It’s high time we had another Arcade Raid tale here on Arcade Blogger, so here goes.
It always amazes me the lengths some collectors are prepared to go to grab forgotten arcade cabinets – it’s a great demonstration of the huge enthusiasm for the subject matter, (or perhaps we’re all a bit mad in the head). I thought I was daft to do a thousand mile round trip to France to put my life at risk pulling a bunch of old bits of wood and glass out of a condemned building earlier this year. But even that journey appears to be small fry compared to some made by my American counterparts:
Step up Kristofer and Dallas, co-founders of Napa Valley Pinball. Over the years, these guys have built up quite a reputation in the Napa and surrounding areas of California as being hardcore arcade collectors. I asked Kristofer about what they do:
Napa Valley Pinball started out as a hobby just buying, selling, and collecting. This morphed into trading literally thousands of machines over the last 10 years. We really enjoy the thrill of the hunt, hitting the road not knowing what we will find. A lot of people have called us the American Pickers of arcade and pinball machines.
With that sort of history, Kristofer and Dallas have a fair idea of what they are doing, and arranging the right logistics to get an arcade raid done properly has become second nature over the years. So when an eBay auction appeared listing what appeared to be a large warehouse full of classics, the guys felt they were onto something. Dallas made a call to the seller:
The seller made it obvious that he wanted everything purchased as a single lot – and there was a large amount of cabinets. He told us there were a few other more local interested parties, but no one would commit to such a large purchase. He wanted everything taken away as soon as possible. We really wanted the Star Wars we could see in the pictures. So, we did what we had to do….
With a price negotiated and agreed, Kristofer and Dallas had to work out logistics – and this raid was going to be a nightmare to pull off. Napa Valley Pinball is located just north of San Francisco, California, and the cabinets were located in San Antonio, Texas, some 1,800 miles away by road. After some thought, and a bunch of phone calls, the guys hit on a plan.
They would fly down to San Antonio, secure the deal, load up two rented trucks at the location, fly back the following day, and have the trucks driven back to meet them at their place on the West Coast. Now that sounds bonkers to me, but the numbers worked, and they had logistical committment from a haulage company – so hey, why not?
The raid was on.
Arriving at the location, the team talked with the seller, keen to understand more about how these machines came to be sitting in San Antonio in, as it turned out, four different warehouse buildings.
The original operator who bought them had the machines out on location for a few years, then was done with them. For whatever reason, he put them into storage around 1990 and had passed away some time after. The games were then sold off to another operator who now turned out to be the seller. He specialises more in jukeboxes and pool tables around the San Antonio area, and had no real big interest in these video games that were taking up space and costing him money to store. Deciding it was time to downsize, he put them up for sale.
Nothing had been touched for 25 years, and a big coating of good ol’ Texas dust and grime covered everything:
Worth pointing out as well that here’s yet another example of warehouses full of arcade cabinets out there, still waiting to be discovered. So keep searching people!
Some real gems were hidden within the haul. Here’s some highlights:
As previously mentioned everything was spread over four locations. Luckily for Kristofer and Dallas, a fork lift truck was available on site, which saved a lot of manual work:
This was turning out to be a great haul of classics. But there wasn’t much time to look closely at everything. They had a day to load up the trucks and get out of there.
So once loaded up, the guys crashed in a hotel and flew back to Napa Valley in the morning. Two days later, the trucks arrived.
By his own admission, Kristofer hadn’t fully thought that part through:
The trucks arrived, and the sheer number of cabinets we’d gone and bought in one go suddenly came front and center of my mind. Where were we going to put them? There was only one thing for it: Start unloading and worry about it later…
Now if I tried that here in the UK, the whole lot would be ruined within minutes by the rain. Thankfully, the California climate lent itself to this outdoor temporary storage solution well!
So with more time to examine what they had, they were able to take a few shots of the gaggle of cabinets in daylight:
All in all, over 100 cabinets were rescued from the four warehouses, and were delivered safe and sound to Napa Valley. Just half a dozen had to be gutted as they were too far gone – but the parts will be put to good use. Kristofer tells me they’ve sold on about a third of these to fund more raids in the future.
So there you have it. This was crazy raid which produced an amazing result – hats off to Kristofer and Dallas for making such an epic journey to make this happen:
Go check out the Napa Valley Pinball website and Facebook page – there’s some cool pictures of past raids, and some of their current inventory. The guys specialise in providing bespoke collections of cabinets for events, weddings and parties in and around the Bay area – it looks to be a really neat small business. If you’re local, you know where to go!
Thanks go out to Kristofer for allowing me to share these pictures and the story here on Arcade Blogger. If I’m ever local, I owe you guys a beer or two!
I have more arcade raid tales lined up, including a great haul discovered in Eastern Europe that you won’t want to miss, so keep an eye out in the coming weeks.
Social media sharing buttons are below people – you know what to do!
See you next week.