The original Sony PlayStation, first released in 1994, remains one of the most iconic and influential video game consoles of all time. As the first mainstream disc-based system, the PS1 ushered in the era of 3D graphics and expansive game worlds that shaped gaming for decades to come.
For retro gaming enthusiasts, buying an original PlayStation can be a rewarding but challenging endeavor. With the system now over 25 years old, finding one in quality working condition requires close inspection. This in-depth guide will cover everything you need to know when evaluating and purchasing an original PS1.
Table of Contents
Overview of Key PlayStation 1 Purchase Criteria
Here is a quick overview of the main factors to consider when assessing a potential PS1 purchase:
- Outer plastic shell condition – Look for cracks, scuffs, damage.
- Ports – Verify disc drive, controller, AV ports are intact.
- Buttons and controls – Ensure buttons have click and d-pad is firm.
- Discs – Spin games to check drive reads without grinding.
- Insides – Check for rust, battery corrosion, frayed wires when opened.
- Video output – Test with games on a TV for visual issues.
- Audio – Verify clean stereo sound in both speakers.
- Games – Test with quality/official titles across genres.
- Prices – Expect to pay more for rare colors, bundles, mint boxes.
Keeping these quick checks in mind will help you identify quality PS1 consoles worth purchasing for your collection. Next, we’ll dive deeper into what to inspect for an ideal retro PlayStation experience.
Check Condition of the Outer Shell and Buttons
Given their age, many PS1 consoles for sale online or at thrift stores have considerable wear and tear built up over decades of use. The PlayStation’s outer plastic shell is prone to scuffs, discoloration, and cracks from heavy play. Closely inspect the overall condition of the casing and seams.
- Look for major cracks around the base, controller ports, or CD lid that expose internal parts. Broken clip hinges are also common failure points.
- Check that the plastic hasn’t warped substantially causing fittings to pop out. Some minor scuffs are expected, but distortion indicates mistreatment.
- Watch for aftermarket replacement cases which lack the “PlayStation” logo embossing on top. Originals have distinctive texturing.
Also verify button functionality. PS1 controls should still provide good tactile feedback without sticky residue or jammed inputs.
- Test each button on the front including power, eject, reset feels firm and pops back out responsively.
- Confirm the directional pad still has an audible click in each direction with no missed inputs.
- Analog sticks naturally degrade over time but should still center properly without major drift.
Replacement cases and button pads are available if the shell or controls are beyond restoration. But pristine condition originals retain more collector value if buttons operate crisply.
Examine Condition of Ports and Disk Drive
Flip the console over to closely check the condition of the rear ports which are vital for hooking up the system.
- Examine controller and AV Multi Out ports for any bent or pressed pins. Any visible corrosion around the metal is a red flag.
- Try plugging in controllers and cables to verify a snug fit without wiggle room. Loose ports signal potential issues.
- Press the eject button and verify the CD drive tray still opens and closes smoothly without obstruction.
Next, insert a disc and check that the drive still spins and focuses properly. Listen for any loud grinding noises of a severely worn out motor.
- CD motors naturally wear down over time, but should still rotate discs quietly with only mild friction noise.
- After getting past startup screens, check that load times aren’t excessively long which indicates issues reading disc data.
- Gently rock the system while a disc is inserted to test if the laser assembly still tracks movement properly.
Faulty optical drives are unfortunately common on aging PS1 systems. But replacements are readily available if needed. The key is avoiding consoles with severely malfunctioning and grinding drives requiring extensive repairs.
Open Up the Case and Check Inside Components
While not always fully necessary, opening up the console to peek into its interior condition can reveal potential issues with components. This requires removing the bottom screws and carefully lifting the outer shell. Refer to online teardown guides for exact screw placements.
Here are the main areas to inspect inside an opened up PlayStation 1:
- Look for any signs of rust corrosion around metal shielding and frame supports. Light surface oxidation may happen, but heavy rust indicates moisture damage.
- Check around chips and boards for any leaked clock capacitor battery acid damage. Especially under the logic/controller board.
- Examine solder joints on port connections and critical points like the power jack for any cracked joints or damage from dropping.
- Look for odd stains, scorch marks, or melted spots that imply electrical short circuiting occurred at some point.
- Verify no wires appear oddly chewed, frayed, or pinched that could lead to failure under load. Rodents love the PS1, so watch for gnaw marks.
- Check that controller ports are clean with no significant oxidation from corrosion that could impede connectivity.
Aim for systems where the inside appears tidy and intact with no major signs of moisture or pest infiltration. Some surface grime and dust is expected on older models. But heavy internal corrosion, battery damage, and frayed cabling can be tough fixes.
Test Gameplay with Reliable Titles
Of course, the definitive test of any vintage console purchase is verifying gameplay. Hook up your PS1 to power, a TV, and test controllers to put it through its paces. Boot up some certified PlayStation games you trust across genres to check for any graphical glitches, sound issues, or random crashing/freezing.
