Irish Proverb: It is better to be born lucky than rich.

This is going to sound stupid, but nothing makes me feel cooler than hauling arcade games around on the back of my truck.

So many collectors never get to show off their collections to outsiders — and when they do, typically it’s done online. Seeing pictures of someone’s collection can be kind of neat, seeing an item in real life is much cooler, in my opinion.

I’ve never been hunting so I don’t really know what it’s like to take down a big animal or anything, but … I don’t know, I have this visual image of a caveman returning from the hunt with a saber tooth tiger hoisted up on top his shoulders or something. And the caveman enters his cave where all the other cavemen are hanging out, and throws down the carcass on the floor and it goes BAM and … in that one little moment, he’s the MAN.

And that moment, that feeling … that’s how I feel when I’m driving slowly through the neighborhood with an arcade game on the back of my truck. It’s like I’m the caveman. And the arcade game is the saber tooth tiger. And my club is … well, a credit card.

And I know deep down that 99% of the people I pass could not care less about the fact that some random stranger is driving around with an arcade game in the back of his truck. When I think back to when I was a kid … there was this family that lived in our neighborhood, the Sloans, and one time we went over to their house and they had an arcade game in their house and I remember thinking that they must be rich. And maybe they were, I don’t really know, but … the point is, especially as a kid who hung out in arcades and liked playing arcade games, the thought of actually ever owning a real, full size arcade cabinet was like … indescribable. It would have been the ultimate toy and the ultimate status symbol all wrapped up into one 300 pound chunk of wood and electronics.

It’s not that way any more, of course. I mean, the people I’m impressing, or at least the people I think I’m impressing, it’s not the 10-year-old kids out playing in their front yard. To those kids, I might as well be hauling antique junk off to to the dump. Those aren’t the kids that grew up feeling like a rock star because they got to enter their initials into a Centipede cabinet for achieving the high score. It’s the people my age I get the looks from, the people like me who saved a little bit of their lunch money so they would have an extra quarter or two in their pocket the next time they ran across an arcade game in the grocery store, or the convenient store, or the laundromat.

The other day I was delivering a couple of machines over to a friend’s house. Facing to one side of my trailer were two machines, Speed Buggy and Karate Champ. I pull up to a stop light and can feel the guy next to me at the light waving, so I look over and this guy is at first waving, then he points to the arcade games, and then he gives me two thumbs up while he’s grinning from ear to ear. He was obviously pretty excited to see them (I’m guessing he was excited over Karate Champ; nobody gets that excited about Speed Buggy). And then I gave him a nod back and a smile, acknowledging that, at least in that moment, I’m the caveman with a couple of saber tooth tigers on the back of my trailer. And then the light turned green and I turned left and I never saw him again.

The funny thing about this encounter was, I think I paid a hundred bucks for that Karate Champ machine. The last time I filled up my truck, the day I was moving those games, it cost me $112. I was literally carrying more money in gasoline in my truck right then than I had invested in that machine. Of course, nobody has good memories of spending their formidable years playing with gasoline … unless they were a pyromaniac or something. Or maybe they sniffed a lot of gas as a kid, and even then, they may no longer have any memories of those years.

Over the past decade and a half I bought somewhere around 60 machines, give or take. Of those, 2 I had delivered; the rest I moved myself. Many of those games were located out of state and purchased through eBay. I’ve hauled games from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. When we sold our old house, I had to move the 30 machines I currently owned to storage. Of those 30, I ended up moving 15 or so to my new house. Of the ones I’ve sold, I’ve delivered many of them. During my time in this hobby I’ll bet I’ve moved 200 machines, maybe more, and every time I drive through my neighborhood or down Main Street with a machine or two in tow behind me, I get that same feeling. And part of it, I won’t lie, is wanting to be seen with those machines, but another part of it, the bigger part of it, is wanting those machines to be seen.

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5 Responses to “Arcade Games and Saber Tooth Tigers”

  1. retro dave says:

    awesome – ive always wanted to own my own arcade cab – and fruit machines too, especially those from UK :)

  2. Zeno says:

    I can completely relate to that childhood notion of our generation equating owning an arcade machine somehow equaling wealth. My mother had a cousin who owned a full-sized pinball machine back in the 1970′s. My own little covetous mind could barely wrap my head around the idea that anyone I knew personally would even be allowed to privately own such a magnificent thing. There’s also something to be said for 80 s kids being exposed to this idea through the old sitcom “Silver Spoons”.

    Now that I think about, I recall my son telling me on at least one occasion that when he was younger that some of his classmates responded to his declaring we owned an arcade machine (MAME) with a chorus of Nah-ah!’s, so the idea must still carry prestige in some youthful circles.

  3. Jimmy says:

    I’d be willing to bet that EVERY male you drive past that is within 8 years of our age is thinking to themselves as they see that arcade game on that trailer “My god, I wish I was that guy!”

  4. David Cornelson says:

    I bought a Tutankham back in 1996 and kept it for about 2 years. I paid $400 for it and sold it for $400. I bought in a shop in Addison, IL and sold it on Usenet. I’d like to get a MAME cabinet, but it’s not really the same (and illegal) as having an original cabinet. I get the hunter analogy completely.

  5. Dean says:

    Did i ever tell you the story about the guy that stopped me and said ” do you sell these? ” a question ive heard 1000 times… I replied “sure” then he asked ” do you buy these? ” I replied sure… and that was the start of a conversation that lead to a 50 game haul from a forgotton warehouse.
    I think i will keep an empty cabinet on my truck when im not hauling games just in case I can lucky again.