Ever since I was quite young I have always had a

"collecting" hobby of some sort.  It seems to be part of my life.

While pursuing each of my hobbies I have always had an interest

in the "history" of the items I collected.  When, as a teenager,

I collected old phonograph records, I learned all I could about

the history of the phonograph and the various record

manufacturers.  Even today I still remember such pieces of

"phonograph trivia" as who invented the disk record.  (in case

your curious, it was a gentleman named Emil Berliner - I sure

amazed one fellow at work with that piece of information).


     When I later collected antique clocks, I learned much about

clocks and clockmakers.  After that I began collecting player

piano rolls.  During that period I learned quite a bit about the

history of the player piano, "mechanical music" in general, and

the myriad of music roll producers.  Pinball collecting, of

course, was no exception and I became extremely interested in the

history of pinball machines and the game manufacturers.


     My first bit of pinball history information actually came to

me many years before I became an actual collector.  As many of

you already know, when I was a young teenager I owned several old

pingames.  Well, after writing to Bally for information about one

of these games I started receiving their company newsletter

called BALLYWHO.  One issue I received commemorated their 20th

anniversary and showed pictures of one Bally game for each of

those years.  This was the first time I realized how the games

had "evolved" over the years since the early 1930's.


     My real delving into the historical aspects of pinball

however began in the early 1970's, after I had started my current

pinball collection.  While visiting in the home of a fellow

pinball enthusiast (soon afterwards to become a game dealer for

the home market) I was shown a list of pinball machines and their

approximate dates of release compiled by him and a friend of his.

This list was fascinating to me as it could be used to "date"

most any pingame made between the early 1950's and the current

date at that time.


     When I asked him if I could have a copy he gave it to me.

When I next asked how they gathered all that information he said

they used microfilm at the main Los Angeles public library of the

entertainment industry trade magazine BILLBOARD, which was used

by the amusement game industry as an advertising medium from the

early 1930's up until sometime in the 1970's, I believe.


     (AUTHOR'S NOTE:  "The BILLBOARD" was first established in

1894, primarily as a news and advertising publication for the

circus/carnival trade.  In the years that followed it's coverage

widened, and by the 1930's and 1940's covered almost all facets

of "entertainment".  For example, the September 7, 1947 issue

contained sections devoted to: Broadway, Burlesquee, Carnival,

Circus, Coin Machines, Fairs-Expositions, General Outdoors,

Legitimate Theater, Magic, Music, Night Clubs, Parks-Pools,

Radio, Records, Television, and World's Fair, plus a few more



     The "Coin Machine" section, at one time or another, covered

news and contained advertising for all forms of coin-operated

equipment including, pingames, jukeboxes, slot machines, trade

stimulators, arcade machines, and vending equipment.  BILLBOARD

still publishes today, but in recent years has been devoted

almost entirely to the music industry.)


     Well, that list was fine if you wanted to date a game from

the fifties and beyond, but I was also interested in earlier pins

since those were the type I had owned and played as a kid.  After

carefully studying the dates of the games on this list I

determined that it was fairly complete from 1952 on, but

contained only a smattering of games made before that year.  I

then decided that I would like to complete the list, at least for

games made during the 1940's.  So one day I went to the Los

Angeles Public Library (armed with pencil and a stack of 3 x 5

file cards) to start my project.


     First I had to decide how early in time I wanted to start my

"research".  Since I knew the earliest game I owned as a kid was

Bally's VARIETY, and that it was made sometime in 1939, I decided

that would be a good year to start with.  Well, BILLBOARD

microfilm came in rolls (each with approximately 4 months of

weekly issues on it) and the roll which contained January 1939

actually started with November 1938.  So that's where I started.


     I decided to look at all the pinball ads in each issue and

note the first occurrence of an advertisement for each game.

Well, at that time I made a decision I later regretted.  (True

Confession Time!)  I reasoned that since the date of first

advertisement of a game in BILLBOARD was only an approximate

indication of the date of the game's release by the manufacturer,

that if I only noted during which "quarter" of the year the ad

appeared, that would be "close enough".  So I decided to record

only the year, and in which "quarter" the game was first

advertised, using the notation "A, B, C, and D" to represent the

four quarters of a year.  Therefore, for example, any games first

advertised any time between January and March of 1939 would

appear on my list as "39-A".


