A PINBALL PARTY AND A SHOW
by Russ Jensen
For the past year or two around this time I have been reporting on two
or three pinball shows I had attended during the past year. These usually
consisted of Roseanna Harris' COIN-OP SUPER SHOW and one of two shows held in
the Phoenix Arizona area.
This year, however, I was unable to attend the Wild West Pinball Fest in
Arizona due to illness (but I heard from friends who attended that it was as
good as the first show last year). I was also not able to attend the Spring
edition of the SUPER SHOW because it coincided with my vacation; but I hope
to attend the Fall show later in the year.
I was, however, able to attend two interesting "pinball events" which I
will report on instead. The first was an "open house" party at the home of
Las Vegas Nevada pinball collector Tim Arnold who most likely has the largest
pinball collection in the world!
The other event was the annual "Pinathon" held each Spring in the
Sacramento, California area - the first time I have been able to attend that
So my article this time will cover those two highly interesting "pin
THE PINBALL PARTY
One Monday evening in late February I called my good friend Sam Harvey
to talk pinball for a few minutes. During the conversation Sam told me that
he was going to Las Vegas that Friday to attend a pinball "open house" party
put on by pinball collector Tim Arnold who had moved to Las Vegas a couple of
Tim's collection consisted of around 900 pingames (plus other assorted
coin-ops) and is probably the largest pinball collection in the world!
Having never seen Tim's collection (I had only read about it and talked to
people who had) I thought that it would be nice if I could also attend.
I had one problem, however; due to vision problems I am currently unable
to drive. Even though Sam kindly offered to take me with him I still would
have had to get to and from his place which is some 70 miles from where I
I figured the only way I could swing it was to get my wife to drive me
to Vegas. The only problem with that was that she had not been feeling too
well at the time. But, when I mentioned the idea to her the next morning she
agreed to try it.
I wasn't too surprised at that, however, as her big passion in life is
gambling. The next evening she told another gambler friend where we were
going and she offered to drive us in her van. This was fine with us as it
relieved my wife of the driving chore so we quickly accepted the offer.
We made plans to leave early Friday morning February 24, as the party
was that evening. Also at that time we had a friend from New York state
staying with us who comes out each Winter for a few months to stay with us
and play bingo. She also had no problem with going to Las Vegas to gamble.
Friday morning about 4:30 AM our friend picked the three of us up and we
began to drive to Vegas. On the way we were entertained by audio cassettes
I brought along of a "History of Rock and Roll" series of radio shows
produced in the late 1970's.
When we reached the Nevada state line we stopped for breakfast (and a
little pre-Vegas slot playing) at Whiskey Pete's. This is a much built-up
version of a famous old cafe/gas station started by a colorful character in
prohibition times. Today it is a large hotel/casino complex. After that we
finished our drive to Las Vegas and checked into a downtown motel.
After we got settled in our room, my wife and her two friends went off
to the neighboring casino to gamble for the day and I called my friend Sam
who had arrived earlier at Tim Arnold's. Sam told me he would come and pick
me up at the motel shortly.
In about half an hour Sam picked me up and we started back to Tim's. On
the way, however, we made a brief stop at Bally's Hotel/Casino where another
friend of Sam's wanted to stay at the "Sports Book" while we attended Tim's
After arriving at Tim's place we went back to the special building on
the back of the property where his collection was housed. Before entering I
looked at Tim's "bowling ball pyramid" just outside the door. Tim has a
project of buying old bowling balls at garage sales and stacking them in this
area - an idea I am sure no one else ever thought of.
Tim's "pinball building" was a tennis court when he first bought the
property several years ago. He later had a building built over it and also
added an "extension" to the original tennis court area. This resulted in a
large L-shaped building with an area of approximately 9600 square feet to
house his collection.
