A picture-heavy arcade raid tale to share this week.
Jenn May is a long-standing arcade collector located in Tampa FL. She’s been acquiring and restoring classic arcade machines for over 15 years. Jenn tells me that cabs come and go on heavy rotation, but her current tally is 32 complete video arcade cabinets and 2 pinballs.
With an eye for a deal and solid investigative skills, Jenn has had a great deal of success in hunting down stashes of ex-operator cabinets. A recent lead from a friend who purchased some cabinets 20 years ago, led her to getting in touch with, and befriending this particular ex-operator. Jenn established that the guy had pretty much retired, and was rather protective over what he had in storage.
Jenn realised that if she wanted to have an opportunity to at least see what the guy might have stashed away, she was in for the long-haul. It took four months to gain his trust, until he finally let her view what he had in storage. Jenn discovered over time that there were a total of 5 locations – all packed with old arcade machines. At first, she was able to view one of these buildings, and has since started picking through the inventory.
But in the meantime, the op told Jenn that there was one property where no-one has been for 15 years, and he had learned that the building had recently collapsed during a heavy storm. It was time to go there, and rescue whatever was left – and he needed Jenn’s help.
With no idea what she was going to find, Jenn and a friend made their way to the location:
Initial impressions were not good as you can see. The building had completely collapsed in on itself, exposing what was inside to the elements:
Jenn stopped, took a breath and took stock at what she was dealing with. It was clear that none of the cabinets were going to be saved complete – what cabs were there, were either waterlogged and rotten, or were physically holding up the building itself:
It was clear that this had become a salvage operation for parts. Sometimes, that’s the way it goes. There’s no saving this Atari Kangaroo:
One of the more interesting finds, was the discovery of a pair of Nintendo Red Tent cocktail cabinets:
You can make out in the picture above, that one of the supporting roof beams had smashed down in top of the cabinet. Being all metal, it could be that these might be OK. But getting them out was going to be pretty dangerous, if not impossible.
So here’s the parts inventory that Jenn was able to save:
Jenn has an interesting perspective on ex-operator inventory. As she told me:
What most people don’t get is these operators don’t care about the games anymore. They made their money off them way back when, and look at these old arcade cabinets like they’re junk. They don’t want to be bothered with trying to sell it because they don’t see any value in what they have.
I find this odd, as most tales I hear about ex-operators, is they are very wary of anyone wanting to buy their old stock, and tend to expect unrealistic sums for whatever they have. Clearly the ex-operator community of Florida is a little more chilled out about these things!
This close up of the Sega cab gives you an idea what happens to these cabinets when rain gets involved:
Notice the water bulging at the top there. Shame. In addition to the parts listed above, there were a few other bits to come out:
So a successful raid all in all – unfortunately, no complete cabinets were rescued – but the parts will be put to good use to keep other games alive. Given the location and condition of the building, this raid was particularly hard work. As Jenn says:
When going in and doing all this stuff, you have to consider the time the money and the resources it takes to pull the games from these locations, clean them, test them, fix them, and then try to recoup your investment! It isn’t just a case of going to a building, pulling out a game or parts, and listing what you grab for sale. There’s truck rentals, gas money and a lot of time going into these raids.
Some sound advice there for anyone considering any sort of arcade rescue mission.
Many thanks to Jenn for sharing these pictures with me – look out for more reports of Jenn’s arcade finds in the coming weeks. Jenn runs a great Facebook page which you can see here. Give the page a like and join the group!
Thanks for visiting this week.