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Archive for the ‘Artwork’ Category

Chicago Coin Las Vegas Shuffle advertisement found!

Monday, April 30th, 2012

A recent arcade purchase from a former Stern employee turned out to be a small treasure trove of arcade history. I was super excited to find a potentially NOS Stern Frenzy cabinet right from the factory floor! You can see it stuffed into the back of my 4 runner below, or check out the full post about the cabinet HERE. As exciting as that was, the real treasure turned out to be the plastic bin of miscellaneous parts and documentation.

NOS Frenzy Cabinet

In a Rubbermaid tote full of parts, photos, flyers and documentation, I found an original 8.5″ x 11″ marker rendering mock-up of the 1963 Chicago Coin Las Vegas Shuffle game. The artwork is drawn on vellum and then glued back to back onto a piece of white filler paper to create a double sided flyer. This was probably done in house by the marketing department, or by the person handling the company advertising at the time. The mock up is very similar to the flyer that was eventually produced and gives a rare glimpse at the creative process behind the arcade flyers we love so much. Insert token to continue…

Attack of the Astro Fighters!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Recently there was some drama on the arcade forums about a “warehouse” raid that was going to happen in Louisville, KY. Brent, a friend of the Operator and an avid arcade collector, was organizing a clean out of this 100,000 square foot, 120 year old school house. The school was closed down in the 1970’s and sometime afterward it was purchased by the Operator who used it primarily as storage for his thriving business. It turned into a bit of a mad house on the forums, but Brent handled the chaos like a pro and everything went smoothly. I planned to head down to check it out with my friend and fellow enthusiast, Jeff Rothe of rotheblog. Luckily, Jeff had organized our purchase from the space long before the sale announcement, so our games were secure. Our primary goal was to secure the games and just check out the space. I loaded up the kids Friday afternoon and headed to Indianapolis for the first leg of the trip, the next morning we would drive up to Louisville for a 9am meeting and planning session with Brent. We were going a little early to help out with the sale, which started at 10am. The trip was about 5hrs and 15min one way. Unless you drive fast 🙂


We woke up Saturday morning to some wet snow, but still decided to take Jeff’s mini van instead of my SUV, it had more space. My youngest would stay with Jeff’s family and visit the Indy zoo, while I took my oldest along for the ride. Never too early to infect him with the collecting bug and I hoped he would enjoy the experience. The ride was easy and the school wasn’t that hard to find. It was huge and it was red. Insert token to continue…

Astro Attack a bootleg version of Astro Fighter!

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

While on the hunt for NOS Willis and bootleg artwork, I will occasionally find some wacky artwork that has already been applied to a cabinet. It makes sense of course, as that’s what the stuff was meant for. Arcade game artwork isn’t always lying around some old, dusty, operators warehouse, sometimes the stuff was actually used as it was intended! It’s fun to find these odd ball cabinets as part of the mystery is figuring out exactly what it is, or what it was. Such is the case in this recent find by avid collector “jehuie” (his KLOV ID) out in Martinez CA. The game had been posted for sale on his local craigslist, but he never had time to check it out…until it was relisted as FREE and kicked to the curb! Free is good and in this case it’s a great thing, as he saved a game that is not listed in the arcade museum archives. I’m a big fan of preserving arcade history and it would have been a shame if this cab had met its end at the dump.

Astro Attack

The first thing that grabs you is the blatant Star Wars X-Wing imagery plastered all over the control panel, bezel and marquee. Why not? If you’re going to make a bootleg game you might as well slap some artwork on it that people recognize. It would get a few tokens for the art at least, while the gamer attempts to figure out what, if anything, Astro Attack has to do with the iconic franchise we all know and love.

John was able to get the game working pretty fast, “I actually got it going late last night. One of the circuit boards wasn’t seated in the edge connector properly and then the vertical hold needed adjusting but then it popped right in. Not a game I’ve ever seen before. The marquee is interesting. Each letter has a separate bulb and they alternate turning on and off randomly making a kinda cool effect. I’ll try to get some video or something later today if I have time.” He did have some time and shared this video with the collecting community. Pretty interesting how the marquee lights flash on and off, probably with the use of “blinker” bulbs. Might be a little distracting during game play, but still cool. (refresh the page if you don’t see the video)

John determined that the game play is identical to Astro Fighter by Sega/Gremlin/DECO. Interesting to note that the SEGA/Gremlin version of the Astro Fighter flyer has some blatant rip-off going on as well, beam me up Scotty! The game was released by a bunch of sources, perhaps that made it ripe for bootlegging, who knows? The cabinet has a simple design with an odd upright coin box and single slot coin mechanism. Done cheaply to keep costs down I’d imagine. Maybe it’s the Star Wars artwork, but I like the cabinet and would have dropped in a token or two to give it a try.