Shortly after Sam and I arrived so did some pizza which Tim had ordered
for us "advance visitors". After partaking of this snack, Sam took me on a
brief tour of Tim's storage area where most of his collection was setting on
the floor - row after row of cabinets and backboxes (all without
backglasses). Only the fully restored games were set up for viewing and
Before continuing with my description of Tim's "open house" a few words
are in order regarding his "history".
Years ago in 1969 Tim became a coin machine operator. He began with a
bubble gum route, buying his first pingame in 1972. By 1976 he had his own
arcade in a college town in Michigan. When video games started becoming so
popular he started operating them also, thus making lots of money.
Using some of this money Tim began amassing his pingame collection, even
buying several whole pinball collections. Then a few years ago he decided to
pull up stakes and move to Las Vegas. This was quite an undertaking since
his collection at that time numbered approximately 500 machines.
The moving of his collection required some real logistics. Tim decided
that in order to protect his many mostly irreplaceable backglasses that each
glass should be removed from it's backbox and individually packaged for
The cabinets, backboxes, and packaged backglasses were then all moved
from Michigan to Las Vegas in trucks. A vast undertaking indeed! There were
also 180 crates of parts.
Now back to the evening's happenings. The event was a combination of an
"open house" party and a charity pinball tournament. There was one long
aisle with operating pingames on each side. A second aisle contained various
arcade games. There were also two quarter slot machines and one antique slot
near the front entrance.
Most of the games were operated on replays, but some (mostly "bingo"
pins and the slot machines) required coins - a supply of which was provided
when needed. Tim and a few helpers (my friend Sam Harvey included) had keys
to the games and kept the replays available to the players as well as
supplying coins for those machines requiring them.
Most people started arriving between 6 and 7 PM, and by 8 PM the place
was fairly crowded. There were several families in attendance with younger
kids. The kids really enjoy playing the pinballs and arcade games. A few of
them also played the slot machines (with "house money", of course) something
that they could not do anywhere else in the state - a preview of "things to
At one point in the evening I talked to our host Tim regarding some of
his future plans. He told me he eventually wanted to start a special pinball
arcade in Las Vegas containing both new and "classic" older pins. He then
began describing some of the "special nights" he thought about having at his
One of these was a "tournament night" when he would hold a small
tournament at the arcade, similar I suspect to the one he was holding that
evening. Another, Tim said, would be a "hot dog night" where each customer
would receive a free hot dog. He also mentioned what he called a "free play
night" where each customer would get a certain number of free plays on games
of his/her choice.
At one point in the evening Sam Harvey gave another "guided tour" of
"the back 40" of Tim's collection (the games not yet shopped and set up) to
a visitor from Ohio, pingame collector/enthusiast Richard Lawnhurst. I
tagged along and got another look at Tim's vast collection.
One of the walls at the back of the building's extension had most of the
older Gottlieb games (Tim currently owns all but one or two of the Gottlieb
flipper games made) lined up against it. The bodies of the games were
sitting on end on the floor with the backglassless heads sitting atop each
Those games were arranged more or less in chronological order I believe.
It was amazing to me how many of these games were recognized by Sam and/or
While the three of us were touring we could hear that the tournament was
taking place. We neither participated or viewed it as we continued our tour.
From the sound of things, however, it appeared that the tournament
participants were enjoying themselves. There were small cash prizes to the
winners, the remainder of the money collected for entry fees going to "the
charity of the evening" - a theme of many of Tim's endeavors.
After we finished our tour I spent the remainder of the evening roaming
around visiting with various other quests and playing a game or two
(including the slots). I did not make a list of the games which were set up
for playing, however the following is a list of those which I photographed
(games of which I did not have a photo in my extensive pinball photo
collection) - a representative sample of the rare pins there.
