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Toys "R" Us Memories

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I thought this would be a nice time to share this with everybody. When I was in High School and College I worked at Toys "R" Us for a stretch. (I also worked at a new movie theater). Believe it or not I ran the video games department, which was called "R"-Zone. This also included music, movies, and electronics.

 

I have some pictures from back then that I thought would be good to share. I'm posting a few now, but will have more throughout the week as I find them. Most of these are of my friends and coworkers rather than the toys, but they will give you a glimpse at some of the people who helped create magic. And if you keep an eye out in the background you might catch a glimpse of the video game world transitioning from the PS1 / Saturn / N64 era into PS2 / Dreamcast / GameCube / Xbox.

 

I grew up going to Toys "R" Us in the '80s and early '90s. I had so many insanely fond memories of going to Toys "R" Us and looking at all the new games and systems from Atari, Nintendo, Sega and TurboGrafx. I've written entire blogs about hunting down Atari Lynx games at Toys "R" Us in the mid-'90s. So many good memories were made here. I chose to work at Toys "R" Us as a high school job to pass on some of that magic to the little kids of that time, and also to experience what it was like to be on the other side of the security cage filled with video games.

 

I worked at a time during the "transition" between "old concept" (classic Toys "R" Us with traditional aisles that ran the length of the store) and the new floor plan which did away with aisles in favor of breaking up the store into "Worlds". The new store design was a more open floor plan (similar to what we have today) that featured "Worlds" such as Boys World, Girls World, Imaginarium, Wheels, Kids "R" Us (clothes), Babies "R" Us, Seasonal, Board Games, and "R"-Zone. This was also when Toys "R" Us did away with the yellow security tickets for video games, and the big beautiful glass cases that showcased all of the new video game systems and accessories that we'd all press our faces up against looking at the latest and greatest stuff.

 

Our uniforms also changed at this time. We used to have a "dress code" where we'd wear our own clothes to work, basically a light blue button down shirt, with optional grey undershirt, and khaki pants. This changed to an official red Toys "R" Us shirt with black pants. You'll be able to tell in the photos if they were taken earlier or later on based on the color of our shirts. (red came later). I remember not liking the uniform change. Originally we were wearing our own shirts. It used to be easy to leave work and go do something fun with friends right afterwards without having to change. I'd just take off my name tag and untuck my shirt and go have fun. When the red shirts came in, embroidered with the Toys "R" Us logo on the chest, we weren't able to do that. It meant more laundry and more clothes stuffed into my locker and car.

 

Working at Toys "R" Us during the transition was kind of a big ordeal. There was major construction going on inside of the store to an extent that I was surprised we were even open. Major chunks of the store were draped off with massive cloudy-clear plastic sheeting, there was dust everywhere and the sounds of construction filled the store. But the show went on, and the holiday shopping season was fast approaching. Within a few months we had converted the store to the new floorpan. 

 

There were four of us who worked in the video game department at that time. Jared, Jeremy, Trevan, myself, and Justin Teague who we called "The Gooch" after Arnold's nemesis in Diff'rent Strokes. I don't remember why this was but clearly there was only room in "R"-Zone for one Justin  ;)

 

Here are some pictures from Toys "R" Us during this time. More will follow soon.

 

What are your fondest memories of Toys "R" Us?

 

 

 

 

toys_r_us_affair.JPG

 

The Toys "R" Us Affair

 

Pictured is my co-worker Jeremy standing next to a pile of then-current Atari products.

Believe it or not this site already existed when these photos were taken.

"The Toys "R" Us Affair" was one of our first blog entires.

It was an adventure thru Toys "R" Us in 2000, looking for remnants and influences from Atari.

These photos were originally taken to be on this site as part of that blog entry.

 

 

 

Jeremy.JPG

 

Jeremy unlocking the security cage

 

Jeremy was my friend and co-worker who worked with me in the video games department.

He's unlocking the cage where all the video games & expensive merchandise was stored.

This is where you would take your yellow ticket to redeem your video game after purchase.

The tall yellow bar to the right is the button you'd press for service. We'd come out with your game.

Notice the store display for SegaNet sitting on the counter.

 

 

 

DSC00022.JPG

 

Jeremy in the security room

 

The security room is different than the cage.

