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One Warehouse Raid – A Demon, Aztarac and Two Major Havocs

For the scanners out there, this story is not mine, and it is not recent. This is a story of a collector who has been doing this for 20+ years and has scored quite a few deals. This is just one of them, and it was more than just these four highly sought after arcade games.

Money talks – Major Havocs walk

I have never really inquired when this hobby really came into its own. I just assume arcade collecting really took off somewhere in the early 90’s, around 1993-1994. These would have been the years to really find the ‘rare’ games, like you’ll hear about in this story, but in the same token – within this little microcosm, there would have had to have been an established context and market for games for collectors to really have an idea of value.

But I digress. On with the story about a Rock-Ola Demon, Centuri Aztarac and a couple of Major Havocs that were already ‘sold’.

Finding the warehouse of arcade games

Back in the early 90s, a former friend and fellow collector called me on a Thursday afternoon and said he had a line on a couple (!) dedicated Major Havoc machines. I asked him what the price tag was, and he said he thought they would go cheap – the guy said he wanted $150/machine. The word was that the guy also had a large warehouse full of 80s games that he wanted to get rid of, and he wanted them out NOW. I told my friend (who was very young at the time): “Dude, did you tell him they are SOLD, and we’d be there on Saturday with cash and a trailer?” Well, my pal hadn’t, but quickly remedied the situation and called the operator back on Friday morning to let him know. The operator supposedly said, “Ok, come on out”.

Out on the hunt

Saturday morning we head to Kalamazoo to pick up the stuff, see what else is there (there are three of us, including myself, the guy who made the find, and another collecting pal). I remember pulling up to the warehouse (which was very close to the freeway) and seeing a line (20+) games outside of the warehouse, including the two Havoc machines (!). It was pretty exciting, to say the least.

We park, get out, find the operator and let him know we’re there for the arcade machines, and we’d like to see what else he has. Immediately he tells us, sorry, boys, those are sold. We were speechless!! How could someone have bought them from under us in a day?!?! I figured the guy must have been confused, thinking we weren’t the guys who called.

Well, we let this simmer and started to look through the other stuff – and holy cow was there a lot of good stuff! I don’t remember it all, but I do remember these:

  • Kozmik Kroozer
  • Upright Discs of Tron – Perfect, missing marquee and bottom, but otherwise perfect
  • Dark Planet
  • Rockola Demon – Complete, great shape
  • Aztarac
Dark Planet FlyerRock-Ola's Demon - Front ViewAztarac Flyer
I have to play a Dark Planet someday. Flyers Via: Arcadeflyers.com
The offer for the Major Havocs

So, we casually strolled through the games, told the guy the ones we wanted, “Yea, I guess I could take that DOT off your hands…bulk buy, of course, right?” and tagged about 15 games for our purchase. The guy even had 2-3 containers (like, tractor-trailer sized) full of machines – it was nuts.

It was all great, and we were in heaven, but were still a little miffed internally that somehow we weren’t getting the MH machines. Knowing many operators are simply businessmen (haha), I decided to give it one more shot (and I swear this was the conversation):

“Sir, so, those MH machines are sold?”
“Yep”
“Now, you’re sure? Are they really sold, or you just need more than $150 per machine?”
“Ok, what are you saying?”
“What if I were to make you a better offer?”
“Twist my arm”
“Ok, how about….double. $300/machine?”
“Done.”
“You’re sure?”
“You’re paying today, they’re yours.”

I almost swooned with arcade collecting joy. ๐Ÿ™‚ So we put tags on all the games we were taking, rounded up the first trailer worth (including the MHs), and wrote the operator a check. We couldn’t take everything in the U-haul trailer and had to come back on Monday for the rest….but, it was only a couple hours away and not a big deal.

What happened to the games from the warehouse

I don’t remember everything we got that day, but I remember repairing the Demon and selling that to a fairly well-known arcade collector in Utah who runs a large ISP. One of my pals kept the DOT and found a marquee for it. I kept one Major Havoc and my pal kept the other, and when he moved to the west coast he kept it a while and then sold it off. I believe the Aztarac we got that day I kept…but hard to remember exactly (I do have an Aztarac, just don’t remember which deal it came from — I’ve owned or co-owned three of those over the years).

The funny thing was: a few days later, my junior friend started catching hell from someone on the phone/online that we had “stolen” the games out from under him, that the warehouse was his find, etc.. I almost would have felt bad, if the complainer hadn’t shared that he has been “working this place for five or six months” or something like that. Essentially, the guy kept going to the operator saying “I want this and this and this” and never bringing money or transportation!!

I think the moral to the story is, and this is something all new collectors should know: money talks, BS walks. I’ve collected games 20 years, and one thing is always certain: if you want to score, you need to be prepared with cash and transport when you go out hunting. You may only get one shot, and you shouldn’t waste the time of the seller. There are no credit lines, there’s no layaway plan – the guys will sell you the goods if you’re ready to buy. If not, tough.

It seems so obvious it should go without saying, but I’ve seen it over and over (“Hey, I was WORKING that operator for years….and you just stepping in and bought all the good stuff!”) If that was true, it would have been purchased and gone already.

Final Notes

If you were collecting back in the early 90’s and remember other similar warehouse raids, if you think you have a better one, leave a comment or a link. I surely can’t imagine what it must have been like to walk up to a warehouse and see a couple of Major Havocs sitting there, and just see containers of games like Dark Planet and Discs of Tron.

A more recent find that might compete was Joe M.’s Cosmic Chasm / Cube Quest story. I think that story was better, but this one might have had more market value in games. Hard to say. Agree?