SOME OF THE RARER PINGAMES ON DISPLAY AT TIM ARNOLD'S
GAME MANUFACTURER YEAR
MAD CAP Stoner 1938
CINDERELLA Gottlieb 1948
YANKS Williams 1948
OLYMPICS Williams 1952
CROSSWORDS Bally 1955
TOREADOR Gottlieb 1956
ACE HIGH Gottlieb 1957
BOBO Williams 1961
HEAT WAVE Williams 1964
SHIP-MATES Gottlieb 1964
DIXIELAND Bally 1967
GUN SMOKE Chicago Coin 1968
YUKON Williams 1971
MISS AMERICA DELUXE (BINGO) Bally 1977
VEGAS Gottlieb 1990
Sometime between 11 PM and Midnight people slowly started leaving for
home. This ended an evening which appeared to be enjoyed by all. Sam and I
also left before midnight, also enjoying our visit to "the world's largest
On the way back to my motel we again stopped at Bally's to pick up Sam's
friend who was still in the Sports Book. Before continuing, however, we
stopped in a basement McDonald's in a nearby casino for a late night snack.
They then dropped me off a my motel.
The next day, Saturday, I spent gambling with the ladies. I was lucky
to find a good nickel slot (the only gambling games I play) on which I was
able to play for many hours on a small investment. Shortly after midnight we
left the nearby casino and returned to the motel for the night.
Also on Saturday we contacted some old friends who lived just outside of
town. They came to the casino to play for awhile and invited us to visit the
next morning on our way out of town.
Sunday morning after checking out of our motel we headed out of town
toward the community of Henderson in which our friends lived. After visiting
for awhile in their home they took us to their favorite local
casino/restaurant for lunch and a little more gambling. They played their
favorite video poker machines while we again stuck to the slots.
After returning to their house we got in our van to begin the trip home.
After around six or seven hours of driving (including a stop for dinner) we
arrived back in our home town.
All in all we had a very enjoyable trip and I am glad that I finally got
to view "the world's largest pinball collection".
Eight years ago a father and son who both collected pinballs and lived
in the Sacramento, California area - Walt and Jerry Schlinker - decided to
have a weekend "pinball party". They invited pinball players and collectors
they knew in the Northern California area to their home for a day of pinball
Their endeavor proved to be a lot of fun so they tried it again the
following year; this time there was a larger attendance. Well, in another
year or so their "annual event" grew too large for their homes so they
decided to rent a small hall. I don't know the exact story of this since I
have not attended any past "Pinathons" (as they decided to call their
events), but that's about how the story goes, I believe.
In addition to Pinathon attendees playing pinball for fun, and visiting
with each other, the Schlinkers even had a pinball tournament with prizes
connected with the event. By this year the event had grown quite a bit and
featured two tournaments - one played on electro-mechanical games (like their
first tournaments) and one for solid-state pin players.
So much for history; now to my attendance of my first Pinathon. By the
way, I want to make it clear that I have always wanted to attend this event
ever since it first started (and have always been invited), but it usually
was about a month after I took my annual vacation in the same general area
(actually Reno, Nevada) and just couldn't make another trip so soon.
This year, as I said earlier, I was unable to attend the Wild West
Pinball Fest in Arizona, so I decided that I definitely wanted to finally
attend Pinathon. But, as I also said earlier, I could not drive there. So
I decided to ask my good friend and "pinball buddy" Ron Tyler (who had not
yet been able to attend any such event) if he would like to go and, of
course, drive. He agreed and we made plans to go.
Since the show was officially scheduled to start (for exhibit set-up,
etc.) at noon on Friday we decided to leave at around 6 AM that morning.
During our trip up Interstate '5' we stopped at all it's rest stops for brief
periods and once for lunch. We arrived at our motel at around 2 PM but our
room was not ready for occupancy. We decided to drive the 15 or so miles to
the Fairgrounds where the show was held and get our motel keys that evening
when we returned.
When we arrived at the show site and checked in, the set-up of many of
the exhibitors (and games for display and playing) was in progress. We
shortly ran into my old friend Sam Harvey and began chatting with him. We
then began checking out the games that were set up and what the dealers who
were already there had for sale.