The entrance to the security room had all of the main computers and info

This opened into the room where money was counted and kept in a safe

 

 

 

DSC00024.JPG

 

PlayStation 2 Pre-Order Display

 

PS2 pre-order display from Summer/Fall 2000

This is where you'd pre-order your PS2, games & accessories

This was at the front of the store in the Seasonal dept, not in the video games dept.

It had replaced some of the summertime pool toys

 

 

 

More to come

:wreck-it-ralph:

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Do you have anything from those days working there?

 

 

Other than pictures? I brought home some video game kiosks that I had for many years. I've moved a lot and I don't have much left from the past anymore, just in general. Other than the kiosks I brought home some "R"-Zone security tags, box cutters, and yellow printed signs that we had made that I might still have. I had some clear lexan displays, they were like little pieces of plexiglass 4 inches wide and bent into an L-shape with rubber edges. These were what was used in the glass displays to prop up video game systems and handhelds to angle them so you could see them better.

 

I also brought home a ton of minty fresh "Hasbro games" boxes. At the time, this website was in its infancy as Atari7800.com and had a web store which was a major component of the site. I still take pride in the high quality new and refurnished Atari video game systems we used to sell, nice and shiny fully serviced with new components and a warranty. This was when Hasbro owned what was left of Atari. Before I was promoted into the video games department I often worked in Seasonal and Board Games (which was usually combined to have one employee to cover both on normal weekdays). In the early days of my time at Toys "R" Us it was usually my job to bring the cartons of new board games out from the back, unpack them and stock the shelves with new tabletop (board) games. (Board games and card games are often referred to as "Tabletop games" even though some classic gamers associate that term with mini arcades, etc.) These were games like Monopoly, Sorry, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Risk, Battleship, Mastermind, and The Game of Life. Each game would come packed in master cartons with the Hasbro logo printed on it, and usually contained 6-12 of whatever game was in there. Open a box and it had 6 Monopolies ready to go on the store shelf, and had price tags with the box. I made a habit of saving the Hasbro boxes and bringing them home to ship out new orders from the web store here on the site. The boxes were really thick and well made, and they were stamped with a very large Hasbro logo which I thought was a nice tie-in with Atari at that time.

 

By the way, public domain games like Checkers, Chess and Parcheesi were (and still are!) sold under a private label called Pavilion, which is a Toys "R" Us brand. Why let Hasbro take all the profit when Toys "R" Us could sell their own Checkers and Chess? Even back then they were trying to avoid financial issues, and by making and selling their own brand of board games, (and batteries and pool toys and many other things) it was one more revenue stream to bring much needed money into the company. If you like Toys "R" Us and want to support them, ordering a new Pavilion Games Checkers Set would be a nice reason to buy something new from Toys "R" Us while you still can.

 

More pictures and stories soon.

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There were a couple of items I remember getting at Toys R Us.  One location was in Springfield, Missouri.  My hometown never got a TRU and still doesn't have one.  So when my family would make a trip to Springfield, which was usually just Mom and I, and she loved visiting that city at least once a month, we would stop at TRU.  One particular visit they had TG-16 systems clearanced out for $30 so I was able to pick one up.  When I handed in my ticket I was afraid I wasn't getting it after all since they had a really hard time finding it.  I managed to help looking up on the top shelf from behind the glass and pointing it out.  Last one they had and it was sitting next to a TG-16 Duo.    

 

Another visit, this one in the Fayetteville, Arkansas area, seemed very odd but I wish I would have taken advantage of it now.  I bought a few Saturn games I couldn't find anywhere else and for the price (literally $1 per game) I grabbed them AND the Saturn's arcade joystick for an additional $5.  When I went to the booth with my receipt to pick up my items both of the guys back there asked, "You have a Saturn?"  I said, "Yes", in a question-like tone.  "Would you like to have three more games?", one of them asked.  I was curious and asked how much.  I didn't have to pay for them.  What they were trying to pawn off on me were the three game pack you would get if you bought a Saturn system.  They tossed the whole carton full of them in front of me.  I just grabbed one.  They said, "Take the whole carton."  I was like "What?".  I didn't take the whole carton because I had two other friends with me and I was in a small car.  I had no room to take that carton.  They kept trying because they didn't have any more Saturn systems and the company kept sending them those games with no way to get rid of them.  I said I can grab a few more but I simply didn't have room to transport the whole case.  They filled up 2 smaller cartons and slid those to me.  I ended up with 12 copies of Daytona USA, Virtua Fighter, and Virtua Cop...easily the better three games on the system in my opinion.  The rest they said they were told to pitch since TRU was not receiving the systems anymore.  I should have grabbed every copy they had but I didn't.  I was more afraid of being setup when I walked out that door (that happened a lot in that area at the time to catch thieves) that I just left the rest behind. 

