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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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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