I also began taking photos of the pingames I did not already have in my
large photo collection (numbering over 800 games at that time). Before the
show finally ended I had photographed a little over 20 pins that I did not
have photos of. It was amazing to me that there were so many I did not have.
While roaming the hall I met several interesting people I had never met
before, plus many old "pin friends". At one point I overheard one young lady
telling someone how she liked the artwork of pinball artist from the 1960's
Jerry Kelley who used a modernistic art style. I told her that I knew Mr.
Kelley (from my pinball Expo visits) and gave her his address in Chicago in
case she would like to communicate with him.
Another person I met was a young man who liked the "bingo" gambling type
pingames. I spent quite some time talking with him as those machines are
also interesting to me. When he told me he was looking for bingo pingames of
1970's vintage I told him I would send him a list of some "bingo people" I
knew about who might be able to help him in his quest.
Around 5 PM we were getting hungry and went outside to an area where
they had a small barbecue dinner to purchase. We sat at a picnic table under
a tree to eat. While we were eating my good friend Richard Conger from
Sebastopol California joined us. Richard has one of the largest pingame
collections in the country, numbering somewhere over 500 machines at this
time, I believe.
After dinner we spent a few more hours roaming the exhibit area, seeing
the new games which were being brought out, and visiting with more great
"pinball people". My friend Ron purchased a couple new coin-op books which
were for sale there. A little later we left the hall and drove back to our
motel for the night.
Saturday morning after we got up Ron and I went for a brisk walk around
the nice residential neighborhood adjacent to the motel. We then walked to
the restaurant across the street for breakfast. After that we got in the car
and drove back to the Fairgrounds.
We again entered the hall where the show was held. There were a lot
more people there than the previous evening. But, I also eventually
discovered that a few of the people I met the previous afternoon were no
longer attending, apparently having commitments elsewhere that day.
I continued my roaming and visiting but also went on photographing the
games that had been added since we left the previous night which I did not
have photos of. There were quite a few new pingames set up since the
Around noon we discovered that there was a nice spaghetti lunch
available in an area between the main part of the hall and the other section
reserved for tournament players. I decided to partake and the homemade dish
was pretty good. The Pinathon promoters did a pretty good job of providing
food for Pinathon visitors!
As far as the tournament was concerned, there were actually two going
on. One was played on electro-mechanical games for those who preferred the
older games, with a separate tournament on solid-state pins for those more
familiar with the more modern machines.
I am not really a player and did not participate in either one, but for
those who did (a large percentage of the people attending) it was one of the
highlights of the event - especially because the winners of each tournament
would receive a pingame.
Now to the games! There were just over 100 pingames on display in the
hall according to my count. There were a surprising number of 1940's vintage
pins at this show - very different from many of the other shows I have
attended in the past several years.
There was also a very interesting German pingame (or "bomber", as
pingames are called in Germany). It was called GLOCKENBOMBER and made by a
company called Tura.
GLOCKENBOMBER had 16 "spring bumpers" on it's playfield and a short
backboard containing a "score totalizer" very reminiscent of the "score
reels" used on many pins over a decade later. This game was to me
reminiscent of the first bumper game - Bally's BUMPER from December 1936.
A count of the pingames from the various decades showed 7 pins from the
1930's (mostly for display only - not for sale, that is); 9 from the 1940's
(most for sale by one dealer); and only 5 from the 1950's.
There were 19 games from the 1960's. From the 1970's there were 32
electro-mechanicals plus 12 solid-state models. Rounding out the solid-state
pins, there were 14 from the 1980's, and 10 from the current decade.
