An extraordinary set of pictures landed on the desk of Arcade Blogger this week detailing an arcade raid which took place almost 20 years ago. I did some digging around and found out what I could about it so that I could document this raid here on the blog.
As I’ve written before, as more stashes of arcade machines are found, it goes without saying that occurrences of new “raids” are going to become fewer and fewer. Go back a few years though when there were less collectors about and a lot more cabinets waiting to be found, with a bit of effort, huge collections of video arcade cabinets could be unearthed with some regularity.
So lets go back to Halloween weekend, in October 1998. This was a memorable one for collector Jonathan Morrison. An arcade collector friend Keith Sink, had received a tip-off from a work colleague that there were a bunch of old arcade machines at a farm. The farm had belonged to his late father who used to run a operator route back in the 80s. It seems that the local state were about to foreclose on the property. Word was that everything was about to be scrapped. Knowing this information would be of interest to him, Keith was told that whatever he could find, he was welcome to take.
The catch (there’s always one!) was that this had to be done within the following two weekends. After that point, the state would be moving in, the property would be secured, and everything would be flattened. The raid was on!
After making a few phone calls (remember this would have been pretty much pre-internet), Keith and Jonathan were able to round up a team of 8 collectors from the Seattle area who were willing to get involved to find and rescue these games. The team jumped into their trucks, and led by Jonathan who was following some hastily written down directions, headed towards the haul:
We had been told that some of the games were out in the rain, which was a concern. But that still did not prepare me for what we found.
I’d say that was something of an understatement:
The team stood in silence faced with what seemed like a huge undiscovered graveyard of classic arcade machines. They proceeded with trepidation towards the barn at the end of the path, photographing the carnage along the way:
Incredibly, that Space Harrier pictured above was saved, and despite the severe water damage and rot, Keith was able to restore it to working order. He still owns the cab to this day. Of particular note among the array of long-dead, swollen and destroyed cabinets were these two gems:
A grim sight indeed. These cabinets were too far gone, having been exposed to the elements for some time. Despite this, the team were able to scavenge for parts. Even if the wood is swollen and falling apart, there are still monitors, boards, control panels, wiring looms and power supply that will be of use to a collector:
A decent stash of parts was salvaged including as many of the CRT monitors they could pull, and these control panels:
But the nightmare was about to improve. Having rescued what parts they could, the team entered the barn. Despite fearing the worst after the scene outside, things indoors were much better. The barn had provided dry and secure protection for whatever had been stored within its walls. Here’s the pictures of what was found:
Some great cabs there. Someone landed themselves a Midway Tron. It doesn’t look like it was terribly pretty, but most of what you see is superficial grime and cobwebs. With some work and replacement art, this would eventually be restored and played again:
A handful of cocktails were pulled too:
But the best was left till last. They spotted a ladder leading to a hayloft area up in the roof of the barn. Jonathan climbed up and stuck his head through the rafters and was greeted with this sight:
Tricky to identify them all, but I see Black Widow, Pacman, Pole Position, Galaxian, Tutankham and Asteroids cabinets. What an amazing haul! But it does beg the question, how on earth did those cabinets get up there?
So what started as a nightmare scenario, ended up being a rather successful raid. All in all, some 40 Golden Age classic arcade cabinets were saved from destruction along with a truck full of parts! The machines now sit in the hands of collectors to this day, having been rescued from an uncertain fate and restored to their former glory.
Many thanks to Jonathan and Keith for allowing me to share these fabulous pictures on the blog, and for racking their memories to recall some of the detail for us!
More arcade raids soon! Thanks for reading this week.