 

TRU today, sadly, is not what it use to be.  It would be nice to see the older setup again and hear all of the video game sounds echoing through out the stores.  Now it's just simply too quiet.  The last time I visited a TRU was shortly before I moved to Missouri 10 years ago.  I didn't enjoy the store much because, to me, it just seemed to have lost its flare.  I liked the idea of bringing your receipt or tickets to a booth to claim the games you purchased.  I no longer have any of that now.  Always wanting the next thing, and going through a divorce, left me without a LOT of gaming material.  Although Keith Courage was not an impressive TG-16 game and it was the only one I could find.  Not a bad game but just not a system seller.  I'm not sure what all happened to those Saturn games.  I remember giving a few away to friends and family that got a Saturn but I can't remember what happened to the rest.  I had three copies for myself should something happen to the copies I was playing.  Cardboard sleeves don't really protect CDs for long.   

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Some of the cool things we got to bring home were special to the video games department. Our Nintendo rep was especially generous. Every month a rep would come in for each console: Nintendo, Sega (not so much later on), PlayStation and Xbox. Our Nintendo rep would give us Nintendo lanyards, keychains, Mario Kart pens, etc. Probably one of the coolest things she brought was a Donkey Kong shot glass, with a pewter Donkey Kong along the front. I think I still have it somewhere. Another time, this was around Christmas, I had brought in some classic games to show my co-worker Trevan (who you'll see in pictures coming up) who was also into classic gaming. I had recently sold him one of my new TurbaoGrafx-16s (for $30!) and had brought Bonk's Revenge in my pocket to let him borrow. I also had Super Mario World for Super Famicom, in the box with instructions. It was all in Japanese and we were trying to decipher the map. Incidentally our Nintendo rep came in that day. I showed her the Super Famicom stuff (this was during the N64 run) and she was thrilled to see it! We got to talking about how short the Super Famicom controller cords are, because in Japan the kids sit closer to the TV and pulled the game system closer to where they were sitting. She asked me if I'd like some new Super Nintendo controllers that she had out in her car! Part of her job was to do maintenance on the Nintendo kiosks, and even though the SNES was long gone by then, she still had a pair of replacement controllers in her car. They were intended for the kiosks and she said the controller cords were a little longer than usual. She came back with two brand new SNES controllers, I still have them to this day and although I use them I keep them minty fresh. I'm not sure if the controller cords are really that much longer for the kiosks or not, but they're a heck of a lot longer than what came with the Super Famicom.

 

:nintendo_mario_dr_mario:

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Do you have anything from those days working there?

 

Here are a few things I found this morning. One thing I always brought home with me were Nintendo catalogs. I had been collecting classic games for almost a decade by then, and this website was new and in its infancy so I was thinking a lot about classic video games and cognizant of "What are the things I can bring home from work today that would be collectable to have in the future? What items today are the equivalent of the items that I love to collect for classic games?" Well, I always loved posters and catalogs. The vintage Atari catalogs that came with 2600 games. The posters that came with Nintendo, Sega, and TurboGrafx-16 that had all of the games on the back, and the Atari Advantage posters. I especially loved the Atari Lynx posters with the instructions on the back. When I was a kid I had those posters framed and hung on my wall.

 

So I got in the habit of collecting catalogs and displays. Particularly from Nintendo, because they always had thick, high quality catalogs every season. If there was ever something for a retro release, like the Classic NES games that were released on Game Boy Advance, I made sure to save everything I could. I also took home some retail displays, pamphlets, strategy guides and demo discs. I'd stash them away thinking one day they might be cool to have. We're almost at that point. Here are a few catalogs I was able to pull out this morning:

 

 

 

nintendo_catalogs.jpg

 

Early 2000s Nintendo Product Catalogs

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I also brought home a ton of minty fresh "Hasbro games" boxes. At the time, this website was in its infancy as Atari7800.com and had a web store which was a major component of the site. [snip] Open a box and it had 6 Monopolies ready to go on the store shelf, and had price tags with the box. I made a habit of saving the Hasbro boxes and bringing them home to ship out new orders from the web store here on the site. The boxes were really thick and well made, and they were stamped with a very large Hasbro logo which I thought was a nice tie-in with Atari at that time.

