Sonar Sub Hunt
Buyer's Guide

Updated July 6, 2014

Considering buying a Sonar Sub Hunt at an on-line auction or local garage sale?

Here is what you need to know!

First, you are going to need to know some facts....


FACT #1:
These games are now over 50 years old, and in most cases they will show every bit of their age. More often than not they have been kept in musty basements, dusty attics and garages since the baby boomers who played with them left home to attend Woodstock.

Decades of non-use, poor storage and traveling rodents will take their toll, and most games will be in a dirty, non-working condition when you find them.
The instruction booklet is long gone for making paper airplanes, and the grid markers, if still present, will have melted from all the summers of heat in granny's attic. Some subs and mines are usually missing, and the box is held together with enough tape (masking, strapping, electrical etc.) to hold a small elephant in check.

FACT #2
Just like most things in life, especially in the case of antiques and collectables, the better condition and the more complete the object is, the more you can expect to pay for it.

Yes, there are bargains out there, but, by and large, quality costs! More often than not you will shell out your cash and get a game that is far less than desirable.


So.......
Guard your hard-earned dollars and become an informed consumer!

Below is a breakdown of all the features of the game, and what you should look for when considering a purchase.



Physical Parts
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The Game Board
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What you should know:
The board consists of the plastic base unit, two periscopes, the controls, the center armature with light bulb, and two green grid covers that cover the inside surface.
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What to look for:
Check for and other defects to the outer frame and the gray base.
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Battery
Compartment

What you should know:
Accessible from the bottom, a single "D" battery that powers the game is housed here. Contrary to popular belief, there is no compartment cover.
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What to look for:
It is important to know that the game was made before the advent of alkaline batteries, and the type available in the 60's would frequently leak acid and corrode anything around them when left in place for too long. Check for any signs of corrosion or damage to the metal battery connectors and the surrounding area.
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Controls
What you should know:
Contained in the base frame are all the mechanical controls, counters and periscopes. There is a full set of controls on each side of the board, one for each player. These consist of:
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Fire Buttons
What you should know:
The fire buttons activate the power to the sub finding light.
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What to look for:
These should depress and spring back smoothly. Broken buttons may turn in their sockets and they will not work properly if this occurs.
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Shot Counters
What you should know:
The shot counters keep track of the number of shots each player makes in a turn. The red needle moves one number down to zero with each successive firing.
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What to look for:
The dial should step down with a distinctive snap each time the button is pressed and released. It should also stay firmly in place when the arming knob turned back up to the high number of shots remaining. Failure to move properly or stay in place can be indication of damage to the internal mechanical parts.
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Mine Counters
What you should know:
This dial is to be turned each time a player hits a mine. Each step down decreases the player's maximum shots by one.
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What to look for:
The dial should move freely and prevent too many shots from being taken.
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Sunk Sub Counters
What you should know:
These simple moving tabs are used to count the number of opposing subs sunk.
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What to look for:
The red tabs should all be present and move freely. Check for tabs that may move up and down instead of the proper side to side. Tabs that do not move properly may indicate damage.
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Periscopes
What you should know:
One of the really neat features of the game, these scopes allow players to see below the top surface.
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What to look for:
The periscopes should have intact and clean mirrors. Careful attention should be given to the silver backing on each mirror. Decades of aging can frequently cause breakdown of the backing, and this will result in a poor reflected image. The tabs that hold the scopes inside the game board frame should be present. Both of these problems will not affect game play, but make a less than top quality game.
Removing the periscope from the game board as shown in the pic is NOT recommended!
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Range Dial
What you should know:
The range dial is in the center of the game board and it moves the internal armature towards and away from the center.
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What to look for:
The dial should move freely and the armature should move in sync. Because this dial can be removed, it is occasionally missing.
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Azimuth Dial
What you should know:
The azimuth dial rests inside the range dial and moves the armature in a circular motion around the inside of the game.
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What to look for:
The dial should be present, move freely and the armature should move in sync.
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Ready Button
What you should know:
The ready button rests in the very center of the board, and when depressed moves the armature downward. This little jewel is the number one issue and headache in these games. It is loose from the base and so was frequently lost when the game was up-ended as kids are likely to do. A generation of dads attempted to "cure" this problem by gluing the shaft of the button in place. Unfortunately, the button undergoes a great deal of stress, and the shaft would fracture and snap off. This left the shaft firmly attached inside the center mechanism, and the remainder of the ready button all but unusable.
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What to look for:
The button should fit in its position in the center of the board, and cause the armature to move down when pressed. The center shaft should be intact and fit into the hole in the very center of the game board's central mechanism.
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Grid Covers
What you should know:
The two covers enclose the inner areas of the game. They are made to tilt up so that mines and subs can be placed on the bottom surface. Grid covers with intact hinges are the most difficult feature to find in these games. Having four unbroken hinges greatly increases the value of a game. Broken hinges will not affect game play.
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What to look for:
The covers should be clean and all hinges should be unbroken with both "fingers" in place. Areas of white near the bases of the hinges may indicate weakening from stress. Ensure that any residual marks on the grid surfaces can be easily be cleaned. Be very cautious of grids that appear to be partially cleaned with liquid. Some cleaners can permanently damage the surfaces. Check the Care and Feeding section for more info on cleaning the covers.
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Playing Pieces
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What you should know:
The playing pieces consist of the subs, mines, grid markers and the instruction booklet.
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Subs
What you should know:
A complete game will have 16 subs, 8 green and 8 gray.
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What to look for:
The subs should be clean and have both bottom prongs intact.
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Mines
What you should know:
Eight mines were shipped with each game, 4 to be used by each player.
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What to look for:
All mines should have 4 intact bottom prongs.
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Grid Markers
What you should know:
Each player should have 1 each of a red, yellow and black marker, for a total of six. These markers are NOT regular crayons! They are special "wipe-off" markers that make darker lines and are much easier to clean. Use of regular crayons can damage the grid surfaces. Broken markers do not affect game play. The original markers contained some form of oil that over long periods of time may leech out and stain other parts. The instruction booklet is a popular target. Check the Grid Marker section for more info.
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What to look for:
A game should have a full complement of 6 grid markers. After market versions of the correct type work well.
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Instruction
Booklet

What you should know:
The instructions are a two color printing in booklet form consisting of 8 pages of writing and diagrams. Most are in very poor condition after 40 years of aging. They have frequently been "improved" by little fingers with the grid markers.
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What to look for:
The booklet should be complete and clean, with minimal tears and folds.
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The Box
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What you should know:
The storage and shipping container for the game, has the outside section, and the inside insert that contained the playing pieces. The quality of either of these items does not affect game play.
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Outside Section
What you should know:
The box was designed to also be a display stand for the game, and the top hinges back so that the top graphics can be seen when open. Most boxes show every bit of their age, and the inside bottom is a common canvas for child drawings.
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Click here for full size pic

What to look for:
The box should be clean and free of tears or cuts. Pay careful attention to the bottom since leaking batteries can destroy the cardboard. Shelf wear and wear at the hinges are common. A box with unbent hinges is a very rare and valuable find!
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Insert
What you should know:
The insert shows all the playing pieces and is usually in good condition.
NOTE: Some games shipped in the orange box had green inserts.
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Click here for full size pic

What to look for:
The insert should be clean and free of tears or cuts.
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Jeff Popp
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Jeff Popp

Sonar Sub Hunt ™ 1961
Mattel Inc.