Normally, I’m given quite a bit of latitude when it comes to what games I’m allowed to buy, but after our latest restoration, my brother and co-founder Tim, has now forbidden me from ever buying an arcade game that has had it’s side art painted over. Not necessarily because it looks bad, but because he knows I can’t resist wanting to peak under the paint to see what the side art looks like.
Over the course of their lives, arcade games tend to change identities. When a game would get stale, operators would change it into something new and often times much worse. Collectors today spend countless hours trying to return classics back into original condition. It’s this labor of love that drives what we do and is part of the reason we try to convert as many of our games back into their original. Some games were only released in kit form, so we don’t mind having a few generic cabs, but whenever I see the artwork painted over, I can’t help but wonder if it was because they didn’t like the game or because something went wrong. It’s a gamble taking the paint off because you can get 5 hours in only to discover that they were covering up graffiti or other damage and now you have to repaint over the work you did to take it off.
This particular cabinet was purchased as a Circus Charlie game. I actually find the game charming, but it’s kind of an odd match for the cabinet. Circus Charlie is a fun casual game, but this cabinet is huge on the inside and is designed to look fierce. It’s big enough that you could actually sleep inside of it, but apparently this is the line between casual arcade hoarder collector and crazy.
Instead of changing the sideart, someone had painted over it to hide the cabinet’s real identity. In order to get to the original side art, you have to scrub the paint away with a chemical remover. While it’s fun to watch the progress as you go, the problem with this type of restoration is that is a labor intensive task. Scrub too hard, you ruin the sideart. Not hard enough and you’re there for days. Each side takes us about 7 hours to complete.
It’s also not a very pleasant experience from a comfort perspective, because you have to be wearing a respirator or else the fumes from the Goof Off will kill your brain cells dead. Nonetheless, I think the result is well worth it and whenever I’m done, I’m always pleased to have a game that many consider a grail.
The next series of photos will show what this transformation looks like. To have some fun with this post (and to recreate how long we have to scrub at these things before we can get to the sticker underneath) we’re going to update a new photo each hour or until someone correctly guesses the game that we saved in the comments.