 

 

I still have one of these to show you!! I had no idea I had this! I've moved 8 or 9 times since I worked at Toys "R" Us, apparently in moving I must've had one of the Hasbro boxes left over from the site and used one to pack some of my own games in during a move. I can't believe I still have this and that this box has survived for like 18 years and is still in good condition. Even cooler, it still has the original price tag and packing information on the box! This gives you all of the shipping info, what store it ships to, what department, etc. The price tag on the side is easily removable, you peel it off like any sticker and place it on the shelf wherever the games went. This made it easy to put products on the shelf and have a shelf tag ready to go. This is a GREAT example of the master cartons that Hasbro tabletop games were shipped in:

 

 

 

hasbro_games_1.jpg

 

Hasbro Master Carton

 

This is a master carton that would've contained board games

 

 

 

hasbro_games_2.jpg

 

Check out the nice big Hasbro log stamped on each side of the box

This was during the time that Hasbro owned the rights to Atari

I would bring these boxes home and use them to ship orders from our web store

 

 

 

hasbro_games_3.jpg

 

This box originally contained Connect Four

The "7046" was the store number. This indicated what store to ship to.

The price tag would peel off and be stuck on the store shelf under the games.

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Sounds like the labels Wal-Mart put on the boxes we would get.  They were there just in case the tag on the shelf was wrong or missing.  You'd stock the item on the shelf, then pull and place the tag under the product if needed.  Similar to how TRU labels were done.  

 

I think one of the saddest things I experienced while working at Wal-Mart was what I found on a middle rack in our GM storage room.  I was helping move a Compaq computer to the Big Joe electric fork lift because a customer had bought it.  When I got it on the fork lift I had to wait for the forks to be emptied and "rescued" from the second shelf.  While I waited I looked around to what was behind items on these shelves.  Sitting behind me was a Dell Laptop that never sold.  At the time XP was the operating system of choice.  This Dell Laptop was a Windows 98 system.  I showed my assistant manager who took it.  I offered to buy it if they could come down on the price.  Instead they claimed it meaning that insurance covered it and then put in the trash compactor.  You'd be amazed at some of the stuff I tried to save they just crushed.  I seen VCR, DVD, TV displays normally used for store displays just get tossed with nothing wrong with them.  The game machines they use to have for playing on?  Crushed.  Even the N64 that the in-store McDonald's had at our location got crushed when they decided to remove it.  

 

Did you ever have to throw away anything while at TRU, Justin?

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Did you ever have to throw away anything while at TRU, Justin?

 

 

Not realllly. I missed out on the N64 kiosk and I think that may have gotten trashed. I was taking home 2 of the 3 kiosks already and I didn't want to push my luck with the store manager. When the Neo-Geo Pocket Colors were recalled I was able to buy them on a discount.

 

The sad story is Virtual Boy. We had cartons of Virtual Boy games that had to be classified as "damaged goods" or "unsellable" or something. They sat in the security cage for months. I kept asking the manager if I could just buy them. Even at retail price. They said no. A year went by, the Nintendo rep was supposed to take them back or there was some weird story that they couldn't be sent back like normal returns. I think they were shipped back at some point or someone ended up stealing them. I did my best to save them.

 

More to come...

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What kiosks did you get to take home? Do you still have you employee badge or Tshirt?

 

This was almost 20 years ago so I don't have much stuff left. I might have my name badge somewhere. I took home an original PlayStation kiosk and a generic kiosk that had been intended for PS2. I converted it to an Atari 7800 kiosk which I think I've posted photos of in here before.

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One last question, what kind of retail displays were you able to take home? Ive alway been curious about neon signs. Did your TRU have any and if so do the Nintendo reps take them with them when the store is done with em or were they open for grabs?

