Welcome to another Arcade Raid here on the blog! A slight departure from the usual write-up process this week. Blog subscriber Alan got in touch and shared a bunch of pictures with me, asking if I’d like to share details of a raid he took part in. I asked a few questions about the circumstances, and very kindly, Alan wrote the raid up with a ton of detail! It’s so well done, that I don’t think me messing with it would serve much purpose.
So this raid took place in rural Wisconsin, USA back in the fall of 2002, and here in his own words is Alan’s warehouse raid story:
In June of 2001, I had purchased my first two video arcade games from a local “wheeler-dealer”, Jim. Over time, we became acquaintances and then good friends. Years later, I would be a groomsman at his wedding, and, after a few more years, he would be my best man at my wedding.
In October of 2002, Jim sent me an email. He was going on a road trip to buy some games from an operator’s warehouse, and he had been storing unwanted games there for many years.
Would I like to come along? Sure I would! I’d never been on a “warehouse raid” before, but I’d read about them on RGVAC and various collector’s web sites. I put some cash in my wallet, got out a flashlight, digital camera, paper and pen, and dreamed about finding really cool games for very low prices…
There were dozens and dozens of video games, pinball games, jukeboxes, new monitors still in the box, arcade parts and junk of all types…
The challenge was going to be finding and putting working monitors, circuit boards, and control panels back in those empty cabinets.
If I remember correctly, this operator didn’t own this storage space. He was also in the process of clearing out another warehouse and transferring its contents to this one. However, he (and the actual building owner) wanted to clear out a lot of items from this location too.
As you can see, the games were packed together so tightly that I had to resort to climbing up and walking on top of them just to get to the back of the storage space and see what was there! All kinds of neat games (a lot of which, in hindsight, I now wish that I’d bought).
Gravitars, Battlezones, Tempests, Tron, Star Trek, Burgertime, Space Invaders, Pooyan, Double Dragon, Asteroids, Joust, etc. And of course, a ton of junky conversions, unpopulated cabinets, and countless video trivia machines.
I had fond memories of playing Tempest as a teenager:
To get the Tempest out, we had to move about 15 other games first. Once out, I was disappointed to see that the sides of the cabinet were in very poor condition at the bottom. The leg levelers must have disappeared many years prior. However, there was an excellent condition Tempest cabinet in the same area. Of course, it was dead and had been converted to a Universal Eggs game.
After some more bargaining, the Op offered to throw in that cabinet on the deal. We just had to remove the circuit board, monitor, and marquee for him first. OK! We had that done in under 10 minutes. As an extra bonus, there was a full set of Tempest manuals and schematics lying in the bottom of that converted cabinet.
Jim and I also ended up helping to unload a big box truck full of stuff that the Op had cleaned out of another warehouse. (Jim wanted to look at a pinball that was in the truck.) There in the truck was a complete Tempest control panel. I asked the Op about buying it, and he gave it to me in thanks for my help unloading the truck.
Jukebox cabinets, old trivia cabinets, they went up in flames one by one… The only one that made me wince was a Gottlieb New York, New York. I had seen it earlier, and it had caught my eye because I vaguely recalled it being a rare game. It was a nice cabinet, but no monitor or boards. About the only parts left were the marquee and control panel. At least they saved those before the rest went up in smoke.
So what did we actually buy?
My friend Jim bought a Jurassic Park pinball. He bought it for parts. It had literally fallen off a truck which had smashed the head to pieces. He resold it as-is, and the buyer completely reassembled it. He also bought an Eight Ball Deluxe pinball and two classic Exidy shooter video games – Crossbow and Cheyenne. I had the nearly complete almost-working Tempest, empty Tempest “Eggs” cabinet, and spare Tempest control panel.
Looking back now, Alan reflects on the raid:
I look through these photos now and wince. I think, “Why didn’t I buy more of those games?” As a novice collector, I didn’t even recognize many of them. I didn’t know that Gravitar was a vector game! This was also long before smart phones let us instantly search for information. At the time, I was also in the process of buying my first house. That meant that I was short on available cash while also not yet having anyplace to store games.
So there you have it. 2002 was a different time. These sorts of finds were commonplace, and the destruction of cabinets was fairly typical. I’m quite sure a raid of this magnitude in today’s market would be much more expensive for starters! (And just for the record, these games are now long gone).
Huge thanks to Alan for allowing me to share his story here on the blog.
Plenty more Arcade Raids lined up in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out!
Thanks as always for visiting this week.