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Finding my Pot of Gold

September 15th, 2014

Having just finished a day trip out to Ohio to pick up a HUO game (more on that later), I settled in to wrapping up my stay-cation that was heavily focused on arcade repairs and projects. I certainly wasn’t planning on picking up anymore games, isn’t that what we all say? While outside trying to do some sanding and priming we got hit with a heavy rain, afterwards the sky was emblazoned with an amazing full rainbow. I had seen plenty of rainbows, but never a full one in person. I took it as a sign that I was meant to find the Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow! She didn’t buy it :-) but I still scored the game.

rainbow picture

So we really did have a rainbow and a few days later I scored the Pot of Gold off eBay. I probably paid too much, but I could pick it up and after talking to the seller, it sounded like a home use only cabinet. A pretty uncommon game and even more uncommon to be HUO. I had some arcade part sale cash burning a hole in my paypal account, so what the heck.

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The seller was about 40 minutes away and turned out to be a local operator. He did have other games, but he was mostly into redemption style games and machines. His eBay pictures and description left out a few details, such as the drag damage and shoddy black paint used to cover it up. Or the weird gouges on the left side of the cab, almost like someone was digging their nails into the cab while playing. The drag damage is particularly amusing because the little nylon glides are worn down to the nail, when in the coin box is a brand new set of leg levelers! Overall the game is in amazing shape and still has that new cabinet smell when opened up.

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When I asked the seller where he got the game he said it came from a bulk buy of redemption equipment. That seller used to work for Atlas Vending and had acquired the game new and stuck it in his basement. I tried to get contact information for the former Atlas employee, but he didn’t seem too interested in sharing. It would have been nice to learn a little more about the history. I exchanged contact info with the seller and told him to let me know if he came across any other interesting games and that I’d do the same for him in regard to redemption equipment. I was anxious to get home and see if the game would be an easy fix or would end up as an in depth repair.

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This machine was clean inside and out. The pinball coin door looked brand new, the coin box has a lid and those pesky leg levelers, the inside of the cab is clean and free of rodent droppings, grime or other crud. The front bezel art and the control panel looked amazing with little or no damage. The wells monitor was super clean, and the pcb set almost NOS. While I couldn’t confirm this was a home use only cab, it sure looks like one to me.

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According to the seller, the game sometimes worked. I unloaded the PoG at home and gave it a quick inspection. Everything seemed OK so I fired it up. I get lines on the screen, maybe horizontal collapse or just bad video, but I can coin it up and the game plays blind. My first thought was the loose edge connector, but then as I was looking it over I noticed the scorch marks on the power supply and powered off the game. I also noticed a Kaos sticker on the monitor and a couple of ID tags inside the cabinet. Looks like this game was originally a Kaos and was factory converted to Pot of Gold. That would explain the dragons on the front.

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With the burn on the power supply and the monitor video issues I’d have my hands full trying to get this working. Hopefully luck is on my side and I’ll have it working soon.

Rotisserie for Black Hole Pinball

January 18th, 2014

My black hole pinball machine worked and was in decent shape, but I had driven a long way to get it (HERE), my kids loved it, and it wasn’t leaving the collection anytime soon. Black Hole is a great game and worthy of a little extra TLC, so the damaged cabinet would get restored and possibly a re-stencil. Since the playfields would be out, I thought it would be fun to get them professionally restored as well. HSA pinball had done an amazing job on a previous Black Hole pin restoration and I had no doubt that my project would turn out just as good. Of course I’d have to strip the playfields first, and that was a nightmare, but I’ll save the story of that agony for another time.

black hole playfield

It didn’t take long before I had a beautiful set of restored Black Hole pinball playfields. You can check out the before and after photos at HSA pinball’s site HERE. Having those beautiful playfields done meant it was time to put the machine back together. Insert token to continue…

Omega Race cabaret #1441 added to the arcade!

