Tokens Only Dedicated to the history and preservation of arcade games. Wed, 31 May 2017 03:21:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gun Fight Arcade Game #222 Tue, 30 May 2017 05:40:13 +0000 I picked up a pair of video games off eBay because a good friend and fellow collector was looking for an Omega Race, the price was good, and it was pretty close to me. The seller also had a Gun Fight arcade game and I figured if I had to drive to pick up the Omega Race, another game would make the trip more interesting. I figured both games wouldn’t be hanging around my place for long, the OR would go to my friend and the Gun Fight I would document and flip to cover my gas and trailer costs, hopefully. The old black and whites don’t bring big bucks, but they are fun.

Omega Race and Gun Fight

Won the games on eBay and was able to grab them and drag them back to the old house in Palos Park, IL. Both cabinets were in OK shape, but would certainly need some TLC to bring them back to life. I didn’t do much with the Omega Race as it was going away, but I needed to clean up the gun fight for the resell. I love these old cabs as they highlight the transition from the highly stylized EM cabinets, to the “modern” cabinets of the mid to late 80’s. The gun fight keeps some of the stylized look, along with some funky stenciled side art in the EM style. Midway (Bally) would eventually switch to screened decals, but the old black and white games still had that classic EM feel.

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During my inspection of the Gun Fight I found the usual quarter or two, along with bits of debris laying around. But in the bottom of the cab I found something interesting. There were a couple of coin roll sleeves that had game collection data written on the back side. Pretty cool to see what kind of money the game was earning back in the early 1980’s. It appears to be data from a few locations, and based on what’s written, the game made about $227 from late August to the end of December 1980. So if you guess-ti-mate, perhaps it pulled in about $800 for the year? Considering the game was 5 years old, that’s not too shabby.

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I like finding little bits of history in these old cabinets. Gives us an idea of how things really worked and how operators made a living. There was no coin counter on this machine so I couldn’t get a complete tally, but the scribbles at least give us an idea. Cabinet is a pretty early serial number, #222, and is complete. I was able to find it a new home and while I didn’t make a pile of money, at least it got saved and ended up in the hands of a collector. I’ll post the rest of the pics below for reference.

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Big move to Alaska Tue, 30 May 2017 00:27:27 +0000 Born and raised in Illinois, I had considered moving a few times, especially with the high tax and piles of BS that come with living in the state. With so many good friends and family members close by, I really didn’t think it would happen. When my wife asked me if I’d consider moving, I told her I her I had been thinking about it too. I knew she was unhappy at work and had been job shopping, so I wanted to be supportive. I could find work easily and the idea of getting a fresh space to mold for an arcade was appealing. My current space was good but not perfect, and we always want more space. Where were you thinking of moving to dear…?

Big Move to Alaska!

Imagine my shock when Alaska was the answer! I figured Indiana, Wisconsin, or maybe out west to California, but Alaska? Yikes. After numerous discussions, a family “vacation” to check it out, and even more discussion; we decided to make the big move to Alaska. My lovely wife got an amazing job offer and flew off to Alaska to start right away. That left me to pack up the house, the kids and the arcade. After collecting for over 15 years I had accumulated a lot of stuff, this was going to be a challenge.

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I had plenty of projects and tons of parts, many saved up and stored after various operator raids. One huge raid I was still trying to wrap up. I knew that parts would be scare in Alaska and I wanted to take as much as possible. Luckily for me I quickly found a job and the company was going to move us as part of my package deal. That meant I could use the money offered by my wife’s new company to relocate my games and parts. As long as I could fit it all into a container, I was golden. I decided to build crates for the heavy stuff to prevent damage and make it easy to stack stuff on top. I put my table saw through quite a workout.

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Part of the deal I made with my wife included buying a new vehicle. I loved my old 2004 Toyota 4runner, but it had 150k miles on it, was out of warranty, and had been needing repairs lately. I just couldn’t risk driving to Alaska in the 4runner. I was driving because we had two dogs to haul and a few misc things I didn’t trust to safely pack into the container. How often would I get a chance to drive from Illinois to Alaska on the Al-Can highway? I was getting reimbursed for mileage and hotel, my dad was going along as a second driver, so what the heck.

