Looks can be deceiving, as we all should know. And the old addage, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” has certainly been proven on many occasions. However, I’m fairly certain that “treasure trove” would be the last thing on anyone’s mind after seeing the picture above. For only the trained eye would suspect that treasures would most certainly be inside. This, my friends, is what is known in the hobby as a “Warehouse Raid!”
I knew this warehouse would be exciting when the directions to the address didn’t include a clear numbered marker, instead, I was to simply look for “a few tractor trailers and a big pile of junk.” Yep. We made it.
I first met this operator many months back at an arcade auction. He was selling off equipment from his past 30-plus years in the business. I’m usually pretty stand-offish when it comes to strangers, but when there’s a potential to find some arcade treasures, I make friends in a hurry. I introduced myself and asked if these items for sale represented all he had left. “Hell No!” was his response. Would he possibly be willing to sell any of what he had left? His answer was music to my ears. “Hell Yes!”
After some back and forth, several phone calls, and some extended time in the car, we were there. I’m not sure what it is about most operators that I’ve met, but their warehouses would make great locations for either “American Pickers” or “Hoarders” – I’m not sure which. In the conversations I had with the operator prior to my visit, I was practically salivating to see what was inside. According to him, he had been operating over 30 years and still had “all” of his equipment. He never really traded in or sold any. Visions of Computer Spaces danced in my head, and the anticipation had been killing me. Time to finally see what was inside.
Inside was not exactly the treasure trove I was hoping for, but still, quite impressive. There was game after game. Not too many rarities, but definitely some classics: Pac Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong, and Pole Position come to mind. Conversion cabinets seemed to be the main course, however, with classics like Q*bert now dishearteningly converted to such atrocities as DJ Boy.
Disarray was everywhere, and new discoveries were made left and right even after previously combing the exact location. It’s hard to keep your head straight when there is so much wonder to behold. Documenting with photos and videos is a must! Also, for those squeamish few, be prepared for plenty of spiderwebs, rat droppings and the occasional live varmint. We encountered all of those things on this visit.
I should say we were privileged that day as we were able to view rooms that hadn’t been opened in 10 years. In fact, there was a tractor trailer that hadn’t been opened in 20 years that he had moved just for us to get into and look around. An honor, to be sure.
Sadly, as with many operators, many games were simply left to rot over the years. You see, most of the games had paid for themselves over and over again, so when they were finally pulled off route due to no longer making money, they were simply stashed away and forgotten, their duty done. One tractor trailer load had been exposed to the elements for years, its back door completely open just welcoming rain and humidity all year (decades) long.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t save them all. However, we didn’t come away empty-handed. We picked up our fair share of Nintendo cabinets, Ms. Pacs, and Playchoices along with plenty of circuit boards, artwork, and more (including many NOS – that’s “New, Old Stock” to you arcade newbs). I don’t think that this will be the last trip we make to see our new operator friend. In fact, I think it was only the first pickup of many. Heck, we haven’t even seen his other locations yet, but I’ll be sure to bring my camera when I do.