Andrew Manz is a very knowledgeable and helpful repair technician and video game aficionado, greeting customers and answering questions at Calico Gaming. (Photos by John Gregory)
Store is a shrine to video games
Although Calico Gaming is near the front of its small complex, it’s as if this treasure is hidden in plain sight.
Tucked away within its storefront at 9821 Carroll Canyon Road near the ramps to I-15, this little gem is easy to miss. When entering the narrow parking lot, take an immediate left and there it is.
The unassuming shop looks like any other small business. It has the casual feel of a used vinyl record store or a place that sells comics. But any customer who asks a few questions will find they are not just visiting a used game store but they have just stepped into a video game museum, a real shrine for gamers.
“We have stock all the way back to 1979,” explained Andrew Manz, an extremely knowledgeable repair technician who patiently helps customers. “We have Atari on occasion. We have original Nintendo, Super Nintendo, stuff that you would never find in a garage sale these days.”
A novice looking around the store wouldn’t understand the historic relevance, video game-wise, of the merchandise neatly placed on display. But someone who knows their stuff, or an avid collector, will quickly realize this store is golden.
“That’s kind of our focus in that sense. We try to keep that old style of game alive because a lot of the games from back then have almost been lost to time,” Manz said. “They haven’t been re-released because of either license agreements or whatever. They are only playable on the console that they were originally released on, which has now become a bit of a rarity. It gets pretty interesting.”
Calico Games has decent prices on mostly used goods and not all the merchandise is an antique or a collector’s item. It carries a wide assortment of disk games, controllers, adaptors, cables, Nintendo 64 cartridges, and Game Boy Advance Games. But walk toward the back of the store to take a close look at some of the older items.
“This is usually for when you are talking to people who collect video games,” Manz explained.
Some of the stuff is from the late 1970s he said. Manz spoke reverently about some of the items, showing some “of our more nuanced stuff,” and describing an item that was “based on the same architecture of the original Famicom,” and describing another as “the quintessential gaming system back in the day.”
He showed an old keyboard that was created just for a cartridge designed to teach piano. There was a collection of Japanese games from the 1980s not released in the United States. He pointed to another, calling it “one of the first really awful games. That one’s really fun.”
Then he came to a glass display case against the very back wall.
“I jokingly call it the ‘crazy person shelf.’ I shop in here all the time,” Manz said. “This is the rarest stuff we have in the store. This is the stuff that was super-limited release back in the day. Never really saw a large release and therefore, nowadays, sometimes 30 years after it was released, it is now worth quite the penny. Especially this one up here. It’s called Panzer Dragoon and it is worth $700. The one next to it is called Earthbound. Because it’s in its original box, it’s worth a full grand.”
Calico Gaming was started by three brothers: Martin, Eric and Marco Velasco. Eric and Marco had been selling on eBay and Craigslist before, and decided to open a storefront in Escondido with younger brother Martin a couple of years ago. Then they opened their second store at the Carroll Canyon location last August.
The biggest sellers are mostly import games. Famicom and Super Famicom games and a lot of Nintendo 64 titles are what they sell the most. Most of the merchandise is used and most of the inventory is based on whatever people bring in to the store, but there is also a selection of new products as well.
“The way our pricing works, at least for games like Wii, PS3, PS4 and whatnot, we actually do 10 percent off of Game Stop prices,” Martin explained. “So, we try to keep the prices under what they are retailing for.”
Anyone wishing to bring in some old games or gear can simply visit the store and an employee will make an offer consisting of either cash or store credit.
“If you have any old game consoles or games or systems that you are not looking to play anymore, you bring it in, we’ll do an evaluation and give you a price of what we’re willing to give for it on the spot,” Martin said.
He explained that his company keeps improving. It started out with a small location and they didn’t have much inventory at first, but everything is becoming more professional.
“We offer very fair prices on our games and trade-in values,” Martin said. “We also pride ourselves on having excellent customer service.”
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