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I would be moving close to 40 games to Alaska, which meant I had to utilize every little bit of space possible. Project cabs got packed full of their parts and components. Working cabs had spare boards or other miscellaneous items packed inside. All cabinets got inspected so nothing was loose for the trip. A few local friends stepped in to help me move, wrap, and load the games into the trailer. Big thanks to gregfree, gatordad, mrbill08, and seawolf. They helped me on one of the hottest days in July 2016. We were all a sweaty mess, but the games got loaded, and cold beer never tasted so good. I couldn’t take everything with me, especially since we would be massively downsizing in the short term. Tools and misc stuff would go to my friends. Commercial grade table saw, standing drill press, sand blast cab, stand up air tank, ultrasonic cleaners, and tons of misc parts. All left behind. I will really miss that table saw.

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One of the crappiest things I had to do was strip down my Black Hole pinball playfield. I had been slowly restoring this machine and encountered a number of issues. I couldn’t put the playfield into the cabinet, so I either had to box it or strip it down. To make sure it traveled safely, I stripped it down. Made a crate for the upper and lower playfields and also squeezed in my NOS Lord of the Rings PF. The night before the move I realized that the truck ramp I rented for the game load was only about 9 feet long and provided a 30 degree angle for loading. Not the best idea for games. So I built one. It was about 16 feet long and provided a nice incline for loading. I shoved the thing into the trailer and used it to unload as well.

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It was sad to look at my empty game room, but I was hopeful. I planned to score or build a good space in Alaska. Once the games arrived in Anchorage, I had to bribe the owner of a local bowling alley to let me drop a trailer in his parking lot. The storage facility I was using had a no trailer policy. So I rented a uhaul trailer and drove down the street a few times to clear out the truck and get the games snugged up in the heated storage. I ditched the ramp inside the trailer when I was done, as I had no where to store it.

Big Move to AlaskaBig Move to AlaskaBig Move to Alaska

Big Move to AlaskaBig Move to Alaska

So my stuff will sit in the dreaded storage unit until we can figure out the housing situation here in Alaska. The plan is to buy a small place with some land so I can build a workshop/arcade. I miss my arcade buddies back in IL, they are an amazing bunch. The locals in Alaska have been friendly, and while they are fewer in number, they are a good group. Wish me luck!

Genco Incorporated, a glimpse at the past Thu, 25 May 2017 01:52:40 +0000 I love to hunt for the next game, or game project, but sometimes you find other arcade stuff that’s just as fun. I recently picked up a batch of arcade paperwork, and included in the group was a stack of letters from Genco Incorporated. Genco Incorporated, also known as Genco Manufacturing Company, was based in Chicago from 1930 until 1958. They manufactured electro-mechanical games and pre-flipper pinball machines. There isn’t a lot of information available about the company, so its nice to share these pieces of arcade history.

genco incorporated letter

The letters are all typed on quality two-tone printed stationary, with a signature that’s hand signed in ink. The letters pitch a new game to a wholesaler or distributor and have some interesting bits of marketing lingo, such as “Blondie’s the honey that will bring in the money!” Love it. There is even mention of sending game samples! Imagine getting free samples of coin op machinery in the mail, very cool. Prices are listed for the operator, the jobber, and the distributor. Amazing what some of these machines cost back in the 1930’s, sort of expensive when you consider a 1930’s dollar is worth about fourteen dollars in 2017. Most of these were five or ten cent machines, that would take awhile to get a good return on investment.

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The letters aren’t perfect and you can tell that they were typed with different type writers. Addresses, pricing information, and various details were added to the letters, customizing them for each customer. Very different from today’s lightning fast email, cell phones, or slick internet advertising.

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The letters have a certain charm to them and provide an interesting look at the coin operated business in its early days. I will continue to hunt down and post about arcade history, I’ve got a huge backlog of stuff to work through.

