Red Quarters

The Mystery Of The Red Quarters…Solved!

When I originally thought of writing about red quarters, I had three examples ready to be photographed as accompanying artwork.

However, when you have a young son who is fascinated with arcade games, ticket redemption machines and all manner of gumball dispensers, keeping quarters handy is difficult.
Red Quarters

So, just imagine that this is a photo of a real red quarter taken on my dining room table, and not one I grabbed online this morning.

Have you ever sorted through your change and found an older quarter painted red, or the remnants of red paint that has been worn away during a few decades in someone’s pocket or change jar? Congratulations! There is a good chance that you are holding a piece of arcade history.

First of all, let me point out that there are a few alternative origins that are possible – but, not as neat as the arcade connection. Red quarters are also used for free laundromats and the occasional jukebox at the local tavern, but with change machines more available in 2017, and the increasing prices of these services, dollar bills are used much more often.

Red quarters are known as “shills” or “house coins.” When I managed an Aladdin’s Castle arcade back in the early 1990s, I called them “freebies.”

Arcade machines are amazing pieces of technology. From the start button, to the circuitry, to the joysticks, to the screen and speakers, millions of bits of high-tech electronic signals are bouncing around inside that pressboard cabinet before “Ready Player One” ever appears in colorful, pixilated glory to you.

But, before the credit button can ever be activated, the quarter has to make its way from your pocket through a series of mechanical twists and turns before the game recognizes your offering as a legitimate form of payment. Along the way, there are many places for your quarter to become lodged or even fall through to the coin collection box without giving you a credit to start the game.

If your arcade didn’t have an attendant back then, you usually just kicked or beat the coin door in a futile attempt to make it either accept the quarter – or generously return it to you. This usually never, ever worked.

Arcade attendants were the best people that minimum wage could hire at the time. While many could be trusted to open the front doors on time, most arcade owners did not trust their minions with keys to the coin doors or collection boxes.

When a customer complained about not receiving credit for their coin, an attendant would use a red-painted quarter in the slot to make the game work. If it did, the customer could then play their game and smile. If the game still did not work, an “Out of Order” sign would be placed over the screen until a repair technician could render first aid.

When it came time to count the game’s coin box each week, the red quarters would be sorted out from the silver ones and returned to the attendants to use again. They wouldn’t be counted as income and the arcade owner’s accountant would celebrate and rejoice at the reduction of paperwork.

At Aladdin’s Castle, we also used painted quarters, but only for the Rowe change machine or crane game. Our attendants had access to the coin mechanisms because tokens were used to credit the machines instead of cash – and our accountants rejoiced at the reduction of paperwork.

Why the red paint? Red paint stands out better in a sea of silver coins in the automatic counter, and in many cases, it’s also the only shade of nail polish that a female employee had handy at the time.

The next time you spot a red quarter, and the date on it is from before 1992, there is a very good chance that it was used to make someone’s arcade experience a happy one. Keep the cycle going and use it to credit-up the next video game you come across!
Retro New Year's Eve - 2016

Inside Atari

Celebrate Atari Day With This 1981 Inside Atari Promo Video!

Goodness gracious. I was so busy celebrating my Wife’s birthday that I neglected to share an Atari Day post! So let us celebrate a belated Atari Day by watching this 1981 promotional video entitled Inside Atari.
Inside Atari

This is most certainly a nice piece of history for the legendary company. By 1981 Atari had three separate divisions going full bore. They had their arcade division releasing titles that helped make the Golden Age of Arcades so memorable. As well as the home console division with the Atari VCS or 2600 as it became known once the 5200 was released a year later – which sold like hotcakes. Atari had as well at this point released the Atari 400 and 800 home computers.

Things were looking absolutely grand for Atari in 1981. Which is why Inside Atari was regularly seen at consumer electronic shows. To say nothing of course of aiding in the wooing of potential investors.
Inside Atari - Global Reach

In addition to Inside Atari coming across as a visual pep rally. There are some wonderful nuggets to be gleaned. For example in this screenshot you can see some rom chips for Defender, Pac-Man, Yar’s Revenge, and Graves Manor.