     This microfilm research was a slow process, and it took

several visits to the Los Angeles library (approximately 50 miles

from my home) to get from November 1938 up to 1948.  I then

discovered that the UCLA library (a little closer to home) had

"hard copies" of BILLBOARD covering 1948 and 1949.  This time I

took my teenage daughter with me and taught her the process which

speeded things up a little.  I then made one more trip to the Los

Angeles Central Library to finish up through the end of 1951.   

During this last visit I had made up my mind to list the actual

month of each ad and abandon the quarterly (A-B-C-D) idea.  I

even went back and modified a few "A-B-C-D listings" I had

previously done.


     At this point I had a stack of file cards, each containing

the name of a pingame, it's manufacturer, and the approximate

date (to the nearest quarter of a year in most cases) of it's

first advertisement in BILLBOARD.  After sorting these cards in

alphabetical order (I didn't have a computer in those days) I

prepared a typewritten list of the games and that stage of my

research was complete.


     I failed to mention, however, that in this first BILLBOARD

research I skipped the period of World War II, since I knew no

new games were manufactured during those years, and I thought it

would be too time consuming to look at those issues on microfilm.

But I started feeling that my work was really not complete, since

there were games "converted" during that period.  So one Saturday

afternoon, while on a business trip to New York City, I decided

to go to the New York public library and tackle the "war years"

and their "Wartime Conversion" pingames.


     After a phone call to the main library I discovered that the

BILLBOARD microfilm was at their Music And Arts Branch located at

Lincoln Center.  I then went to that location and started again

looking at microfilm and recording the "Wartime Conversions"

advertised.  Since those games were created by one outfit taking

pre-war pingames manufactured by another company and modifying

them in some way to "convert" them to a "new game", I decided I

should list the "new name", the "converting company", and the

original name, and that's what I did.


     When I started looking at those ads I discovered several

things.  First I noticed that some of the ads offered to convert

old games that an operator owned into the "new game".  In those

cases the operator would ship his machine to the "converting

company" and they would later send him the "new game" and charge

a specific fee for that service.  Most of the time this was to

convert one specific old game into a specific new game, although

some ads would indicate a list of several old games, any of which

could be converted to the specified new game.


     Other outfits just bought specific old games from operators

outright, converted them to "new games", then selling these to

anyone wishing to buy them.  In the case where either the old

game from which a conversion was produced was not indicated in

the ad, or when the ad gave a list of games which could be used

for conversion to the "new game", I made no entry for the "old

game" in my list.


     After compiling all this information on "Wartime

Conversions", and creating a listing of them, I told Roger

Sharpe, who was in the process of compiling information for his

forthcoming book PINBALL, about it and he asked if he could have

a copy of my list.  I gave it to him and he used it to create his

"Wartime Conversion" list which appeared in that book.


     After completing this phase of my research, I combined all

the pinball dating information I had obtained from BILLBOARD for

the period from November 1938 through the end of 1951 and

provided a copy of it to the person who had originally given me

the pinball dating list I mentioned earlier.


     At that point I thought that was the end of my participation

in the "pinball research business", but it was only beginning!

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's name was Don Mueting, and when I called him he

told me that he was trying to compile a list of pingames,

including manufacturer's name and approximate date of release,

using the lists of games contained in the manufacturer's "parts

catalogs".  He also told me he was utilizing a device called a

"FLEX-O-WRITER" (a form of electric typing device which was

controlled by a "punched paper tape" which could be used for

"editing" the information to be printed) to prepare his list.   

When I told him about the list I had originally obtained (which

covered 1952 through the early 1970's) and my recently prepared

list (covering from late 1938 through 1951) he was really

excited. He asked me if I would give him copies of these lists

for him to use in preparation of his list.  I said "OK" and

provided him with copies.


