PINBALL EXPO '95 (PART 1)
(The year of SUNSHINE)
by Russ Jensen
Well, for the eleventh year in a row pinball fans from all over the
country, and other countries as well, were treated to the "king of all
pinball shows" the Pinball Expo. I have been lucky enough to attend all of
the past shows, but this year for awhile I was unsure whether I could attend.
In the past there has usually been some sort of airline "fare war"
around Expo time, but this year no such luck. Also, the price of admission
to the show, and the room rates at the Ramada O'Hare where show is held, have
been constantly increasing (each close to $100 now - in fact the hotel room
plus tax is slightly over that amount). On top of that the length of the
show has also increased in the past couple years. That requires a five night
stay at the hotel if you want to participate in all Expo events.
I had just about decided I could not really afford to go this year when
two things happened. First, my wife won a good amount at bingo about a month
before the show and offered to give me $200 to help with my air fare. And,
at about the same time, my friend Sam Harvey paid me in advance for something
he was going to buy from me because he had heard that I might not be going to
the show. Using this money, plus a $25 air fare discount certificate
(resulting from a past air fare fixing class action lawsuit) I was able to
buy my plane ticket for about $50 additional funds. I still had to dip into
my savings to pay for my share of the room and food, however, but I decided
to do it one more time.
Before actually buying my ticket and making hotel reservations I
verified with my Expo roommate for the past several years, John Cassidy, that
he would again share the expensive hotel room with me. After verifying that,
I purchased my airline ticket, and a few days later made our room
Early the morning before the show, Wednesday October 25, 1995, my
daughter Cheri drove me to the Hollywood/Burbank airport in time for my 6 AM
flight. I had to change planes in San Francisco but the trip was uneventful.
When I arrived at O'Hare airport I took the hotel bus to the Ramada O'Hare
arriving around 4 PM.
When checking into the hotel I was told that my roommate had arrived
earlier that day, but when I got to the room he was not there. I had dinner
alone and went back to the room to watch TV. Later that evening my roommate
came back to the room and later we had dessert with a couple other friends.
Thursday morning (the first day of Expo events) we had breakfast and
then picked up our show registration packets. A little while later we all
boarded busses (actually old school busses - and on the day after the tragic
Chicago area train/school bus accident) for the first Expo event, a tour of
the Lenc-Smith manufacturing plant where cabinets and playfields were made
for Williams and Bally games.
While riding the bus I sat with a young man from Philadelphia who told -
me one of the games he owned was a Williams FRESHIE made in 1947. I told him
that there were three sets of initials (in "lover's hearts" on a picket fence
in the backglass art) which were the initials of three of the factory "big
shots" and their wives, or in one case a daughter. While telling him whose
initials these were I discovered that I had forgotten one of them. I tried
several times during the show to get that information, but I'm still trying.
When we arrived at the plant we were ushered inside and told that
everyone would have to wear "safety glasses" during the tour which we were
then issued. Since we had to break up into several tour groups, those who
had to wait a few minutes were allowed to play some new pingames which were
in the "staging area".
The guide for the group I was in introduced himself as Joe and we began
our tour. The first place we were shown was an area where new wood (which
came in from a receiving dock) was stored and which would be used to make the
various game (both pinball and video) cabinets and pinball playfields. After
going through an area where plywood was sawed to the proper size, we went
into a cabinet assembly area. Our guide told us that the assembly of
electronic parts was done at another plant in Waukegan, Illinois.
Our guide then told us that 3/4 inch plywood was used for the cabinets,
which was first primered. After that, we saw the cabinet artwork being
screened onto the cabinet sides by large machines made by a foreign
manufacturer called Sveci. We were then told that an ultra-violet "curing"
process was used on video game cabinets, but not on pinballs. The cabinets
were then dried in ovens overnight. We were also shown the actual silk
screens which were used.
After being told that the general flow of work was toward the back of
the plant, we were taken to the milling department. This was where the edges
of wooden parts were processed. We were next shown the Shoda numerical
control machines which were used to cut all holes in the playfields
automatically, including the cut-outs on the edges. We next saw how the
plastic "inserts" are put into the playfields and glued. A "Y-Belt" sander
was then used to "level" the plastic inserts to the level of the playfield.
We were told this process was so accurate that only about one percent of the
inserts had to be replaced because they were not level.
Next we went through a video game cabinet assembly area. We saw how
the parts of the cabinet were pressed together and glued. We were then shown
a "boring machine" which made the holes for bolts as needed. The cabinets
were then sprayed and cleaned.
Our guide told us that the pinball backboxes were made in a similar
fashion to the cabinets in another area of the factory, and that sometimes
decals were used on the backboxes instead of ink spraying. We were also told
about the "sawdust collectors" on the roof of the plant.
When he was asked if they ever went back into production on a previous
game, our guide answered that this occasionally happens, but that it was
almost the same as starting up for a new game. He then remarked that they
always used real wood, and that the wooden components were the cheapest part
of a game. The last thing our guide told us was that they also made cabinets
for "shuffle alleys". As we left the plant we were offered "gifts" of game
posters and a small bag of plastic flipper buttons.
Once outside the plant we had to wait a half-hour or more for our busses
to return. During that time I visited with several of the other Expo
attendees. When our bus returned we were taken back to the hotel where we
had lunch and waited for the next Expo event which was scheduled for 2:30.
THE HARVEY HEISS VIDEO
One of the great old-timers who appeared at several of the first Expos
was long-time Genco designer Harvey Heiss (one of my favorite Expo
presenters). For the past several years Harvey's health has been such that
it was impossible for him to make the trip to Chicago from his retirement
home in Florida. Sometime during the past year, however, Expo producer Rob
Berk had traveled to Florida and interviewed Harvey on video tape.
After everyone had assembled Rob introduced his presentation which he
said was something he had wanted to do for some time. He first told us of
Harvey's ill health, remarking that he was somewhere between 85 and 87 years
old now. Rob then introduced Harvey's old friend and Genco co-worker Steve
Kordek which drew a round of applause.
Steve began by remarking that his experience working at Genco with
Harvey initiated him into the pinball business. Prior to working in the
industry Steve told us that he had been in the Forrest Service. After
working in forestry for several years, he was asked to attend a special
school in Idaho. Steve said he really didn't want to go to Idaho so he went
to Chicago to visit relatives and look for another job. This was in April
1937, he continued, and then told of ducking into a doorway to get out of the
rain and ending up working at Genco.
Steve then told us that when he ducked into Genco's doorway a lady asked
him if he was looking for a job, when she found out he could do soldering he
was given a job on the assembly line. Steve then commented that he had a
background in electricity and after a month or so this allowed him to
transfer into Engineering to work under Harvey. From Harvey, Steve told us,
he learned all about pinball design, including playfield layout, and also how
to design "conservatively". He then remarked that Harvey had been with the
company since 1928 and has never been given the credit he deserves.
Steve then told a little more about Harvey's early accomplishments. He
said that as soon as pinballs started "coming in" Harvey started designing
them. In 1934, he went on, Harvey designed a game called SPIT FIRE (one of
which we were told was in the Exhibit Hall) which used two "wire forms" on
it's playfield - similar to those used in modern machines.
Finally, Steve said he was really looking forward to seeing the video,
adding that he had no idea what Harvey was going to say. He then said that
he would have more comments after the tape was played. At that point Rob
Berk said he hoped we all would enjoy the video, quipping that it was "G-
rated". Rob then started the tape.
Rob Berk began the taped interview by saying that they were in Harvey's
home. He then asked Harvey to tell of his history in the pingame industry
from the 1930's through the late 1950's when he left Genco and went to
Florida? Rob then asked Harvey where he wanted to start?
Harvey began by telling of working in a combination machine shop,
foundry, and dye works beginning in the late 1920's, working there for eight
years during which time he said he "did everything". Rob then interrupted,
telling Harvey that he wanted him to start when he went to work at the Genco
Harvey then told how a man from Genco came to the foundry to get them to
make some parts, etc., for the "novelty games" they were building. One day,
he went on, he was asked to come to Genco and show them how they could use
dyes, etc., in the fabrication of their products. At that time, Harvey then
told us, Genco was making "counter games" such as the upright game SPIRAL
GOLF in which he participated in the design. Harvey then said that he also
designed other counter games. When they later expanded their plant, he told
us, they hired him full time.
Rob Berk then asked Harvey what his job was when he was first hired at
Genco? Harvey answered that it was designing games - first counter games,
then pingames. When Rob then asked Harvey if he was Genco's first pingame
designer, he answered that he was. Harvey was then asked by Rob if he also
designed baseball games, gun games, etc., while he worked for Genco? He
answered "yes, anything in their line, even 'roll-downs' later on", adding
that pinball was his specialty.
At that point Harvey commented that he designed the first pingame to use
steel vice glass balls. He then told of designing Genco's SILVER CUP in 1933
which had a simple "score totalizer" and was the first pingame to use
castings, an idea stemming from his foundry background. The next of his
early games Harvey mentioned was PONTIAC, which came out the next year, and
which he said was similar to SILVER CUP, but employing larger castings.
Harvey then told how on that game the ball went completely around the
playfield before entering into play.
Harvey said that a little later he started using "plastics" and "rubber
bands", and later batteries to operate simple action devices. At that point
he started talking about electrically operated pingames. We were then told
by Harvey that in the mid-1930's the industry "went electric", first using
batteries, then "house current". He then told us that Genco was the only
company to stick to D.C. operation of action components. When World War II
came, Harvey then remarked, Genco games were the most in demand because of
their use of D.C..
When the plant ceased pingame production because of the "wartime ban",
Harvey told us that two brothers who had worked on their assembly line
started gathering up Genco pingames and "converting" them into new games in
a factory about a half-block away. At night during the war years Harvey said
he would help the boys out in their endeavor.
Harvey then told us that in doing the "conversion" they would remove
everything from the playfield, scrape off the paint, and repaint with new
artwork. He then commented that they used the same artist, famed pingame
artist Roy Parker, to do the new art. When finished, Harvey then commented,
the games "looked like new". After telling us that the boys "saved every
part they could get their hands on from the Genco games", Harvey added that
he couldn't remember what happened to those boys after the war.
Going back to the start of the wartime ban, Harvey told us that the
plant closed on a Friday night and by Monday everyone was out of work. But,
he continued, since the bosses knew quite a bit about "electrical work" it
was fairly easy for them to get into "war work". Harvey then remarked "I
never will forget one job we had during the war!"
Harvey then told us that one of the big electrical companies was having
trouble with a Government contract they held to produce a 175 foot long
complex radio "aerial" which was made up of seven sections (connected
together using connectors), each for a different frequency. He told us that
their company was delivered seven truckloads of "junk" (Government "rejects")
and asked to fix them.
Harvey proceeded to tell how he accomplished the task. He said he had
each section more precisely measured by laying them out between pegs on a
table. Using this technique resulted, Harvey told us, in no more than a 2
inch error in the total 175 foot length. He then remarked that the engineers
from the company who originally made them were amazed that he could achieve
We were then told about the assembly line Harvey set up to do the task.
Harvey said it consisted of seven "stations". When the girl at a station
finished her task she would press a buzzer to signal the girl at the next
station to take the item for the next step. He said that the girls speeded
up their work a great deal after practice.
Harvey then told us that when it looked like the war was coming to an
end he would secretly sneak into the factory stock room and start working on
"roll-down" games which used wooden balls. He then named three of those
games which they started producing when the war ended: TOTAL ROLL, BINGO
ROLL, and ADVANCE ROLL.
Harvey then told us that one of the Gensberg brothers (owners of Genco)
was in California at that time and was friends with Howard Hughes. He then
remarked that right after the war it was very hard to get lumber. But, due
to this friendship, Howard Hughes gave Genco left over mahogany lumber from
his famous "Spruce Goose" project to use in making cabinets for their "roll-
down" games. This wood, Harvey continued, was loaded onto an airplane in
California and flown to Chicago and then off-loaded onto trucks and taken to
the Genco factory, and eventually to the cabinet companies who did their
cabinet fabrication. The plane, he then told us, went back to California to
get more wood.
When Genco was again allowed to make games after the war, Harvey told us
that they were the first company to get games on the market! Harvey next
described their roll-down game ADVANCE ROLL. He told us that the playfield
had a "bingo hole" layout, and when you rolled the wooden ball to the back of
the field (and missed all the holes) there had to be a way to kick the ball
back toward the front of the game. To accomplish this, Harvey went on, he
used a solenoid powered bar to push the ball back which was energized by the
player pushing a button. This, he then remarked, was "really the first
flipper", but pinball historians don't credit him for that, giving credit
instead to Harry Mabs and Gottlieb's HUMPTY DUMPTY, which he said came out
two years later.
At that point Rob Berk asked Harvey to tell how Steve Kordek came to
work at Genco? Harvey said he could not remember which game they were making
at that time, but that Steve was out of work with the "corps" (Forestry
Service) and looking for a job. Harvey continued with the story, telling how
Steve stepped into the doorway at Genco to get out of the rain, and when Dave
Gensberg found out he was looking for a job he hired him. Harvey then said
that Steve began working on the assembly line, but when he got to know all of
the parts of a game he took him into the "designing room".
Rob Berk then asked Harvey "were you the designer there, and Steve
worked for you? When Harvey answered "yes", Rob asked him if there were any
other designers at Genco at that time? Harvey answered that there was one
fellow whose name he could not remember. He then told us that that fellow
tried to use A.C. in his designs, his first game being a failure because of
that. Harvey then commented that they stuck to D.C. at Genco because it was
"smooth current". A.C., he went on, was "hard" on components such as
kickers, flippers, etc., adding that each year better selenium rectifiers
Rob Berk next asked Harvey what he did after he left Genco in the mid-
1950's? Harvey answered that he went to work for a fellow named Bert Lane
who had been an East Coast distributor for Genco. He then told the story of
how that happened.
Harvey said that he hadn't taken a vacation during his last four years
at Genco, and finally decided to go to Florida for a visit. While there, he
continued, he looked up Bert Lane who took him to see his plant. At that
time, Harvey then told us, Bert had an order to produce 1000 5-horse Merry-
Go-Rounds. Bert then offered Harvey a job. Harvey said that he went back to
Genco and quit after 22 years! Harvey then commented that he was glad to get
out as things at Genco were beginning to get "rough" at the time. He then
told how Steve Kordek later quit Genco and eventually got jobs for himself
and three fellow employees with another outfit.
