One of the very early committed arcade collectors here in the UK was a guy called Pete Davies.
Known on the arcade forums as Invadar, he was by all accounts, very well liked. I can’t say that I knew him on a personal level (I’m not sure that many people did), but was obviously aware of his presence and input into the community. Regarded as a “salt of the earth” kind of bloke, he was an active participant in the early days of UKVAC and was more than generous with his time and knowledge – happy to help out everyone and anyone who needed it. When I asked around as recently as last week, it seems everyone had good words to say about him. Many recount stories of help, sharing of spare parts, board repairs and generous trades with Pete throughout the years. He was known for having an encyclopedic knowledge of the technical side of arcade collecting, with a particular penchant for Universal and Taito arcade cabinets.
A retired sub sea oil engineer living in Aberdeenshire, his interests ranged from fishing, arcade cabinets, computers and vintage electronic test equipment. Pete was very “old school” – he didn’t do PayPal or eBay – in fact whenever he sold a part or even a whole cabinet, he refused any form of payment up front, insisting that his buyers take delivery, check the item first and make sure they were happy with it. If all was well, you could then pay him. But only in cash, folded into a CD case placed in an envelope by return post! It was this trust that he had in the community that endeared him to so many people, and ensured he was regarded as a solid cornerstone of the hobby.
There are many instances where Pete was very happy to burn ROMS for people and refused any sort of payment for his time and assistance. He just wanted to help other people get their games up and running.
If you haven’t guessed where this is going, it was with great sadness that we learned of Pete’s passing last year. This came as a surprise to everyone especially those who knew him through the forums – a few active conversations just suddenly stopped. This wasn’t particularly unusual, as Pete tended to operate at his own pace – long periods of silence weren’t unusual. But this time, he didn’t come back.
This does raise a wider issue I suppose – those of us who collect things from arcade cabinets, to stamps, stickers, trading cards, plushy toys – whatever – what happens when we’re gone? Do our loved ones know our wishes? Do they have any concept of the worth of our collections and do they have the wherewithal to deal with it? This can be especially tricky when you are talking about a large collection of arcade cabinets. These are typically large items that take up a significant amount of space.
In Peter’s case, his son had started to try to clear some of his father’s huge collection of PCBs. Another collector noticed the boards on an auction site and made contact to ask a few questions, which is ultimately how we learned of Pete’s passing. Over time, a discussion was had about the best way to deal with Pete’s arcade estate (if I may call it that), in a way that would be satisfactory for the family and of course respectful towards Pete. It was agreed that Pete’s wishes would have been for his gear to go back to the community which he was a part of – a community who would understand what he had, and treat the inventory with the attention and care it deserved.
Wouldn’t it be great if the large number of unfinished projects were properly housed and restored by a group of people who understood the importance of his stuff, and not butcher or hack the cabs in some way – or worse still, destroy them completely?
More importantly, his family didn’t have the time or knowledge to go through everything (and there was a lot), figure out its worth, and spend time trying to get everything cleared and sold. One would imagine more pressing matters had to take priority right now.
Getting the cabinets back into the community seemed like the right solution – easy for the family, (who would also receive a fair price for everything and have it removed in one go), and of course good for the community of which Pete was so supportive for many years. But more importantly, it would be an opportunity to leave a great legacy for Pete that we think he would be proud of.
So moves were made to get the ball rolling with a visit to Scotland to see what was there and get it all catalogued. Two community members made the initial trip, met the family, and got their hands dirty to list and put a value to everything – quite a task. Following this, a handful of collectors were given the chance to highlight what they were interested in and after a bit of debate and to-ing and fro-ing, all 60 arcade cabinets were earmarked, and fair prices agreed.
Planning next – who was going up there? who was driving vans and trucks, what was coming back, for whom and where? We needed a good 10 people to help hump and shift everything – given the remote location of Pete’s house, it was imperative that everything was removed in one day, to minimise the disruption and inconvenience for the family.
In amazingly short order, the trip was organised – a date was set, we had drivers on standby, vans hired and flights booked.
For my part, it would mean a 1,000 mile round trip. The journey started with a flight up to Scotland. It was an hour-long and rather bumpy flight. Then, a jump into a rental car and another hour’s drive further north to the location to meet up with the other guys taking part.
Pete’s house was pretty rural – with the North Sea off to my right, wind turbines and rolling hills to my left, and even a glimpse of Donald Trump’s International Golf Links Course – it was a truly spectacular drive up the East Coast of Scotland to get to the location.
On arrival at Pete’s home, we made a start at looking at the four main areas within the grounds where the collection was located:
The first was a large wooden shed structure as you can see above, which housed a bunch of upright and cocktail games, along with a nice jukebox.
Next up was a large 30 ft storage container:
This was packed full right to the back with many nice looking machines – lots of Taito and Universal cabinets, and all along the right hand side were stacked cocktail tables. Sadly, the rear was pretty badly waterlogged. More on that later.
The final location was around the back, and housed mainly generic Jamma machines, but there were a few gems:
The thing that impressed me most, was the discovery of Pete’s workbench in a back room. It was a treasure trove of parts, tools and bits of projects that he had clearly been working on. Everything was exactly as it had been left by Pete. There were literally hundreds of boards across several rooms, and this was just a very small part of the spares he had.