     He then set out to prepare the "1st edition" of his list

using his FLEX-O-WRITER.  When he finished it he sent copies to

anyone he knew who was connected with pinball, asking for their

corrections and additions.  Some time after that he "retired" his

FLEX-O-WRITER and put all this pinball data into a computer



     A while later I met a fellow named Rob Hawkins who was also

very interested in pinball history, in fact he had written his

Master's Thesis on the subject.  I told Rob about Don and his

project and they started working together and eventually prepared

their now famous "Pinball Reference Guide" (the current "standard

reference" for dating pinball machines) which I, and many other

pinball collectors I am sure, carry with me at all times!


     My next venture into pinball dating research occurred

primarily as a result of my curiosity.  Ever since I was a kid,

visiting my relatives in Memphis, I was fascinated by the "one-

ball horserace" gambling type pingames.  After adding one of

these machines to my collection, I began to wonder exactly when

this game format was originated.

     One day, while on a vacation in San Francisco, I decided to

pay a visit to that city's  main library (which I knew also had

BILLBOARD microfilm) and try to find out.  I remembered from that

issue of BALLYWHO I had when I was a kid (I still own it as a

matter of fact) that Bally's PREAKNESS, made in 1936, was the

first such game illustrated in that article.  I therefore

reasoned that the first game of that format had to be made in

that year, or in the previous one, so I started looking at

BILLBOARD issues from late 1935.  Since I was looking at these

issues anyway, I decided to list the "first advertisement dates"

for all pins I came across, just as I had done in the past for

1939 through 1951.


     During that search I discovered that the first game with the

"WIN, PLACE, SHOW" format, typical of the "one-ball horserace"

games I was familiar with, was Gottlieb's  DAILY RACES, first

advertised in BILLBOARD in March 1936.  This was closely followed

by Bally's first game of that type, HIALEAH, which was advertised

one month later, some two months before PREAKNESS.


     When I got home from my trip, I organized my notes from that

 BILLBOARD search and prepared a list of pingames advertised

between November 1935 and July 1936.  I then sent it to Don

Mueting for him to use in updating his still growing pinball

computer database.


     That was not the end of my BILLBOARD research either,

although it was several years later when I again started looking

at microfilm.  A few years ago my friend, and fellow pinball

enthusiast, Jack Atkins of Ogden Utah decided he wanted to own

the BILLBOARD microfilm from the mid 1930's, because his special

area of pinball interest was the "payout" pingames he had played

during that period.


     I had told Jack that I had previously found out that the New

York Public Library sold copies of microfilm for approximately

$35 per roll (each roll, as I stated earlier, containing about 4

months of the weekly publication).  He bought a used microfilm

reader at a very reasonable price and bought most of the

BILLBOARD microfilm from the mid Thirties.  Shortly after that he

found a second film reader and kindly offered to give it to me to

aid in my research.  He also offered to loan me any of his

microfilm I wanted to look at.


     Well, if you have been following my story closely up to now,

you may have noticed that there was a "gap" in my pinball dating

research, that being the period from mid 1936 to November 1938.

Therefore, when Jack made me that gracious offer, I decided I

would fill that "gap".


     When I told Rob Hawkins about my plan of listing the pingame

ads in BILLBOARD for that period, he suggested that while I was

at it I also make note of the "stories" often appearing in the

magazine describing the games as well; something I had previously

ignored.   I agreed to do that and also decided to not only list

the "first advertisement" for a game, but to also make note of

later ads for each machine as well.


     Having a computer at that time, I set up two "databases" for

this research, one for the "advertisements" (including the

duplicate ads) and the other for the "stories".  When I started

looking at the film I made two "passes" through each roll, the

first time to record the advertising information in the first

database, and again to record the occurrences of the game related

stories in the other.  After entering all this data into the

computer I could then produce two listings for each database, one

sorted alphabetically by game, and the other chronologically by

the magazine issue date and page number.


     The "ad database" included the name, manufacturer, magazine

issue and page number for the first advertisement for the game, a

one line description of the game's major features, and a short

list of date and page number for later ads for the same machine.