At that point Rob asked Harvey to tell about "PEPPY THE CLOWN"? Harvey
said that he started with Bert Lane designing "bumper pool tables" at first,
but Bert wanted to get into "arcade equipment". Harvey then said he designed
a "digger" (truck and crane game) which they sold to Williams. He then told
us that this resulted in him going to Williams in Chicago to help them put it
into production. When he got there, Harvey went on, Williams had made
changes to his original design. He then said that the same thing happened
We were then told that Harvey's original design for PEPPY THE CLOWN
employed pneumatic devices, resulting in eight possible movements of the
"puppet". He said that Williams changed it to use electro-magnets instead,
which resulted in jerkier movements of the puppet, but he said the game was
a success in spite of that! When Rob then asked who came up with the name
PEPPY THE CLOWN, Harvey answered it was he. Rob next asked Harvey if he had
anything else to share with the Pinball Expo audience? Harvey replied that
he couldn't think of anything right then.
It sounded like that was going to be all, but Harvey all of a sudden
began talking again. He then told us that he had lots of fun designing games
and everything, adding that it was nothing in those days for him to get up at
2 AM with an idea for a game, it being easier to concentrate then.
Harvey then told us that they made their own electrical components
(relays, etc.) at Genco, many of which he himself designed. He then said
that when a relay started causing problems they would often ask him to look
It was often the manufacturing machinery (punch presses, etc) that was
the source of the problem Harvey then told us. He said that he would usually
clean the equipment thoroughly because grease on it would get into the relay
points and cause the relay to malfunction after awhile. Harvey then remarked
that people would think he was "crazy" to clean the equipment to solve a
relay problem, but that this was just part of the knowledge he accumulated
over the years that others just didn't understand.
Rob Berk then asked Harvey if he was involved in naming the games he
designed? Harvey answered "most of the time, yes", adding that often the
name came first, then the design. Rob then asked who did the artwork for
Harvey answered that it was generally Roy Parker who worked for a
company called "Reproductions" that also did art for Gottlieb. He then told
us that Roy also did the art for the "conversions" done during the war by the
"boys" he had previously mentioned. "Another thing", Harvey then remarked,
"I was making $35/day at Genco during the war and working for the 'boys' at
night". He then told us that a lawyer who represented those boys was also
associated with the Dormeyer Company, the well-known kitchen equipment
The lawyer, Harvey continued, told some people at Dormeyer about his
designing prowess and he was given an interview at the company. Harvey then
told us that he always read FORTUNE magazine in those days, and had read an
article regarding a new type of gear design. He then began telling about his
interview at Dormeyer.
Harvey told us that all during his interview the interviewer had
something in his hand which he was constantly rubbing. When the interview
was about over, Harvey continued, the man handed the item to him and it was
a gear. As soon as the gear was handed to him Harvey said he could tell it
was the same type he had previously read about in FORTUNE. He then said he
told his interviewer exactly how it was fabricated by "stamping" rather than
"machining". After that, Harvey then told us, the man stood there with his
mouth open. They were planning to use it in their products Harvey said. He
then told us that the man told him "you're hired! Report for work on
Harvey said that he then went to Genco and told them he would be
quitting in two weeks, and that the bosses told him "no, you can't go, you're
like part of the family!" He then said that when he was packing up his
things to leave Dave Gensberg, who had been in California, came to the plant
for a meeting. At that meeting, Harvey then told us, the Gensberg brothers
got together and decided to offer to double his salary if he would stay.
Harvey said "that did it!" He then told us that he had never told that story
to anyone before.
When Rob Berk again tried to end the interview, Harvey again said he had
"another thing" he wanted to tell about. He then started talking of the coin
machine conventions in the past, saying that he always had a new game in
production when convention time came around. Other companies, he went on,
took orders for new games at the show and then went into production
Rob Berk then ended the interview by wishing Harvey "all the best".
When the tape ended Steve Kordek came back up. After remarking that it
was nice to hear Harvey again, he then joked that Harvey was older than him
and was certainly his "inspiration". Steve then told us that he wanted to
comment on several "items" covered on the video.
First, Steve said, was that the 1934 SPIT FIRE game also used metal
"castings". Next he said that he wanted to say a little about the conversion
of most pingames from D.C. (battery) power to A.C.. Steve told us that at
Genco they never went to A.C. operated "action components", but continued
using D.C. through the use of selenium rectifiers. He said that Genco was
the only company to do that. One of the reasons for using D.C. Steve told us
was that they could control a relay's "drop-out delay" easily.
Steve next reitterateded what Harvey had said about Genco during "the
war years". He said that Harvey was indeed involved in redesigning radio
antennas for Army Ordinance when the original contractor had problems getting
their products accepted by the Government. Steve said that Harvey found out
that the problem had to do with maintaining length tolerances of each section
of the antenna. He then told how Harvey used pegs on a table to mark the
proper length required for each section.
The next item Steve discussed was the production of "roll-down" games at
Genco after the war. He said that the company just couldn't produce them
fast enough and that they had three cabinet companies (two in Chicago and one
in Wisconsin) making the cabinets. Steve then confirmed the fact that Howard
Hughes provided lumber which he had left over from his "Spruce Goose"
Steve's next subject was the end of Genco. He said that the three
Gensberg brothers who owned the company made much money selling pinballs over
the years. But in the early 1950's, he went on, they decided to go into
another area and with two other people went to Las Vegas and build that
city's first "high rise" hotel/casino, The Riviera. Steve then commented
that this caused the brothers' interest in Genco to wane and they let some of
their relatives who worked for Chicago Coin (which was owned by another
Gensberg brother) take over Genco. This, Steve then told us, caused problems
at Genco because the new people were not familiar with the way the company
We were next told by Steve that at about that time Harvey told him he
was going to quit Genco ("leave the sinking ship"), but that he himself
decided to stay until the company closed. When he finally left, Steve then
told us, he had three good friends who also needed jobs - a mechanical
engineer, an electrical engineer, and a "production man".
We were then told that Steve tried to get all of them a job at the same
place. He said he first went to Seeberg with no luck, and then to his friend
Lyn Durrant at United who said his company was having some problems and could
not hire the other guys. Steve said he decided to "pass". Finally, Steve
told us, he went to see his old friend Bill O'Donnell at Bally. After
telling Bill he had to have jobs for all four of them, Bill said "OK" and
they were hired.
Steve then told us of how several years later designer Harry Mabs (the
inventor of the flipper) was retiring from Williams, and company president
Sam Stern needed a new chief designer and offered Steve the job at a very
good salary. When Steve then told Bill O'Donnell he wanted to leave, he said
that Bill told him "OK, but the other three have to stay". He then commented
that the other guys retired from Bally many years later.
Steve's final story about Harvey dealt with Harvey's boat. He said that
when Harvey was single he owned a sailboat, and that he enjoyed sailing with
Harvey. In the Fall, Steve went on, Harvey would remove the mast from his
boat and tie it on top of his Oldsmobile convertible - it hanging over by 20
feet at each end of the car - so he could transport it to the plant to
refinish it during the Winter. Steve then said that the people at the plant
jokingly threatened to cut it in two.
Steve then reiterated that Harvey has never been given credit for all he
has done for the industry, adding that maybe someday someone would start a
museum of Harvey's games. He then asked if anyone had any questions?
The first question asked was who were the two guys Harvey said in the
video were doing "conversions" of pingames during World War II? When Steve
answered that he thought one of their names started with "P", someone in the
audience suggested that they might have been an outfit called "P and S".
The next question was what was the last Genco pingame? Steve said he
couldn't remember, but he thought it was made in either 1957 or 1958.
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: The game appears to have been SHOW BOAT in late 1957).
Someone next asked about Genco's award winning game SCREWBALL which came out
in 1948? Steve said it was designed by Harvey and was the first pingame
without either pop-bumpers or targets, just having "rebounds". He then told
us that that game made much money.
At that point Steve told everyone that he had been in the industry for
58 years and that he reused the names of some of the earlier Genco games on
games he later designed for Williams. He then commented that he came to
Williams (where he still works) in February 1960 and designed games for them
for eight or nine years before going into management.
Finally, someone asked Steve what his favorite pingame theme was? He
replied that it was probably "space", mentioning his FRIENDSHIP 7 and SPACE
MISSION games, the latter he said breaking all production records up to that
time. Steve's last comment was that he would love to get involved in the
programming of pingames. That ended the afternoon session.
"BUMPER BLAST" AND INTERNET GET-TOGETHER
This year there was a new added event for Expo attendees who wanted to
stay up late. It was an informal get-together which they called "The Bumper
Blast" which was scheduled to start at 11:30 PM. It was sort of an informal
'party' with light snacks and also included an opportunity for all interested
parties to take a peek at the pinball activity on the "INTERNET" world-wide
In order to allow people to see what was going on in "cyber-space", a
computer linked to the Internet was connected to two large monitors at the
front of the hall. I myself am a "computer person" but as yet have not gone
"on-line", but I have always been curious about Internet so was looking
forward to this little show. I was seated next to my good "Expo buddy" John
Campbell from West Virginia who has been active in cyber-space for quite some
time. He was very helpful in explaining to me what was going on during this
The "Internet tour" was conducted by Dave Marston from Connecticut, a
long-time pinball-computer activist. Dave explained to everyone what was
going on. Another pin/computer person, Greg Dunlap, operated the computer
sort of "behind the scene". After logging onto Internet the first thing we
went to was a list of pinball flyers which could be viewed. From that list
one flyer, that for Williams' recent pin NO FEAR, was "downloaded" into our
computer for viewing.
Next we went to an area which contained a database of pingame serial
numbers owned by different Internet users. After selecting a particular
game, the serial numbers of that machine were viewed. We were next shown how
you could count how many serials for a game were contributed by Internet
users in each country.
We next went to the "home page" of Expo visitor and presenter Ferderico
Croci from Italy (yes, we were then actually receiving information from a
computer overseas!). After seeing that Ferderico had graphics from his
favorite pingames available for viewing, we looked at his list of "favorite
links" to other's "pages". Using this we linked into the home page of
Chicago pingame designer John Popaduk. At that point Dave Marston told us
that members of the "Serial Number Working Group" were having a meeting in
the corner of the room while the presentation was going on. We then went
back to Federico's page and looked at some information on Bally's BOOT-A-BALL
which was made solely for Italian export in 1967.
After that we got into a pinball database and did a search for all
Williams pins put out in 1980. The information which came up listed the
theme of each game, who did the artwork, and where pictures of the game were
After bringing up an area which contained graphics of drop-target
decals, we went to a listing of pin designer Steve Ritchie's favorite games.
Then we went to the page of the newest pingame manufacturer, Capcom, which
contained publicity on their first game PINBALL MAGIC, which included a list
of graphic images of different parts of the game which could be viewed.
Following that, we logged onto the home page of someone known on the Net
as "The Pinball Wizard". From there we linked into a page containing
information on the PAPA pinball tournament held annually in New York City, as
well as information on other tournaments around the country. At that point
Dave Marston made the comment that sometimes when you attempt to access an
Internet "page" you might get a message saying "page under construction". We
then logged onto a page containing information on last year's Pinball Expo,
which even included a map of the Exhibit Hall floor.
After looking at a transcript of an on-line "chat" previously held with
pin designer Steve Ritchie, Rob Berk said that a representative of the new
company, Capcom, wanted to say a few words. The gentleman's name was David
Poole. David first told of their "home page" which we had viewed earlier,
saying that they would appreciate "feedback" from any Internet user. He then
told of problems they had getting playfield detail information "on-line".
After remarking that game "test locations" used to be secret, but now they
are disclosed on the Internet, he ended by telling us that their company
would try to give Net users an "early look" at forthcoming games.
At that point Dave Marston made a few remarks. First he told us that at
the present time there is no information on Sega games on the Net. Then he
remarked that pingame "sounds" are sometimes on the Net. He then told us
that we would do a little more "cruising".
We next looked at an area showing pingames for sale which offered a
Bally TWILIGHT ZONE, giving the Internet "address" of the seller, etc. We
then looked at an area showing pins wanted by users, one of which was
Williams' STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION which was wanted by three different
After looking at information regarding the current Expo, we viewed an
image of the 'whitewood' prototype of Bally's INDIANAPOLIS 500 which Dave
told us had been "uploaded" to the Net from a "digital camera". After that
we looked at a "tech info" area and saw a question submitted by a user
concerning pingame sound board problems.
The last thing done on the Net was that the computer operator started
writing an "on-line" article concerning what was happening that night. After
that he logged off of the Net. That ended the evening's entertainment.
Friday morning around 8:45 we all gathered in the lecture hall for the
start of the annual Expo seminars. The proceedings began with the Opening
Remarks by Expo co-producers Rob Berk and Mike Pacak.
Rob first got up and welcomed us all to the eleventh edition of Pinball
Expo. He then announced a small change to the seminar program, saying that
at 1 PM a video would be shown made by an English design student showing how
he designed and built a new game using parts from an existing pingame. After
that he announced a "Fireside Chat" with game designers Norm Clark, Steve
Kordek, and Wendall McAdams scheduled for that evening.
After asking for a show of hands of how many wanted fish for the banquet
dinner, Rob said that this year's Charity Auction would be a little different
than last year. He told us that anyone could attend or donate; not only
those who eat at the banquet. After reminding us of the designers, artists,
and authors autograph session on Saturday afternoon, Rob gave some scheduling
information regarding the "Flip-Out" pinball tournament which is held in
conjunction with each year's show. Rob then told us that the plant we toured
the previous day could produce custom-made wooden pinball legs at a cost of
Expo Exhibit Hall Chairman Mike Pacak then came up on stage and again
welcomed all to the show. He then commented that he never thought years ago
that the Expo would continue for this many years! After telling us that
lunch would be available in the lobby area near the Exhibit Hall at noon,
Mike reminded us of the game auction to be held on Saturday. He then told us
that (like last year) the Exhibit Hall would be open all night both Friday
and Saturday nights.
Finally, Mike asked for a show of hands to determine if next year's
banquet should be as in the past or served buffet style? The vote appeared
to be almost even. That ended the Opening Remarks.
THE MOST COLLECTABLE PINBALL MACHINES
Rob Berk then came back up to introduce the first seminar speaker Dick
Bueschel to do his presentation "The Most Collectable Pinball Machines (of
the Last 10 Years)". Rob described Dick as "an advocate of all coin-ops" and
"the historian of pinball".
