THE "PINBALL COLLECTORS RESOURSE"
( a new book)
by Russ Jensen
In early June of this year a publication, which many pinball
collectors have been awaiting for quite some time, was finally
released. This little book, titled "Pinball Collectors
Resource", contains a virtual "treasure trove" of pinball
information, and is also a "gateway" into the largest pinball
information computer database ever assembled.
The book's author/compilers, Don Mueting and Rob Hawkins,
are certainly no strangers to the pinball world as their pocket
sized booklet, "Pinball Reference Guide", published way back in
1979, has been carried around by many, many pinball collectors
(including yours truly) ever since it first came out.
To properly understand the scope of the new book a peek into
it's history, and the history of it's two creators, is certainly
in order. So I shall do that first, before describing the
contents of the new book in detail.
Back in the mid 1970's aerospace industry computer
programmer Don Mueting was becoming interested in pinball
machines and their dates of manufacture. Don had obtained an
electro-mechanical paper tape controlled typing machine (a
Frieden 'Flex-o-writer') and decided to use it to help him
prepare a listing of such information.
Around the same time, Los Angeles area high school teacher
Rob Hawkins was doing research for his Master's Thesis on the
subject of the history of the pinball machine.
Also about this same time, yours truly had decided to
research pinball manufacturing dates for the period from the late
1930's up to the early 1950's using microfilm copies of BILLBOARD
magazine at the Los Angeles Public Library. My project was
precipitated by a list of pinball manufacturing dates for the
period 1951 through 1972 which I had obtained; that information
having been compiled by other researchers also using BILLBOARD
While visiting an Orange County pinball operator one evening
(who occasionally had old games for sale) I happened to tell him
about what I had done with BILLBOARD. As soon as I told him he
said to me "I got a call the other day from a fellow who said he
was compiling a list of pinballs and their dates of release who,
I am sure, would like to get in touch with you". He then gave me
this person's name and telephone number.
The fellow he was referring to was none other than Don
Mueting. I called Don, and when he explained what he was doing
with his Flex-o-writer, I told him about the information I had,
which I agreed to provide to him to aid his project.
A short time later I became acquainted with Rob Hawkins and
obtained a copy of his thesis. When I told Rob about Don's
project he was quite interested in helping, so I gave Rob Don's
number and they quickly became 'partners' in the "pinball dating
Don's first 'Flex-o-writer list' was released in July 1976.
He sent copies of the list to anyone he knew who was interested
in pinball, asking for any corrections/additions to it, later
updating it in December of that year. A short time later the
Flex-o-writer was "retired" and the whole database transferred to
a computer where it could be much more easily modified, which has
been happening continuously ever since.
"PINBALL REFERENCE GUIDE"
In 1979 Don and Rob, in conjunction with Mead Publishing
Co., came out with a handy "pocket sized" booklet containing the
pinball dating information from their computer database. The
guide contained listings of approximately 2500 pinball machines
manufactured up through late 1978 or early 1979.
The list contained columns for Model Name, Manufacturer
(abbreviation), and Date (year, and month if known), and of
course was in alphabetical order by model. In order to easily
reference the game manufacturers' names, Don and Rob came up with
a three letter abbreviation for each company. A listing of all
the manufacturers and their abbreviations was given at the
beginning of the book. Since the publication of "Pinball
Reference Guide" in 1979, these abbreviations have become sort of
a "de facto standard" among pinball collectors.
In addition, many of the game listings contained a reference
to one or more "notes" regarding various game characteristics or
historical facts. These notes were presented after the main
Well, over the years since it's introduction in 1979, this
little book has sold many copies and, as I said earlier, has been
carried around and often referenced by a majority of the pinball
collectors in this country and other parts of the world as well.
Ever since I got my original copy of "Pinball Reference Guide"
from Don Mueting right after it came out in 1979, it has always
been carried in my inside coat pocket. In fact, less than a week
before I received my copy of the new "Pinball Collectors
Resource" the bedraggled cover finally totally fell off my copy
of "Pinball Reference Guide".
"PINBALL COLLECTORS RESOURCE"
In the years since the 1979 publication of "Pinball
Reference Guide" Don and Rob's computer database has been
continually expanding. In addition to the inclusion of all new
models to come out since that time, they have been collecting and
recording many different types of information about each game.
The "Pinball Collectors Resource" is a "gateway" to the
information now contained in the database, but more about that,
and the types of data it contains, shortly.
The "Pinball Collectors Resource" is somewhat larger in
format, and considerably larger in content than "Pinball
Reference Guide". But, for the sake of us who like to carry
around a pocket size listing of pins, Don and Rob have included
(at not extra charge!) a small pocket version of the new book
containing only the MODEL NAME, NOTES (Code only), MFG
(manufacturer code), DATE, and P (number of players) for each
The main book is divided into four (well, actually 5)
sections. After a detailed description (with examples) of how
the book can be used, the book contains a 6 page listing of all
the game manufacturers and their abbreviations used in the book.
This is a much expanded list compared to the similar list found
in "Pinball Reference Guide".
In addition to the abbreviations, this list also includes
two other interesting pieces of information. First, there is a
column which indicates the number of games in the database
credited to each company. Last, but not least, in cases where
more than one game are shown for a manufacturer, another column
indicates the range of years for which games are listed for that
The second, and most important section of the book, is the
alphabetical game listing which includes information on 3966
games (a far cry from the 2500 in "Pinball Reference Guide").
This listing is divided into 9 columns, the contents of which are
The first, second, and fourth columns in the listing are
MODEL NAME, MFG (manufacturer abbreviation), and DATE, similar to
what appeared in the old Pinball Reference Guide. The third
column, titled "NOTES", contains one or more two letter
abbreviations which refer to notes appearing in the next section
of the book; but more about that later.
