Auctions for Old Things We Can’t Afford

This past Saturday, I was tipped off by my sources as to a pinball and arcade game auction happening a mere town over from me. By which I mean, my sister sent me a picture of their Facebook event page and I audibly said “ooh!”

I love pinball machines. Arcade cabinets too, but not quite the same level. All of my interests somehow fall into the category of “pinball themes.” There are machines based on Ninja Turtles, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park…those are three of my top five movies of all time. I understand that a Clerks pinball machine might not look as flashy as the others in black and white, but there’s no excuse why a Beetlejuice one was never made. Perfect timing of the late 80s, unique theme, so many quotes- argh!

Oh god it could have yelled “NICE FUCKING BONUS *honk honk*” at you : (

Regrets aside, I was pretty excited to go check out the auction. Since Caitlin was out with her family, I went with Jessie and Cliff. Since I am an awkward jellyfish of a man, I felt weird taking pictures of the machines. It seemed, I dunno, like the kind of thing the people in charge would be justified in tackling you over, until security came running. Luckily, Cliff had no such qualms and loves retro video games even more than me. He thus became the official/unofficial photographer for the trip.

The first thing we saw was that the auction was being held in a run-down parking lot with a bunch of truck-docking stations and warehouses. I was more than willing to overlook that, though, because I had neon pinball lights dancing in my eyes. We parked and headed in, where this greeted us:

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I want to climb that like a rock wall. It’s basically a giant pinball board. It looked pretty neat just standing there, but I imagine if it had been lit up in all its glory, I would have taken my sister’s suggestion; quit my job and become a carnival person, traveling the world with this modern marvel of human ingenuity.

The variety of “expensive home entertainment” displayed was impressive. They had pinball, arcade cabinets, those sit-down driving games, pool tables, jukeboxes, and more. We walked around the machines, trying really hard to look like people who had the money to buy one of them. I so very badly wanted to be 12 and made out of quarters. They even had one of those virtual skateboard games where the controller itself is a skateboard. I remember a skiing one from when we used to go to Burger King Castle as kids, and I can’t imagine how much cooler I would have felt skateboarding.

One section featured old touch-screen games. The only one we tried was a mini golf course, where Jessie missed the windmill but Cliff saved the day by sinking it in three strokes for par.

There were a lot of classics there, too, like NARC and, I guess arguably, Crazy Taxi.

We also noticed several machines that clearly were not displaying the games that their cabinets advertised.

Maybe those were just the cabinets being auctioned off, with placeholder screens inserted? I’m not sure how much I would pay for just the frame to an arcade game, but I’m kind of glad I’m in no position to find out. The answer would probably be regrettable, given the right cabinet.

An entire aisle was dedicated to the pinball machines. Sadly, my most-sought after ones were nowhere to be found. I say that as if I would have bought them had they been there, instead of just holding onto the sides and sobbing. But emotional damage be damned, I want to see and play Creature from the Black Lagoon in person.

They did have a Rocky & Bullwinkle, which I can get behind. I also just now realized that this is the second consecutive post to mention Rocky and Bullwinkle in some way. Maybe I’m a bigger fan than I thought. Even so, the main attraction for me by far was the Haunted House machine. Cliff obliged by taking my requested 45 pictures of it, and it is a sight to behold.

This is one of the pinball tables I’ve convinced myself I will one day own. I saved a bunch of pictures of said tables to my phone (not a joke) so I can look at them on a bad day. Or, so I can be ready if some shady guy says he’ll give me any pinball machine I can show him a photo of in the next ten seconds. Some might say that’s crazy, or sad. I say you need goals in life.

That backglass is going to be my kid’s nightlight until he’s twenty, and I will rest easy knowing I have done my job as a parent.

One of my favorite parts of this place was the weird games tucked away in the corner, behind the giant pinball table at the start. Some of them had auction stickers, most didn’t. They might have been broken, or being saved for some other event, or so odd that no one could conceive of a person exchanging currency for the right of ownership. Regardless, I thought they were great.

The best was called Radikal Bikers and it featured the creepiest character of all time, riding a scooter through traffic and plate glass windows and pedestrians.

Also, kicking cars and making them explode.

I couldn’t get a great screenshot off the video Cliff took, so I had to take some creative license, You can totally tell the dude is kicking though. How did this game not catch on? Don’t correct me if I’m wrong.

On the grim side of things was a seemingly abandoned Qbert cabinet. I hope it found a good home, but I do like how his reaction on the side art is so appropriate. Maybe it was meant to be this way.

All in all, there are far worse ways to spend an hour on a rainy Saturday morning. I suggest going to anything of this sort if you have a chance. Especially if you live in North Haven, Connecticut because then this one would be really close to you. Sometimes, you just need to surround yourself with things that remind you of your youth, and maybe  dirty arcades with ugly carpets.

Well said, party-planning alien. Well said.

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