After something of a drought of Arcade Raid reports in recent months, I have another great classic arcade cabinet stash find to share on the blog this week. Maybe we’re on a roll! Check out last weeks’ arcade raid tale here if you missed it.
So we go from South Dakota last week, to Arkansas for this week’s raid courtesy of arcade collector Brandon Jackson, who started collecting arcade games in 2017. Although only a recent collector of classics, Brandon already owned 26 games in his personal collection at home. After scoring this raid, the total is now over 80 cabinets! As arcade games were a huge part of his childhood, on entering the hobby, he was keen to purchase a few of his favourites from back in the day. That day came in August of 2017 at an arcade auction where he secured a non working Galaga cabinet.
I’ve been a mechanic for 20 years and have quite an extensive knowledge of how to read wiring diagrams and troubleshoot issues. So once I got the Galaga working and realized that my mechanical knowledge conveniently helped with fixing arcade games, I started looking more for broken games to fix and restore. Plus it was a whole lot cheaper to buy non working games or games with issues than restored, working games.
Brandon was pretty open about my new obsession and hobby with his friends on social media, and began receiving messages from them about arcade machines found for sale in his local area, or requests asking him to hunt down a machine they wanted for their man cave. That’s how this barn find landed itself right in his lap.
A friend I haven’t seen or talked to in years randomly posted a screenshot of a private FB Swap/For Sale group he’s in, where a guy was selling some arcade games. The pictures showed the games stacked in rows and DEEP. Definitely in some type of shop or shed with a concrete floor, under layers of dust. Being that the post was in a private FB group, I couldn’t message the guy. So I asked my friend to reach out to him and have him contact me. Not 15 minutes later he does and I ask him to send me some pictures and ask him how much he’s selling the games for. In the pictures and videos he sent, the games are so tightly packed that you can barely see some of the game titles. But you can see lots of the marquess, cabinet shapes, and just hints of the side art. You can see several Galaga, Ms Pac Man, Pac Man marquess and I spot just the tiniest bit of a Sinistar and a Stargate. Popeye, Bosconian, Pengo, Dig Dug, and Centipede are also very visible from what he sent.
The seller had just acquired a property that the games were stored in, in an estate sale and had closed on earlier that day. Brandon found out later that the original owner of the games had several bars and restaurants in the area back in the 70’s and 80’s and those games had been sitting in that property since sometime in the late 80’s. The latest tax sticker he found on a game was from 1989.
When trying to establish exactly how many cabinets were available, the seller wasn’t entirely sure, but estimated around 30 games were stored there.
He had no idea on a price, but had been getting offers along with a million questions that he had zero answers to. So I told him I’d buy the whole lot, sight unseen, for a flate rate per game, no matter the condition. That way he’d get the shop space back to use for his hobbies and I wouldn’t come cherry pick through the lot. Just a one and done deal. All I needed was for him to get me an exact number of how many games there were so I could bring a big enough trailer. I won’t disclose the price but I will say that I’m a firm believer in Karma. Not knowing the conditions of the games at all, I had to presume they were all going to be projects and need some serious maintenance and TLC at best. So I based my offer off what I had seen project games sell for and what I would consider fair market project value.
The following day, the seller came back with a surprise. There were in fact fifty-four games in total! Now, moving fifty-four classic arcade cabinets across the country is no easy feat. Brandon had to figure out logistics.
Lucky for me, my boss has a 44’ enclosed race car trailer that has 34’ of open floor space that he very generously let me borrow. I also have a 24’ enclosed car trailer. So between the two trailers, I figured that should do the trick.
To make sure he had enough space on the trailers, Brandon did some planning:
Being that the pickup date was set for a Friday and possibly into a Saturday, Brandon couldn’t just ask his friends to take off from their lives and jobs for days to join him on this adventure. So he asked the one person that would do anything for him at the drop of a hat, his mother. Brandon tells me she is always up for an adventure so it didn’t take much convincing to get her on board. Nice work mom! She was to follow in the second truck and smaller trailer while Brandon wheeled the other truck and big trailer.
The mother and son team set off Thursday night for the 6 hour drive to Helena, Arkansas.
They rode into Helena just after midnight, and it was a night of restless sleep. Brandon figured it would take a solid day to load and secure all the games, so he woke his mother early and ensured they were up and at the pickup location by 8am.
That moment of pulling up and walking into the building is something I’ll never forget. Time stood still for a brief moment and all those stories and legends of epic barn finds was staring me right in the face. My expectations were low give the nature of their location and the literal decades they had been sitting but I was about to have my mind blown.
After collecting his thoughts, Brandon did a quick walkthrough just to make sure that at least most of the games looked complete and at the very least had monitors and weren’t totally beyond saving. To his complete surprise, somehow after sitting for thirty-plus years in a shed in the Mississippi River Delta area, these games for the most part weren’t only just complete, they were in exceptional condition. It was very clear that each and every one them could easily be restored to their former glory!
At the end of the walkthrough, sitting all by it self in the corner was Brandon’s personal Golden Egg. That surprise he had been hoping for, a real diamond in the rough. At no point in the discussion did this game get brought up. But somehow in all the pictures and videos the seller sent, it wasn’t in a single one of them:
It took a sold eight hours to dolly and secure all 54 games into both trailers. Brandon’s mother was on hand, packing foam in between the games and around the strap buckles to ensure that none of them got damaged on the journey home. Out of the 54 games in the barn, there were only 2 games that were in super rough shape. These cabinets were heavily damaged, with broken monitors and rodent damage.
A celebratory steak dinner was in order that night for my mother and I. After which we decided to stay one more night in Helena and go to the Casino on the river for some fun. Once home the next day it took just as long over the remaining weekend to unload all the games. Cleaning spider webs and light surface dust off each of them before storing them in their new home.
I asked Brandon how things were going since picking theses games up earlier this year:
My plan with the games is to completely restore the vast majority of them and add them to my personal collection. There’s several games that were duplicates, even some with 3 and 4 of the same game. Those I’ll fix and sell to fellow collectors in my area and to my close friends. There are a few that will be extremely involved projects so those I’ll have for spare parts or I might sell off as projects just so I can get some space back in my shop.
Since the initial score in January Brandon has already got seven of the games up and running. After looking over one of the Ms Pac Man cabinets, he simply plugged it in and it powered up like it was just on the day before!
Now that he’s been able to do a deeper dive on more of the games, the overall condition of the cabinets continues to surprise. All of them still have the operating packets with manuals in the back door. But for the most part it’s been simple things like power supplies, reseating chips, and just a good and thorough cleaning is bringing them back to life. Some have required PCB repairs however, but to find so many complete games in one haul is an incredible stroke of luck.
The complete list of all fifty-four games pulled from the barn are:
Cabaret Taito Space Invaders
Centuri cabinet with Ms Pac-Man x2
Cinematronics Star Castle cabinet with Ms Pac-Man x3
Dedicated Ms Pac-Man x3
Dedicated Pac-Man x2
Dig Dug x2
Donkey Kong x2
Galaga conversion in a Frogger cabinet x2
Galaga conversion in a Taito cabinet x3
Generic cabinet Ms Pac man x2
Greyhound video poker
Midway Space Invaders
Ms Pac Man in a Pac Man cabinet x2
Space Fire Bird
Stern Cabinets with Ms Pac-Man x2
All this goes to show that games are still out there, people!
Huge thanks to Brandon for allowing me to share his amazing find and great pictures here on the blog. One of the more impressive hauls I’ve seen for sure. Nice work!
Thanks as always for checking in on the blog. See you next time.