Best way to acquire an arcade game worth $2,000? Steal it!

Steal might be a strong word, but what would you dooooo….for a Sundance cab? This is the story of one man, a historic abandoned lodge and a video game so rare that finding even a non working unit – is potentially worth thousands.

Sundance Lineup

A Sundance arcade game in Little Sweden

The story of this Sundance arcade game is truly a riveting one. It started out simply enough – a collector was doing some surfing on a site called ArtificalOwl.com, a site dedicated to photographing some of the most fascinating abandoned man-made structures.

One of the sites was an old lodge named Little Sweden, 22 miles east of Sonora, CA on highway 108. This old lodge had been abandoned but not cleaned out. If you take a look at the Little Sweden photo album, you will see a decaying time capsule of 70’s furniture, appliances and other commercial relics. The album as a whole is bewitching, at times amazing and at others spooky.

But nestled within this album was one lone photo with a caption “An old video game.”

Little Sweden Photo
Photo via Artificial Owl

Well, this is not just any old video / arcade game. This particular game was one of the first made by Cinematronics in 1979. While some of the Cinematronics titles saw wide pervasive distribution, other titles (such as Cosmic Chasm) had only a limited production run. These rare titles are still sought after by collectors that consider them “holy grails”.

This was the case with Sundance. Tim Skelly, the creator, is quoted as saying Sundance was a “very fragile game, and few lived long”. But being an early black & white vector, collectors still find this game highly desirable. Here is the original flyer;

How rare is the game? Well, VAPS.org lists only two known instances of Sundance. There is very little information online about the game in general from photos to chatter about the game on forums. One of the few really interesting articles available is Brian Jones’ Sundance restoration from the brink of disintegration.

There probably aren’t more than 15 still around, maybe less. Couple that with the fact that Sundance is a Cinematronics game and is extremely rare, ‘collectors’ will spare no cost to step over each other to get one. Due to the low numbers it’s hard to know what this arcade is worth, and the kicker – we don’t know anything about the condition or completeness.

The Sundance Chase

The minute that first photo surfaced on the 27th of July, 2010 I knew there would be groups vying to acquire the game. Some would attempt a legal route of acquisition, some would stay completely silent until they had the Sundance cabinet in hand.

I would normally say – Go read how the whole story unfolded in the quest for this arcade game. Sadly, the forum is so poorly moderated the thread exploded to 60+ pages of information, 99% of which is useless postulating, greed, immaturity and general idiocy.

Little Sweden Property Outside
Photo via Artificial Owl

So here is basically what ends up happening.

Many collectors are trying to get a hold of the original owner of the Little Sweden property – Donald Williams to legally purchase the game. A ton of research and effort goes into tracking down information about the property, the owner, his property tax status etc. Maps are posted, neighbors in the area are phoned and interviewed, information is purchased – a tremendous amount of resources into finding more about the circumstances and the possibility of legally purchasing the game.

Little Sweden Property Inside

But in the end, its the guy who has the moxy to walk into a meth ridden, decrepid, feces riddled structure, pull the Sundance cabinet out and drive it home that ends up with it.

One forum member by the handle name of Jehuie ends up stopping off on a trip with his whole family and snags the Sundance out of the cabin and takes it home. He then proceeds to post photos of it online, and the condition of the game is amazing given the surroundings.

The Sundance arcade epic – Ongoing

The story is currently ongoing. After the photos of the cabinet were posted the topic reached a boiling point. The forum is completely public, so any individual can pop in and see the photos that were taken, what was said and who ‘appears’ to have the game. Letters were written and so many people locally to the area were approached that one old arcade game has hit a word of mouth tipping point.

Jehuie has said he’s been approached by the police and has been recommended to keep information close to the chest.

Conclusion

There isn’t a conclusion to the Little Sweden Sundance Chase. But it is a pretty amazing story. From one random photo album on the web, to an extremely rare arcade game out in the middle of no-where, to the collectors going out and rescuing the cabinet which is in decent shape.