Dick began by commenting on the Expo being up to it's eleventh year, but
saying that probably the second show paid for the first, etc.. He then
started telling of his projected series of 10 books covering pinball's
history, as well as illustrating/describing 1000 collectable pingames
covering all eras of pin production. Dick then joked that he would probably
be editing the tenth book "on his death bed".
After remarking that slot collectors collect primarily because of
historical interest, but pinball collectors are also players, Dick said there
were several things he wanted to do that morning. He then made the comment
that "the best pin ever" to most people is one they played as a kid, and that
for this reason it is hard to get a group of pin fans to decide on "the 100
Dick then told of asking several people (including this author) a few
years ago to each nominate "100 most collectable pinball machines". As a
result he said that Steve Young, Gordon Hasse, John Fetterman, and yours
truly each came up with their lists. Rob Hawkins, Dick went on, came up with
only 78, and a fellow named Bill Triola named 25 plus 9 more of "special
historical significance". From these Dick said he compiled a final list of
some 333 pingames.
We were then told by Dick that he tried to "weigh" this list by using
only those games which received more than one vote. This, he said, pared the
list down to 104. What was missing in that list, Dick then commented, were
games manufactured in the past 10 years. At that point he passed out to the
audience copies of his 104 game list which indicated how many votes each game
Dick next asked how many in the audience had computers, and a majority
of us indicated that we did. Then he started through the list he had just
passed out, making a few comments as he went concerning the games which got
the most votes. After again commenting that what was missing was the last
ten years, Dick remarked that most people think that he personally only likes
pingames from the 1930's. But, Dick told us, what he likes is "the ones I'm
currently working on."
At that point Dick asked people in the audience to nominate candidates
for the best pingames of the past ten years, and why they thought they were?
The first game chosen was Williams' 1984 game SPACE SHUTTLE which was the
game that "brought pinball back". Next came HIGH SPEED from the same
manufacturer in 1986 which was said to have ramps, etc., like most of the
later games. Also, it was pointed out, it was the first pin with a "flash-
lamp dome", and also was "fun to play".
The next nominations included: Bally ADDAMS FAMILY (1991) - had a
record production run; Bally ELVIRA (1989) - good graphics, etc.; Williams
FUN HOUSE (1990) - talking head and 2nd plunger; Williams BANZAI RUN (1988) -
vertical game in backbox; Williams FLASH (1979) - "wire forms" and "light
show"; Williams BLACK KNIGHT (1980) - two level playfield and "magna save";
Bally EIGHT BALL DELUXE (1980) - memory and good drop-targets; and Williams
GORGAR (1979) - first game with speech.
Further nominations included: Bally HARLEY DAVIDSON (1991) - low
production and went up in value because was collectable by cyclists; Stern
ORIBITOR (1982) - wavy playfield; Williams CYCLONE (1988) - only game of that
era without multi-ball; Williams PIN BOT (1986) - good "integrated design"
plus spawned two "follow-ons"; Williams SWORDS OF FURY (1988) - last
reasonably difficult game; Williams TAXI (1988) - translated skill into
difficulty, also Marilyn Monroe on early glasses; Bally FLASH GORDON (1980) -
digitized sound related to movie; Bally BLACKWATER 100 (1988) - last "Bally
Bally"; Bally XENON (1979) - first female voice; and Gottlieb DIAMOND LADY
(1988) - first designed by a pinball fan/player (Jon Norris).
Other games named, but without comments, were: Williams TERMINATOR II
(1991), Data East CHECKPOINT (1991), Bally CENTAUR (1981), Gottlieb HAUNTED
HOUSE (1982); Gottlieb BLACK HOLE (1981), Williams COMET (1985), Williams
WHITEWATER (1992), Williams EARTHSHAKER (1989), and Data East JURASSIC PARK
A final vote was then taken from a pared down version of the original
list (based on the previous vote). The top five games chosen (from 1st to
5th) were: Bally ADDAMS FAMILY (1991) - 37 votes; Bally EIGHT BALL DELUXE
(1980) - 23 votes; Bally TWILIGHT ZONE (1993) - 21 votes; Williams FUN HOUSE
(1990) - 19 votes; and Williams BLACK KNIGHT (1980) - 14 votes.
After the final results were tabulated Dick said we should look to see
what the top games had in common? First, he observed, most were made by
Williams (including their "Bally line"). In addition, he continued, they are
all fun to play (appealing to both novices and experts alike), and three of
the five were designed by Williams ace designer Pat Lawlor.
When Dick next asked the audience what they thought was the worst pin of
the last decade, the almost unanimous opinion was Williams 1993 game POPEYE.
Dick next thanked us for our help, commenting that this may be "a continuing
thing" at future Expos.
Dick then commented about his forthcoming pinball book, "Pinball 2". He
said it will be given to Steve Young for publication at the end of 1995, and
might be out around April or May of 1996. He then added that it was
"elegant" to work with Steve and Gordon Hasse in producing his book.
After telling us that the book will contain a picture of "a 1932 flipper
game", Dick told us that the book will have 16 pages in color. That drew a
round of applause and ended Dick's presentation.
Rob then introduced the speaker for the next seminar, "A Game Is Not a
Game Without Rules", ace Gottlieb pingame designer Jon Norris. When he then
listed several of Jon's great games, such as DIAMOND LADY (1987), VEGAS
(1990), and CUE BALL WIZARD (1992), it drew a round of applause.
After thanking Rob Berk and Mike Pacak for putting on a great show for
eleven years, Jon began giving us a synopsis of his employment history in the
industry. He began by telling us that he started with Premier (the current
maker of Gottlieb pingames) in 1986 on a "6 month trial basis", then
remarking that he barely passed his first review. Jon then told us that he
first served as an apprentice, working under two of their top designers John
Trudeau and Joe Kaminkow. At that time, he went on, he had only a little bit
to do with game "rules". He then said that his "first break" came about 6
months after he designed his first pingame DIAMOND LADY.
Jon continued, saying that John Trudeau was involved primarily with the
basic design of his games and not too much with the "rules". He then said
that the original prototype of their game EXCALIBUR, which came out in 1988,
was not too much fun to play so he asked for a crack at improving it. He
then told us that he was only allowed to change the "black line screen"
meaning that he couldn't change any of the colors. Jon said that he went
home one Friday and stayed up all weekend working on it.
When he went back to work Monday morning, Jon then told us, he had a
complete new rules set for the game which improved it. This he said showed
the company what he could do. Jon then commented that game rules used to be
decided in a meeting and that this wasn't a very good way to do it.
His next game, Jon then told us, was BAD GIRLS which also came out in
1988 and for which he did the rules himself, then commenting that games were
simpler in those days. Nowadays, he went on, he does rule sets under a 4 to
6 week deadline.
At that point Jon started explaining exactly what game "rules" were.
Going back to the 1950's, he used "bingo pinballs" to help explain. He said
that early bingos had just one card and all the player did was try to get the
balls into the proper holes to line up numbers on the card. Soon, Jon went
on, Bally started adding more and more extra features to their bingo games,
making them more complex as the years went by. He then told of the bingo "OK
Feature" of the early 1960's, which he said only experienced players could
Jon then commented that the point of this was that the only way to teach
a player the "rules" of a game is to have someone explain them to him.
Today, he went on, game rules are very complex and there's nobody to explain
them to the player.
At that point Jon told us that he was going to try a little audience
participation exercise involving game rules. He said he would provide the
rules for his 1992 game CUE BALL WIZARD and have us modify them to change the
game to an "ET - the Extra-terrestrial" game. Before he started that,
however, someone from the audience asked a question regarding "game
features". Jon's answer to that question involved a few minutes of
discussion, which was followed by another question regarding game "modes".
After more detailed comments from Jon on that subject he decided to abandon
his litter exercise and concentrate on answering questions from the audience.
The next question regarded the "modes" (sorry folks, but I don't know
much about these modern pingames) on Gottlieb's 1989 game LIGHTS, CAMERA,
ACTION which Jon then explained. Following that someone asked why certain
special game features (such as "Extra Ball") often only stay enabled for a
short time? In answer to that Jon began by saying that the designers
generally try to "balance" things out. At that point my friend Sam Harvey
made a comment from the audience that many games of the 1960's were hard to
get "specials" on. After Jon made another comment regarding the modern
games, he and Sam had a little more dialogue.
Jon then remarked that games today are more "score based" than older
games which often used "specials". After that Sam made a comment regarding
his (and many others) pet peeve - the increasing price per play on modern
games which were often not well maintained by operators.
Someone from the audience next made the comment that some European coin-
op magazines have been saying that "something big is coming" to help reverse
the current slump in pingame play around the world. Jon then remarked that
his next game would have a new feature (for which a patent was pending) which
costs a little extra to produce, but will help both the novice and
experienced player. After telling us that he couldn't say any more about
that now, Jon commented that he has been asked by his company's management to
make future game rules "more back to basics pinball". He then commented that
only a small percentage of pinball players "play for rules", but those who do
put lots of money into the games.
The next question had to do with problems with what the questioner
called "mode games", Jon answering that they are currently trying to solve
such problems. It was then asked how the designers decide "bonus and bonus
multiplication rules"? Jon then tried to explain how he tries to do this.
At that point Jon showed a "rules change sheet" which would be given to
the programmer and used to correct things that don't work right on a new
game. He then remarked that their company policy is to never change the
"rule set" after a game goes into production, unless there is a serious error
Someone then had a question on "multi-ball" features, essentially asking
what is the true purpose of "multi-ball"? Jon answered that the main goal is
often to make a game that "appeals to all skill levels" of players.
An interesting question was next asked, namely do most players play
pinball to get replays? Jon immediately answered "yes", but added that that
brings up another important question - will a person play a bad "replay game"
rather than a good "extra ball" (Add-A-Ball) game? Jon then said that the
answer to that was probably "no, a person won't play a bad game at all"! Sam
Harvey then asked the question - doesn't which games you like better, Replay
or Add-A-Ball, depend on which were available where you grew up? Jon then
commented that if both Replay and Add-A-Ball games are in the same location
the replay games will be played more - adding "we must design for what people
An operator in the audience then commented that he thought that simpler
rules were better for players. Jon replied that a game must be "fun to
play", adding that some games have features that are only understood by one
percent of players. Following that there was more discussion regarding "more
basic rules" and "modes".
Someone then asked Jon if he has any say in playfield design of their
games? He replied that they sometime asked his opinion, but it's often too
late in the design process to make much difference. Jon then remarked "I've
got some say, but I'm not a 'playfield designer'".
The next question for Jon was whether "random features" on games are
primarily for novices? He answered "sometimes, but not always" as some are
not truly random but depend on past play. Jon then added the comment that
"truly random" features must be disabled when the game is used in the
The next question dealt with built-in game "audit features" found on new
games, asking if the designers use information from these (on how often game
features are enabled, etc.) to decide what features to use on future games?
Jon replied "yes", commenting that they often evaluate "audits" of past games
for that exact purpose.
When someone again asked about game "modes" Jon told us that some of the
newer games have "Help Modes" where a player, before he starts playing, can
get detailed instructions to supplement the rather simple game "instruction
card". Jon was then asked if anyone uses that feature? He replied by
remarking that he himself doesn't usually even read the card before starting
his first play of a new game, adding that possibly the "help Modes" are used
Jon was then asked about a so-called "replay booster" feature found on
some games. He replied that that was an "auto-skill feature" which will
"tighten" game features when a player wins replays. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: That is
a similar idea to the "reflex play" principal used on gambling "1-Ball" and
"Bingo" pingames in the late 1940's, 1950's, and later.)
Next someone asked Jon what he thought about the "score inflation"
(games scoring up into the 'Billions') which has occurred in pingames in
recent years? Jon said he would like to see scores go back to the
'Thousands', but that it depends on "what the players like". He then added
that their earlier game CAR HOP in 1991, which had two player selectable
modes ("Normal" and "Nostalgia"), changed the scoring and sounds - the
"Nostalgia" scoring using "non inflated" scores.
Jon was next asked which games from each of the current manufacturers he
believed had "the best rule set"? He began by quipping that for Capcom (the
new manufacturer) that was easy, naming their only game so far, PINBALL
MAGIC. For the now defunct Alvin G. and Co. he said it would be their 1993
pin MYSTERY CASTLE. For Data East/Sega Jon named STAR WARS (1992), for a
Bally game he chose ADDAMS FAMILY (1991). Jon's nomination for the best rule
set for a Williams pin he said was STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION (1993),
and finally; for his company, Premier, he quipped "my next game". That drew
a round of applause.
The final question was asked by Sam Harvey which was "do you think that
'auto percentaging' (the machine making itself 'looser' for a low scoring
player) keeps the good players away?" Jon replied that the program looks at
many past games to determine the "payback percentage", not just the current
one, which essentially "levels out the location" - not a particular player.
That essentially ended Jon's presentation, which drew a good round of
applause for him.
FOR IMPORT ONLY
The main speaker for the next seminar, Dave Marston, next came up on
stage to introduce the presentation officially titled "For Import Only -
American Made Pinball Machines For The Italian Market". Dave then introduced
his guest expert Italian collector Federico Croci.
After thanking Rob and Mike for letting him and Dave put on this
presentation, Federico told us that he owns more than 200 pins - showing a
slide of his warehouse. Dave then told us that they had a translator
available so if anyone had any questions for Federico they could be quickly
translated into Italian so he could answer them better. He then told us that
Mr. Croci would eventually have a book published on the subject which was to
Dave then began the main part of his presentation by telling us that
there have been, over the years, more than 50 American made electro-
mechanical pins made for export to Italy, remarking that sometimes the names
of those games were new and others not. He ten showed a slide of the Italian
version of Bally's 1967 game ROCKET III. Why special pins for Italy? Dave
said the main reason for this has to do with "luck versus skill". He then
went on to explain the situation in Italy which made it necessary for the
American pingame manufacturers to make special game versions for the Italian
Around the time of World War II, Dave told us, Italian dictator
Mussolini outlawed all forms of "gambling machines" in Italy. By 1965, he
went on, the Italian government passed a more definitive coin machine law,
the main purpose of which was to get rid of competition with state run
lotteries from any coin-ops which could in any way be used for gambling
purposes. Among other types of games, the law forbad any "flippers" (the
generic term in Italy for pingames) which gave "replays". This resulted in
the Chicago manufacturers starting to put out special versions of their
pingames for the Italian market which would not violate Italian law.
Dave then showed a slide of ELECTRA POOL, the Italian version of
Gottlieb's FLIPPER POOL of 1960, and the first such special Gottlieb game.