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The printed circuit board mounts on the side of the cabinet, in a cage that doesn’t look like it was meant to go there. You can see slots in the wood that would fit a larger pcb. So is this pcb a bootleg or an actual Astro Fighter pcb? Tough to tell, as Astro Fighter pcb images from the internet vary. The monitor is nicely mounted with the chassis positioned on the side of the cab for easy maintenance. Everything inside the cab looks original and the overall clean, unhacked look of the cabinet got me thinking. Maybe this generic cab would accept a number of different bootleg games. Just mount a new pcb and connect the harness to the existing cab harness with those molex connectors. No hacking or rewiring necessary, just a new control panel and some new artwork. That would make this a pretty sophisticated bootleg cab, as it was made specifically for that purpose, with multiple games in mind. A multi-bootleg? I suppose the millions of dollars being made in the 1980’s on coin-op would have brought out all the scammers!

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Of course I’m just speculating about this cabinet and its origins. If you know any facts about this cabinet or have seen other games in this style of cabinet, I’d love to know about it or see some pictures. Use the contact joystick and drop me a line.

Willis Centipede CPO

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The Willis replacement control panel overlay for Atari Centipede is arguably one of the best CPO’s made by Willis. I’m not talking about finished product quality, as all Willis products had high production standards, I’m talking about the aesthetics. All too often Willis gets bashed for their “crappy” artwork, well this one does the game justice. Perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to find a Willis Centipede overlay that hasn’t already been applied to a control panel. The partnership breakup between Wico and Willis might also be a reason, check out the Wico Centipede overlay here.

Willis Centipede cpo

The artist that worked on this one made an effort to do some color and design matching for the layout so the cpo wouldn’t look out of place on the game. The artist even worked up a cool looking Centipede to add to the CPO, an element that was missing from the original design. Good color, cool Centipede, mushrooms and horizontal stripes. What else could you possibly need? 🙂 I’ve only been able to find a couple of hacked up versions of this overlay and I’m on the lookout for a nice example. Check out my Willis artwork page for more information about Willis and their history.

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I would like to add one of these overlays to the Willis artwork archive. If you have a nice example of this control panel overlay for sale or trade, drop me a line!

NOS Centipede CPO by Wico?

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

At first glance I thought this CPO was a Willis piece. It has an identifying part number listed in the lower right corner, a common characteristic of Willis overlays. The cpo has die-cuts and appears to be manufactured with a quality screen printing process. However, there is no Willis logo anywhere to be found, and the paper backing and adhesive isn’t by 3M. The part number sure does resemble other Willis part number formats, odd.

Wico? Centipede cpo

So I did some digging through my archives to figure this out. I re-read my 2009 post about The Wico Willis partnership. If you check out the catalog pages in the old post you’ll see another centipede overlay clearly listed, and it has the exact same part number. Well, minus the “00” at the end, but otherwise identical. So the same part number exists for two pieces of artwork, but why? Here are a couple examples I have of the overlay from the Wico Willis catalog. Some genius decided it was a good idea to trim off the top and bottom, so its impossible to read any identifying marks, but you get the idea. So what’s the scoop on these?

Willis CentipedeWillis Centipede

My guess is that sometime after the Wico Willis partnership dissolved, Wico decided to make their own control panel overlays (or maybe they had made them previously, I just don’t know). Wico would have used their own printing company, possibly a vendor they had been working with for awhile and that company just didn’t use 3M paper products. They whipped up their own artwork and just kept the catalog part number on the front. I mean if you’ve already sent out a couple thousand product catalogs with the numbers listed, why change them? Just replace the product with your own and keep selling. Seems reasonable to me.

Wico? CentipedeWico? CentipedeWico? CentipedeWico? CentipedeWico? CentipedeWico? Centipede

If you know anything about the relationship between Wico and Willis, or any information about either company, I’d love to learn more. This piece of arcade artwork gets added to the growing archive. Game on!

NOS Bally Sente CPO’s

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Flush with cash from a few recent eBay sales, I decided to shop around and find some new stuff to add to my arcade artwork collection. For about $22 shipped, I grabbed this pair of Bally Sente control panel overlays, not a bad deal and I’m a fan of the Sente system, so why not. Bally Sente was the brain child of Nolan Bushnell back in the mid 80’s. The idea was simple, buy a generic cabinet and swap out a few parts to create a whole new game. A supposedly quick and painless conversion for the operator. Unfortunately, the industry was starting its massive downward spiral and the Sente System never got the chance it deserved.

Bally Sente cpo

The overlay’s are only 11 1/4″ tall x 10 7/8″ wide and at first I thought they must be for the Sente Arcade Computer I Deluxe, due to the narrow width. The standard Sente Arcade Computer I cabinet takes a much wider control panel, so it couldn’t be for that cabinet. Even the conversion kit artwork would have had a wider control panel to fit games like Pac-Man, Rally-X, or Bump N Jump. Checking over the flyer images from The Arcade Flyer Archive I was pretty sure the overlays wouldn’t fit either of those cabs, take a look.

Bally Sente flyerBally Sente flyer

What the heck, what cabinet were these for? The seller I purchased them from had two sets, I bought one set. Each set consisted of a CPO that fits over a trackball panel and the other CPO fits a standard button and joystick configuration. Then it clicked. I looked around the flyer archive a bit more until I found what I was looking for. An image of a Bally Sente cocktail table. Hadn’t realized they made a CT version, but it makes sense. Take a look at the Mini Golf flyer snippet, you can see the cocktail table in the lower right corner. So instead of a pair of CPO’s for replacement panels, I had two cocktail overlays, each one for a different control panel!