Here are some suggested PS1 test titles to try covering range of fidelity and genres:
- 3D games: Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
- Fighters: Tekken 3, Street Fighter Alpha 3
- Shmups: R-Type Delta, Thunder Force V
- RPGs: Final Fantasy 7, Xenogears
- 2D titles: Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Vagrant Story
- Music: PaRappa the Rapper, Beatmania
Aim to test for at least 20-30 minutes of gameplay per title, varying camera angles and gameplay intensity. Check that controls remain accurately responsive throughout without loose sticks or buttons failing.
Also let systems fully load for a while to check for potential overheating shutdown issues. Properly functioning consoles should play all game genres without graphical, audio, or crashing problems.
Verify Serial Numbers and Model
For collectors concerned about production lineages, verifying serial numbers and matching regional model numbers are also important when purchasing a PS1. The serial number can be found printed on a sticker on the bottom along with basic specs.
- Double check this serial sticker hasn’t been obviously tampered with or replaced. Look up the serial code online to identify if it matches Sony’s numbering formats.
- The system’s target region and hardware specifications can be identified from the model numbering format which typically starts with “SCPH-XXXX” eg. SCPH-1001
- Model numbers were consistent across regions. For example, SCPH-1001 is the launch PS1 model in all territories.
Research your particular PS1 model number online to learn its quirks and hardware variances. And check it matches the label stickers which should avoid sign of swapping or non-original parts. Box included systems will have matching serials on packaging.
PS1 Regional Hardware and Model Differences
While functionally very similar, some minor hardware differences did exist between PlayStation 1 models manufactured for different regions. As a recap, here are some key hardware variances:
Japanese SCPH-1000 – Earliest launch units had a power switch on front and S-Video output. Serial port on back for discs and link cable. No regional lockout.
North American SCPH-1001 – Initial launch model had only composite AV out and integrated power button. Added regional disc lockout chip.
PAL SCPH-1002 – Featured 50Hz mode modifying for PAL TVs. Had same integrated power switch and lockout chip as NA version.
SCPH-500x Models – Cost reduced redesign with stripped expansion port. Shared common motherboard and case differences globally.
SCPH-700x Models – Integrated RCA jacks rather than proprietary AV port. Further component integration and cost savings.
SCPH-900x Models – Final revision focused on slimming the PS1 case. Moved controller ports and power to front.
Each region saw these same models introduced over time, but with slight variances in components or features like power buttons or output ports. But functionally North American, PAL, and Japanese units play the same games.
Expected Market Pricing for PlayStation 1 Consoles
Pricing for an original PlayStation can range considerably based on model, bundled accessories, special editions, limited bundles and overall condition. Here are some typical market values:
- Loose PS1 – Expect $40-80 for just a base PS1 in good condition with cables and controller. Maybe up to $120+ if absolutely mint condition.
- With Box – Around $100-150 for a complete in box PS1 with manuals, styrofoam, inserts etc. Graded 9+ condition boxes can fetch over $300.
- Rare Color Variants – Special color editions like blue, white, or promotional variants often pull $200+ over standard grey models complete.
- Bundle Deals – Common for sellers to include controllers, memory cards, and games. Bundles save buying separately.
- Rare Special Editions – Harder to find bundles like Net Yaroze hobbyist development systems can cost $800+.
- Original Sealed – Insanely rare new in box examples still factory wrapped sell for $1000s to serious collectors.
Prices tend to climb over time as condition grade complete-in-box units become harder to source. Remember to factor in cost of replacing controllers, cables, adding mods, and repairs to bring older units up to snuff. Patience and persistence pays off tracking down bargains on local marketplaces. But expect to pay premiums for pristine condition.
Refurbishing and Cleaning Tips To Restore a PS1
While aiming for a PS1 in good working order, many older units still benefit from thorough deep cleaning and refurbishment. Here are some tips for bringing a secondhand PlayStation fully back to spec:
- Open up console and give it a complete compressed air dusting. Q-tips dipped in isopropyl alcohol help clean tough buildup in crevices.
- Toothbrush and soap scrub down outer shell and plastics. Avoid excess water.
- Remove any corroded or damaged internal hardware like batteries. Replace rusty screws.
- Carefully wipe and polish the pins on ports and internal connectors to eliminate gunk buildup.
- Replace old thermal paste on CPUs and GPU chips to prevent overheating shutdowns.
- If CD drive is grinding badly, swap in a replacement PlayStation 1 drive unit replacement. They are readily available.
- Adjust or replace worn gears in d-pad and analog sticks using proper security bit screwdrivers. Test responsiveness.
Take the time to properly inspect and clean every component. Refurbished PS1 systems tend to be far more reliable when brought thoroughly back up to spec. The repairs and effort invested help ensure your PlayStation 1 provides many more years of faithful retro gaming.
Ideal Display Connection Options
Part of optimizing your original PlayStation 1 experience is feeding its 240p/480i signals into an ideal display. Here are some recommended options:
CRT TV – The classic way to play PS1 on an old-school CRT with great scanlines and low latency. Great nostalgia factor if you can find one.
PVM/BVM – Professional Sony triniton monitors offer incredible RGB sharpness paired with original PlayStations. The pinnacle for purists but expensive.
