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From city storage to auction: 'Tetris' and other vintage arcade games fetch $20,000 in Glendale

For five years, "Ms. Pac-Man" and a collection of other vintage arcade games have been sitting in storage — unlikely government property.

But now, the city of Glendale has unloaded them.

Forty-five classic games, including "Tetris" and "Street Fighter," were auctioned last weekend and netted $20,000 from multiple buyers, city spokesman Tom Lorenz said. The final tally was about $8,000 less than the collection had been appraised for in 2014, he said.

Some could argue the story of how Glendale came to own the collection isn't as fun as a few fight-to-the-death rounds of "Ultimate Mortal Kombat."

In 2011, the now-defunct Glendale Redevelopment Agency bought the Video West Arcade on Brand Boulevard for $1 million to allow for the construction of the Museum of Neon Art.

But when the state folded redevelopment agencies statewide in 2011, all assets were frozen and the city waited. The arcade games were placed in storage.

Although the vintage collection was technically state property, the city was eventually given the go-ahead to unload the machines a few years ago, and the City Council approved their sale.

The duty fell onto the city's Successor Agency, which took over the remaining redevelopment assets.

The city of Glendale had no interest in purchasing them for local use, Lorenz said, because of ongoing upkeep costs versus making revenue — quarters at a time.

"The mere maintenance would make it cost prohibitive. The return would be very minimal," Lorenz said. "Ms. Pac-Man is a great and fun game, but it just wouldn't pay for itself."

And storing the games was costing money.

Storage space cost $1,800 a month for all the arcade machines, but the tab was covered by the money the Successor Agency made by selling off old redevelopment assets, Lorenz said.

The revenue from the auction will be divided among local entities, including the Glendale Unified School District and the Glendale Community College District, he said.

arin.mikailian@latimes.com

Mikailian writes for Times Community News.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 17, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Selling off some classics - Held in storage since 2011, `Tetris' and other vintage games fetch $20,000 in Glendale. - CALIFORNIA RETROSPECTIVE" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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