Bally Sente flyer

Below you can see various images of both overlays. They are in excellent condition, printed on heavy duty poly-carbonate with a plain paper backing. The top edges of each overlay has a slight bend, but I believe they were pre-scored to make it easier to install on the panels. The die-cuts are all missing, but they were likely cut out and not punched with tabs as the holes are clean. The backing has some minor peeling, but other wise excellent. I would grade these a 9/10. As for the aesthetics, while the green background, white stripes and gold metallic accent color scheme is OK, it is also very boring. A fun, multi-color overlay would have cost more money and these games were meant to be money savers for the op. Boring is cheap. I’ve never seen a Sente cocktail table in person and a little searching didn’t dig up any photos. If you happen to own a Sente cocktail cabinet, drop me a line, I’d love to see it. If you liked this installment of NOS arcade artwork, please visit my NOS artwork page, where you’ll find more information and a gallery of pieces in my collection. In the meantime, these funky CT CPO’s will make a nice addition to the archive.

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Willis Asteroids UR cpo

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Way back in 1979, Atari released the soon-to-be-a-hit game Asteroids to the coin-operated world. I love its simple yet addictive game play, beautiful side art and huge, easy to use control panel. Big enough to set a drink on if you dared. This popular, money making game took lots of abuse on location. Worn, crappy looking games didn’t make as much money as newer looking ones, so what did operators do? When the artwork has been worn away by scores of eager gamers, it’s time to paint or replace.

Asteroids cpo

Operators were notorious tight wads and didn’t like to spend money on OEM parts, often turning to Willis for their more cost effective products. While not always the best looking, they were better than a worn or ratty original (in the ops eyes at least). So here we have the Willis Asteroids cpo, released in 1981, and measuring in at a whopping 26-1/4″ x 23-1/3″. This thing will completely cover the original metal control panel.

Now with every Willis overlay the production quality is excellent, and this overlay is no exception. 3M backer paper and adhesive, artwork screen printed on lexan, and die cut button holes. This particular example still has the majority of the die cut outs in place. My favorite little Willis men adorn the p1 and p2 buttons, but there isn’t much more to say about this one. Very simplistic, kinda boring, and lacking in color variety. I’ll add it to the archive anyway.

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Willis Enviro-Graphics come home!

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

I make no secret about my love for Willis artwork in all of its cheesy 80’s goodness. It’s not just the artwork, but the history of Willis Industries and what the company did for the arcade game industry that intrigues me, and I’m constantly on the lookout for new information and artwork. I’m not sure if there is a proverbial “grail” piece of Willis artwork, but if anything would come close, it would have to be the Willis Enviro-Graphics package (or WEG’s for short). To learn more about this amazing arcade artwork, check out my original post Willis Enviro-Graphics, or bye bye Wico!.

Willis Enviro-Graphics

If you were an operator back in the day, these large wall hanging graphics were meant to give your arcade a little ambiance, to spruce things up a bit, or just to act as some quality signage for contests. Now when I say large, I mean 30″ x 50″ kinda large, we’re talking 1500 square inches of Willis graphical delight! These were some darn big posters! Insert coin to continue…

Willis Zoo Keeper cpo

Friday, January 14th, 2011

I recently got a peek at Brian’s amazing, scratch built Zoo Keeper arcade cabinet, and it got me thinking about this under rated classic arcade game by Taito. Released back in 1982, it combines simple yet challenging game play, with full cabinet artwork. A welcome break from Taito’s typical cabinet scheme. Somewhere in my artwork stash, I knew I had one of these.

Zoo Keeper

This particular Willis replacement overlay does a good job at trying to keep the original feel of the game. With bright colors, fun character’s from the game, and the brick motif, it could actually be used as it was intended – to replace your worn out original overlay. NOS overlays are tough to find and reproduction cpo’s have long been sold out, so this replacement might be your only choice. Insert coin to continue…

Willis Super Pac-Man cpo

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Is not so super. Don’t get me wrong, it gets the job done, but what happened to the caped Pac-Man, and the angry blue ghost? The color has changed from a blue background with yellow insert to a yellow background with blue. The Willis version is also missing the stripes from the original cpo that matched up with the bezel, this breaks up the continuity. Add in that color variation and the overlay just seems “off”. You might also notice the slightly darker boxes around the text and the player select character, perhaps because the artwork was attached to the film and not integral. A kind of screen print cut and paste. A little more effort could have gone into the artwork on this one, especially for a Pac-Man game.

Super Pac-Man

Now of course with every Willis overlay the production quality is excellent and this overlay is no exception. 3M backer paper and adhesive, artwork screen printed on lexan, and die cut joystick and button holes. The control panel overlay is labeled part number 2001 and was produced by Willis in 1983, which makes it one of their later production pieces. Insert coin to continue…