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Georgia Roadtrip – An operator’s time capsule

For over two months I’ve been planning my first “real” vacation of the year. In August I got a brief, three line email about a small operators cache of pinballs, arcade games, cigarette machines and pool tables. A death in the family had left a sister and her nephew to sell off a lot of 47 arcade games down south. Naturally, I was interested.

Arcade roadtrip - Packed and Ready

Arcade Warehouse – Southern Georgia

Collecting arcade games can be a solitary hobby. The following month at a friend’s wedding reception, someone asked what was going on with me. Of course, I shared the email I had gotten just a few days prior, talking about the list of the games in the warehouse. The conversation went:

Them: What is new?
Me: (Hesitation) Well, someone down south contacted me about some arcade games they have for sale. I may end up taking a roadtrip in a month or so.
Them: Oh yeah?
…. (Silence, not a lot of interest. The conversational follow up….)
Them: What will you get?
Me: There are too many to remember
Them: Why, how many are there?
Me: 47
Them: (Silence – Eyes widen, a couple of blinks)
Them: Oh. (My wife rolls her eyes)

I don’t expect anyone outside of this hobby to understand. It wouldn’t be the first or last time I will take a long roadtrip to buy large quantities of arcade / pinball machines. Before I forget, if you are looking to sell some games, give me a hollar and let’s work something out.

The list – Mostly classic arcade games

Why tell when I can show. Here are a couple of photos that the son graciously took for me to help with our negotiations. The full list of games is after the photos.

Georgia Warehouse - Classic Games Photo 1Georgia Warehouse - Classic Games Photo 2Georgia Warehouse - Classic Games Photo 3
  • Ms. Pacman x4
  • Ms. Pacman (Cocktail)
  • Galaga
  • Star Gate
  • Space Duel
  • Centipede
  • Cloak and Dagger
  • Safari
  • Kangaroo
  • Berzerk
  • Asteroids
  • Tac Scan
  • Missile Command
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Donkey Kong x3
  • Shoot the Bull
  • My Hero
  • Vanguard
  • Qix
  • Tempest (Cabaret)
  • Food Fight
  • Joust
  • Popeye x2
  • Frogger x2
  • Zaxxon
  • Phoenix
  • Pinball Action (Gorf Conv.)
  • Jr. Pac-man (Super Pacman)
  • Jr. Pac-man (Factory Dedicated)
  • Galaga (Cocktail)
  • Moon Patrol
  • Motorcycle (Chicago Coin)
  • Midnight Maruaders
  • Operation Wolf x2
  • Black Knight x2
  • Dolly Parton
  • Fire
  • Strikes and Spares
  • High Speed
  • Future Spa
  • Vector
  • El Toro
  • Solar Fire

I worked quickly out of respect for the owners since they were so gracious to supply plenty of photos. I figured out what I could reasonably offer, sight unseen with some assumptions (beyond the photos) and we continued negotiations.

Asking for help

Given the interest of time, the distance was not an ideal factor. So I called in a friend to help, an expert that has done this a ton of times in that area – Steve Smith in Folkston GA.

Steve headed over to get introduced to the owners in early October. By the end of that first visit he had worked out a deal and loaded up a trailer of games. It wasn’t the full lot of 47, we couldn’t come to a reasonable agreement on that. Some of the games Steve hauled back, and he’ll correct me in the comments of anything I’m missing:

  • Safari
  • Vector
  • Future Spa
  • Kangaroo
  • Tac Scan
  • Tempest (Cabaret)
  • Food Fight

The Gremlin Safari was a pretty unique piece. Here is a photo of that cabinet.

Gremlin Safari

I got a single game

The whole deal started out at 47, but I only ended up with one game out of what Steve hauled back. 47 would have been an amazing story, but a true challenge in logistics. Things worked out just fine. Steve ended up making a second trip and picked up a few more games, but by that time many other games had been sold, some of them auctions on eBay. The hope was that he was going to be able to pick me up that factory Jr. Pac-man, but that had been sold. Please, if you bought the Jr. Pac, drop me a line or leave a comment below.

But back to the story. I won’t leave you hanging in suspense on which game I picked up.

Food Fight!

Food Fight - Left Side

Pretty stellar condition. The top is crisp, there is no swelling, very few scratches, the control panel has no cracking, the game just feels like it was in a capsule.

Food Fight - Control Panel DetailFood Fight - Control Panel Detail

Steve got to talking with the owners and they said that the brother had been an operator at Fort Stewart. The Food Fight was in excellent condition, and the Kangaroo was nearly perfect as well. We can only guess that when the games broke down, the operator brought them back and started using them for parts. My Food Fight is missing the lighting fixture from behind the marquee, as well as the power brick. I also don’t have the marquee, but that must have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Meeting other regional collectors

This operator warehouse and collection of 47 games spurred plans for Chris and I to pickup that Food Fight and bring it back. Steve was interested to make a trade with Chris that he couldn’t refuse, his working Tron for a working Black Hole. Only problem, that changed our plans from a one way flight, to one hell of a drive.

