[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]
As is so common in this newsgroup, I thought I'd relate my recent flea market experience. First a little background. I live in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.A., the third or fourth largest city in Alabama. I've been searching for an Atari 7800 for a few months now, hitting yard sales and thrift stores, with no success. I haven't had time to search Birmingham (the largest city & where I'm originally from) yet. My searches have added to my rather respectable Atari 2600 collection, though.
This weekend, for the Thanksgiving holiday, my wife & I visited her parents down in Mobile, AL. While we were there, we drove over to another little town. We stopped at a flea market on the way. I only found one guy that had an Atari 2600-A in the box and an RCA Studio II. I passed on it at first, but went back just before we left since we didn't find anything else. I talked to him and ended up buying the RCA Studio II since it was cheap. I figured I could try it out and if I didn't like it, sell it on the net. He said he had more games for it and a bunch of 2600 games that he could go get during lunch. I told him I'd be back.
We went on and returned that afternoon. I'm not sure if it was a misunderstanding on my part or what, but the guy wasn't there. I was miffed, but as we were leaving, we drove by some buildings that were part of the flea market. The back was just more dealer stalls, mostly closed, which was why we passed on them the first time. However, around front in the corner was a shop full of electronics stuff! I'd finally found a gold mine like I'd heard about on the net!
The store had stuff scattered all over the place. Towards the back, I found a big box full of cartridges. Then I found a 7800 console! I was excited. First, though, I started digging through the box, sorting the carts. There were 7800, 2600, 5200, Odyssey^2, Texas Instrument, and Intellivision cartridges, but most were 2600 & 5200. I ended up with 34 2600/7800 cartridges. Then we started looking for the 7800 power supply and controllers. It turned out the guy had them behind the counter, although he had to search for them and didn't know what controllers went to what. I recognized them when I saw them. While we were searching, I found a second 7800 console. That meant choosing between an original with the expansion port and the next model with just a hole. I couldn't decide which was in better condition, until finally I tried pressing the power button on the first one (it wasn't plugged in). It didn't press. I put a lot of pressure on it and it moved. The other three switches pressed much easier. All four of the switches on the second seemed to work fine, so I took it. (Oh, well, no expansion port.)
I ended up buying 34 cartridges at $1 each, plus the 7800 system (we found the two controllers, power supply, a switch box (that was easy) and even an RCA cord). He sold the whole thing for $45. He said he usually sold the systems for $25, but gave me a break for buying so many cartridges. Needless to say, I was happy and hoped my wife wouldn't kill me. She didn't seem too upset when I told her. I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm actually selling my duplicate stuff in an auction right now, so she knows I can make money at this if I feel like it.
I basically bought everything he had that I didn't. Some of the stuff I had never HEARD of before, so I checked VGR's list. Here are the games I got that he lists as Rare: Star Ship, Stampede, Beany Bopper, Deadly Duck, Pitfall II, Sneak 'n Peek, and Burger Time. Here are the games he lists as Extremely Rare: Mines of Minos, Tapper, and Piece O' Cake. I also bought a labelless Parker Bros. cartridge, but it turned out to be a copy of Frogger. We went back to my in-laws and I borrowed their little black and white TV to test my treasures. The 7800 system works fine, but one of the joystick buttons is broken. Some of the carts didn't work, but I think it was a combination of the tight fit in the 7800 & dirt. I've since cleaned some of them & gotten them to work in my 2600. I still need to go through and clean most of the rest of them and try out the 7800 on our color TV.
Now, can anyone tell me how to play Sneak 'n Peek or Mines of Minos? Also, how come Mines of Minos is about 1 1/2 times longer than any other Atari 2600 cartridge??? That one was the weirdest of my finds, by far.
Oh, yeah. At the end of the weekend, my brother-in-law dug out all his Atari stuff and just gave it to me! This included the game Up n' Down, which VGR rates ER! And before anyone asks, no, this stuff is not for sale. 8) Now I'm beginning to wish I bought the Atari 5200 & games that were at the store, too. Maybe I'll go back next time we're down there.
[On 19 Apr 1999 I posted the following about this event to rec.games.video.classic.]
Alas, I also passed up a 5200 Death Star Battle because I wasn't collecting for the 5200 and didn't know how rare it was. ... When I'd gotten back home, my copy of VGR's list (the only rarity list available back then) said Up 'n Down was unreleased! But then I checked the 'net and he'd updated it to ER since I'd last downloaded it. Man, that was a rush, thinking I'd found a game believed to be unreleased.
[Mines of Minos is a CommaVid game and they're all longer than standard 2600 cartridge cases. Just to make them stand out, I'd guess. The "8)" is a smiley indicating I wear glasses.
This was a find for the ages. I never found such a great stash of so many 2600/7800 games in one place again and unfortunately on return trips I never caught the store open again. —28 May 2009]