The following is a chronological listing of the pingames at the show:
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PINGAMES AT PINATHON '95
NFS - NOT FOR SALE
GAME MANUFACTURER YEAR PRICE
WORLD SERIES Rockola 1933 NFS
CONTACT JR. Pamco 1934
DROP KICK Exhibit 1934 NFS
BUILDER UPPER G.M. Labs 1935 NFS
CHICAGO EXPRESS Daval 1935 NFS
GLOCKENBOMBER (German) Tura 1938 325
JUMPER Exhibit 1939
SKYLINE Chicago Coin 1940 150
FIVE AND TEN Gottlieb 1941 150
MIAMI BEACH Gottlieb 1941 375
SURF QUEENS Bally 1946 175
HONEY Genco 1947 150
SILVER STREAK Bally 1947 175
TORCHY Williams 1947 225
TORNADO Williams 1947 450
COLLEGE DAZE Gottlieb 1949 600/TRADE
BE-BOP Exhibit 1950 1400
CIRCUS (BINGO) United 1952 NFS
QUARTETTE Gottlieb 1952 OFFER/TRADE
AUTO RACE Gottlieb 1956 NFS
BALLS-A-POPPIN' Bally 1956 NFS
KING PIN Williams 1962 NFS
RACK-A-BALL Gottlieb 1962 NFS
SUNSET Gottlieb 1962 375
TROPIC ISLE Gottlieb 1962 1095
BEAT THE CLOCK Williams 1963 600/TRADE
SQUARE HEAD (AAB) Gottlieb 1963 1125
STAR-JET Bally 1963 200
SAN FRANCISCO Williams 1964
BANK-A-BALL Gottlieb 1965 625
KINGS AND QUEENS Gottlieb 1965 NFS
SKYLINE Gottlieb 1965 1050
CAPERSVILLE Bally 1966 600
FULL HOUSE Williams 1966
SING ALONG Gottlieb 1967
SURFERS Bally 1967
DOMINO Gottlieb 1968 NFS
ROYAL GUARD Gottlieb 1968
SPIN-A-CARD Gottlieb 1969 795
TARGET POOL Gottlieb 1969
AQUARIUS Gottlieb 1970 NFS
CARD TRIX (AAB) Gottlieb 1970 950
DOUBLE UP Bally 1970 NFS
FLIP-A-CARD Gottlieb 1970 500/OBO
JIVE TIME Williams 1970 250
2001 Gottlieb 1971 NFS
LAWMAN Gottlieb 1971
SOLIDS AND STRIPES Williams 1971 345
FLYING CARPET Gottlieb 1972 PRIZE
NIP-IT Bally 1972 NFS
HIGH HAND Gottlieb 1973
KING PIN Gottlieb 1973 NFS
AIR ACES Bally 1974 NFS
BOW AND ARROW Bally 1974 350,OBO
DUOTRON Gottlieb 1974
SKY JUMP Gottlieb 1974 500/OBO
SKY LAB Williams 1974 395/OBO
TRIPLE ACTION Williams 1974 NFS
WIZARD Bally 1974 1100
HIGH DEAL Bally 1975 600/OBO
KICK OFF Bally 1975
STAR POOL Williams 1975 795
TOP SCORE Gottlieb 1975 295
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC Bally 1976 795
NIGHT RIDER Bally 1976 NFS
PLAYBOY Bally 1976
SPIRIT OF '76 Gottlieb 1976 400
BRONCO Gottlieb 1977 550
CENTIGRADE 37 Gottlieb 1977 800
LIBERTY BELL Williams 1977
POWER PLAY Bally 1977 500
SUPER SPIN Gottlieb 1977
TARGET ALPHA Gottlieb 1977
DISCO FEVER Williams 1978
DRAGON Gottlieb 1978
HIT THE DECK Gottlieb 1978 NFS
JOKER POKER Gottlieb 1978
KISS Bally 1978 NFS
SINBAD Gottlieb 1978
STRANGE WORLD Gottlieb 1978
WORLD CUP Williams 1978 500
ASPEN Brunswick 1979
FLASH Williams 1979 75, 550
GORGAR Williams 1979
ALIEN POKER Williams 1980
BLACKOUT Williams 1980 500
FIREPOWER Williams 1980 550
NINE BALL Stern 1980
CENTAUR Bally 1981
BABY PAC MAN Bally 1982
BMX Bally 1982 NFS
WARLOCK Williams 1982 1250
FIREPOWER II Williams 1983
HIGH SPEED Williams 1986
PINBOT Williams 1986
FIRE! Williams 1987 1000/OBO
LASER WAR Data East 1987 650
HOT SHOTS Gottlieb 1989
DINER Williams 1990
FUN HOUSE Williams 1990
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Data East 1990 1300
ADDAMS FAMILY (GOLD) Bally 1991
U.S.A. FOOTBALL Alvin G. 1992 NFS
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON Bally 1993
GUNS 'N ROSES Data East 1994 NFS
STARGATE Gottlieb 1994 SHOW
BAYWATCH Data East 1995
NO FEAR Williams 1995? NFS
During the show a sad incident occurred. The dealer who had most of the
1940's pins at the show (including the German "bomber") ran out of bolts when
attaching the backboxes to his games. As a result one game, Chicago Coin's
