Christopher Cline went to his Tacoma storage locker Sunday to drop off his master’s degree diploma, which he’d gotten in the mail the day before.
His key did not fit in the lock.
An employee told the 26-year-old Tacoma native that kind of lock wasn’t used at the facility in the 3300 block of South Sprague Avenue.
“They cut through the lock and opened it up,” Cline said, “and I saw the disaster.”
Much of Cline’s video game collection — about 1,500 games with their systems, which he estimates is worth $65,000 — was gone. Someone had cut the lock, taken his meticulously labeled boxes of video games, ransacked the rest of his unit and replaced the lock.
The collection started when Cline was a kid and grew to include the Atari 2600 and rare games that sell for up to $650. Some of the games had never been taken out of the original packaging.
“A lot of my childhood games were in here,” he said. “Specifically, growing up, I played a lot of Sega Genesis, like the old-fashioned Sonic the Hedgehogs. They’re the first video games that I ever played and those specific cartridges I played as a kid are just gone now.”
A purse was left behind at the storage unit. Cline turned it in to Tacoma police after filing a report, spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.
The self-proclaimed “vintage movie and video game collector” had been to the storage unit Aug. 7 to check on things. He was keeping his items in storage as he tried to find a job in film production somewhere on the West Coast.
“It was just a temporary thing. That’s what drives me crazy,” said Mike Cline, Christopher’s father. “We were just a couple weeks away from moving it.”
Now the younger Cline has to go through his collection mentally and try to remember every video game he owned to give police an official estimate of how much stuff was taken.
He never had his collection formally appraised because he never intended to sell any of it.
“He’s been in a bad frame of mind since last night, and we’re trying to calm him down,” Mike Cline said Monday. “I don’t blame him for being absolutely devastated by it.”
Apart from the stolen video games, the burglars broke family heirloom photos and damaged other belongings, including an antique desk that had been overturned, Christopher Cline said.
Finding the stolen pieces of the collection will be challenging — “A lot of these things aren’t really traceable,” he said — but he has fruitlessly checked with locals who buy and sell classic games.
“I’m looking to rebuild. I’m looking to start from the ground up,” he said. “I was kind of hoping to one day take my collection and make a library out of it.”
His modern systems and about 110 games were with a friend in the Phoenix area, where he attended Grand Canyon University to study digital film production.
Cline lived there for about five years before moving back to Tacoma earlier this year as he finished up a master’s degree in entertainment business from Full Sail University online.
Staff photographer David Montesino contributed to this report.
Anyone with information about the burglary of Christopher Cline’s video game collection is asked to call Tacoma police at 253-798-4721.