(see sample "Ad Listing").  The "stories database" included (in

addition to the name and manufacturer) the issue date and page

number for the story, the title of it, and a one line comment

regarding the story's content.  (see sample "Story Listing"). As

I'm sure you can plainly see, this phase of my research included

a lot more detail than my previous attempts.  This was due to the

fact that I had the luxury of working in my own home, in my spare

time, and with a computer sitting right next to my own microfilm



     After determining that my local library branch now had a

microfilm "reader/printer", capable of making fairly decent "hard

copies" of ads and stories at a reasonable price (10 cents per

copy), I decided while I had the microfilm on loan I might as

well make "prints" of one good ad for each game, plus selected

good stories, editorials, etc.  Since these copies were made by a

"wet process" and, I was told, tended to fade over time, my final

step was to make high quality photocopies from the reader/printer



     This project took two or three years altogether; my

borrowing a couple rolls of film at a time, and performing these

tasks in my spare time and in between writing my regular articles

for COIN SLOT.  When I photocopied these ads and articles I made

on copy for myself, one for Hawkins/Mueting (including copies of

my computer database listings), and a copy for my "benefactor"

Jack Atkins of all the information pertaining to "payout"

pingames (which was all he wanted).  Many, many thanks Jack for

the wonderful film reader and the loan of that great microfilm,

and for being so patient with me for taking so long to return it!


     By the way, there's one thing I forgot to mention.   When

searching through the 1938 microfilm I solved two of my long

standing "mysteries".  These were the dates of release of two

games that I owned.  One was Exhibit's LIGHTNING (not to be

confused with that outfit's 1934 game by the same name which was

a special version of Harry Williams' famous CONTACT), which I no

longer own, and the other Stoner's ELECTRO.  I had guessed by

their appearance that both were made in 1938, but I could now

confirm it.  I discovered that ELECTRO was released around March,

with LIGHTNING not coming out until around August.


     So now you've heard the story of my pinball dating research,

using BILLBOARD magazine as my main information source.  Before

ending, however, let me say a little about what it was like

"looking back into history".


     When you start looking at the pages of an old BILLBOARD it

is almost like being there at that time.  You see each new game

when it's first introduced to the trade and how long it remains

the "current hit" in the manufacturer's line.  In addition to

pingames, you also see ads for other coin-op devices (such as

jukeboxes, slot machines, and arcade machines) which supplemented

pins for the distributors and operators.  In my recent 1937/1938

research, for example, I noticed the introduction of the

"electric eye" rifle game and the "Skee Ball" roll down game, as

well as the latest pins.  I also saw today's "classic" slot

machines, which you see described in COIN SLOT as valuable

collector's items, advertised as just another piece of

merchandise at the then current market price.


     In addition to the machines, you also see articles about the

coin machine industry "personalities" of the time.  Articles

about their opinions of new machines, or problems within the

industry, or sometimes news of their business trips or even

vacations.  I also saw the obituary for coin machine executive

Ted Stoner, whose Stoner Manufacturing Co. produced many fine

pingames during the Thirties and up until the war.  All in all it

makes you feel like you were part of the coin machine industry in

those "good old days".  Quite a pleasant experience for me



     What about the future, you ask?  Well, I really can't say at

this time.  One of my pet "pin trivia" projects is to determine

what was the first pingame to use the term "SPECIAL" to indicate

a way of winning replays, in addition to high scores.  I found no

mention of such a feature in my 1938 research, but my 1940 Genco

game, METRO, uses it (or at least "EXTRA SPECIAL").  The first

use of the term therefore must have occurred in 1939 or 1940.

Well, neither Jack Atkins nor any of the Los Angeles university

libraries have any BILLBOARD microfilm for these years, and the

main Los Angeles library was destroyed by a fire several years

ago and won't be back in operation until the early 1990's, so I

don't know when I could complete that little project.


     So maybe I'll "cool it" with BILLBOARD for awhile, but you

never can tell.  Just look at the story I've just related and you

can see that this type of thing always seems to recapture my

interest, and "where there's a will there's a way".  So who