Wilmington store wins rights to $1 million rare game collection from estate of early Internet developer

A collection of 1970s and 1980s board and card games, from Panzer Blitz on the left to G.I. Anvil of Victory on the right, is valued at $260. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
A collection of 1970s and 1980s board and card games, from Panzer Blitz on the left to G.I. Anvil of Victory on the right, is valued at $260. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — A local game store has been awarded consignment rights to a collection of rare and antique games, valued at more than $1 million, from the Washington estate of a former Stanford University and Microsoft engineer.

Cape Fear Games owner Heath Newton said his store has been given consignee rights for “the largest currently known personal gaming, hobby, and toy collection.”

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The collection comes from the estate of Darryl Rubin, who in the 1970s was a member of a Stanford Research Institute (SRI) team that developed the technology underlying the TCP/IP protocol — what Newton called “the backbone of the Internet.” Rubin passed away in March 2016 at his home in Ellensburg, about 100 miles east of Seattle.

“After SRI, Darryl spent three decades at Microsoft as Vice President of Software Strategy and Advanced Architecture, where he played a key role in shaping the company’s networking and internet strategies and evolving technology vision,” Newton said.

In 2000, Microsoft named Rubin one of its 16 “distinguished engineers” and awarded him a title and compensation package akin to a vice presidency, according to The Seattle Times, which called him a “jack-of-all-trades developer” and an “early agitator for Internet development at Microsoft.”

A truckload of rare finds

The collection arrived in June aboard an 18-wheeler packed to the brim — Newton said the truck had to return to Seattle and unload a few boxes after pulling through a weigh station — and now takes up 3,000 square feet of space in a back warehouse space behind the store. Contractors were brought in to unpack all the boxes, which took more than a month.

Newton said the collection consists of “some of the rarest, hardest to find, and most sought after products across tabletop games, miniature games, collectible card games, and war-gaming.”

It’s the biggest game collection I’ve ever seen in my life,” Newton said. “I did some research and I couldn’t find [any other collection] even close to it.”

In late August Newton opened The Sideboard, a board game cafe that was inspired by a trip to Seattle when he discovered Mox Boarding House, which drew large crowds from the city’s tech crowd.

Last year Newton was introduced to Rubin’s brother through a small retailer group online after he saw pictures of the collection. They emailed each other for six months, then Newton flew to Washington to see it for himself.

“I was absolutely blown away and told [Rubin’s] brother I was extremely excited to share this collection with the world,” Newton said.

Perhaps the collection’s most prized item is a chess set carved by renown ivory sculptor Oleg Raikis from 20,000-year-old mammoth ivory found in Siberia and heartwood ebony, valued at $27,000. When employee Connor Locklin first saw the set was made of ivory, he thought it’d be an issue — the commercial trade of elephant ivory has been banned in the United States since 2016.

A $27,000 chess set carved from heartwood ebony and 20,000-year-old mammoth ivory by renown ivory sculptor Oleg Raikis. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
A $27,000 chess set carved from heartwood ebony and 20,000-year-old mammoth ivory by renown ivory sculptor Oleg Raikis. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

“I looked it up and found its saving grace — it’s mammoth ivory, not elephant ivory, which you can sell,” Locklin said, pointing out that the mammoth elephant has long been extinct. 

The collection also consists of old video games, sealed Lego and Technic building toys, and a wide selection of model kits, slot cars, and science equipment.

“If you were any sort of a geek in the eighties or nineties, this collection is a walk through a massive game, hobby, and toy store of your childhood dreams,” Newton said.

Asked how the value is set for each item, Locklin and the rest of the consignment team in the warehouse laughed — it was quite the difficult task.

“The hardest part is that most of these things aren’t for sale. Or if they are are, there are none that are still sealed for sale,” Locklin said. “So we’re setting market value for a lot of these things because they have been out of circulation for so long.”

On Thursday Cape Fear Games announced it would begin hosting 2-hour tours of the collection by appointment only, with a $20 deposit that will be credited towards any purchase. The collection is also for sale on the store’s website.

Those interested in a tour can email estate@capefeargames.com to set up an appointment.

A row of shelves that currently house Darryl Rubin's collection of old and rare games inside the warehouse space behind Cape Fear Games. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
A row of shelves that currently house Darryl Rubin’s collection of old and rare games inside the warehouse space behind Cape Fear Games. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815

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