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If you happen to come across any good documentation, letters, or any other arcade paper, drop me a line I’d love to hear about it. If you need watermark free images, I can do that too.

genco incorporated letter

Been too long! Tue, 23 May 2017 04:22:26 +0000 I haven’t posted to my site in awhile, it’s been too long! While I’m still collecting arcade games and hunting for Willis arcade artwork, I just haven’t had time to share. Recently made a big move from the land of taxes (Illinois), to an amazing state known as the last frontier, Alaska! I’ll talk more about that later, for now I’m just trying to dust off my posting and editing skills and wanted to get something up. I have a lot of artwork, documents, and arcade goodness to post.

toy-n-joy vending machine

We took the kids to this trampoline park in Anchorage and while walking through the lobby area saw this lovely vending machine. It made me giggle, so I thought I’d share. I’m not sure if they thought the name through very well. It could easily have a color graphic of “Joy” on the front and sell a different kind of toy. Just saying.

Finding my Pot of Gold Tue, 16 Sep 2014 02:19:22 +0000 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 Sun, 19 Jan 2014 04:05:35 +0000 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.

While taking parts off the playfield wasn’t fun, I imagine that putting them back on will be even less fun. I didn’t want to damage the newly restored finish and would need to be very careful. The BH cabinet wasn’t ready yet, and it was too cold outside to work, so I’d have to assemble the PF inside. I was going to need a rotisserie. I had made one before (HERE), but it was clunky and I didn’t like the way it worked. I needed something I could easily move around and would support the playfield for as long as necessary. I also wanted it to be adjustable to accommodate the two playfield sizes. This is what I came up with.

pinball rotisserie

I lost a bunch of photos I took during the construction phase, but a few of the key features are the adjustable mounting arms, the multi-position cradle and the height. The adjustable arms slide back and forth in a dado cut into the side rails. They are slightly narrower that the width and stay in place with just friction. The cradle can fully rotate or can be fixed at 7 different positions, depending on what is being installed or worked on. The height at the center of the lazy susan hardware is approximately 38″, this makes it easy on the back if standing but will also work if sitting on a chair or stool.

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The whole rotisserie is mounted on casters, two fixed and two swivel, to make it easy to roll around. There is space on the bottom to hold parts containers or tools. I couldn’t finish the birch plywood, but I routed the edges and used some extra arcade game t-molding to clean up the design and keep the splinters out of my hands. I went back and forth about how to hold the playfield to the adjustable mounting arms, but in the end decided plain old clamps would do the job just fine. So far it works great and I’m looking forward to getting my black hole reassembled.

]]> 1 Omega Race cabaret #1441 added to the arcade! Wed, 01 Jan 2014 04:54:22 +0000 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.

Having space in the game room for about 22 to 25 games I am just about at maximum capacity. Add in a couple of pins and project games wanting to be new additions and I was hurting for space, a common arcade collector dilemma. Adding another full size cab was out of the question, unless I wanted to get rid of something or start rotating my games into the garage. Not a fun scenario for any game collector. So while Omega Race has been on my want list, I’ve let a few uprights go because I just don’t have the room. Then this little cabaret popped up on KLOV and I figured it might just be small enough to squeeze in. Rationalization, love it. Ken, the current owner, was interested in trading more than selling, so we started talking.

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Turns out that Ken was looking for a dynamo cab he could convert into a MAME project and as fate would have it, I had a line on a nice dynamo cabinet for a reasonable price. A friend and local collector was selling off a project fisherman’s bait with a NOS universal dynamo panel, so I bought the game and made plans to do a swap. Ken and I agreed to meet roughly half way between Chicago and Des Moines, in Peru IL. I even decided to drag my two boys along and make a pit stop at Starved Rock National Park. It would be a fun and educational trip 🙂

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We met at a WalMart parking lot off interstate 80 and did the swap. Loading the Omega Race cabaret into my 4-Runner was a breeze compared to that dynamo monster, which barely fit with the hatch closed. We chatted about arcade stuff a bit and were soon on our way. Ken was a great guy and we were both happy with the trade. While the Omega Race does not work it’s in very nice shape, just needs a good cleaning and a new back door. The pcb has had some repair attempts because of that nasty battery acid damage, but I’m not worried, I’ve got a reproduction board just waiting for a new home. I had also picked up an NOS spinner assembly, but maybe I won’t need it. Looking forward to getting this little gem up and running. While the cabaret isn’t quite as beautiful as the upright, let’s just hope that without all the amazing artwork, the game play is enough to keep it in the arcade for a long time. As always, happy gaming!

