Video Game Rental Stickers Tour: Part 2

I discussed my fascination with rental stickers a while ago, and I haven’t let go of it. As physical media grows scarcer and the last remaining rental stores vanish, it’s fun to look back on a lost era of game cartridges and discs that were covered in labels and warnings. So here’s another round of rental stickers found on eBay. And hey, you can buy them if you like! 


Seller: Corey7521 
This one has it all: a shiny and professionally printed sticker slapped right on top of the game’s label, a less professional sticker with an inventory number, and then, on the back, a marker-written reminder that this is Property of Art’s Video until the end of time. It even refers to the game cartridge as a “tape,” because sufficient numbers of parents still called them “Nintendo tapes” circa 1990 and it would cost a store good money to print up new labels just for the game rentals.

Unfortunately, Art’s Video Center seems to be so long and so far gone that I can’t find any record of it online: no placeholder Yelp pages, no vague directory listings, no ancient archived news stories about the store’s grand opening. This auction and my article might be the only record of this rental outlet existing, so I’m glad to spotlight it here. And unlike other games I’m covering, Kings of the Beach is dirt cheap, just in case you want to own a piece of Art’s Video Center. 


Seller: awfulwaffles76
Some rental stores used generic cases for their video games, but this Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom has a less common white housing that I particularly like. Why? Because it makes Princess Tomato look like a kids’ movie in one of those cushioned, oversized white VHS containers. 

You can see it, right? A Princess Tomato cartoon, perhaps rendered in authentic Claymation or a reasonable facsimile, sitting right there next to the Disney films and Don Bluth movies and the censored, disguised anime imports in the children’s section of the video store? Perhaps some employee actually misfiled Princess Tomato there once or twice, either disappointing some poor kid who didn’t have an NES or delighting some fortunate kid who got a game rental for the price of a regular VHS checkout. 

Of course, Princess Tomato is not an animated film. It’s a cute adventure game where you explore a world of talking vegetables and where a sidekick persimmon throws out your items without asking. Like most cult-favorite NES games, it’s now very expensive. Still, if I was paying for a copy of Princess Tomato, I’d want the white Disney box with it.  


Seller: blueflipjuice_ig 
Video Update appears to be one of those extensive rental chains that I’ve never heard of before, but they were big enough to have over thirty stores in the Minneapolis area alone—and to promote them in commercials. The main Video Update company went under in 2000, but at least one store hung on for another twelve years, earning a eulogy from the local news upon closing.  


There’s another reason I studied this copy of Peak Performance. Some rental shops put circular labels at the center of their game discs, but Video Update just slapped a rectangular sticker on this one. Would that put the disc off balance? Would it wear out some kid’s PlayStation faster? Would Video Update be liable for damages? Well, just don’t take the sticker off. It’s too worn to make out, but I’m sure the penalty for removing it is dire indeed. 


Seller: michaelyoun-43
Renovation’s Sega Genesis titles made for great rentals. Full of anime characters and mecha, they were the video-game equivalent of similarly styled OVAs like Outlanders or All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku-Nuku. Some were great and some weren’t, but they all fascinated us just because they were so different from the typical games and cartoons we had in the early 1990s.  

Lee’s Video Library was clearly budget-conscious in labeling their games, Renovation-supplied or otherwise. The manual has a prominent, hand-lettered warning about how you’ll have to pay five bucks if you happen to lose the book. It’s really cautioning you against stealing it, but Lee will be unmoved if you claim you just lost it. Everyone needs to know how to play Final Zone

Unlike many other video-rental shops, Lee’s Video Library did not go under quietly. It got a nice sendoff when it closed in 2008, and a news article covers the store’s 25-year history in the Anderson, Indiana area, with a few choice quotes from customers who didn’t like this new-fangled DVD format. There’s also a photo of a mural on the side of Lee’s Video, featuring a gallery of movie stars...and a Roger Rabbit apparently painted on at a later date. 

But has Lee’s Video Library really closed? Their number listed online isn’t working, but a glance at Google Street shows that both the store sign and the mural are still on the building, with poor Roger Rabbit slowly melting into a negative dimension.  


Seller: paranoia_agent_k 
This ex-rental copy of Primal Rage appears a typical specimen, bearing the usual stickers and filing numbers. Surely it was checked out hundreds of times by kids, teenagers, and anyone else enamored with those stop-motion dinosaurs and their fighting game. For the price of a rental they could learn that the arcade game’s Harryhausen-esque animation wasn’t as impressive on home consoles and that the hold-and-release special moves were just as frustrating. 

Well, take a close look at the box. It offers a coupon for Six Flags, and I want to know what happened to that coupon. Some rental stores might stuff it back in the game’s box, ensuring that the offer would expire well before demand for Primal Rage cooled enough to land it in the clearance-sale bin. Or perhaps a store clerk just pocketed the coupon and saved a little at Six Flags that summer.  

Or perhaps the store just tucked it into the manual, and whoever rented the game first got a little bonus. After all, the store only needs the manual back. Not any coupons. I’ll never know, of course, and not just because Video Station is long since closed and its location turned into an Armed Forces career center.  

And that closes my second survey of video game rental stickers. I can’t help but think that this is a field of history soon to be exploited even more for nostalgia. Sellers might even start removing those stickers and selling them separately, so get your authentic Art’s Video Station ex-rentals while you can.  


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