Where Games Go to Die

A few weekends ago on my way back from the 30A, Sam and I stopped by the Gulf Breeze Flea Market. They had your typical fare but a bit smaller and less crowded than the usual market. It wasn’t until we came to the end of the stalls that we hit the jackpot. It was a large covered shop with open walls stuffed full with old furniture, electronics, and gizmos. I wanted to dig further in, but we didn’t have much time and Sam isn’t the biggest fan of scraping through bins of dusty old junk. I decided to keep this place in mind until I had the time to drive back on my own.

This past weekend approached, and I finally had the time to make my way back. I took the 20 minute back to Gulf Breeze and found the stall just as I had left it, dusty and untouched by all but the most adventurous treasure pickers.

Stacks on Stacks of Consoles

What I found was piles of Xbox, Gamecube, Genesis, and PlayStation 1 consoles, especially PS1s! I don’t think I’ve seen so many in my life. There were also a few lesser known consoles such as Dreamcasts and Atari 2600s. While digging through all of these bins, my hands started picking up black streaks due to the thick layer of dirt and dust over everything.

Though seeing all of these consoles together in one place was a beautiful sight to behold… it was still pretty sad. I can imagine all of the young kids who loved these consoles and all of their games only to throw them into the dump once the next generation came out to finally be scraped back up and shoved into the shelves of this stall to live out its final days with the hope that somebody will eventually pick it up and restore it to it’s former glory… if that ever happens. The chances of these consoles even being able to return to functioning order is slim at best. With the older machines (NES, Atari 2600, etc) there’s at least a chance that they can make it through the dirt and grime due to the heavy duty construction of their components (DIP ICs, large transformers, 1/8″ resistors, through-hole components), but as technology progressed into the late 90s and early 00s with smaller chips and SMD components, their repairability diminished. It would take some serious skill to assess all of the issues of one of these units and fix them without replacing large portions of the device. On top of that, most of the plastic enclosures had already suffered a lot of yellowing due to UV exposure (it is an open stall after all). Retrobrighting can only fix so much.

Forgotten Cartridges

Next to the bins full of consoles and miscellaneous cords and accessories, we started getting into the towers of games. These were ranging in era from your classic 8-bit systems, NES, Atari, and even some rarer choices, to endless rows of disc system games all tightly packed with or without their original boxes. The also had a few systems at the ready with matching old consumer-grade CRTs either to test each game out or to look as if they could (I didn’t see any of them working at the time).

Most of these games were exactly what you could expect at an old flea market, every assortment of sports game. In my view as a fledgling collector, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that 99.9% of all sports games aren’t worth a nickel. Due to the nature of how these games were initially released (and still are), unless it’s NBA Jam it’s just not worth it. My best guess is that all of the collectors had taken their pickings long ago out of these shelves. If I found anything worth while here, it was at the bottom of the bins hiding away from all of the greedy hands.

The Items That Ended up in My Cart

After about an hour and a half of picking, I had amassed a small mound of games that I felt were good enough to bring home with me. Before I rang it all up, I did a quick scan around the final corner of the shop which mostly consisted of old war relics and wilting furniture. Good thing I did, because I came across what ended up being the best find of my trip, a boxed Psyclone Source Selector. When I was working on gaming setup recently, I had looked into these units as well as their counterpart, the Pelican System Selector Pro. I nearly picked up one of the Pelican’s because of the massive number of inputs it could support, but eventually picked up the cheap Amazon option instead. The Psyclone seemed out of my reach both because of the small number of ports it could support and it’s price tag. Finding one here (and in good shape) was fantastic, because I knew I could snag a good deal out of it.

Here’s a quick list of the games that I ended picking up:

  • Turok Evolution for the Sony PlayStation 2
  • F22 Interceptor for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
  • Hang On & Safari Hunt: The Combo Cartridge for the Sega Master System
  • Sword of Sodan for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
  • HES Retro Ball for the Commodore 64
  • QIX CXL4027 for Atari 8-bit Computers
  • Dark Cavern for the Atari 2600
  • Jurassic Park for the Super Nintendo
  • Virtua Racing for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive (not the 32X version)
  • Defender for the Atari 2600
  • Crash Bandicoot Warped for the Sony PlayStation 1

The Final Straw

Man, that Psyclone sure does make my receiver look good! As cool as it was to find some of the older cartridges, the Psyclone was the best pick out of the lot. As far as the final price goes, I wasn’t quite as happy as I had expected to be. The guy who was running the place did cut me a deal on some of the games, but he was initially asking $5 per game! That wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to dig through so much crud to find them and pray that the majority even worked at all. I’d have been much more understanding of the price if everything was neatly tucked away and had been cleaned up and tested at least once since they had been stowed away here. The Psyclone did end up being closer to $20, but I was cool with that because of the condition of it out of the box (which had packed a hefty layer of dirt) and knowing how much they can go for on auction sites.

Where it gets a bit ridiculous is when I asked about picking up on of the Dreamcasts that were laying around. They were asking for a whopping $50 for a system assuming that I could dig around enough to find all of the appropriate cables thrown about! This wouldn’t have been so bad if I wanted to pick one up from a reputable game shop in town that I could trust to take good care of the system and not force me to dig around dusty barrels to find the parts. On top of that, there was absolutely no guarantee that it would have even worked! I would have picked one up for ~$10, but I’d still probably have to pick up two just to make sure that I could get one working system out of the deal. Needless to say, I walked away from that deal quickly.

I must add that when I was here in the past, I did pick up my first NES. I remember getting a fair trade for it, but it required hours of work in order to get it up to snuff. Even then, I still have problems with the system more often than I would if it had come from a well-kept facility.

All in all, I would recommend swinging by this place once to behold the piles of consoles and old games, but I wouldn’t recommend it for any serious shopping. There are much better options out there to get your hands on some quality pieces. Thrift shops, garage sales, online auctions, you name it, it’s probably a better option.