There was so much gear and equipment. One of the more impressive finds of the day was this amazing Universal test rig:
We’d never seen of these before. A great piece of arcade history.
So enough hunting around, it was time to start getting the cabs into the open and organised. One by one, we dragged everything out into the daylight. First up was this Sega After Burner:
Spectacular looking Universal Cosmic Alien:
Everyone’s favourite Space Invaders Pt II:
A nice looking (and super super rare) Taito Zun Zun Block:
We had plenty of sack trucks on hand, and everyone mucked in and got to work. What we ended up with was a haul of well over 60 cabinets.
And some nice examples of rare cabs were pulled out. Including two lovely Namco Galaxian cabinets, and an Astro Wars:
Gottlieb’s No Man’s Land – never seen one of these before:
A Sega Space Harrier with seat!
Beautiful looking German Cosmic Alien wall unit. Lovely stuff:
Possibly the most interesting looking cab of the day was this European Moon Cresta. Really weird layout, and certainly not my cup of tea, but a fascinating piece of history nonetheless:
I mentioned the water ingress to the back of the storage unit earlier – sadly we couldn’t save everything. This Cosmic Alien succumbed to the damp, and literally fell apart when it was moved:
We had a moment’s silence for this sorry looking machine. But Vic quickly got to work with his tools, and some of the non-perishable parts were salvaged!
The only pinball found was this Williams Hurricane. It looked OK when it came out, but closer inspection revealed that it was another casualty of the damp:
Ronnie here was able to save the backbox, the boards, the playfield and legs. So all was not lost. Someone mentioned that they knew of someone who had an empty shell, so maybe we can resurrect what was left of this one.
Two other cabs were suffering similar symptoms – a Breakout and an Atari Assault. The latter had a good foot of water inside it, right up to the coin door! After literally draining them both, we got them onto trucks without them falling to bits, and plans are afoot to either restore or strip for parts:
As for everything else, it was time to get the whole lot packed into the vans and lorries:
All in all, it was a great (but back-breaking!) day, and one I am honoured to have been a part of. Good to see familiar friends and great to be able to put new faces to names. On looking through past articles on the arcade blog here, I hope that the one thing that does come across, is that owning a collection of arcade cabinets, spares, artwork and all manner of arcade paraphernalia, is a thankless task. There are many of us who are dedicated to preserving history, socialising and being part of a community full of like-minded individuals.
Ask most people who chase down and restore arcade cabinets, and they will tell you that in fact the hobby isn’t really about the games, or even the restorations, but it’s actually about the individuals. All walks of life – people with limited resources, passive participants who own maybe one cab, other more obsessive collectors with literally hundreds of cabs and no space to put them, wealthy people with perfect looking arcade rooms, you name it, we’ve got them – and there is a place for them all. This weekend was a reminder that the games are the games, but it’s the people who really count:
Hats off and thanks to everyone involved – we truly did a good thing this weekend. Everyone was shattered but happy by the end of the day. Some of these guys will have driven over 1,000 miles by the time they get home in the early hours of Sunday morning.
We are all committed to ensuring that many of these great cabinets that Pete clearly loved, are restored, repaired and up and running again in his name. More on that in a future blog post. Meanwhile, we have these plaques which have been placed on every machine from Pete’s collection to ensure that his contribution to the hobby over the years will never be forgotten – will be cool to see where these machines end up as the years go by:
Rest in peace Pete – we hope we did you proud today.
Update 17th August: Alex over at Nintendo Arcade has uploaded some great footage of the day. The video is here:
Many thanks to Pete’s lovely family for allowing us to descend on their house and remove these machines. Their hospitality and endless cups of tea were much appreciated. The break for Fish and Chips was very welcome too! We leave them with our sincere condolences and best wishes.
There were well over a hundred pictures taken on the day, if you’d like to see them all, do feel free to take a look at the album here.
Here’s the full inventory of the 63 arcade cabinets rescued:
|‘Asteroids’ Taito table|
|After Burner upright|
|Asteroids Deluxe table|
|Asteroids Deluxe table|
|Astro wars zacc|
|Boot Taito table|
|Breakout tables (Japanese) x2|
|Cosmic Alien table|
|Cosmic Alien table|
|Cosmic Alien upright|
|Cosmic Alien wall|
|Cosmic Monsters table|
|Crazy Balloon no legs|
|Crazy Balloon table|
|Crazy Balloon upright|
|Field goal black legs|
|Field goal table|
|Indiana Jones panel|
|Isis jamma 2|
|Isis Time Pilot|
|Juke box ?|
|Late to the party Cocktail table|
|Magical Spot/Zero Hour tables|
|MIDI jamma – another isis?|
|Moon Walker converted mvs|
|No Man’s Land|
|Road Runner Panel|
|Scramble table boot|
|Sega System 24 Super masters|
|Space Fever cocktail|
|Space Fever cocktail|
|Space Harrier mini sitdown+seat|
|Space Invaders Part 2 BW|
|Space Invaders Part 2 Colour|
|Space Invaders table|
|Taito table – not dedicated, rare|
|Universal table – missing loads|
|Universal table Cosmic Alien|
|Universal Unknown table|
|Williams Hurricane Pinball table|
|Unknown universal upright|
|Zun Zun Block|