We were then told that the word "flipper" had to be removed from any games
exported to Italy (even on the schematics) because that meant a "gambling
machine" to the Italian government, since all of that type of machine in
Italy at that time gave replays.
When he then showed us Bally TRIO (1965), Dave remarked that the letter
'C' in a Bally model number indicated the Italian version of that game. We
were then shown the Italian version of Chicago Coin's HULA HULA (1966). Dave
showed us how that company modified the "out-hole" in their Italian versions
to provide what they called "kick-ups". He then showed us that company's
KICKER of the same year.
Dave told us that "kick-ups" were Chicago Coin's way of getting around
the crazy Italian law. He said the Italian government decided that if a
player was awarded five or more "extra balls" that was equivalent to the
outlawed "replay". So instead of allowing the player to shoot additional
balls, they allowed the player to earn "kick-ups" which meant that a ball
destined for the out-hole could be "kicked up" back into play, thus getting
around the "letter of the law" since the player did not actually shoot any
We were next shown how Gottlieb used an "alternator unit" in their
Italian pins to allow two plays for one coin. Dave then showed slides of
three Gottlieb Italian versions, namely: HAWAIIAN ISLE, FIRE ALARM, and ICE
SHOW, all from 1966.
At that point Dave showed us that on their Italian versions Gottlieb
added "special objects" to the backglass art to indicate when "extra balls"
were available for play. When we were next shown that company's Italian
version of HURDY GURDY (1966), Dave pointed out how the original artwork on
the backglass had been modified using a more European scene, and also the 5
monkeys on the tree which lit up to indicate the extra balls.
We were then shown the flyer for Gottlieb's Italian game HYDE PARK
(1966) which had 5 colored circles on it's backglass to represent extra
balls. Dave pointed out that there was no descriptive text on game flyers
sent to Italy so that the Italian distributors could add Italian text if
Next we saw Gottlieb's GRANDE DOMINO (1968), the Italian version of
DOMINO, and RANCHO (1966), their version of COW POKE, on which the mechanical
animated horse on the American version had been changed to a bull. Dave also
noted that the word "special" had been removed from the playfield since that
was a "forbidden gambling feature" in Italy. When we were then shown the
Italian version of Bally's 1965 pin LOOP-THE-LOOP, Dave told us that it
employed an "Add-A-Ball Kit". This, he then told us, included a special coil
to shoot the ball back into play in place of a "special".
We next saw Gottlieb's 1967 Italian version pin SOLITAIRE, which had an
"out-hole diverter" which could kick the ball back into play (similar to
Chicago Coin's "kick-ups") when an extra ball was earned. This was followed
by HIT-A-CARD from the same year which we were told was a new version of
SOLITAIRE with a different transformer.
Another group of 1967 Gottlieb Italian versions we were shown included:
HARMONY (version of MELODY), TROUBADOUR (a new version of HARMONY), and SEA
SIDE. Switching to Chicago Coin for a moment, we were shown the Italian
version of BEATNIKS (1967) which Dave said was the last Chicago Coin Italian
version, pointing out the musical notes on the backglass to indicate "balls
to play". Next Dave showed two Italian versions from Williams, starting with
their 1967 pin LUNAR SHOT which had stars on it's backglass to indicate extra
balls. He then showed MAGIC TOWN from the same year which he said could
award additional points rather than extra balls if desired.
It was then back to Gottlieb, and into 1968, looking first at ELITE
GUARD (the Italian version of PALACE GUARD). Then we saw TIVOLI which Dave
said was similar to another Italian version, FUN FAIR, which we were to see
later. Then came BIG JACK taken from the American PAUL BUNYAN. We were
then shown the previously mentioned FUN FAIR, the Italian version of FUNLAND.
The first 1969 Italian versions shown were HI LO (from SPIN-A-CARD), and
BUMPER POOL (from TARGET POOL). Dave then commented that at about that time
Italian manufacturers started to build some games of their own. After
showing WILD WILD WEST and SUPER BOWL, we were shown the flyer for AUTO RACE,
no copy of that game having ever been found according to Dave, which he said
was probably from the American game ROAD RACE.
Going into 1970, we first saw CARD TRIX. This was followed by
PSYCHEDELIC which Dave said came from the American games GROOVY and
CRESCENDO. He then commented that even though it was made for Italian import
it was indicated by Gottlieb for some reason that it was meant for Brazil!
We next saw a Bally Italian version, KING REX, of which Dave said there
were only 275 produced. He then commented that the extra ball "special
objects", which were usually unlabeled, in this case had the words "Extra
Ball" next to them. Finally, Dave told us that the game had a "3-way
adjustment" capability which could be set for either "step up Ball In Play"
when extra balls were earned, step up the "extra ball objects", or a "Novelty
Mode" where the game's "specials" awarded score to the player.
Gottlieb Italian versions for 1971 were next shown which included:
GALIXIE, STAR TREK (which Dave said had no relation to the popular TV
series), and CARD KING. Dave then began talking about Gottlieb's WIZARD
which he said was rather unusual. He told us that WIZARD was sort of an
Italian version of ABRA-CADABRA, but with an entirely different playfield.
He then remarked that this was the first Italian version with an "end of ball
Going into 1972 we saw the following Gottlieb Italian versions: TEXAS
RANGER (from SHERIFF), SPACE ORBIT (which had a "vari-target") and PLAY POOL.
Then from 1973 we saw Gottlieb's JUNGLE LIFE, and TEN UP (from KING PIN). At
around that time, Dave then remarked, Italian manufacturers started making
"copies" of American pingames.
For 1974 we first saw Gottlieb's SKY DIVE and ROYAL PAIR. Dave then
told us that around that time the Spanish pingame maker Segassa started
making pins for Italy under a license agreement with Williams. One of the
last of these, he went on, was a game called BIG GUNS. Also from 1974 we
were shown Williams' STAR ACTION, which Dave said was produced both for the
American and Italian markets. He then remarked that on this game extra balls
were indicated by "stars" on the backglass, it also having the capability of
giving two plays for one coin.
For 1975 we first saw Gottlieb's TIGER, which Dave pointed out had
special backglass art for Italy. We then saw their LUCKY STRIKE. Dave then
made the comment that around that time "replay machines" could be found in
some parts of Italy. In 1976, Dave then commented, Italian versions of
American games were beginning to disappear. He then showed us Gottlieb's
SPOT POOL, HIGH SEAS, and KICKER from that year.
Finally, the last Italian version we were shown was Gottlieb's LUCKY
CARD from 1977. Dave then told us that ROCK STAR (from the American BLUE
NOTE) was also produced by Gottlieb, but he did not have a picture of it. He
then told us that by that time even the taboo word "flipper" was again used
on schematics, etc. in Italy.
After commenting that by 1977 Bally was starting to produce solid-state
pins, Dave again reminded us that Federico would have a forthcoming book on
the subject just discussed. He then asked if we had any questions?
The only question asked was if the English instruction cards on most
Italian versions caused any problems? Federico answered, "no, even when
translated into Italian they weren't very useful". That ended the
presentation which drew a good round of applause. We then broke for lunch!
The afternoon seminar session began a little bit earlier than originally
planned due to the "added event" Rob Berk had spoken about during his opening
remarks. It was a video tape made by a young British design student showing
a project he did as part of a college course.
Rob Berk first got up and introduced John Wyatt from the British
"Pinball Owner's Association" to tell us a little about the video and it's
maker. He told us that the young man who produced it, James Askey, was 17
years old, and that one reason for showing it at the Expo was because the
young man's goal was to work for one of the Chicago pinball manufacturers
after graduating from college.
John then told us the game design shown on the video was accomplished
between April 1993 and May 1994 and used Bally's 1979 solid-state pin FUTURE
SPA as the "raw material". He went on to say that James added new features
to the original game as well as creating new artwork for the backglass and
playfield. The tape was then started.
The young designer narrated on the tape telling what he did each step of
the way showing "close-ups" of each area as he described it. His
presentation was divided into three major design areas.
First was the cabinet (or "case" as he called it). We were told (and
shown) that the cabinet of the original game was entirely repainted with his
new artwork. He said he made stencils, glued them to the cabinet (after it
had been primered, of course), painted each color, then removing the stencils
and glue. The finished cabinet art was then shown which was quite
Next he showed the playfield (or "deck" as he called it). We were told
how the new playfield was produced, and shown photos of many of the artistic
details. He then said that the repainted field was protected by a final coat
of lacquer. We next saw how he added the various components to the
playfield. We were then told that he rewired the electronic components which
were mostly taken from the original FUTURE SPA machine. Then he told of
making new "side rails" and finally how he created the "deck plastics" for
The last major section of the project was the creation of the backglass
(or "head glass", as he called it). We were told how he designed the artwork
and had it screened onto the glass. He then described cutting the holes in
the light panel behind the glass and wiring the backbox. Finally, the
"screen printing" process was described in more detail.
The last part of the video showed the final game, which he called HIGH
VOLTAGE, being tested and played for a little while. That ended the video.
John Wyatt then got up again and asked if we had any questions?" The only
question asked was if the "rules" for the new game were the same as those for
FUTURE SPA? John answered that some changes in the original game rules were
That ended the presentation. Rob Berk then made the remark that he
tried to get James to come to the Expo, but he could not attend.
THE STATE OF THE PINBALL INDUSTRY
At that point Rob Berk introduced the next speaker, Don Hesch, to
present his talk titled "The State of the Pinball Industry". He told us that
Don was deeply involved with both "The Illinois Coin Machine Association" and
AMOA ("Amusement Machine Operator's of America").
Don then began by telling something of the work of AMOA and that they
hold an annual convention, which that year was held in New Orleans and had
over 7,000 attendees. He then started describing some of that organization's
services. We were told that one of AMOA's goals was "industry
standardization". Don then told us that they also try to provide education
to the members, including seminars as well as a University program which
takes approximately 2 1/2 years to complete. He then said they are also
trying to "promote jukeboxes" through the media.
Don then told of their "Darts Association" which has a scholarship
program which has provided college scholarships to around 200 people so far.
He then told of a "new concept", that of a "National Amusement Network" which
links video games all over the country together. Don then remarked that AMOA
also tries to promote better "government relations" with the industry.
On a more personal note, Don told us that he was "2nd generation" in the
industry, his father also being in it. He then said that in 1983 or 1984 he
"made a big mistake"! Don then told us that at that time he had to run his
brother's company when he died, and when he discovered about 175 electro-
mechanical pingames in the company's warehouse he "threw them out"!
Don then got to the main theme of his talk, the current state of
pinballs in this country. He began by telling us that back in 1979 and 1980
there were approximately 800,000 pinballs on location, each of which took in
about $44/week. In 1995, he continued, there are now around 830,000 pins
which take in about $54/week. The problem, he then told us, was that the
cost of new games have doubled in the intervening years. Don then remarked
that some people in the industry today say that at present the pinball
business is in the poorest shape it has been in since 1983. At that point
Don tried to "rate" the various categories of locations in which pingames can
be found today as to what types of games do the best in each category.
In "taverns", he then told us, jukeboxes are best, followed by (in
order) pool tables, darts, miscellaneous games, pinballs, and videos. For
"gamerooms" the list (again in order) was video games, "redemption" games,
and pinballs. Don then commented that his company in Chicago owns 325 pins
(approximately 10 percent of their games). He then remarked that "sports
bars" are about the best locations for pingames.
After commenting that "young players like 'interactive' games", Don
remarked that there are fewer games on location than there were six or seven
years ago. He said that the reason for that is the "high cost of new
equipment" and "high license fees". Don then told us that at a recent AMOA
meeting a manufacturers' representative commented that "movies and music are
doing well, but pinball is doing poorly". At that point Don told us that he
had recently talked to Roger Sharpe (of Williams/Bally/Midway Games) who told
him that a major problem for operators is keeping pingames clean. He
remarked that that was a "big task", but maintenance is important, commenting
that it's just like with restaurants - if they serve bad food people won't
Don then began telling us what he thinks of modern pingames. First, he
said, he thinks the artwork is "phenomenal" and brings players to the games.
He then remarked that he always thought pingames were interesting, but never
plays himself. Don then commented that in pingames "the ball never acts the
same as before" in direct contrast to videos.
The question "what can we do to improve the pingame business today" was
then broached by Don. Do we need simpler or more complex games? Do we need
longer or shorter shots? Is there too much on the playfield? These are some
of the questions, Don told us, that need to be answered in order for
manufacturers to be able to keep on producing pins.
Don then mentioned the age old question, what about increasing the price
per play, maybe to $1.00? He then commented that in Europe and other
countries the price of a game of pinball is higher than in the U.S.
At that point Don remarked that today there are four pingame
manufactures in Chicago, including "the new kid on the block", Capcom. He
then commented that they must think there must be a future for pinball
because they keep on designing and producing pingames. He then remarked that
the new Sega game, APOLLO 13, has a "13 ball multi-ball" capability!
Don ended his talk by asking us to "keep up the good work" by playing
the games, thus keeping a market for pingames. He then drew a round of
applause. Don then asked for questions?
The first question asked was what was the manufacturer's typical "spare
parts budget" for a game - and what he thought about poor maintenance of
games? Don began by telling us that there usually was no budget for spares,
the manufacturers keeping up an inventory only. As for maintenance, Don said
that many operators don't have the personnel to properly keep up modern
The next question had to do with the idea of players finding out via the
Internet computer network about good places to play pinball in a particular
area - the questioner asking if the industry could help in this area? Don
answered "I'd love to", commenting that he thinks the Internet "could be
great" for this kind of thing.
Don was next asked what operators and the AMOA were doing to promote
pinball? He answered that the main thing he does is to put pingames in the
best locations they know of. He then commented that the AMOA once tried
tournaments (with their "International Flipper Pinball Association" (IFPA))
but eventually had to drop it because the project was too expensive.
Someone from the audience then asked what he as a player should do when
he finds a poorly maintained game on location? He then suggested that
operators put a card on each machine indicating a "point of contact" to get
the game repaired (possibly including an "Internet address") or use of an
answering machine to collect such information. Don answered that his company
has their name on all their games, but that other operators may not. He then
told us that approximately 40 percent of his employees are "mechanics", as
service is a major problem. More interactive discussion on that topic then
When someone again broached the subject of AMOA promoting pinball, Don
answered that since IFPA failed AMOA doesn't know what to do to promote pins,
adding that that is not "high on their list" of priorities. Don was then
asked how his company "rotates" pingames between locations? He answered by
saying that they usually try to rotate a game every four to six months.
