Recently, I was sitting in my tiny, over-packed game room, thinking to myself that I’m lucky to be surrounded by all this cool stuff I’ve amassed over the years. I’m solidly in the “Collection Curator/Maintenance” phase of video game collecting, with all my big scores likely behind me and new purchases serving to fill small holes on the shelves. While I still love the thrill of the hunt, the ability to both play and gaze upon what I’ve already hunted is not a bad position to be in. I do feel akin to an old-timey big game hunter, and every trophy mounted on the wall (in this case, cartridges, discs, and consoles on the shelf) has a story to tell. Among the most interesting of those stories are recalling where some of those items came from. While some were found in the usual hinting grounds, like random yard sales, flea markets, and retail stores, some items have a deeper history and were found in some very strange places.
One of my other hobbies outside gaming and collecting said games is messing with old cars. I grew up in a “car” family, and my father before me was a gearhead. When I was a kid, I was car-obsessed just as much as I was video game-obsessed, and my family always jokes that I could tell what kind of car drove by from the shape of its taillights, in the rain, and at night, by age 5. When I became old enough to play with motorized things, I found myself taking trips to local you-pull-it salvage yards with my dad, and later, my friends, to look for parts for whatever derelict vehicle we were working on at the time. At these junkyards, I learned a lot about cars and how they were put together by observing various states of disassembly, and by taking things apart myself.
Something else that intrigued me shortly after making these initial trips to the local junkyards was piecing together how that car’s former owner lived by observing personal items left in the cars. It was fun trying to piece together the events leading up to a car’s last ride to meet its fate between the jaws of the crusher. Sometimes, it was easy; a pile of unpaid parking tickets or a set of deployed airbags and severe body damage would signify a reason for it to get towed away. Other times, you would find an old car in seemingly great shape that was simply thrown away, often with household items tossed in to bolster the scales for that all-important scrap value. And more than once, in cars like this, I’ve found gaming gold.
First, it was a Sega Nomad battery pack. That was found sitting on the passenger seat, along with a Prince cassette, in a 1988 Subaru XT Turbo.
Then, my friends found a big box of NES stuff. There was one NES, a pile of controllers, and about 20 games. These were sitting in the back of a late 1980’s Chevrolet G20 Conversion Van. This one I let my friends snag, as it was all stuff they needed.
But the ultimate find… that was the most unexpected of all. This one came from out-of-the-blue quite literally… out of the blue interior of a blue 1966 Rambler Classic 660 Sedan!
Back around 2010, my friends and I made a trip to a junkyard that was a little further out than the usual ones we frequented. This one had a reputation for having a great antique car section, and going there was like stepping into a strange classic car museum where you could not only touch the cars; you could take them apart and buy parts as souvenirs! So, as we were making our way through row after row of classics, we stumble upon something unusual: a 1966 Rambler Classic 660 4-door sedan. Although not a particularly desirable vehicle, it was in fantastic condition, and stood out from the rusted hulks that surrounded it like a beacon in the night. It looked as if someone drove the car from their house, drove it into the yard, parked it there with the keys in the ignition, and just walked away. So naturally, we started to look over the car. We popped the hood to find a minty Rambler/AMC straight six engine, and the interior was pristine. The only area of concern was the back seat; the bottom cushion of the bench was lifted up off of its base, and there was your typical household debris scattered about. My friend peered in through the window and decided to open one of the rear doors to inspect it further, looking for a clue as to why this thing was just sitting there looking like grandma drove it in earlier in the day, mistaking the junkyard for a church. Then, the plot thickens. My friend pops his head out of the car, yelling to me, “Hey, come check this thing out! I found a weird little TV!”. He emerges out of the back seat and in his hand is the very last thing I ever expected to see anywhere in the wild.
And not only was it a Vectrex, it was a complete unit and in nice condition! I explained to my friend, who was also a gamer, what exactly he was holding, and gave him “first dibs”. He deferred, and told me, “You know what it is, and obviously you want it, so it’s all yours!”
Again… HOLY CRAP, A FREAKING VECTREX!!! One of the rarest, most sought-after gaming systems I have ever hunted for was in my hands!
Immediately, I hauled my rear up to the scrap office, and put the trophy on the counter. The guy at the counter was puzzled. “What is that thing? An old TV?” So again, I explained what it was. I asked how much it would be to take it home. “Just take it, that way we don’t have to recycle it”.
You have to be kidding me.
So, now it sits, prominently at home as one of the crown jewels of my collection. And yes, it still works!
So, where's the craziest, strangest place you've found games? Let us know in the comments section!