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This arcade is really vintage: Visiting San Francisco’s Musée Mécanique

Enlarge / Look through the window and see your future! (credit: Marlowe Bangeman)

We saw a lot on our family vacation to California this summer: epic coastline views, acre after acre of almond groves, forest fires, and Venice Beach, to name a few things. Thanks to friends and colleagues, we had a long list of sites to see. One such place, suggested by Cyrus Farivar, was Musée Mécanique. Located on San Francisco’s historic Fisherman’s Wharf, the Musée Mécanique bills itself as one of the largest privately owned collection of antique arcade machines in the world.

For Gen Xers like me, vintage arcades conjure up images of Pac-ManDonkey Kong, Tempest, and Crazy Climber. I make regular pilgrimages to Galloping Ghost, a suburban Chicago arcade that has over 400 playable classic arcade games and pinball tables.

Musée Mécanique has some classic video games, but the focus of the collection is primarily on coin-operated mechanical arcade machines and musical instruments. According to the Musée website, most of the machines are from the private collection of fifth-generation San Franciscan Edward Zelinsky. The collecting bug bit him as a child, and he made his first purchase—a penny skill game—in 1933 at age 11. By the time he passed away in 2004 at the age of 82, he had amassed well over 300 antique coin-op machines.

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