When next asked about using "dollar-bill acceptors" on pingames, Don
told us that they have them on all games purchased in the last three or four
years, adding that this will help them in the future to be able to increase
to "one-dollar play". Someone then asked who "drives" price increases in
game play? Don answered that this was driven by the manufacturers and
operators, not AMOA.
Someone then asked about "IRS depreciation" of games? Don answered that
right now it's 7 years for pins and 3 years for videos, adding that they are
working on getting it reduced to 3 years for pins. At that point someone
else told of once offering to help a technician working on a game but being
The next question Don was asked is if he thought the Government will
ever produce a new one-dollar coin? Don replied that the vending machine
people want that, but the amusement people are not that concerned. He then
commented that there are still more "Susan-B's" left and that the Government
is now concentrating on the new paper money just coming out. Finally, he
said that when the "Susan-B's" run out the Government will have to decide if
they want to put out a new dollar coin, adding that he himself would like to
The final question was what about operators providing a "comment sheet"
at each location where players could indicate problems with the games for the
technicians to look at? Don's only comment was that operators don't care
much for pingames because they are "too hard to maintain".
Don ended his presentation by saying "there is only so much money out
there for amusement", commenting that today there is much more competition
than in the past for that "amusement dollar". At that point Don drew a round
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
At the past several Expos there has usually been one seminar concerning
pingame maintenance, usually hosted by Las Vegas super-collector Tim Arnold.
This year, however, the task was taken up by Arizona pinball maintenance guru
Joel Cook, owner of "The Pinball Lizard" in Tucson.
Rob Berk introduced Joel, talking of his company which has been in the
business of repairing solid-state pinball circuit boards, etc. for some 22
years! He then told us that Joel was an Electronic Engineer, has been
collecting pins for the past six years, and was attending his 4th Expo.
Joel then passed out handouts to the audience which had the same title
as his presentation, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". He then
congratulated Rob and Mike for putting on such great shows, which again drew
a round of applause. At that point Joel asked for a show of hands of how
many in the audience worked for game manufacturers - not many raising their
hands. He then told us that the object of his presentation was to give us
some information on various problems encountered in solid-state pingames.
Joel next made the comment that he often learns from his customers, and
that he wanted to convey some of his knowledge to us. Also, he went on, I
would like to run through some of the specific problems with each
manufacturer's games. Joel then said that he would go over the "44 steps To
Get Your Pinball Up and Running" listed on the back of his handout.
The first bit of information Joel imparted to us was that "batteries
will always leak", and as a result he suggested that they be "taken off the
circuit board" if possible. Then turning to the digital displays, he
commented that they are fairly expensive to replace. After telling us that
damaged circuit board connectors should always be replaced as they are
inexpensive, Joel said a few words about ROMs ("Read-Only Memory") chips. He
told us that the newer ROMs can store more data than in the past, then making
a brief comment regarding the "erasable" variety called "EPROMs.
At that point Joel turned to problems with Bally circuit boards. He
told us that they can get tarnished on the top side and sometimes can break.
It was then suggested that older Bally boards be replaced by later models.
Joel's next subject was digital displays. He first commented that they often
collect dirt, again remarking that they are time consuming and expensive to
replace. Finally, he told us that 10 percent was a typical "failure rate"
for those tubes.
The final areas of Joel's Bally comments concerned "sound" and "speech"
boards, "CPU" ("Central Processing Unit") boards, and the "High Voltage Power
Supply". After telling us the "sound" and "speech" boards are expensive,
Joel said that Bally CPU boards are the easiest to fix (the factory providing
good trouble-shooting information). We were then told that the "High Voltage
Power Supply" on Bally games should always be completely rebuilt.
Joel then turned to Williams games. He first told us that their later
"Level 7" CPU boards will often work in older games. We were then told that
the battery problem previously described was also true of William games, also
suggesting that a person put "dates" on batteries so they know when they
should be changed. After commenting about some mislabeled "Blue Flipper
ROMs", Joel told of three versions of Williams "driver boards" and how they
can be "upgraded" to the latest version . He then advised that when
replacing bad resistors the proper wattage should be used.
After mentioning a "switch matrix change" on some Williams games, Joel
talked a little about upgrading Williams power supplies. We where then told
how to replace rectifiers in these units. Joel then ended his Williams
discussion by talking of problems encountered with connectors on their CPU
and Driver boards.
Joel next turned to Gottlieb, beginning by telling us that they have a
book that can help with problems. After again mentioning battery problems,
he told us that there currently is no source of parts for old Gottlieb CPU or
Sound boards. Joel then suggested that the "fingers" on the edge of the
circuit cards be cleaned. The final comment concerning Gottlieb was that old
model display tubes are no longer available, but he is trying to find a
suitable replacement for them.
Turning briefly to Stern games, Joel told us that they used Bally
boards, but they are not always 100 percent exchangeable. He then told us
that he was currently preparing a Stern trouble-shooting guide. As for Game
Plan and Atari games, Joel told us that they have poor documentation and also
some "interchangeability problems".
When Joel then asked for questions the only one asked was concerned with
battery leakage and cleaning, which he answered. That ended Joel's
presentation and drew a round of applause.
IS OVER-RESTORATION TOO MUCH?
The speaker for the next seminar "Is Over-Restoration Too Much?", Herb
Silvers, introduced himself. He began by posing the question "how much is
too much restoration?" For years, Herb then told us, many people have told
him that his pinball restorations are better than any others.
Herb then told us that he was going to attack his question "from the
business sense". He then commented that he personally thinks that a good
restoration makes a game "close to the original condition at a reasonable
price". At that point Herb told us that he was going to show us "how he does
it". As an example, he said that a client wanted a Gottlieb BUCKAROO (1965)
to look like it came "out of the box". He then started explaining the
"steps" of his restoration process.
"Step 1", Herb then told us, was to take off all of the chrome parts and
have them re-chromed, remarking that in California a good re-chroming job
costs about $200. "Step 2", he continued, was to "shop" the playfield,
including converting the "action components" to "D.C. power" to increase
their speed. Continuing with that step, Herb said you should clean and file
all electrical contacts. Turning to the backbox for a second, He told us
that you should clean or replace all the score reels, and also replace all
lamps with type 454 "flashers".
The "third step", Herb then told us, was repairs to the game's cabinet.
First, he said, you have to copy the artwork patterns on tracing paper.
After that, Herb went on, you sand off the old paint and fill in any
indentations in the wood with "Bond-O". The cabinet can next be primered.
At that point, Herb continued, the "base coat" paint should be applied,
usually an "off white". Next a "pattern" for the graphics is cut out of a
thin sheet of vinyl (using the previous tracings) which is "heat treated"
onto the cabinet and allowed an hour to dry. Each color is applied using
different "patterns". Finally, Herb told us that the cabinet is then "spider
webbed" (or "splattered"), adding that that can also be done to the inside of
the cabinet if desired.
Steps "4" through "7", Herb told us, are putting the cabinet back
together, putting the game together, looking for problems, and adding the
tempered top glass. The final step, he then told us, was looking for a "new
On that subject Herb commented that "repairing" bad areas on a backglass
usually looks "cheap" unless it is done by a professional artist. He then
told us that you can use a good "reproduction" glass if one is available for
the game, adding that that usually costs less than $200. At that point Herb
began outlining the steps that he uses to have a backglass reproduced.
First, he said, he locates a decent glass for the artist to use to copy
from, after which any "flaws" are corrected. The next step, Herb continued,
is the "color separation" during which a separate "screen" is cut by hand for
each color. From these, he then told us, the final "printing screens" are
produced using a special machine. Herb then told us that the colors of the
ink used in printing must be "matched" to the original colors by an expert.
He then told us that after the actual printing process is started you must
allow at least one day for the ink to dry before doing the next color.
Before the silver or black opaque paint is applied to the glass, Herb
then told us, the colored areas are first checked for color or printing
errors. The "final step" he then said was to "unveil" the new glass to the
At that point Herb made the comment that there really is no answer to
the original question "what is too much restoration?" He then took out the
eleven screens used to create the BUCKAROO reproduction backglass and laid
them on a table for us to examine later. Herb then asked if we had any
The first question Herb was asked was how to clean up pingame
playfields? He answered that it depends on the game. Herb then commented
that his artist also does playfields using oil-base paint, then covering them
with mylar (except on games from the 1960's or earlier). He finally remarked
that he uses "Wildcat" to clean playfields.
Herb was next asked if he used screening to fix playfields? He answered
"possibly in the future", saying that maybe this could be done on either
Bally's KISS (1978) or PLAYBOY (1976). When then asked how to remove a
game's "side rails", Herb answered that he uses a special tool to remove the
"French nails" which you can obtain from an upholstery shop.
Someone then asked if "laser scanners" could be employed in connection
with backglass reproduction? Herb answered that with his rare 1957 Bally
flipper game, CIRCUS, he experimented with that process, but found that color
correction was difficult. He then added that you would have to have orders
for a minimum of 15 glasses in order to do this at a reasonable cost.
At that point someone from the audience commented that during the tour
of the Lenc-Smith plant a company representative made the statement that the
"4-color process" could not be used on playfields. Herb said that this
depends on whether or not the playfield is to be mylar coated afterwards.
When Herb was asked about "mirroring" on reproduction backglasses, he
answered that it can be done when using the "full color" vice "4-color"
process, adding that the "mirroring" must be applied first. The final
question was what about reproducing a backglass on a thin plastic sheet?
Herb answered that he might try that sometime in the future, adding that to
do that you must start with a "perfect glass".
At that point Herb asked us what our ideas were concerning a "perfect
restoration"? Someone answered that it should be such that the game looks
"just the way it came from the factory". A discussion was then started
regarding cabinet restoration. Dave Marston remarked that the base coat on
a cabinet should not be "too white" or else it would not look like the
original. There was then more interactive discussion regarding the type of
paint to use in a cabinet restoration. Someone commented that the base coat
of the restored cabinet should be close to the color which shows when the
"side rails" of the original game are removed.
Herb ended his presentation by remarking that there are basically "three
types of restorations". A "high end" restoration, he told us, makes a game
"look like new". The next level, Herb continued, makes it "close to
original". The lowest level, he said finally, makes the game "acceptable to
Finally, Herb passed out a sample of the screen material used in
backglass reproductions. He then told us we could get up and look at the
various "screens" he had previously laid out. Herb was then given a round of
THE "PAT LAWLOR SHOW"
The final "seminar" (well, really not quite a seminar) was a
presentation and "prize giveaway" hosted by Williams ace pingame designer Pat
Lawlor, assisted by several of his factory cohorts. Rob Berk first got up
and talked a little about Pat. Rob said that this is "a tough time for
pinball", then telling us that this year Pat's Expo presentation would be a
little different from what he's done in the past. He then commented that for
the past five years Pat has told us "what it's like to design pingames", but
this year he's going to quiz us.
Pat then introduced himself, and gave a list of some of the games he
designed including: BANZAI RUN (1988), EARTHSHAKER (1989), WHIRLWIND (1990),
ADDAMS FAMILY (1991), TWILIGHT ZONE (1993), and ROAD SHOW (1994). After that
he passed out numbered tickets to each person in the audience to be used for
"surprise drawings" throughout his presentation.
Pat then jokingly said that they "cleaned out their offices" at Williams
and brought "all the junk" to give away to us by drawing one number about
every five minutes. He then told us that this year we can ask questions of
his "panel", but also the panel can ask questions of us. He then had his
panel introduce themselves.
First was Williams' Head of Software Development Ted Estes who gave us
a little of his "history" as well as a list of the games he's worked on.
Next came artist John Youssi who gave a list of the games he did the artwork
for. Following John was game designer George Gomez, who designed such recent
Williams hits as CORVETTE and JOHNNY MNEMONIC, who told a little of his
history, saying that he started at Midway right out of college designing
video games. Then Williams' Director of Engineering and ex-programmer Larry
DeMar gave a list of the pins he had worked on in the past.
The last panel member, Director of Marketing Roger Sharpe, was then
introduced by Pat, saying that he was responsible for obtaining the celebrity
"licenses" for Williams and Bally pingames. Pat then told of Roger's pioneer
pinball book "Pinball" which came out in 1977, as well as his past game
designs. After that the first prize number was drawn, the winner receiving
a set of pinball "plastics".
Pat then told us that he would talk about the state of pinball in
general, and what they've done in the last five years. He then remarked that
seeing that their company and their competitors are all producing great
games, he could not see why pinball is now doing poorly. Pat then said he
would like to ask us what we thought?
Someone from the audience then asked why the manufacturers are putting
a "video mode" (dot-matrix displays) on pingames, implying that he did not
care much for that. Larry DeMar then asked the questioner if he thought all
"video mode" games are bad? The person replied that he just thought that
"pinball should be pinball". After Pat told a little of the history of dot-
matrix displays at Williams (saying some are good, but others may be bad),
someone else said that he likes "video modes" because "it's sort of a break
from the basic game". At that point another prize was awarded.
Someone then asked the engineer on the panel about the possibility of
using color dot-matrix displays in the future? Larry DeMar replied that they
try to use new technology, but cost is always a factor they have to consider.
He then defended "video modes" saying at their company they are "always
looking at using what's new."
After that, designer George Gomez put in his "two cents" defending
"video modes". He told us that they "change the pace of the game", adding
that they are "not mandatory" on many games. At that point two more prizes
were drawn, both posters for Williams' recent CORVETTE pingame.
Following that someone from the audience asked Pat to elaborate on his
comment that pingames are currently in a "slump". Pat began by commenting
that it's no secret that pins are in a "down cycle", going from selling a lot
of games in the last 5 years to a much smaller number lately. What's even
more puzzling, Pat continued, is that in the past the cash boxes of pingames
were reasonably full, but more recently earnings for operators have steadily
fallen off. Roger Sharpe was then asked if a "flat fee" was paid by the
manufacturers for pingame licenses.