Trailer Packed as it left Folkston GA

Over the span of 4 days we drove over 1600 miles. We made a number of stops along the way. We stopped in Louisville, KY to meet Ed Lutz and see his tremendous collection. I had a geek out moment as I got to see a Dark Planet in person. Ed had a number of items of interest for me personally, like a Bazooka, and a DECO mini.

Eds Arcade CollectionBazooka Arcade GameDark Planet Arcade GameDECO Mini Arcade

We also got to briefly meet some of the other local collectors like Antz and Jason Bradley. Antz was extremely hospitable, I’d highly recommend Zanzabar in Louisville if you are looking for an arcade or pinball fix.

Eds Arcade Collection

Great food, solid collection of working games, and pinball tournaments. Not to mention one of the select NIB Robotron mini’s that came out of the John Jukes warehouse. Look him up.

On the way out of town we experienced one other interested site. From a distance we also got to witness a house being used only for arcade game storage, with 6 freestanding structures on the lot packed with games.

Very little luck on our return

We tried to coordinate with a number of other arcade collectors on the way down, but didn’t have as much luck as we would have liked. We did get to stop into GameGalaxy in Nashville, but did not get to hook up with Jason.

Game Galaxy Arcade Nashville

We also stopped and picked up a Rip Off cabinet for another collector in Chicago from Tony. Tony has an awesome list of games, but alas, we also could not time it right to make an introduction. Next time, there is always next time.

It was a tremendous trip, and extremely therapeutic, but Chris and I have agreed to never drive that distance again.

Share your bulk arcade buy stories

I’m curious to hear, or rehash, the stories of bulk arcade buys that you’ve had. In particular, if you have ever made a deal for games sight unseen, how many games did you buy and what did you keep? Or share anything else you like.

Here are some similar arcade posts

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Comments
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I’ve only done one bulk buy but my dad has done several now with various parties. It was the one that got us started! I was a senior in high school and had the assignment of writing a big report on any subject. So I went with the history of video games and turned it in. My English teacher mentioned that she had a family friend in Kingfisher a town about 30 minutes away from El Reno where I lived that had some arcade games. I asked if I could have his number and she got me it. So I called him and talked my dad into going with me to meet him and check out his stuff. Turns out he was an old operator in the area but didn’t get into it until the tailend of the crash so the machines weren’t out on a route for too long. So we drive to downtown Kingfisher and in the basement of some old buildings he shows us his old games. He had about 50 classics in mostly fantastic shape and also some rarer games like Mazer Blazer and Kozmik Krooz’r. He wanted $5000 for them all which I knew was a stael at the time (It was around 2000-2001 when prices for arcades were very high) So I had to get on ebay and prove to my dad we would make a nice profit from this deal as I didn’t have the money to put into this as I was just a high schooler. Got him to agree and we picked them all up. Some still had hundreds of dollars in quarters in them that we returned to him on subsequent trips as we didn’t have the space to store all the games at once. We just picked some up and ebayed them then came back and got more to ebay. Also most contained his record keeping cards so we could see what all he made on them which was kinda neat, as well as a bunch of old arcade magazines. Later he called us and gave us a couple pinballs and a few other machines he had forgotten about. Was a very nice old operator! I kept a few of the machines for awhile but I’ve slowly sold them all as I’m pretty much out of collecting, but my dad is still heavily involved in fixing and selling them. We had no idea what the hell we were doing at first but now he can repair just about anything on them!

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@Dustin » That is one of the best stories I have ever heard Dustin! Wow! Impressive too that you convinced your dad at that age to drop that kind of money on what would seem like a huge risk. How much did you make on top of all of them once you started selling them off on eBay? 4x? 6x?

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Nice to meet you Jeff. Looks like you had a great game-related vacation. Hope you and some of the other coinop folks get to come down to the arcade expo in March.

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@ jason bradley » We need to really break in that “junky” Robotron cabaret 😉 Sounds like some plans are evolving for a short arcade trip to Louisville in Jan. Hopefully you’ll be around.

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Jeff,

Great post – It’s neat to read about the trip and the score on the Food Fight is fantastic. I’d love to add one to my collection someday.

I wish I could have made it to Zanzabar the evening you were there. Jason let me know you guys had stopped in, but my schedule just wouldn’t allow me to make it there in time to see you guys.

Take care.

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I think we probably made about 8x honestly… At that point I remember selling Robotron and Pac-Man cocktails for $1200 each easily. Tempests for $800-$1000. I used it to pay for my college, and of course buy some toys 🙂 I kept a few pieces for awhile but eventually sold them off.

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Jeff, Any idea where the Dark Planet ended up???

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The Dark Planet didn’t come back with me, as much as I might have wanted it to…

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Wow, a Dark Planet 3-D… I haven’t seen one of those in 29 years!

I would’ve grabbed that puppy in a heartbeat. That game is rare as hell. You could’ve easily flipped it for $1500.

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Mike M. » Ah, well, if it was some random warehouse and not another collector’s collection, maybe it would have been a different story.

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Hello, my name is Tony and I have been searching for a Galaga and a Bubble Dome Chex Hockey table for several years now. Could you tell me where the best place to find one in good condition and not very expensive would be? I am from Durand, Michigan.

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Anthony Schornak » Hello Anthony. What does “not very expensive” mean to you, when looking to purchase these two items?

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