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Willis Pac-Man bezel Wed, 09 Oct 2013 00:43:29 +0000 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? I have seen lots of Willis artwork, but I have never seen an artist signature on any of the pieces. Willis artists have always been a mystery. Of course it might be just a scratch, but I had to find out and see what history it might reveal. After losing the eBay auction for a Willis Vanguard bezel, I didn’t want to lose out again. This Willis piece was just too cool to pass up.

Willis Pac-Man UR bezel

I did the unthinkable and reached out to the seller. He was a tough negotiator and stated that lots of people were watching the auction, but in the end we agreed on a price and he posted a buy it now for me. I’m sorry if you were one of the watchers, but I just had to grab this. At $85 shipped, it is probably the most I’ve ever paid for an individual piece of Willis artwork. I think it was a worth while purchase, being such a unique piece of Willis art, and I do love my Willis stuff. The bonus was that it did in fact have an artist signature in the lower right hand corner. Maybe you recognize it?

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I certainly didn’t recognize it, and my little bit of research on P. PEAK brought up mostly mountain hiking trail information. Having no luck I reached out to fellow collector and arcade historian Keith S. Maybe he would recognize the name “P.PEAK”. He came back with Pat “Sleepy” Peak who is credited with some of the early Exidy arcade game artwork, including Death Race. Pretty cool information, thanks Keith. While it doesn’t initially appear like his style of artwork, it does makes sense. Willis was probably still trying to figure out the reproduction arcade artwork business back in 1981, so where did you go when you need information, wanted to network, or just wanted to scope out the competition?

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You went to an expo or trade show. Someone from Willis probably went to a show, or maybe even ran a booth showcasing Willis products. At the show they met up with Pat “Sleepy” Peak. Pat might have been hanging around the Exidy both during a time when Exidy was getting all sorts of press over Death Race. He talked to Willis and agreed to do some artwork for them in exchange for a paid commission, a royalty or both. At some point Willis realized how expensive a good artist can be, and then made the decision to source their artwork else where. Which is unfortunate. Can you imagine how cool all the Willis artwork would have been if artists like Pat Peak had been commissioned? Of course I’m just speculating, but its fun to wonder about what went on back in the glory days of the arcade. This very unique piece of Willis arcade game artwork is a welcome addition to the vault. As always, happy gaming!

Willis Vanguard Bezel Sat, 14 Sep 2013 21:22:33 +0000 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.

I finally found what I was looking for, on my own site from a post back in 2009. The picture I dug up was a Willis Vanguard overlay, or at least that’s how it was labeled. I had no proof as I had never seen one in person, but the resemblance was uncanny. Well, maybe not uncanny, but at least it had mountains.

Willis Vanguard UR cpo?

Since its a known fact that Willis did the original cabinet artwork for some of Centuri’s best classics (no I’m not kidding see it HERE), it made sense that this bezel might have been used on an actual game. Since it looked like the Vanguard cpo, that seemed like a good place to start. You may have already figured it out, but since I wasn’t that familiar with Centuri’s Vanguard, I had to look it up. That’s when all the pieces fell into place. The piece is definitely a Willis Vanguard bezel.

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So if this is the dedicated artwork for Vanguard, produced by Willis (amazing side art IMHO) it still leaves me with a question about the overlay pictured above. The overlay on the dedicated cab is nothing like the one that is supposedly a Vanguard by Willis. It might be, Willis made Phoenix artwork and the replacement overlay is very similar with many of the same artistic elements. Did they do the same for Vanguard? Or is the overlay above a Wico or bootleg piece? I don’t know but would like to find out. If you have this overlay on a panel or cabinet, have an NOS piece or just have better pictures or information please drop me a line.

Unfortunately I lost the eBay auction for the Vanguard bezel, but now that I know what it is, it shouldn’t be too hard to find an example to add to the archive. Happy gaming.

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TV Tennis anyone? Thu, 01 Aug 2013 05:07:24 +0000 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