Ah well. Thanks Mitch for sharing, what a great story – I am sure only one of many.

Here are some similar arcade posts

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Comments
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I remember playing Dark Planet, back in the day.

Nothing to write home about… And the 3-D effect was lame. It was a small model of a planet surface with a mirror reflecting the monitor, as if the screen were hovering over the model.

The cabinet, while cool as hell, hid an awful bland game.

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That's too bad to hear, but I kind of figured. Have you been to CAX? I heard it was there two years ago…I haven't researched the old list to confirm that. And I think even then it wasn't working. Stern tried some interesting stuff with the game controls / effects….on some games no one has heard of. I had never seen this game until I saw a flyer in May.

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Never been to CAX.

There was an arcade near me, back in the early 80's, that had this and Subroc 3-D right next to each other. Subroc was like Battlezone on the ocean, and had a proper 3-D effect. Dark Planet had seemed pretty dated, even by 1983 standards. The gameplay can be described as Omega Race meets Xevious – you bombed targets on the planets surface while defending your ship from enemy attacks in the air. However, the screen remained stationary, like omega race.

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Great story…I think I remember reading bits of that on RGVAC back in the day, or at least hints about it.

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Hey, I saw this post a little late, but found it interesting. AFAIK I have the only other Demon in collectors hands, and found some parallels between the story’s.

It all started with a normal check of rgvac, and I noticed this post

http://groups.google.com/group/rec.games.video.arcade.collecting/browse_thread/thread/93318f4d73d8a9e2/ce2c4912b81d08ba?lnk=gst&q=knoxville+lunar+lander#ce2c4912b81d08ba

The pictures are gone, but as I recall there was a row of games, that had a lunar lander, cinematronics space war, armor attack, and some other cool B&W stuff. We had plans to visit my wife’s family, right outside of Knoxville that weekend, so I figured we should stop by. I discussed it with my wife, and she gave the guy a call and found out several people planned on coming that weekend, and we knew we would end up missing out, so she arranged to meet the guy that night. Once she got off work, we drove the 3 hours to the place in some of the worst lighting I’ve seen. The whole way we where talking about if we should even pick up anything, so it wouldn’t get damaged by the rain.

Around 9pm we finally got there, and the OP told us he had a huge number of phone calls about the games, and had sold almost all of the games in the pictures, I think he said he sold the lunar lander for $800 sight unseen. I figured we had already missed out, but still wanted to check out the stuff. The pictures on the rgvac post came from his work area, so those where all gone, but he had another warehouse that didn’t have lights. I went back there with a flash light and went poking around, I found a firetruck and a vectorbeam space wars back there, so we arranged to buy those. I kept poking around and back in the very back, behind a ton of pool tables i saw the back and side art of a rockola cabinet, and for some reason thought “that’s a Demon” I had to crawl over several pool tables and assorted junk, but was able to see the marquee, I couldn’t believe it. If it had been facing the right way they probably would have taken a picture of it and it would have been gone, but lucky for me it was by itself and turned towards the wall. He told me “That one i had in my church” which i thought was a weird thing. It took me about an hour just to get to it, and by that time the op really wanted to go. He wanted us to leave the games and pick them up that weekend, but there was no way i was leaving the demon. I promised to load it as fast as i could, and could only do a quick wrap job on it. The firetruck was the only other game i could fit in, so I paid for half the Space War and promised to pick it up that weekend. He was kind of upset about staying so late, so we rushed off quickly. We pulled over at the first truck stop and i did the best with shrink wrap and a tarp that I could. Once we started going, the rain came down like crazy. We stopped about 4 times, and i got out in the middle of the rain and rearranged the tarp, praying everything was fine.

Once we got home we unloaded it and we found the tarps had done thier job, man was i relieved. We took some pictures (the demon on the hand truck ones) and called it a night. We went back that weekend, and he had sold the Space War out from under us, in fact i think he ended up selling all the games several times and it ended up being a really messed up deal. We got lucky that night.

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Great story man. Any chance you still have an aztarac and would you consider selling it? I have a very rich and famous musician friend looking for one desperately
Thanks
Willie

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Willie Ryan ยป I have never owned an Aztarac.

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Just browsing the site after a few years away and read this post. “Gee… this story sounds familiar,” I thought… then I remembered…

Ahh yes… the old Starworld Kalamazoo warehouse. I knew of the Major Havocs and the deal the unnamed collectors made for them. I won’t mention their names since they aren’t mentioned in the article. In fact, I drove out to pick up an empty Super Pac-Man cabaret from the same warehouse (both of these guys let me in on their “secret” warehouse after I promised not to grab their horde; not that I had the cash at the time), and found working Monaco GP boards out by the dumpster in a mini-Monaco (should have grabbed the cabinet as well, but I had a cockpit machine with dead boards). I also saw the same machines our two collector friends were grabbing, as well as a few other nice rarities such as Mazer Blazer. I had little cash at the time, so I didn’t grab anything else while I was there. Once my two friends grabbed their machines, someone “got” to the owners of the warehouse (one of which told me he was glad that he was getting rid of all of “this old junk”) and his prices skyrocketed. Oh well…

The not-mentioned collectors and I did many trades and sales deals over a period of time when I owned my coin-op business and arcade (I wonder if one of my Tempests is still in the storyteller’s possession) and we always got on great. I’ve been out of the loop for many years now and wonder how they’re both doing these days…

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Oh p.s… I missed the name of the author of the story (Mitch). I didn’t know him (at least, I don’t remember him, but may have met/dealt with him back then), but I knew the other two guys involved, and those were the two I dealt with.

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