That last one is more than a little noteworthy as it is one of the four original names for 1981’s Haunted House !

Furthermore if you look quickly you can spy some interesting artwork on display. Like this piece for the port of Pac-Man. Which I might add I had not seen before until the release of Tim Lapetino’s stellar Art of Atari tome last year.

All in all Inside Atari runs about five and a half minutes. So obviously it will not be the most in-depth exposé on the workings of the company. It will however give you that perfect snapshot of the glory days of Atari as an entertainment juggernaut.

[Via] Dig That Box RETRO

I hope you enjoyed watching Inside Atari. But remember that every 26th of the month is when we celebrate Atari Day!


Image courtesy of Atari I/O’s Facebook page.


To learn even more about the fun of Atari Day be sure to hop on over and check out fellow Retroist writer Atari I/O’s site by following the link here!

Carrie Fisher at The Sega Center in Fox Hills Mall (1977)

Carrie Fisher in this brief 1977 interview from The Making of Star Wars, where she is seen playing 1975’s Anti-Aircraft from Atari at a Sega Center is going to be one of the coolest things you will see all day!
Sega Center - Carrie Fisher
Filmed at the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City, California – I can’t help but dig the appropriately Star Wars themed cabinets that we can see Carrie playing before the interview begins. These were obviously specially made for the Sega Center arcades as you can tell by looking at the standard edition on the arcade game flyer below – courtesy of The Arcade Flyer Archive.

Image courtesy of the Arcade Flyer Archive.

Image courtesy of the Arcade Flyer Archive.


In this clip Carrie Fisher discusses some of the elements of Star Wars that she enjoyed and what she didn’t care for while filming the original movie. I might have to blame this on my advanced age but I do not recall ever seeing this particular clip before from The Making of Star Wars although I believe it might have also been shown when the Fox channel did their little special to celebrate the re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy to theaters…well…the “A few new surprises” or Special Editions I mean.

[Via] Benovite
I found an article from 8 Bit Central that states they believe the Sega Center featured in that interview with Carrie Fisher was later remodeled into a Time Out Tunnel which would eventually be converted to the Time Out arcade. This brand of arcade was able to survive and thrive until around 1995 when after being sold to The Edison Brothers company, they were forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – which was then bought by the Namco corporation which is why you can still find Time Out arcades in various malls.
Time Out - Namco - Arcades
I’m not sure what the Time Out arcades were like in your neck of the woods but the one that was in my local mall still had a few arcade games and even one or two classics titles like Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man although the younger children were brought in by the redemption games.

Arcadian: The Great Arcade Games Of The 1980s By Doug McCoy (2012)


As you can see from that awesome artwork by Retroist Regular, Sean Hartter, fellow writer Doug McCoy has a new book out and it’s the perfect read for those of us who miss standing shoulder to shoulder in those now lost entertainment palaces of import in our youth, the arcades!

That is indeed the same Doug that has recently shared his fond memories of The Weepuls and The Magic Wiggly Worm just last week! With his new book, Arcadian, Doug takes us on a pleasant and warm stroll down memory lane with his usual charm in regards to some of the classic arcade games of all time:

Space Invaders
Pac-Man
Ms. Pac-Man
Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong Jr.
Frogger
Centipede
Millipede
Q*Bert
Dig Dug
Burgertime
Kangaroo
Dragon’s Lair
Crystal Castle
Moon Patrol
Galaga
Yie Ar Kung Fu
Rush’n Attack
Gauntlet

You might also recall that Doug has another fantastic book about video games, that one concerning the titles he cherished on the Nintendo Entertainment System entitled ANESthetized.

Now Doug gave me the heads up on something special for us Retroist fans. Over on the Smashwords site you can download both Arcadian and ANESthetized absolutely free of charge for a limited time. All Doug asks of you kind readers is to take the time and leave a review of the books on Smashwords as way of thanks.

There should be exciting news concerning the books on Amazon.Com and other outlets soon, we’ll keep you informed. Now go grab your favorite beverage and settle into your favorite reading spot and prepare to once again become an Arcadian!