December 31st, 2013

Omega Race is an amazing game, with beautiful front artwork covered in zooming space ships, a smooth metal spinner, and a black light scene that gives the illusion of flying your vector ship through space. Sadly, its a game I never got to play back in the arcades of the 1980’s, I don’t recall ever seeing it. Having gone to many of the classic Chicago arcades, I’m sure I would have remembered such a game. Space ships were the big thing thanks to Star Trek and Star Wars, and the opportunity to blast my way through enemy ships would have attracted a few of my tokens, no doubt about it.

Omega Race Flyer

While Omega Race may be a simple black and white vector game, it has style like some of the great Midway electro-mechanical games with just a hint of the video craze that was about to explode on the scene. Midway designers did a great job incorporating beautiful graphics with engaging game play creating a true classic. While I had played Omega Race a few times during my early collecting years, it wasn’t until I spent a lot of time playing one at Greg’s Freecade back in 2010 that I fell in love. I have a passion for the black and white games because manufacturers typically spent time on the whole game package; game play, sounds, background, bezel, and cabinet artwork. They had to make the game attractive and enticing to get you to try it and then exciting enough to keep those tokens flowing. Omega Race is just such a game and I want to own one. Insert token to continue…

Willis Pac-Man bezel

October 8th, 2013

This little beauty popped up on eBay with the title “Willis Pac-Man bezel”. Now I’ve seen plenty of Pac cpo’s and of course that really bad Wico Pac-Man side art; but I have never seen a Willis Pac-Man bezel, or even knew it existed. The seller only posted a few small pictures, and while the Willis name appeared to be printed in the lower right, it just wasn’t very clear. What really caught my attention was a small mark or artist signature also in the lower right corner. Whoa, an artist signature? Insert token to continue…

Willis Vanguard Bezel

September 14th, 2013

I do love Willis artwork and have done a pretty good job documenting the stuff that’s out there. Saving this little piece of arcade history is fun and helps shed light on how the replacement artwork business worked back in the glory days of arcades. For a look at the stuff I’ve found so far, visit the Willis Gallery. Even though I believe I’ve documented most of the Willis stuff that was produced, I still keep an eye out for interesting artwork, and occasionally I find something I haven’t seen before. A few weeks ago this strange arcade bezel popped up on eBay. It was labeled in the lower right corner as “Willis Industries Inc” and I needed to know more about it.

Willis Vanguard UR bezel

So what the heck is this for? It looked almost generic with the simple color scheme, but the mountains in the background reminded me of an overlay I’d seen somewhere. Hmm, I would have to do some digging to see if I could figure it out. Insert token to continue…

TV Tennis anyone?

July 31st, 2013

TV Tennis arcade game

Have you ever looked at something after you bought it and thought, “What the heck was I thinking?” Well, when I won this TV Tennis by US Billiards off eBay, I had one of those moments. I really didn’t think I would win with a maximum bid of only $22.00, but I did win and it only cost me $16.50! Wow, that’s probably the least I’ve ever paid for a cabinet, but now what? The game was about a 7 hour road trip one way and this was just a pong clone, not a garage full of minty vectors. This would be tough to claim.

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So why did I bid anyway? I have to admit that I have a fondness for all the unusual artwork and games that were produced during the hey-day of the arcade game era. The stranger the better and this cabinet certainly fits that criteria. When I saw it on eBay with no bids I felt compelled to save it. I’ve never seen one before and it turns out that the picture on KLOV is this very game. So maybe its the only one left? It was also made by US Billiards, a company that has some connection to Willis Industries, that alone made me want to see it up close.

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After weeks of trying to arrange schedules to coincide with visiting friends in the area, working around work schedules, asking locals to pick up and hold, nothing was working out and I was left with few options. I could bail on the game and be out $16.50, I could drive there and back in one day (not an awesome option at all), or I could suck it up and ship the darn thing. I wanted to save it after all, right? So I popped on uShip to see what kind of rate I could get. The rate was great, so here it sits in my garage. It is currently not working and needs some TLC, but it is safe and sound. I’ll spend some time messing with it in between spray coats on the Robotrons. Stay tuned and happy gaming.