RetroTINK – Affordable scalers like the RetroTINK 2X Mini provide clean low lag upscaling over HDMI at 720p/1080p resolution. Sharp image with zero input lag.
OSSC – Open Source Scan Converter offers more configuration options for scanlines and lining up 240p signals. Avoid motion smoothing.Feed into low lag display.
CRT Emudriver – Modding graphics cards to output 240p natively allows CRT-quality scanlines combined with lining flexibility.
Ideally, aim for a low lag scaler into a gaming optimized LCD display for responsive controls. But this is down to preference and budget. Avoid laggy standalone upscalers or HDTVs without gaming modes.
Modding and Enhancing the PS1 Experience
As a testament to the PlayStation’s popularity, the console boasts one of the most extensive and innovative modding communities around classic hardware. Popular upgrades include:
Region Switch Removal – Disables region check allowing playing imports. Simple solder swap.
ROM Chip Replacement – Upgrade to larger mod chips for running burned disc backups or imports. Requires soldering.
Case Transplants – Move PS1 motherboard into customized or smaller replacement cases. Cooling becomes a concern.
RAM Upgrades – Easy drop in RAM upgrades like 8MB/16MB expansion boards for developer kits etc. Help homebrew.
Display Output – RGB and S-Video output mods possible from replacing AV Multi Out port. Require encoders and soldering skill.
Optical Drive Emulation – Replace PS1 drive with SD card adapters for flawless direct disc rips. Clean look if internal modding.
Hardware hobbyists will never run out of creative enhancements and mods for the PlayStation 1. But approach any advanced electronics modifications carefully and know your skill limits.
Buying Guidance for Specific PlayStation 1 Models
With dozens of hardware and bundle variants, which specific PlayStation 1 models offer the best retro experience? Here’s a quick buyer’s cheat sheet:
SCPH-1001 – The original early long box launch model. A good mix of collectibility and compatibility. Parts are common.
SCPH-5501 – Among the most plentiful and affordable PS1 models. Reliable drive and playability if recapped and cleaned.
SCPH-7001 – Late slim redesign with integrated RCA jacks. Can have CD drive lifespans issues at this age however.
SCPH-1001/1002 – Launch models factory bundled with Namco Museum. Very rare and expensive. Net Yaroze hobbyist dev kit also pricey.
SCPH-100 – Japanese white import. Unique color and S-video output make it sought after. Mod for NTSC games.
PSOne – Tiny form factor model. Hard to repair but appealing “mini PS1” iteration. Doesn’t play burned discs.
Factor in repair costs, display output quality, availability of parts and accessories, and collecting appeal when selecting a PS1 model to pursue. Just be wary that replacement parts dwindle over time.
Joining the PlayStation Collector Community
Part of the fun of building a PlayStation 1 library is engaging with fellow collectors online and locally. Active communities to checkout include:
/r/Ps1 – Reddit’s main PS1 fan forum. Show off collections and discuss mods. Over 200,000 members.
PlayStation Collecting – Facebook group with over 10k members buying, selling, and trading PS1.
RacketBoy PS1 Collecting – Informative guide on cost and regional differences when buying PS1s.
PlayStation Museum – Site documenting the complete history of PlayStation hardware and games across generations.
The vibrant collector scene provides tips on restoring systems, guides to identifying models and rarities, discussion of enhancements & mods, and much more. They can help value collections and locate coveted items.
While now over 25 years into its lifespan, the original PlayStation 1 remains a must-own classic gaming console. But finding units in quality condition requires diligent inspection, cleaning, and refurbishment.
Hopefully this deep dive guide covered all the major factors to look for when evaluating and purchasing an original PS1. Taking the time to inspect condition, test with reliable games, and research serial numbers pays dividends in getting many more years of enjoyment from your PlayStation 1.
Owning this foundational piece of PlayStation history lets you experience the 3D graphics revolution that ushered in modern gaming. And thanks to a passionate mod and collector scene, the PS1 will remain active and cherished for decades more.
Buying an Original PlayStation 1 FAQs
What are signs of a quality and working PS1 console?
Avoid major cracks or damage. Test buttons and disc drive responsiveness. Verify AV ports are intact. Check insides for corrosion or animal infestations. Test varied games for glitches.
How much should I expect to pay for an original PS1?
Average asking prices are $40-80 loose, $100-150 CIB, and $200+ for rare bundles/colors. Graded 9+ condition CIBs or sealed can sell for $1000+.
What tools do I need to open and maintain a PlayStation 1?
Basic Phillips screwdriver. Security Torx bits for stickboxes. Anti-static precautions. Q-tips and isopropyl alcohol help clean. Replacement gear grease and thermal paste for maintenance.
Is the PS1 easy to mod and enhance?
Some simple mods like region switches just require basic soldering skills. More complex internal upgrades like RAM expansion, modchips, or optical drive emulation demand advanced technical expertise.
Where can I find PlayStation 1 repair parts?
Electronics retailers carry common replacement screws, cables, controller gears, and optical drives. Specialty shops offer rarer internal components for ambitious fixes and upgrades.