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FIRST WEEK OF WORK

 

Funny thing I just remembered looking at these pictures.. many of them were taken with my very first digital camera, which I bought specifically for this site when it first launched. I remember ordering it on eBay and it arriving at my house one day. I took it with me to school and to work to try it out and have some fun. I think it could hold like 50 pictures at most, and as you can see they aren't the best quality. But I'm glad I have them!

 

Here are some pictures from my first week working at Toys "R" Us. All of my fondest memories of working at Toys "R" Us come from that time, of working there, getting to be on the other side of the security cage, spending my day in such a magical place, and making some great new friends. These were good times. I started work at Toys "R" Us in the fall. The weather was turning brisk, we were about two weeks past "back to school" time, this site was just a few weeks old and every night was a late night cramming for tests and chatting away on Atari Age. I remember my first day at work was on a Tuesday afternoon. I worked 4pm to close. A pretty quiet and easy shift. There were only a few of us working in the store that day because its as pretty slow, and it made my first day on the job pretty fun.

 

I was just starting out and had to prove myself in other areas of the store before being assigned exclusively to the video games department. On my first day I got to help out in "R"-Zone (video games) quite a bit, but when it came time to close the store I was assigned to Seasonal & Board Games. This meant tidying up pool toys, getting the area ready for Halloween which was just around the corner, and cleaning up and facing the board game aisle. I ended up really loving the board game aisle. I love board games and have always said Atari was like board games for the tv. They come in boxes which are easy to face and make the aisle look nice.

 

Although life has moved on and we've all moved on to different things, some of my coworkers I met that first week have become lifelong friends. Let me introduce you to some of them:

 

 

 

Jared.jpg

 

Riding Razor Scooters Through the Aisles with Jared

 

This picture was taken just after close on my first day of work

Jared was the first person I ever worked with at TRU

Jared showed me the ropes on selling N64 and riding Razor scooters

Razor scooters were brand new that year

Jared & I used to ride them super fast around the store after close

SO many great times like this on slow days and quiet nights

 

 

 

Trevan.JPG

 

Printing TRU Video Game Tickets & Signs with Trevan

 

This picture was taken on my first Saturday of working at TRU

We were printing TRU signs and tickets for the video game department

They were tricky because you had to hand feed signs into the laser printer

The signs usually said things like "PlayStation Greatest Hits $19.99"

- or - "All Prima Strategy Guides Buy 1 Get 1 FREE!"

This was also how we printed the yellow tickets you'd take to buy a game

Trevan was a really nice guy and knowledgable about video games

Trevan is the guy I mentioned earlier that I had sold a TurboGrafx-16 to

 

 

 

The_Gooch.jpg

 

The Gooch Printing Tickets & Looking Up A Game

 

This picture was taken at the end of my 1st week or start of my 2nd

Pictured is Justin Teague, who started working at TRU a few days after I did

Diff'rent Strokes was big on Nick@Nite then, and we started calling him "Gooch"

He was a really cool guy, we used to go to the mall and do other stuff on our days off

After Christmas he started working in Wheels, assembling bikes and Power Wheels

 

 

 

 

One thing to note in the three pictures above is the diversity in uniforms. These were the early days when uniforms were a blue shirt with khaki pants, and they were pretty lenient with dress code. Trevan usually wore a blue shirt that TRU had given to him, with "Toys "R" Us" embroidered over the left breast. Jared and I wore our own clothes from home, mostly a blue button up shirt, grey undershirt and khaki pants. The Gooch usually went with a less common uniform, basically his own clothes from home, tucked in button up shirt, and a blue TRU vest that he kept in his locker. I don't remember many other people doing this. Usually vests were worn by managers, the girls up front at the customer service desk, and some of the guys who worked in the back on the loading dock.

 

These uniform variants make me think of Star Trek. Red shirt, blue shirt, the occasional vest. We wore our own shoes, just regular tennis shoes, although I had some brown Doc Martin shoes that went nicely with my pants and looked good at the time. It was a luxury I took for granted to be able to wear my own clothes to work. I could start the day out going to school or going out with friends, wearing a blue shirt with my sleeves rolled up, then tuck my shirt in and go to work. After the new store concept came in and we were given the new red uniforms, we had to wear black pants and black work shoes with radios.

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One last question, what kind of retail displays were you able to take home? Ive alway been curious about neon signs. Did your TRU have any and if so do the Nintendo reps take them with them when the store is done with em or were they open for grabs?

