could be connected to the coin box. Thankfully there is a small gap to the right of the PS2 socket where the keyboard connector goes. I could pass the wires through this hole. Then it was just a case of attaching some female mini jack connectors to the end so a mono mini jack inter-connect could connect the X-Arcade to the sockets on the coin boxes.

The following image illistrates the 2 external female mini jack connectors for both coin A and B coming out of the back of the X-Arcade controller. As you can see no additional holes were required to fit the wires through.

The next image shows the inside of the X-Arcade controller where the wires from the 2 female mini jack connectors have been connected to the appropriate connections on the "Insert Coin" buttons. Arrows 1 and 2 point to the 2 connections on Coin B switch and arrows 3 and 4 point to the 2 connections on Coin A switch

The next image shows a close up of how the wires are connected to the button switches. It's a fairly crude approach of basically sliding the wiring up inside the rubber sleeve so it makes contact with the existing wires. In the image the light blue and the brown wires are the ones that have been added.

The final image shows a how the coin box and the X-Arcade are connected together in the complete setup.

This section shows some very brief footage of the 2 versions of the coin boxes in operation. Excuse the footage - I'm no Stanley Kubrick I'm afraid!

File Description
Coin Box Mark 1 having 2 x 10p coins inserted to award 2 credits (1,281 KB)
Coin Box Mark 2 having a 20p and a 10p coin inserted to award 1 30p credit (803 KB)
Coin Box Mark 2 having a 1 inserted to award 5 credits (1,755 KB)

The Coin Controls "Sentinel" coin mech I used for the mark 2 version of the coin box is fitted with a Credit Control Unit to allow the programming of how many credits are awarded for certain coinage. In order for the coin mech to function it requires a 12 volt power supply. The diagram below shows how to connect the coin mech to a power supply (via the Credit Control Unit) along with other connection details.

The Credit Control Unit is connected to the Sentinel Coin Mech by a 15 pin connector. Power is then supplied to both units via the Credit Control Unit via pins 5 and 6 on the connector labelled "To Machine". Pins 3 and 4 are the credit switch circuit which will be connected to the coin output connectors as shown below:

Below are tables detailing the dip switches on the Credit Control Unit in terms of how credits are generated for given coinage

Table 1: Position of dip switches 1 to 5 in order to determine how much one credit costs

SW 1 SW 2 SW 3 SW 4 SW 5 Price in pence for 1 credit
x = Doesn't matter

Table 2: Position dip switches 7 to 9 in order to determine how many credits the highest programmed coin will generate (so for 1 I set the dip switches to generate 5 credits). Note: Other sources of information have suggested that it's switches 6 to 8 but I found this was incorrect although don't take my word for it!

SW 7 SW 8 SW 9 Number of credits

Table 3: Position dip switches 10 to 11 in order to determine how many credits the 2nd highest programmed coin will generate (so for 50p I set the dip switches to generate 2 credits). Note: Other sources of information have suggested that it's switches 9 and 10 but I found this was incorrect although don't take my word for it!

SW 10 SW 11 Number of credits

Do I sell or manufacture these coin boxes?

Unfortunately not. I built them as a personal project, a bit of fun and they turned out rather well. As a single item they cost a far amount to build and could only really be build cheaply in bulk.

Can these coin boxes be connected to a games console such as the X-Box?

Not really. Arcade games work on the concept of credits which allows the player to play the game. Consoles don't use this principle as they are effectively on free-play.

Can these coin boxes be converted to other currencies besides Sterling?

Yes. Due to the modular design of the coin mechanisms and the front panel, coin mechs for different coins can be swapped over quite easily.

If you have any comments or would like to know more about the coin boxes I have designed then please drop me an email at Chris Nightingale

Copyright Chris Nightingale 2003 -- Page Construction Date: 01/04/03