Roger began by saying that an important question regarding licenses was
"does it add to the cost of the game?" He then told us that their company
has "the best fee basis of any manufacturer in per unit royalty". He ended
by commenting that they don't take out any game features to pay for the
After another prize was awarded, someone asked Pat how many new designs
per year a company comes up with, and how does that affect the industry? Pat
answered that they produce more models per year now than in the past (about
8 to 10 per year as compared to 6 to 8 previously), but have shorter
production runs for each game because they "have to keep their people
Another prize (a TWILIGHT ZONE "mini-field") was then awarded. A person
next asked why pingames did not award tickets (vice replays) as is done on
"redemption games"? Pat answered that it has been tried with only marginal
success, adding that redemption games have a much shorter playing time per
game than pingames. Continuing on that subject, Pat remarked that redemption
games are actually "games of chance", commenting that if pins were operated
that way a good player could "break the operator". Pat then told us that
designers of redemption games have to convince the world they require skill
so they will not be considered gambling devices, adding also that those games
are meant for a different age group (young children) than pins.
Another prize (actually two) was then given away which consisted of both
a speaker display cover and a plastic screen backglass. After that someone
asked Pat if he thinks that the fact that players today only receive three
balls for fifty cents might be why some people don't play anymore, adding
that maybe games should use "timers" to allow so much time for a game? Pat
answered that they were experimenting with a "novice mode" for games which
would give the player a "minimum playing time", but no replays. Someone then
asked if any thought had been given to using "video displays" in lieu of
"dot-matrix". Pat answered that he is not allowed to comment on "future
plans", adding "if we do, you'll see it"
After more prizes were awarded (CORVETTE key chains and a "plastic
form"), someone asked about the special "magnetic device" used on their
recent game JOHNNY MNEMONIC? After Larry DeMar described that, he asked the
players in the audience if they had any problems hearing the "audio cues",
provided on many new games, when the location has turned the sound on the
game down? In that context somebody asked if headphones could be used to
solve that problem? Pat replied that that was "a marvelous idea" except for
a few "real wold problems".
One problem, Pat then told us, was that the headphone jack had to be
"electrically isolated" from the rest of the game's circuitry in case
somebody tried putting 110 volts into the jack which could result in ruining
the machine. The other problem, Pat said, was that people might put chewing
gum, etc., into the hole.
After another prize was awarded someone asked Roger Sharpe why they had
not obtained any "sports licenses"? Roger answered that about 40 percent of
their game sales were overseas, and most people in other countries are not
very interested in American sports. After that another prize was given out.
At that point someone asked Roger what their company was doing to
promote pinball? Roger answered that they were trying to use the media for
publicity, mentioning the DISCOVERY and USA cable TV networks. He then told
us of a one hour "history of pinball" documentary which was in preparation
(Incidently, the producers of that were at the Expo filming show segments).
Roger then added the comment that we could help promote pinball by supporting
Two more prizes (a "press proof" of the ADDAMS FAMILY backglass and a
poster) were then awarded. After that Pat briefly explained their pingame
"tournament mode" which they were planning, telling us that it can be turned
on by the player for one game, and disables any "random" features of the
game. Someone then asked Pat what he thought of the "score inflation" which
has been creeping into pinball (scores now going up into the 'billions')?
Pat began by remarking that many players can't even understand current scores
because they contain "too many digits". He then commented that he thinks
"enough is enough", saying that the industry is moving toward stopping that
After the next prize (a ROAD SHOW display), someone asked if video game
sales are currently down by the same percentage as pingames? Pat answered
that sales of some video games are very good, while other videos have dropped
off. Roger Sharpe then remarked that there is possibly a consistent sales
drop in both videos and pins.
Another prize was then awarded, followed by a question as to whether
people owning pingames at home help or hurt new pingames on location? Larry
DeMar answered that they "probably help". Two more prizes ( a poster and
another ROAD SHOW display) were then awarded.
Artist John Youssi was then asked what his favorite pingame artwork was?
He replied that it was probably their game TWILIGHT ZONE. Someone then asked
if their company kept old "screens", tooling, etc., so that they could go
back into production on a previous game? Pat answered that they do keep such
things for a limited time, then adding that to go back into production for an
old game is almost as expensive as starting a new one.
The final prize of the afternoon, an ADDAMS FAMILY backglass, was then
given away. At that point Larry DeMar was asked about his personal pingame
collection? Larry replied that he owns 22 pingames, all of which are
operational, which includes a few electro-mechanical games such as Williams'
1971 pin FOUR SQUARE.
Finally, Pat commented "we are part of the 'entertainment business', and
are definitely a 'business'". That ended the Expo seminars and drew a round
That's all for this time folks. Next time in the second part of my
coverage of Pinball Expo '95, I'll tell a little about the "Fireside Chat",
and then tell of the game auction, the banquet, and the Exhibit Hall
(including a listing of all the pingames displayed at the show). And you'll
have to wait until then to find out why I dubbed Pinball Expo '95 "The Year
PINBALL EXPO '95 (PART 2)
by Russ Jensen
Last time I told about all of the seminars at Pinball Expo '95, plus the
plant tour and the "Harvey Heiss video". This time I'll conclude my Expo
coverage, including a little about the "Fireside Chat", the game auction, the
Saturday night banquet, and last (but not least) the Exhibit Hall.
At the previous year's Expo Rob Berk initiated a new "Expo tradition"
the "Fireside Chat", in fact that year there were two, one with pingame
artists and another with designers. This time there was only one, occurring
on Friday evening.
That "chat" was an informal get-together held in Rob Berk's suite with
three of the older pingame designers: Steve Kordek (originally at Genco,
then Bally, and then (and now) at Williams); Norm Clark (formerly at Bally);
and Wendell McAdams (originally with Chicago Coin, and later with Game Plan).
Each of these gentlemen briefly introduced themselves, outlining their past
histories, then participated in a question and answer session informally lead
by our host Rob Berk.
At one point during the evening Williams/Bally/Midway Director of
Marketing Roger Sharpe was asked to join the designers to discuss his early
involvement with Game Plan designs - in particular their SHARPSHOOTER pin in
1979 which he himself designed and which was also named after him. As I said
last year, a detailed description of the "chats" is outside the scope of this
article, but I will say that everyone present that evening had an enjoyable
time listening to the stories told by these fascinating industry
This year, like the past several years, a coin machine auction was held
in conjunction with Pinball Expo, put on by an outfit called U.S. Amusement
Auctions. This year, however, there were not as many pingames in the
auction as in past years.
As far as pre-1970 pins were concerned there were only about seven put
up for sale. There were two pingames from the 1930's: Mills' HI-BOY (1938)
and Gottlieb's LOT-O-FUN (1939). HI-BOY was actually a combination pingame
and "Bell slot machine" and brought a healthy price of $1550! LOT-O-FUN was
one of a series of Gottlieb pins of that era to have "bingo type" cards on
From the 1940's there was only one pin, a fairly shabby Genco TRIPLE
ACTION (1948), the first flipper game to have it's flippers at the bottom
center of the playfield (like most pingames since), and designed by none
other than Steve Kordek! There was also only one 1950's pingame in the
auction, Gottlieb's 1958 game ROCKET SHIP. Pins from the 1960's fared a
little better, there being three offered for sale, all from Gottlieb. The
earliest of these was their 1960 game DANCING DOLLS. Next came DANCING LADY
(1966), and finally SUPER SCORE (1967). All of the other pingames offered
for sale were a smattering of electro-mechanicals from the 1970's and many
In addition to pins, other types of games were also auctioned off
including juke boxes, video games, arcade games, and even a "kiddy ride" or
two. The following is a sample listing of a few of the pingames (mostly
older ones) which were sold and the prices they went for:
SAMPLE OF PINGAMES AT THE EXPO '95 AUCTION
NAME MANUFACTURER YEAR PRICE
HI-BOY MILLS 1938 1550
LOT-O-FUN GOTTLIEB 1939 275
TRIPLE ACTION GENCO 1947 85
HEAVY HITTER (BASEBALL) BALLY 1948 75
ROCKET SHIP GOTTLIEB 1958 675
MADEMOISELLE GOTTLIEB 1959 175
DANCING DOLLS GOTTLIEB 1960 205
DANCING LADY GOTTLIEB 1966 350
SUPER SCORE GOTTLIEB 1967 290
FIREBALL BALLY 1971 850
ODDS & EVENS BALLY 1971 320
FLYING CARPET GOTTLIEB 1972 175
TIME ZONE BALLY 1972 305
WIZARD BALLY 1974 450,500
ATLANTIS GOTTLIEB 1975 355
BIG DEAL WILLIAMS 1977 290
POWER PLAY BALLY 1977 315
PROSPECTOR SONIC (SPAIN) 1977 270
STAR TREK BALLY 1978 575
GORGAR WILLIAMS 1979 390
CATACOMB STERN 1981 365
Saturday evening, as has been true of all ten past Expo's, was banquet
night. This year, as last year, the first banquet event (after a fine
dinner) was a "charity auction" to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The
items auctioned off (all "pin related") were donated by various Expo
exhibitors, game manufacturers, etc.. The auctioneer for the event was the
same one who presided over the game auction earlier in the day.
The first item to be auctioned was in fact five items - five BATMAN
FOREVER T-shirts from Sega. The final bid for one shirt was $20; the others
then sold to other people at the same price. Next came a "package"
consisting of two OPERATION THUNDER and one CACTUS JACKS hats which was sold
for $25. Then came what was referred to as a "quad exposure" photograph of
the backglasses for four Data East pingames - BATMAN (1991), GUNS 'N ROSES
(1994), STAR TREK (1991), and TOMMY (1994) - bringing $35.
A "Me Gorgar" T-shirt then brought $25. Then a set of "plastics" from
the limited production 1992 Data East MICHAEL JORDAN pin sold for a high bid
of $55. One of the highest bids of the evening came next, $275 for a copy of
a painting of the backglass art (by Expo guest Jerry Kelley) of Bally's 1966
pin CAPERSVILLE. Next came another "package deal" consisting of a Gary
Flower pinball tie plus a "Pinball Dreams" CD-ROM which went for $155.
Next up was an early bagatelle game called KICK BACK which brought $85.
After a set of wooden legs was sold for $35, a piece of art for some pinball
playfield plastics was sold for $115. Then came the "high bid of the
evening", $590 for the "crystal" (with light) from Bally's TWILIGHT ZONE
pingame from 1993.
After a "plastic form" from Williams' GETAWAY (1992) sold for $45, and
a pinball article from the Chicago Sun Times brought $25, a reproduction
backglass for Bally's popular FIREBALL (1971) pin brought $120. Five more
Sega BATMAN FOREVER T-shirts were then sold for $11.50 each. Next came a
Data East TOMMY (1994) playfield selling for $85.
The next item to be auctioned off was probably the strangest of all. It
was six bricks which came from the recent demolition of the old Bally plant
at 2640 Belmont Avenue in Chicago. The bricks brought a final bid of $160!
Incidentally, I personally now own a brick from that plant which I will
treasure due to the fact that a large percentage of the pingames in my
collection (and my slot machine too) were manufactured there, not to mention
the fact that I visited that address twice in my lifetime.
The next two items auctioned were a Data East STAR WARS (1992) playfield
going for $125, and a Gottlieb SUNSHINE (1958) reproduction backglass
(donated by my friend Neil Jamison) which went for $175.
Finally, the second and third highest priced items went up for bids. A
framed backglass for newcomer pingame manufacturer Capcom's first pin,
PINBALL MAGIC, which was signed by the designers/artists, went for $350.
Lastly, they auctioned off an actual pinball game, Gottlieb's 1987 game
SPRING BREAK, the final bid for which was $310. That ended the charity
auction bringing in a nice sum for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, not quite as
much, however, as last year when some more valuable items were contributed.
Next on the banquet agenda was a little sort of comical bit by Expo
producer Rob Berk which he called "You've Attended Too Many Expo's When".
Rob then would make that statement and finish it with many different endings.
Rob began with "You've been to too many Expo's when - you remember when
Sam Harvey didn't wear a tie to the banquet". His next several answers to
that statement were: "you can't remember when we didn't honor Steve Kordek" -
"you've heard Alvin Gottlieb speak at two banquets", - "when Joe Kaminkow
worked at Premier", - "when we cut the slide show off halfway through the
banquet.", and - "you believe Rob Berk when he says the banquet will be over
at 11 PM".
These were then followed by: - "you remember when we were at the Holiday
Inn", - "you remember Gary Flower wearing a bow tie to the banquet", - "you
remember seeing Tim Arnold pulling French Fries out of his toolbox", and -
"you remember when Steve Kordek was the banquet guest speaker".
Rob's final answers to the query included: - "you remember when Mike
Pacak wasn't working on his Pinball Encyclopedia", - "you remember when
Orange Trading Co. was an exhibitor", - "you remember when Steve Kordek was
honored for 50 years in the business", - "you remember when you already knew
Tim Arnold was going to win the raffle",and - "you remember when you slept
all day Wednesday knowing you would be up all day Thursday playing pinball".
After that little interlude, Rob Berk formally welcomed all of us to the
banquet. He then introduced the featured speaker of the evening,
Williams/Bally/Midway Games Vice President of Sales Joe Dillon.
Joe began by telling us that his part of the show would actually consist
of two parts. First, he said, will be a slide presentation telling of the
use of pingames in other parts of the world. Finally, Joe told us, there
will be an "audience participation" game for fun and prizes.
The first part of Joe's presentation began by him telling a little of
his employment history in the industry. He first told us that in August 1965
he started working for the Gulbransen Piano and Organ Company which was owned
by Seeburg Corporation. Joe said at that time there were over 100 piano
manufacturers in the Chicago area. He then told of attending his first AMOA
convention, remarking that the pinball manufacturers there had special suites
in the hotel and appeared to be having lots of fun during the convention.
Shortly after that, Joe went on, two large Japanese piano manufacturers,
Kawai and Yamaha, began taking a large share of the piano market in this
country. He then told us that after that he worked for Seeburg in various
capacities, at one time moving to Boston to work for a Seeburg
Joe then told us that a Bally distributorship opened up just across the
parking lot from them and that some of those people once played a joke on
him. He told us they got one of the big operators from New Hampshire to come
into his place saying he wanted 100 jukeboxes but didn't want to deal with
the other company, asking Joe for a price quote. Joe said that after he
excitedly called the factory to get a price on that large order the guy told
him "that's such a good price that I guess I'll buy one jukebox."
