Pictures - Tabletop Video Games

Another really cool gaming collectable are mini arcade tabletop games from the 1970's and 1980's.  Essentially these are handheld video games that are large enough to work better when sitting atop a table.  Most of the time they feature joysticks and larger action buttons more equivalent to a miniature arcade cabinet rather than a handheld game.  I've been slowly collecting these over the years as some can command a good amount of money especially when they are complete.  There are a number of different technologies at work used to operate these games.  Many of the miniature tabletop arcade games of the 1980's use Vacuum Fluorescent Displays or VFD's.  VFD's glow from the inside and produce sharp, beautiful graphics that really go the extra step to make the games appear to be small arcade cabinets.  If you've never seen a VFD game in action then you don't know what you're missing.  They're strangely retro and modern at the same time.  VFD's were expensive to develop and construct then and that hasn't changed much to this day.  For that reason many handheld games into the 1990's switched to using Liquid Crystal Displays, or LCD's, which are the same type of displays used in most digital wristwatches.  Cheap to make but no where as nice looking as a glowing VFD.  Also each tabletop has its own case design and control style, just as one would find with real full size arcade cabinets.  Different yet familiar, with unique sets of controls, make these mini arcade cabinets feel just that way - like they're miniature versions of arcade classics.
 

Coleco Tabletop Arcade Games
    Coleco - Pac-Man
    Coleco - Pac-Man (close up of controls)
    Coleco - Pac-Man (side art)
    Coleco - Pac-Man (close up of bezel)
    Coleco - Pac-Man (close up of playfield)
    Coleco - Pac-Man (unit running)
    Coleco - Pac-Man (front of unit)
    Coleco - Pac-Man (instructions on battery door)

Coleco made the most well known and arguably the most beautiful tabletop arcade games and they look great lined up on a shelf.  There is a bit of a story that accompanies my Coleco Pac-Man tabletop.  Originally I bought one, that was missing the battery door and had some acid corrosion in the battery compartment, for $20.00 at a local flea market.  Once I got it home and gave it a good look over I noticed the circuit board had terrible acid damage, the screen was severely damaged in some parts (only allowed 2/3rds of the playfield to illuminate, Pac-Man would only show up on 3/4 of it, and the ghosts on only 1/3rd), and over all the unit was a mess.  Noting could be salvaged except for the upper portion of the shell which was complete with all its stickers and was in great shape.  So I salvaged it and set it aside.  Over a year later I saw that there was a Pac-Man tabletop for sale in the Digital Press forums for $5.00, untested and missing all it's stickers, but in good shape with the original battery door.  I contacted the seller who said that he got it from a flea market and the guy said it was working but he never had a chance to test it himself, it would be $10 shipped - I couldn't get him the money any quicker.  A week later the untested unit arrived and it worked perfectly.  So I replaced the upper portion of the one I had just purchased with the complete mint one I had before and - now I have a complete mint working Pac-Man tabletop.  The left side controls are a tad bit worn but it still works problem free.
 

Epoch Tabletop Arcade Games
    Epoch - Astro Command
    Epoch - Astro Command (close up of controls)
    Epoch - Astro Command (close up of playfield)
    Epoch - Astro Command (close up of boss stage in attract mode)

Epoch Co., Ltd. is a Japanese toy and games manufacturer that made a ton of electronic toys and games in the 1980's.  While they licensed some of their games to other companies for manufacture, they also released many themselves.  The Epoch Astro Command was purchased for $2.00 at the local flea market due to having some leaky batteries inside.  I was able to talk the seller down real quick when the batteries began to dump themselves right there on the spot.  Thankfully they were just starting to go bad and there was no damage to the game itself.  This particular title was released by a few companies but this is the Epoch original.  It's almost like Space Invaders except the enemies scroll horizontally and there are a few different modes of play.  Really I just like to have this game running as it has a rather long attract mode which is nice to watch.
 

Radio Shack / Tandy Tabletop Arcade Games
    Radio Shack / Tandy - Caveman
    Radio Shack / Tandy - Caveman (close up of playfield)
    Radio Shack / Tandy - Caveman (close up of controls)
    Radio Shack / Tandy - Caveman (unit running)
    Radio Shack / Tandy - Caveman (close up of dinosaur)
    Radio Shack / Tandy - Caveman (close up of caveman)
    Radio Shack / Tandy - Caveman (instructions on battery door)

Radio Shack / Tandy licensed a whole bunch of tabletop games from companies such as Tomy and Epoch.  Caveman was picked up from the local flea market in excellent condition for $20.00.  That's about how much it goes for on eBay and right around its street value so I didn't see the need to haggle.  It has the distinction of being the very first tabletop arcade game I have ever owned.  Amazingly I never owned any of these growing up although I had many other things.  My experience with tabletop arcade games in the 1980's was relegated to playing the tabletops of friends and family.  Caveman is my all time favorite VFD tabletop game and for whatever reason I can play it for hours upon hours.
 

Tomy Tabletop Arcade Games
    Tomy - Cosmic Clash
    Tomy - Cosmic Clash (side art)
    Tomy - Cosmic Clash (close up of controls)
    Tomy - Cosmic Clash (unit front)
    Tomy - Cosmic Clash (unit running)
    Tomy - Cosmic Clash (close up of beam being shot at an alien ship)
    Tomy - Cosmic Clash (close up of an alien ship exploding)
    Tomy - Cosmic Clash (battery door)

    Tomy - Scramble
    Tomy - Scramble (close up of controls)
    Tomy - Scramble (close up of playfield)
    Tomy - Scramble (close up of player rocket)
    Tomy - Scramble (close up of display)
    Tomy - Scramble (unit running)
    Tomy - Scramble (instructions on battery door)

Tomy is a giant of mechanical and electronic toy manufacture to this day.  The Tomy name is generally attached to high quality, affordable, unique toys and games.  I have mechanical Tomy games that are over 30 years old and still work great.  Cosmic Clash is interesting in that it's an electromechanical game that uses colored film reels with lights behind them for graphics.  Audio is controlled via a small phonograph record in the front of the unit.  It was purchased for $15.00 at the local flea market, needed a bit of work but came out functioning nicely.  The only disappointment is that the very first time I came across this particular game it was working perfectly.  I had to pass on it then however because the seller was asking for far too much in my opinion.  The price only dropped a few weeks later once the game had become damaged, a shame really.  I've since come to a better understanding with the seller concerning his merchandise and he now cuts me far more decent prices.

Scramble was picked up at the local flea market as well.  On the first Tuesday of 2008 the whole flea market was socked in with fog and moisture and was only operating at about 1/40th usual capacity.  One of the junk resellers wasn't even unloading his trailer, just letting people pick through what he had.  Scramble was atop one of the piles at the side, covered with filth and contained dead (but not leaky) batteries.  He took a quick look at it and only wanted $1.00.  I cleaned her up, tested with both fresh batteries and a power adapter and it worked great. Sadly that was the only thing even worth looking at there that day but a $1.00 VFD tabletop was fine by me.  Scramble is a pretty faithful recreation of the arcade original, has great sound, and is fun and challenging to play.  Any VFD game can easily command $20.00 any day of the week.
 
 

Check out MiniArcade.com and HandheldMuseum.com for more information on tabletop arcade games.
 


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