TV Tennis arcade game

Willis Phoenix UR cpo

March 26th, 2013

Hope you’re not getting tired of all the Willis artwork because I have another one to talk about, and this one is special. It’s the Willis Phoenix cpo (control panel overlay), produced back in 1981 by Willis Industries. This slick looking cpo could have been used by an operator to spruce up a game before tossing it back into the line up to make money. It has an attractive blue fore ground, space scene background and the mechanized looking bird we’ve come to recognize as the Centuri Phoenix. But why is this cpo special, and why does it look so familiar? Is this really a Willis Phoenix replacement cpo or is it some type of NOS (new old stock) variation produced by Centuri?

Willis Phoenix UR cpo

It does have a number of similarities to the original game side art, so what’s going on? Was this Willis Phoenix replacement cpo drawn by the same artist? Did they infringe on Centuri’s intellectual property? Or is it possible that Willis worked with Centuri to create this artwork? That’s a lot of questions. Insert token to continue…

Willis Moon Patrol cpo

March 18th, 2013

So here we have the Willis Moon Patrol control panel overlay. It has all the quality features I’ve come to expect from a Willis product, with die-cut control openings, reverse screen printing and 3M paper backing; they even made a good effort on the artwork. Granted its not the Williams Moon Patrol cpo, but it has some interesting features. The Willis Moon Patrol cpo attempts to create the perspective that you’re in the seat of some lunar vehicle, driving your way across the moons craggy surface. With the sun setting in the distance, you’ve just embarked on some great adventure across this alien terrain. Not buying it?

Willis Moon Patrol UR cpo

Then lets just say that it’s much better than some of the bootleg pieces I’ve seen, especially this one – bad bootleg moon patrol cpo – and leave it at that. Insert token to continue…

Moppet Tugboat arcade game steams into the garage!

March 16th, 2013

I sold a few games to a California collector and in an effort to reduce shipping costs, agreed to accept another game for pickup by NAVL. The game would be dropped off by the seller, so all I had to do was park it in the garage for a couple days. Not knowing what to expect, you can imagine my surprise when the seller dropped off a Moppet Tugboat arcade game, in almost perfect original condition. I knew these games were pretty scarce, but an example this clean must be super rare. Having never seen one of these odd little games in person I figured this was the perfect opportunity to play a few games and see what all the fuss was about.

moppet tugboat arcade game

Moppet Video produced five titles in 1982 which included: Desert Race, Leprechaun, Noah’s Ark, Pirate Treasure, and Tug Boat. Moppet Video arcade games were tiny in comparison to their grown up relatives, and easy for kids to understand and play. All they had to do is walk right up, drop in a quarter and away they went. The games were designed with simple controls and game play, without the need for a step stool or help from an adult, attractive features for our pint sized gamers. You could call it their initiation to the world of arcade games. Hey, back in 1982 kids didn’t all carry Nintendo in their pockets! Insert token to continue…

Willis Bubbles UR cpo is a thing of beauty!

March 9th, 2013

It has been too long, so I thought I’d start on a new round of Willis artwork posts. I have a bunch to show, but decided to start by throwing out a fun one, Bubbles. The Willis Bubbles UR cpo is an eye catcher, with bright vibrant colors and what else? Lots of bubbles of course! This little beauty was produced by Willis on quality materials using the screen printing process we purists know and love. Of course as a purist you would never actually use this cpo, but it is still a cool piece of 80’s arcade nostalgia nonetheless.

Willis Bubbles UR cpo

At first glance the bubbles look very neat and uniform, which is odd, considering they’re bubbles and should be a bit more random; but I think it’s a fun overlay and certainly a good effort by the Willis artist. Taking the idea of the sink and drain very literally, with lots of bubbles and a very stylized sink makes for an interesting if not awe inspiring design. Considering there was probably very little time for the creative process, a direct approach may have been the best idea. It gets the message across and there can be no confusion that the game is Bubbles. A closer look at the actual artwork reminds me of my days rendering products with markers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the original drawing of this screen printed cpo was done entirely with markers. Insert token to continue…