In 1980, Joe then continued, he went to work for Williams (which was at
that time owned by Seeburg), remarking that the two big games they were
selling at the time were BLACK KNIGHT and THUNDER. He then said that he has
been with Williams most of the time since then, except for a short stint at
Bally and another outfit. Joe then told us that in his present capacity as
Vice President of Sales he travels around the world promoting Williams'
games, remarking that he feels like a "booking agent" booking games into
Joe then told us that he was going to give a slide presentation showing
pinball in other parts of the world. The first slide showed a German game
show, Joe commenting that Germany was their largest foreign customer and that
pinball was "in great shape" in that country. He then told us that in
Germany you would probably play pinball in a "Speiltech" which was a sort of
arcade which contained videos and pingames, but also some "gambling
equipment". He then told us that the German idea of gambling is that it
"should not be such as to change a person's 'station in life'".
We next saw some pictures from France of a tournament utilizing
Williams' DR. WHO pingame in a small arcade. Joe then talked about where one
might play pinball in France. He said that pinball is so ingrained in that
country's culture that it would not be uncommon for someone to stop in a cafe
on the Champs-Elysees (which he called "the finest street in the world") for
a cup of coffee and end up playing "Les Flipper".
After commenting that France is a good market for pingames, Joe told us
of a problem they were having some years back with the flipper buttons
falling off of their games operated in France. Upon investigating, he went
on, they observed that French players slapped the buttons with their hands
(rather than just pressing them), the shock of this causing the "U-clips"
which hold the buttons in the cabinet to fall off.
In Switzerland, Joe then told us, you would play pinball in an arcade
(which could contain some gambling equipment as well, depending upon in which
local jurisdiction it was located) or possibly in a "pub". In Holland, he
then remarked, there are lots of female pinball players, and people play in
arcades (which also have gambling equipment) or in small pubs.
We next saw some pictures from Australia. Joe told us that in that
country the pin business is thriving, then telling of one arcade which has a
STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION mural painted on the wall. In that country,
he then remarked, you would probably be playing pinball in a very attractive
"high class arcade" with many pingames, or possibly a pub.
Joe next showed and told about China, first showing an arcade in
Beijing. At that point he introduced his wife, Ann, who he said traveled to
China with him. Joe told us that when she tried to ask a small child there
where an arcade was located the kid ran away screaming. He then told us it
was hard to find many arcades in China. We were then shown a couple more
Chinese arcades, Joe commenting that they usually contain a lot of video and
"redemption": games, adding that the Chinese pinball market is coming
"slowly, but surely".
Next up was South America, where Joe said that arcades have "tremendous
amounts" of pingames, adding that some arcades even have "rides". He then
told of an arcade in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which has all electro-
mechanical pins, remarking that they had a little trouble keeping them
running, but did pretty well.
At that point Joe told how much it costs to play a game of pinball in
various countries. In Brazil he said it costs about 15 cents, and about the
same in England. In France and Japan, Joe went on, the price was $1.01, and
in Spain 81 cents. The highest price he told of was in Germany where he said
it costs $1.42 to play a game of pinball.
The slide show then ended and Joe made a few concluding comments
regarding pingames and the industry. First he said that he guarantees that
there is no difference in pinball players throughout the world, they all
having the same dedication, passion, and skill. Joe then remarked that
pinball, the form of entertainment he has been trying to "book" all around
the world, entertains, intrigues, and draws people of all ages and nations to
Joe then went on to say "it's also a tribute to the people who make
these games - many times you see the end results here, but behind the scenes
I'm able to see the arguments among the design team members concerning
whether or not to put certain features, etc. in a game". Joe then commented
that it's not uncommon near the deadline for a new design to see design team
members sleeping at the factory because they worked all night so they could
start again the next morning.
Ending his talk, Joe told us that he feels very privileged and very
proud to be a part of this industry. As a final comment Joe said "I'm not a
player, a designer, or a programmer - I just book the acts, and the acts are
great all around the world - pinball is well around the world!"
When Joe's slide presentation ended he told us that it was time for the
audience participation game. He then introduced a young lady he called
"L.J." who he said would help conduct the game. "L.J." then began telling us
how the game would work.
First she told us that a card had been placed on each table (except for
those occupied by industry personnel, who were not allowed to participate).
We were then told that that would be used in connection with a "qualifying
round" to select contestants for the actual game in which two teams of four
contestants each would compete. One team, "L.J." then told us, would be
trying to guess the names of pingames based on "audio clues", while the other
team would be given "visual clues". In order to select the eight contestants
for the game, the qualifying round would use clues taken from pingame
"L.J." said that when she read one of those clues anyone thinking they
knew what game's flyer it was from should hold up the card from his or her
table. The first person to raise a card would be asked to name the game, and
if correct could choose if he/she wanted to be on the "audio" or "visual"
team. This process would continue, "L.J." told us, until all eight
contestants for the game were chosen. If, however, the person guessed
incorrectly, another quote from the brochure would be read until a correct
answer was obtained. She then read the first clue.
The clue was "a combustible combination of features". Someone
incorrectly guessed FIRE and the second clue "Doomsday Bonus Feature" was
then given. That brought a correct answer of Bally's 1980 pin FIREBALL II,
the guesser choosing to be on the "audio panel".
When the first clue for the second game "the realm of fantasy enters
reality" was given, no one ventured a guess. The same thing happened for the
second clue "new Bally Blaster Flipper". The third clue "Ball Teleport
Mechanism" brought the correct answer of Bally's 1987 game DUNGEONS AND
DRAGONS, that person choosing the "visual panel".
The first clue for the next game, "it's a jungle out there", brought an
incorrect response of JUNGLE LORD. The second complex clue "hit a target to
freeze cycling lights in front of the '4-bank' and complete the bank to score
the lit value", brought no guesses. Either did the third clue, "Copyright
1986, Williams Electronics", although it gave away the year of release. When
the fourth clue, "spell 'LIZARD' to collect bonus", was given the correct
answer of Williams' GRAND LIZARD was obtained, the guesser choosing the
The first clue for the next game, "a totally awesome pinball machine",
brought a quick correct answer of Bally's RADICAL from 1990, the guesser also
choosing the "audio panel". The first clue for the next game, "fuel up your
profits", also brought a quick correct guess of the 1988 Bally pin TRUCK
STOP, the guesser choosing the "visual panel".
The last three games were also quickly guessed after only one clue. In
the first of these the clue "Let the Good Times Roll" elicited a correct
guess of Williams' 1990 game ROLLER GAMES, with the "visual panel" being
opted for. Next the clue "a direct hit" elicited Williams' 1994 pin DIRTY
HARRY, the "audio panel" being chosen. The clue for the final game "it's
fast, it's furious, and it fights back" brought a quick correct answer of
Williams' 1987 pin F-14 TOMCAT, the guesser being automatically placed on the
"audio panel". It was now time for "the games to begin".
First it was the "visual panel's" time to compete. "L.J." then gave the
rules for their game. She explained that slides would be shown to the
contestants of small sections of the artwork for a pingame. If any panel
member thought they knew the game, she continued, they should signal by
holding up their card. If they guess correctly they score 100 points, but an
incorrect answer will ban that person from giving another answer "L.J."
finally explained. The panel members, Mark, Dan, Henk, and Gene, were then
The first correct answer, Williams' 1963 pin BIG DEAL, was given by
Henk. He also correctly guessed the next three in a row: Williams' APOLLO
(1967), JACK POT or GOLD RUSH (1971), and their 1964 pin STOP AND GO. When
Henk missed the next game, Williams POKERINO (1978) he said it was because
"it didn't go to Holland" - his homeland. Roger Sharpe then asked "L.J." if
there were "any more games in the contest which didn't go there?" Henk also
incorrectly guessed the next game whose artwork was shown as SORCERER, the
correct answer being given by another contestant as STAR LIGHT (but, I'm not
sure of the year, however).
With the next game, Williams' 1962 pin VAGABOND, Henk again got into the
"winning column" causing Joe Dillon the quip "yeah, but in what month was it
released?" The final game in the "visual" section gave a lot of problems for
the panel, however.
The first two guesses, GOLD RUSH and EL TORO, were incorrect. This
prompted "L.J." to give the hint "when you drink beer it comes out of one".
When that didn't seem to help she said it was designed by Steve Kordek, then
remarking "two of them - you drink beer out of", bringing forth another
incorrect (but reasonable) guess of CAN CAN. When "L.J." finally hinted
"people have ridden down Niagara Falls in these" the correct answer of
Williams' 1961 pin DOUBLE BARREL was finally obtained.
That ended the "visual round" with Henk being declared winner by a
slight margin - Ha, Ha. Joe Dillon then gave consolation prizes to the other
three contestants on the "visual panel". It was then time for the "audio
panel" to "show their stuff", the panel of Joel, John, Tom, and Heri being
The rules for this round were then given, which were pretty much similar
to the "visual round". The contestants were told that there were four "audio
clues" for each game taken from the game's "sound track". As in the previous
round, an incorrect guess would bar that person from making another guess on
that game. The round then began.
The first game, Bally's 1991 pin ADDAMS FAMILY, was guessed after only
one audio clue. Next was Williams GETAWAY (1992) which took two clues for a
correct answer. The third game, however, was a little more difficult, it
taking all four audio clues before Williams WHITEWATER (1992) was correctly
The first clue for the next game brought a wrong answer of ROAD KINGS
before the correct answer of Williams' 1991 game TERMINATOR 2 was given. The
next game, Bally's DR. DUDE, was guessed correctly on the first audio clue.
The sixth game proved again to be difficult, it taking all four clues before
the correct answer of Bally's CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1993) was
After games seven and eight, the correct answers for which were Bally's
DR. WHO from 1992 (which was guessed after the first clue) and Bally's
THEATER OF MAGIC from 1995 (which took two clues), no contestant had the
required 500 points, so an additional game in "standard play" was used to try
to get a winner. After three clues that game, Williams FISH TAILS (1992),
was finally guessed.
This resulted in a "tie breaker" between two of the contestants. The
"tie breaker" game ended up being Williams' 1990 pin FUN HOUSE (taking three
clues to get the correct answer) and a winner of the "audio round" was
finally chosen. The winner was congratulated and consolation prizes were
awarded to the other contestants.
Joe Dillon then told us it was time for the "Grand Kahuna Section" in
which the Grand Kahuna himself, Steve Kordek, would give the clues to
determine the "Grand Prize Winner"! Steve then came up and was given a round
of applause. At that point Joe gave the rules for this "playoff" round. Joe
told the two contestants (winners of the "audio" and "visual" rounds) that
Steve would read a series of clues about a particular pingame and the first
one who guessed the game would win the Grand Prize. He then reminded the
contestants that each could have only one guess. Steve then asked for a
round of applause for Joe and "L.J".
The first clue, "this game has a moving target in the center of the
playfield for bonus step-up", was then read by Steve, but no guess was
forthcoming. The next clue read by Steve was "this game had an 'extra ball'
feature utilizing the top center rollover". Henk (the winner of the "visual
section") then gave the correct answer of Williams' 1976 game(s) SPACE
MISSION or SPACE ODYSSEY (although it was possible they he had heard the
answer from the audience).
"L.J." then said that there was one more clue to be read, Steve then
saying jokingly "this game was designed by one of the good-looking
designers", bringing laughter and applause from the audience. The winner,
Henk from Holland, was then presented with the Grand Prize, a framed
backglass of the Expo tournament game Bally WHO DUNNIT autographed by the
game's design team. That brought a round of applause for Henk. the runner-
up was then presented with a SPACE MISSION brochure autographed by designer
Finally, Joe Dillon and Steve Kordek talked a little about SPACE
MISSION, it's importance to Steve, and how the artwork showed the first
U.S.\U.S.S.R. docking in space. That ended the audience participation part
of the show.
At that point Rob Berk introduced the other people sitting at the first
table. They included his co-producer and Exhibit Hall Chairman Mike Pacak
and Rob's wife (of about one year) Bridgit. Rob next conducted an annual
Expo ritual. He first asked everyone to stand up. He then asked all first
time Expo visitors to sit down. This process continued (people who had only
been to two shows, three shows, etc., being asked to sit down) until only
those of us who had been to all eleven Expos remained standing.
After that Rob introduced a gentleman from an outfit called E.S.S.
Productions from Boston who he told us was filming segments for a future two
hour television documentary on the history of pinball. We were told that
that documentary would be shown on national television sometime in mid-1996.
Richard Shapero from Louisville KY, who originated the idea for the
"pinball wizards" at the Expo each year giving "pinball lessons" to Expo
visitors, came up on stage. Richard thanked this year's "pin teachers" for
their help which drew a round of applause.
At that point another "Expo tradition" (for the past several years)
occurred. John Wyatt from the British "Pinball Owner's Association" (POA)
came up on stage to present his organization's "Pingame of the Year"
(actually since the last Expo) award. Their choice this time was Bally THE
SHADOW. Roger Sharpe came up and accepted the award for his company.
Next up to the stage was Dave Marston from New Hampshire. Dave began by
telling us that years ago Joe Dillon sold him games when Joe worked for a
distributor and he was an operator. He then made a few remarks about "the
global significance of pinball". Dave then said he was going to give an
award to the game which had the record for the longest time on the "actively
traded list" put out for the industry - 14 years! Dave then told us that the
game was Bally's 1980 pin EIGHT BALL DELUXE, saying that no other pingame
comes even close to that record! Bally ex-employee Jim Patla accepted the
Then even another "recent Expo tradition" occurred, nominations to "The
Pinball Hall of Fame". This year there were two nominations: Wendall McAdams
and Norm Clark (both quests at the previous evening's "Fireside Chat"). They
then drew a healthy round of applause!
Rob Berk next thanked Williams/Bally/Midway for their loan of the WHO
DUNNIT games for use in the Flip-Out tournament. He then thanked all the
manufacturers for supporting the Expos for the past eleven years drawing a
round of applause. Finally, he thanked Lenc-Smith for allowing us to tour
their plant this year.
Joe Dillon was next called up to the stage by Rob and given a plaque for
his banquet talk. Joe was then given a round of applause. Rob then called
Jim Schelberg (publisher of the great pinball magazine, PinGame Journal) up
to the stage to receive a "special award", a plaque for acting as the
"unofficial Expo photographer". That drew another round of applause.
Next the "Best of Show" award for the Expo Art Contest was given to a
Mrs. Shapero. Rob then asked Mike Pacak to give out the Best Exhibit awards.
First Place this year went to Jim and Judy Tolbert for their "For Amusement
Only" booth which drew a round of applause. Herb Silvers' "Fabulous
Fantasies" booth was the runner up. Herb was then also awarded the "Best
Restored Game" award for the several restorations he had on display,
receiving another round of applause.
Rob then thanked everybody who helped with the banquet, including the
speakers, his staff, and all of us who attended, drawing a round of applause.