 

 

None when I worked there. Not like the ones you're talking about. I took home a lot of Atari Lynx and TurboGrafx-16 signage when I was about 11 or 12, but that was a few years before I ever worked at TRU. They had gotten to know me at my local TRU when I was young, always coming in looking for Lynx and TurboGrafx. When Lynx accessories finally went on clearance I went to the store manager and offered him a deal, I'd give him $30 for everything but he'd have to come down on the price and let me take the signage with me. He agreed. I was 11! There was one Lynx sign that I wasn't able to take, I remember it had a blue background with the Lynx logo over it. This was a piece of flexible plastic that fit into the top of the shelf above where you'd take the yellow tickets to buy a game. All game systems at the time were like this in TRU. Once you moved out of the Lynx section there was a TurboGrafx section with a similar sign. The TG one was black and grey with bonk on it. I think I have a video of that one on my bedroom wall. The rest of that aisle was Sega. The next aisle was entirely Nintendo. Again, this isn't from when I worked there, I'm just sharing memories from when I was a kid and already trying to collect Atari stuff as best I could.

 

Later on, when I worked at TRU the only kind of "displays" I was ever able to take home were cardboard standups and display boxes. For example, when Conker's Bad Fur Day came out we had an oversized Conker box that we put together and sat in the middle of the floor. Within a few weeks those things were usually pretty tattered. Same with posters and other signage. Believe me, I tried to save everything worth saving but by those days there wasn't a lot.

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TRU today, sadly, is not what it use to be.  It would be nice to see the older setup again and hear all of the video game sounds echoing through out the stores.  

 

 

You are absolutely right. I watched this happen first hand. When they were done converting the store from the old concept to the new concept, the dust had settled and everything was cleaned up, it suddenly wasn't the Toys "R" Us that I had always known growing up. Shelf by shelf they reconfigured it into something different. It was never the same after that. They should've at least left the glass display cases with the video game systems and accessories on display. I told our regional manager that when he came to visit. I told him that without that case, it's one less thing to inspire awe in these kids that could last a lifetime and create new memories and brand loyalty to TRU. That was like 18 years ago.

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One last question, what kind of retail displays were you able to take home? Ive alway been curious about neon signs. Did your TRU have any and if so do the Nintendo reps take them with them when the store is done with em or were they open for grabs?

 

 

Here are two images of the TurboGrafx-16 overhead display that mounted to the TRU shelf above where you'd pull the yellow tickets out to buy a video game. You can see the little plastic tabs along the edge that would have secured the sign to the shelf. Note that this is a newer sign because it has Air Zonk on the left side and Bonk on the right side, and Zonk came pretty late in the game for TG. Also the sign only says "TurboGrafx" rather than getting too specific with the TurboGrafx-16 logo or the TurboDuo logo. This is because they both shared one shelf area. If I remember correctly, there were two of these TurboGrafx signs because TurboGrafx took up two shelf widths on the aisle. By that time one shelf had a small, shelf-mounted TurboGrafx-16 system kiosk with tickets for standard TurboGrafx-16 HuCards, and the other shelf had a small TurboDuo kiosk with tickets only for TurboDuo Super CDs.

 

Also if you look closely you'll see a neon orange "strip" that has the TurboGrafx-16 logo stamped on it many times. This was a shelf strip that would mount into an actual shelf where price tags would normally be. They were just a decoration. All game systems had these, and I had one for Atari Lynx as well.

 

These pictures are actually screenshots from an upcoming video project that I can share more of with you when it's ready. It's been a pretty big undertaking. We'll save that one for another day. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Video_Invaders_TurboGrafx-16_display_A.jpg

 

 

 

Video_Invaders_TurboGrafx-16_display_B.jpg

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I think these are called cornice signs, if I remember my KayBee terminology. :)  Are these yours, or did you take these photos at the store? I went into a TrU when they were dismantling this section to make what I guess was the R Zone, and they let me take a few of them.

 

Awesome thread!

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I think these are called cornice signs, if I remember my KayBee terminology. :)  Are these yours, or did you take these photos at the store? I went into a TrU when they were dismantling this section to make what I guess was the R Zone, and they let me take a few of them.

 

Awesome thread!

 

 

Those pictures are screenshots from a video of my bedroom wall in 1994  ^_^

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