1940 pin SKYLINE, had to sit on the floor - both the main cabinet and the
Sometime on Saturday one of the people at the show accidentally bumped
into the backbox standing on the floor, knocking it over and shattering it's
beautiful, probably non-replaceable, backglass. This glass had a great "city
of the future" type scene reminiscent of the artistic favorite of mine in my
collection, Genco's METRO from same year. A very sad event indeed!
Now to a much more pleasant subject. When I attended the Wild West
Pinball Fest in Arizona over a year ago I met a young couple, Larry and Terry
Stathatos of Escondito, California, who brought their then 10 week old baby,
Jennifer, to the show with them. Well, that family was also at the Pinathon
and Jennifer was now over a year old, walking and talking a little - quite a
change from the first time I saw her.
On Saturday afternoon the winners of the best pingame restoration for
various age classes of pingames were announced - all attendees having
previously had a chance to vote on ballots provided them when they registered
for the show. The prize for the best 1950's class went to Jim Tolbert of For
Amusement Only of Berkeley, California for his fine restoration job on
Exhibit's BE-BOP of 1950 - a game I once owned many years ago.
After announcement of the winners of the best restored games, Ron and I
talked it over and decided that we had seen everything there was to see in
the past two days. I then suggested that since we were so close to one of my
wife and I's favorite cities, Reno, Nevada, that maybe we could take a short
diversion and spend a short evening there.
Ron, having never been to Reno, I believe, agreed to the plan and we
left the show around 4 PM. We then got on the Interstate '80' freeway and
began the approximately 100 mile drive across the Donner Pass to Reno.
When we later stopped for a few minutes at the Donner Summit (Elevation
approximately 7200 ft.) rest stop we noticed that we were walking by 10 to 12
ft. high walls of piled up snow to get to the rest stop building from our
parking spot. We then continued down the hill to Reno, arriving between 5
and 6 PM as I remember.
I decided that we would go to one of our favorite Reno casinos,
Fitzgerald's, for dinner and a short spree of slot machine gambling. After
having the car parked in their valet parking, we proceed upstairs to their
restaurant (Molly's Garden) and had a nice reasonably priced dinner.
When we finished eating I got twenty dollars in nickels, giving each of
us half. We decided to play the slots until these were gone and then go back
to California. It took about an hour to play our money (not really bad for
a little "coin operated amusement") at which time we went downstairs to
retrieve our car. We both enjoyed this little interlude.
After we got our car (around 9 PM) we began the return trip over the
pass to the Sacramento area. We arrived back at our motel around 11 PM and
retired for the night.
On Sunday morning we got up around 8 AM to begin our trip home. Before
breakfast we again took a walk in the nice shady neighborhood nearby. After
breakfast we started the drive home. With another stop later in the
afternoon for lunch, we arrived home around 6 PM that evening.
In conclusion I would like to say that both Ron and I had a real
enjoyable visit to our first Pinathon and I was glad I was finally able to
attend one of these fine get-togethers. I hope I will be able to attend
Pinathon '96 next year!