At that point he invited people connected with other pinball shows to come up
and tell about them.
First up was Dann Frank producer of the "Wild West Pinball Fest" held
each Spring in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dann said that in 1996 his show will be
held the first weekend of May, adding that the same would be true in 1997.
Herb Silvers then told of his brand new pinball show called "Pinball Fantasy
'96", the first edition of which will be held at the Riviera Hotel in Las
Vegas, July 26 -28, 1996. Herb told us that he will hold a special "woodrail
tournament" with a woodrail pingame as the prize!
The final show we were told about was the fine show called "The
Pinathon" which is held every Spring near Sacramento, California. Jim
Tolbert touted the show for it's producers who did not attend the Expo. He
told us that the 1996 Pinathon would be held the weekend after Mother's Day.
At that point Exhibit Hall Chairman Mike Pacak reminded us that the
Flip-Out tournament finals would be held Sunday morning, then reminding us
that the Exhibit Hall would be open all night for anyone wishing to play any
of the games there.
Rob Berk then asked Jim Tolbert and several other people to come up on
stage. He then told us that all those people had either Birthdays or
Anniversaries that month. On the subject of Anniversaries, Rob started
talking about Williams'. He said that he never knew exactly when that
company started, but decided it was 1945 (actually it was more like 1943) and
declared it to be Williams' "50th Birthday". He then had us sing "Happy
Birthday" to Williams.
Finally, Rob announced that Pinball Expo '96 was planned for November 14
through 17, 1996. That ended the banquet festivities and most of us headed
for the Exhibit Hall for more pinball playing (some all night!) and visiting.
THE EXHIBIT HALL
As I've always said when reviewing past Expo's, the real "center of
activity" of the show is the Exhibit Hall. It is where all the games are,
and where most of the visiting is done. And, as in the past several years,
the "hall" actually consisted of two rooms loaded with pingames and people.
This year, I believe, there were more "woodrail" pingames (from the
1930's, 1940's, and 1950's) than at any past Expo (except possibly one year
when a large number were brought for display). On top of that, there was one
particular woodrail game that was represented several times (somewhere
between 6 and 8, I believe). That game was Gottlieb's 1958 pin, SUNSHINE.
This seemed to be interesting and that's why I dubbed Pinball Expo '95 "The
Year Of Sunshine".
As I said earlier, the Exhibit Hall is the place were much of the Expo
visiting between attendees takes place. And I was certainly no exception,
talking to many of my old "pin friends" as well as meeting and making new
friends. Not only did I get to renew acquaintances with pinball people, I
also had a chance to see a special "young lady" I met for the first time at
the previous Expo. This was one-year-old Arianna Clark who visited Pinball
Expo '94 (with her parents, of course) at the young age of seven weeks!
Also, as in the past, there were many coin machine oriented dealers
displaying their wares in the Exhibit Hall. Many were selling pingames (from
all eras), while others offered parts and "paper". As usual, Steve Young's
"Pinball Resource" had a booth selling their reproduction parts, other parts,
and their fine literature reprints. Steve and Laura Engle's "Pinball
Supermarket" was also there again with a large variety of pin-related parts
and other items.
Two of the many pingame dealers there were Jim and Judy Tolbert's "For
Amusement Only" outfit from the San Francisco area (who also sold parts and
literature), and Herb Silver's "Fabulous Fantasies" from the Los Angeles
area. Another pin dealer was my good friend Neil Jamison from Wichita Kansas
who is one of the few dealers to also sell "bingo" and "1-ball" gambling type
If you were interested in pinball advertising flyers (which are becoming
a big pinball collectable) a visit to Expo co-producer Mike Pacak's booth was
(as always) the center of activity for those. A few other dealers also had
As for pingames, there were many available for sale, playing, and
viewing. There was also, as always, a long line of the new Bally WHO-DUNNIT
pins used for the "Flip Out" tournament qualifying rounds. A run-down of the
approximate number of pins from each decade is probably in order here.
There were five pingames from the 1930's, and eleven from the 1940's.
From the 1950's there was a whopping 26 pingames (plus three "pitch and bat"
baseball games), the most Fifties pins at any Expo to date. The largest
number of electro-mechanical pins from any decade, however, was the 1960's
with 46 pins and one baseball! From the 1970's there were 42 electro-
mechanical pins, one "baseball", and six solid-state pins. There were 20
pingames from the 1980's and 22 from the current decade. The above numbers
are only approximate, and do not count multiple occurrences of the same game
(such as SUNSHINE).
A chronological listing of most of the pins at the show is as follows:
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PINGAMES PINBALL EXPO '95
(NFS - NOT FOR SALE)
GAME MANUFACTURER YEAR PRICE
DROP KICK Exhibit 1934 300
SCREAMO Rockola 1935
SPIT FIRE Genco 1935 300
FLYING HIGH Western Products 1936 950
CHUBBIE Stoner 1938
MYSTIC Bally 1941? 450
LAURA Williams 1945
SEA BREEZE United 1946 300
MEXICO United 1947 200
RANGER Exhibit 1947 195
RIO United 1947 350
ROCKET Bally 1947
CARIBBEAN (NO GLASS) United 1948 150
YANKS Williams 1948
COLLEGE DAZE Gottlieb 1949 850
MADAME BUTTERFLY (CONV) Nate Schneller 1949
FIGHTING IRISH Chicago Coin 1950
FOUR HORSEMEN Gottlieb 1950
KNOCK OUT Gottlieb 1950 NFS
MADISON SQUARE GARDENS Gottlieb 1950 1095
SELECT-A-CARD Gottlieb 1950
MINSTREL MAN Gottlieb 1951 2195,OFFER
PLAY BALL Chicago Coin 1951 350
STOP & GO Genco 1951 SOLD
TRI-SCORE Genco 1951 500
CROSSROADS Gottlieb 1952 NFS
FOUR CORNERS Williams 1952 800
HIT AND RUN Gottlieb 1952
QUEEN OF HEARTS Gottlieb 1952 875
TWENTY GRAND Williams 1952 500
NINE SISTERS Williams 1953 NFS
SHINDIG Gottlieb 1953 895
GOLD STAR Gottlieb 1954 800
LOVELY LUCY Gottlieb 1954
THUNDERBIRD Williams 1954 ?
AUTO RACE Gottlieb 1956 NFS
DELUXE 4-BAGGER (BASEBALL) Williams 1956 1000
BIG INNING (BASEBALL) Bally 1958 850
GUSHER Williams 1958 650
ROCKET SHIP Gottlieb 1958 2000
SUNSHINE Gottlieb 1958 650
HI DIVER Gottlieb 1959 950
LIGHTNING BALL Gottlieb 1959 475
PINCH HITTER (BASEBALL) Williams 1959 1200
STRAIGHT SHOOTER Gottlieb 1959
DANCING DOLLS Gottlieb 1960
SPOT-A-CARD Gottlieb 1960 595
WORLD BEAUTIES Gottlieb 1960 325,425
CORRAL Gottlieb 1961 700
EGG HEAD Gottlieb 1962 500,550
FLIPPER CLOWN (AAB) Gottlieb 1962 550
FLIPPER COWBOY (AAB) Gottlieb 1962 900
RACK-A-BALL Gottlieb 1962
TROPIC ISLE Gottlieb 1962 675
VAGABOND Williams 1962 500
BEAT THE CLOCK Williams 1963
GIGI Gottlieb 1963 600
SLICK CHICK Gottlieb 1963 1595
BOWLING QUEEN Gottlieb 1964 595
MAJORETTES Gottlieb 1964 2195/OBO
OH BOY Williams 1964
SHIPMATES (PARTS) Gottlieb 1964
WORLD FAIR Gottlieb 1964 625
ZIG ZAG Williams 1964
BANK A BALL Gottlieb 1965 425,500
BIG STRIKE Williams 1965 500
BUCKAROO Gottlieb 1965 1695
COW POKE (AAB) Gottlieb 1965
ICE REVIEW Gottlieb 1965 350, 600
ICE REVIEW (PROTOTYPE) Gottlieb 1965 700
KINGS AND QUEENS Gottlieb 1965 950
SIX STICKS Bally 1965
SKY LINE Gottlieb 1965 925
CROSS TOWN Gottlieb 1966 1595
FULL HOUSE Williams 1966
MASQUERADE Gottlieb 1966 495
SUBWAY Gottlieb 1966 500
APOLLO Williams 1967 700
BASE HIT (BASEBALL) Williams 1967 525,900
BEATNIKS Chicago Coin 1967 500
DIAMOND JACK Gottlieb 1967
KICKOFF Williams 1967 400
KING OF DIAMONDS Gottlieb 1967 650,700.15
MAGIC CITY Williams 1967
MAGIC TOWN (AAB) Williams 1967 175
MELODY (AAB) Gottlieb 1967 500
ROCKET III Bally 1967 550
PALACE GUARD (AAB) Gottlieb 1968 550
PAUL BUNYAN Gottlieb 1968 195,395
ROYAL GUARD Gottlieb 1968 500
PADDOCK Williams 1969 400
SPIN-A-CARD Gottlieb 1969 400
FOUR MILLION BC Bally 1970 750,800
SUSPENSE Williams 1970
FIREBALL Bally 1971 950
FOUR SQUARE Gottlieb 1971 450
PLAY BALL Gottlieb 1971 375
STAR TREK Gottlieb 1971
FLYING CARPET Gottlieb 1972
LINE DRIVE (BASEBALL) Williams 1972 800
NIP IT Bally 1972 550
SUPER STAR Williams 1972 125
DELTA QUEEN Bally 1973 375
JUMPING JACK Gottlieb 1973
KING PIN Gottlieb 1973
AIR ACES Bally 1974
OXO Williams 1974 495
TOP CARD Gottlieb 1974 350
WIZARD Bally 1974
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC Bally 1975 650,795
EL DORADO Gottlieb 1975 SOLD
KICKOFF Bally 1975 425
MISS UNIVERSE (BINGO) Bally 1975 1400
OLD CHICAGO Bally 1975 595
PAT HAND Williams 1975 395
PIN UP Gottlieb 1975 350
SPIN OUT Gottlieb 1975 360
TOP TEN Chicago Coin 1975 275
ALADDIN'S CASTLE Bally 1976 475
BUCCANEER Gottlieb 1976 450
CANNES Segassa 1976
FACES Segassa 1976 475
HANG GLIDER Bally 1976 425
MYSTIC Bally 1976 500
NIGHT RIDER (EM) Bally 1976 175
PLAYBOY Bally 1976
SPACE ODYSSEY Williams 1976 225
SURE SHOT Gottlieb 1976
SURF CHAMP Gottlieb 1976 500
ARGOSY Williams 1977 475
BIG DEAL Williams 1977 400
BIG HIT Gottlieb 1977
JACKS OPEN Gottlieb 1977 450
JET SPIN Gottlieb 1977 550, 695
JUNGLE QUEEN Gottlieb 1977
MATA HARI (EM) Bally 1977 525
RANCHO Williams 1977 395
CAMELITE (COCKTAIL TABLE) Game Plan 1978 250
KISS Bally 1978
NUGENT Stern 1978
STAR TREK Bally 1978
FLASH Williams 1979 475
GORGAR Williams 1979 450
INCREDIBLE HULK Gottlieb 1979 325
VIKING Bally 1979 550
ALGAR Williams 1980 350
FIREPOWER Williams 1980 500,550
BLACK KNIGHT Williams 1981 1050,1100
CATACOMB Stern 1981 425
CENTAUR Bally 1981
FREE FALL Stern 1981 325/OBO
HYPERBALL Williams 1981 375
SPECTRUM Bally 1981
BABY PAC-MAN Bally 1982 400
HIGH SPEED Williams 1986 1100
F-14 TOMCAT Williams 1987
MONTE CARLO Gottlieb 1987
PARTY ANIMAL Bally 1987
SECRET SERVICE Data East 1988 595
TAXI Williams 1988 995
TRUCK STOP Bally 1988
ABC MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL Data East 1989 795
BAD CATS Williams 1989
EARTHSHAKER Williams 1989
CUE Stern 198?
BUGS BUNNY Bally 1990 1995
SILVER SLUGGER Gottlieb 1990
SIMPSONS (THE) Data East 1990
CHECK POINT Data East 1991
HARLEY DAVIDSON Bally 1991 OFFER
USA FOOTBALL Alvin G. 1992
ADDAMS FAMILY Bally 1993
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON Bally 1993 2800
INDIANA JONES Williams 1993
PISTOL POKER Alvin G. 1993 1350
TWILIGHT ZONE Bally 1993
NO FEAR Williams 1994
APOLLO 13 Sega 1995 NEW
BATMAN FOREVER Sega 1995 NEW
CORVETTE Bally 1995 NEW
INDIANAPOLIS 500 Bally 1995 NEW
JACKBOT Williams 1995 NEW
JOHNNY MNEMONIC Williams 1995 NEW
PINBALL MAGIC Capcom 1995 NEW
STRIKES & SPARES (BOWLING) Gottlieb 1995 NEW
WATER WORLD Gottlieb 1995 NEW
WHO DUNNIT Bally 1995 NEW
This year, as happened for the first time last year, the Exhibit Hall
was kept open all night on both Friday and Saturday nights. Most dealers,
however, did not keep their booths open for sales, but a good percentage of
the pingames were available for the pin playing "night owls".
A final note regarding Exhibit Hall activities. Again this year (as in
the past several years) there was an Artists, Designers, and Authors
Autograph Session held in the second Exhibit Hall room on Saturday afternoon.
I myself participated in several past autograph sessions, but this year,
since my book "Pinball Troubleshooting Guide" was "out of print", I was just
a bystander. The tables at which the celebrities sat were arranged in a
large rectangle with the artists, etc., sitting on the inside and the
"autograph hounds" lining up around the outside to get the signatures on
pinball flyers, books, etc., of their favorite "pin personalities". The
session lasted a couple hours and the lines of people were quite long most of
Well, there you have it, a run-down of the events at another great
Pinball Expo - the eleventh such show! It was great as usual, and I believe
the attendees from all around the U.S. (and around the world too!) really had
a great time! Next year's Expo is scheduled for November 14 through 17,
1996, but as of now I don't know if I'll have the funds to do it again. But
maybe I will win big at bingo or the lottery a month or two before Expo time.
Anyway, I highly recommend Pinball Expo to any pinball fan (collector,
player, etc.) as I am sure they will have a good time! If I can make it I
hope to see you there!