What would you have done? Would you have just gone onto the property, grabbed the game and not told anyone? If you were within driving distance, and you thought you wanted the game, what would have been your approach?

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Comments
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i would have had it in the back of a truck the same night it was posted. wouldnt have told anybody, spent some time cleaning it up and then let it sit for at least a year. then, put some feelers out to serious vector collectors with deep pockets. hypothetically speaking, of course.

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Had I known this was going to explode this way, I probably wouldn’t have initiated the post.

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@Brad – I think there were more people in your camp that were working towards those ends for the Sundance.
@Brian – There is no way this would not have blown up like this. Given the rarity of the game and the bizarre circumstance, the moment that was shared I knew this Sundance cabinet had the potential to unleash into crazy story.

I need to reach out to Artifical Owl and see what kind of traffic spike he’s seen as a result of all this attention.

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I would have had the game in my hot little hands had I left that first day as planned. DOH! But beyond the fantasy, I think the sad reality is the level of greed and gimme attitudes that have surfaced over a rare game. Maybe its not surprising to many but its quite a sickening spectacle.

I hope that Donald Williams gets a big payday from this. Maybe that way he can pay back the city and others who allegedly are owed money. Finally, maybe Little Sweden can be finally demolished and put to rest. Happy to see the game out of its current hell, but it may just be entering a new kind of hell very soon.

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I am glad that the game is at least out and should be saved from destruction.

I certainly would not fault anyone from taking one look at that shanty and saying – No one cares about the contents, I am going to get while the getting is good.

It’s all about the hunt. For a lot of those guys, its also about a good fight to pick.

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Tough call, but considering that it was abandoned, I think I would have thrown it in the back of the truck and not said word one about it. Saving the game was important in my opinion. Contacting the owner was a good idea, but considering he is probably wanted for something, I don’t know if I’d want the guy having my contact info…

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Hah! Cool. Nice story overview Jeff. I’m one of those people that probably would have also tried to speak to the owner 1st …. and hence would ALSO have probably missed out ๐Ÿ™‚

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I would like to know who was the individual the furthest away from the Sundance to actually make some plans to acquire it. I would think that Joe M. would have at least made some inquiries if not started to hatch a plan.

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Which public forum being referenced in this story?

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There’s no date on the Little Sweden article, but it’s been up for over two years now. I remember seeing it on one of my abandoned locations website excursions, and thinking, “Hmmm… a Sundance machine… cool.” then forgetting about it.

I hope the “prestige” of owning that boring ass game is worth all of the headache and public hassle from the jealous and immature…

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Where did you get the opportunity to play Sundance in person?

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If it was in my neighborhood I think I would have made a trip, grabbed the game and tossed it in the back of my truck. I doubt I would have tried to restore it and possibly keep it or sell to another collector who would appreciate the game.

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@Hasenfang: Sundance is the penultimate trade bait. Especially that one.

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I would have grabbed the cab and put it in a quiet little corner of my storage. Several months later maybe even a year I’d post up a fake craigslist ad and then announce my new score.

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Anyone following the thread on klov? I just couldn’t take it anymore and haven’t been back there in awhile. It would be a shame if this cab got lost in the shuffle.

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I remember dropping a small fortune into that game one night in about 1980 in Overland Park, KS at the King Louie West bowling center. It was really pretty addictive, for that time. Definitely didn’t stay around long. I came back about a week later and it had an out of order scribbled sign on it and was gone about a week later never to be seen again.

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@Dave: Really? Thanks for sharing that story. Sundance’s had a lack of robustness, and the fact that there was one around long enough for you to drop a small fortune is either great timing, or a fluke that it worked as long as it did. Did you ever try to hunt it down?

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If I lived within a 5 hour drive, I would have not hesitated to snag it.

But unlike everyone else, reselling it at a profit would have absolutely no appeal to me. I would restore it with a more robust monitor, and donate it to FunSpot. No joke.

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Matth ยป Especially for a game as rare as Sundance, a few more people should get to enjoy it.

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