It’s Arcade Raid time again here on the blog! This week we head to Mississippi with long time pinball and arcade machine collector Jay, who kindly shared a great set of pictures with me from a raid he was part of back in 2001.
Putting the feelers out in the hunt for arcade cabinets is what the smart collectors in this hobby have always done. If you make yourself known as a guy who buys these things, word gets around, and chances are, you’re going to get a phone call worthy of further investigation. It really is a case of making your own luck when it comes to finding an un-mined stash of arcade cabs. In Jay’s case, a wanted ad placed his local “Thrifty Nickel” classifieds newspaper hit pay dirt.
After a few weeks of listing his request for buying old arcade games, the phone rang. An operator was on the end of the line, explaining to Jay that he had a few machines he’d be willing to sell.
Arrangements were made to meet at an address given to Jay, and he drove to meet the operator. Arriving outside the address, Jay realised he might be on to something good. He was waiting outside a large warehouse…..
The Op arrives, they exchange pleasantries, shake hands, the door is unbolted, and Jay is led in.
Imagine walking into this:
It was clear to Jay that he had bit off more than he could chew. He would need to get help to move any of these cabinets out. A deal was struck for all 300 cabinets, and Jay headed off home to ring some collector friends of his to get them in on the deal.
A week later they returned. Where were they going to start?
Standing on top of cabinets, they were able to identify machines that were of immediate interest:
The operator explained that the warehouse was used to store machines when they broke down or came to the end of their useful life. Over the years, more and more machines were dumped here, and it was easier to simply replace the machines rather than pay someone to fix the broken ones. And here, many years later, was the result. A big pile of video arcade games that needed to go.
The team got to work and started hauling out what they wanted:
In all, over 100 cabinets were taken from the warehouse. The deal eventually turned sour though. Originally the operator committed to selling Jay the whole 300, but after the first three or four visits, Jay received a phone call:
He said he’d found someone else to buy the remaining cabinets, and sold them from under us. He called me and told me not to come back and hung up on me. From that point on, he would not answer my phone calls. He was about three hours from when I lived. We originally bought all 300 games for $3,000….
By my reckoning that’s precisely $10 a cabinet! Oh for a time machine.
Jay explained to me that it was probably a blessing in disguise, as they had no idea what they were going to do with 300 games, and up to that point, they had more than made back the $3,000 outlay. So even though the guy reneged on the deal, they’d still only paid around $30 a cabinet. A pretty good result, even back then!
We found we were able to shift about 30 machines at a time. I was able to sell the unwanted games on Ebay, which easily funded the original outlay and then some, and ended up shipping the games all over the country. Looking back, my wife was a saint, as there were dozens of games all over the house and in the garage for months!
Jay has always been more of a pinhead than a video guy, and spotted a bunch of pinballs in another storage area on the site:
I also bought a bunch of Williams pinballs from him for $200 each. When ever he had one go bad he stored them in another location and never tried to have them fixed. I got a STTNG, multiple Terminators, Twilight Zone, Fish Tales, and a bunch of others. Probably 15 pinball machines in all.
Amongst the nicer stuff they grabbed, Jay was able to keep a bunch of cabaret machines pulled from the warehouse:
It was weird that most of the games were complete. He had no idea how to fix anything! So when they broke or were no longer making money, he just stored them up there in his warehouse.
So there you go. An awesome deal, even for almost twenty years ago. And although the deal went bad, the three guys ended up well in the black, and had the pick of over 300 classic titles to cherry pick for their personal collections.
Thanks for reading this week – more Arcade Raid tales to come, but meantime you can read more raid stories in the archives here.