The next column, labeled "P", indicates the number of
players (1,2 4, or 6) the game was designed to accommodate.
The following column, labeled "OPFBS", contains combinations
of one or more of these letters to indicate the presence of
certain types of information in the computer database.
"O" indicates that the database contains information
regarding one or more persons who have that game in their
collections. "P" indicates that the owner of a replacement
playfield, or set of "playfield plastics", for the game is
contained in the database.
"F", "B", and "S" indicate that the owner of an advertising
flyer, a backglass, or a schematic diagram respectively, for the
game is referenced in the database.
The next column in the list, labeled "I" and referred to as
the "information" column, can contain one of three letters. An
"N" indicates that no further information on the game is
contained in the database. A "P" indicates that additional
information as to the location of pictures of the game is
contained in the database, in addition to that shown in the
"PICTURES" column to be described next.
The letter "R" appearing in the "I column" indicates that
the database contains information referring to at least one
"reference" to the game appearing in a book, magazine article,
etc. The authors define a "reference" as: "written text
referring to that particular model [of game], but containing no
The last column, and probably the most interesting (except,
of course, for the columns defining the game itself), is the
"PICTURES" column. It gives a direct reference to the location
of a picture of the game to be found in a book or magazine.
In this column a two letter abbreviation indicates in which
publication the picture is to be found (a listing of publications
and their respective abbreviations appears in the book's
introductory material). If the reference is to a picture from a
magazine, information as to it's date of release (year and month
or quarter) is also given. The page number where the picture can
be found is then given.
Picture information of this kind is of great interest to
many people who hear about a game being offered for sale and want
to know what it looks like. Incidentally, there are 1753 such
picture references contained in the listing.
If a "P" also appears in the "information" ("I") column, it
means that additional picture references appear in the database.
In some cases the "P" appears without anything shown in the
"PICTURES" column. This indicates that the picture reference
contained in the database is to photographs in the possession of
individuals (such as my own 600 plus model photo collection) and
not in a publication.
One final note before ending this discussion of the game
listing section of the book. At the upper left-hand corner of
each page is printed two large letters. These are the first two
letters of the name of the first game listed on that page, making
it a lot easier to find a particular machine in the listing.
The next section of the book contains the detailed notes
referenced in the "NOTES" column of the game listing. Each note
is preceded by a two letter code used in the "NOTES" column to
reference that particular note.
These notes (which incidentally were written by Rob Hawkins)
contain information on various special game characteristics, and
a wealth of historical information regarding pingames and the
pingame industry. Reading these notes by themselves, I
guarantee, will give anyone a valuable insight into the
fascinating history of the pinball machine.
Following the note section is Appendix A, a short listing
entitled "War Time Conversions". This is a listing of pingames
produced, mostly during World War II, by taking pre-war pingames
and modifying ('revamping') them in some way to create a "new
This listing is composed of four columns. The first column
shows the name of the "new game". Next is the three letter code
representing the company that did the 'converting'. The third
column shows the date the game was converted, the last column
telling from which pre-war game (if known) the new game was
In addition to those conversions made during the war, the
list contains a few conversions, mostly made in 1948 and 1949,
where pre-flipper pingames were converted to "flipper games".
These conversions were done right after the introduction of the
flipper to pinball in late 1947 made pre-flipper pins virtually
obsolete in a few months time.
At the end of the "War Time Conversions" listing there is a
short listing titled "Post War Conversions" listing 17
'conversions' done to pingames, mostly to solid-state pins in the
1980's. This listing does, however, include three conversions
made in the early 1950's, even including a conversion to the
first flipper game Gottlieb's HUMPTY DUMPTY itself!
A final comment on these "conversion lists". The conversion
games contained in these lists are also included in the main game
listing with a notation of "CO" in the "NOTES" column indicating
that for information as to which game they were converted from
you had to refer to the "conversion lists" contained in Appendix
A. The only problem is that this "CO" does not seem to be
referenced anywhere in the book.
The last three pages of the book contain three "forms" for
the book's user to use. The first form is called a "Registration
Form". The authors suggest you fill it in and send it to them as
soon as possible after receiving your copy of the book so that
they can let your know about future "updates" to it.
In addition to this, they offer each purchaser of the book
the chance to get free information from their database related to
one pingame of your choice which is listed in the book. After
naming your game of interest, the form provides a checklist to
use to indicate what type of information you would like regarding
the chosen game (book or magazine pictures or references; owners
of the game; the location of schematics, advertising flyers,
etc.; backglasses available; etc.).
The second form, titled "Information Request Form", is to be
used to request information, similar to that just described, for
additional games. For this information they say there will be a
charge, and that you will be notified as to what it will be after
they have determined how much of the information you requested is
contained in their database.
Considering the scope of their constantly growing database
(believe me - I have seen it!) it would seem to me that the
nominal charge would be well worth it, as this type of
information is generally pretty hard to come by.
The last form in the book is titled "Reader's Comment Form".
It is to be used, as the name implies, by owners of the book to
provide the authors with information as to errors found in the
book, or data on additional games which should be added to future
editions. Don and Rob describe "Pinball Collectors Resource" as
a "living document" saying it probably will be updated in the
future if justified by the amount of new information they obtain.
Well, there you have it, a detailed description of the long
awaited update to the old "Pinball Reference Guide", the "Pinball
Collectors Resource". By the way, the main listing section
contains 105 pages, in addition to the 6 page Manufacturers List
and 21 pages of "Notes".
Now, if you are a long-time user of "Pinball Reference
Guide" and want to get the latest, most accurate information, or
if you have never heard of such a publication and are dying to
get your hands on one, here's what to do:
Send a check for $25.00 to:
6638 Eddinghill Dr.
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
I guarantee you you won't regret it!