TWO SHOWS - 1994
By Russ Jensen
For the past couple years about this time I have been doing an article called "Three Shows" which covered the "Loose Change Fun Fair", the "Arizona Pinball Show", and the "Coin-op Super Show". Well, this year it's a little different.
First of all, I was unable to attend this year's Fun Fair because it was held during my vacation. I might not have attended anyway, as it was moved back to one of my un-favorite locations, the Anaheim Stadium Exhibition Center.
Also I did not attend the 1994 "Arizona Pinball Show", opting instead this time to attend the new "Wild West Pinball Fest" held a couple months earlier than the other Arizona show. I did, however, attend Roseanna Harris' "Coin-op Super Show" held early in January. So this years it's "Two Shows".
COIN-OP SUPER SHOW
The first 1994 edition of Roseanna Harris' COIN-OP SUPER SHOW was held on January 8th and 9th at my favorite show location, the Pasadena Exhibit Center in Pasadena California. This year the show was held earlier than usual due to the new California antique slot machine collector's law.
The newly revised law, effective January 1, 1994, allows ownership of slots 25 years old or older (previously it was pre- 1954). This meant that the Bally electro-mechanicals from the mid to late 1960's were now legal to collect. Since I have always wanted to own one of those, I decided this show would be a good chance to check the prices to see if I could afford one.
I again decided, as I have done a couple of times recently, to ask my old friend Nat Ross if he would like to go with me. When I called him he said he would like to go but told me he had already planned to attend a meeting that day of an organization he belonged to - The National Sheet Music Society. However, since that show was also in Pasadena - and late in the afternoon - we decided we would both attend both events.
Well, I drove to Los Angeles and picked up Nat at his apartment, and we then drove to the show site in Pasadena. After entering the show area it was plain to see that slots dominated the show - but, of course, that was to be expected. There were, however, a few pingames at the show, but more about that shortly.
After briefly checking the prices of Bally electro- mechanical slots at the bigger dealer's booths (such as L.A. Slot Machine Co.), I determined that the prices for these machines seemed to range from about $1200 up to around $1500. This, I thought, was a little high for me.
After roaming around for awhile, I came upon a dealer who had two nice looking Bally's, but they both were already sold. When I asked him what he had gotten for them, and he told me $800, I remarked that I would have probably bought one at that price.
He then told me that he might run into some more which he could sell for around that price, so he took my name and phone number. He did live about 300 miles away from me but said he had a girl friend in the Los Angeles area and could possibly deliver one to me if he found one.
A little while later I ran into a fellow, Ray Dier, who I first met at the first edition of this show a couple of years ago. When I told Ray that I was interested in a Bally electro- mechanical slot for around $800 he told me he knew someone who once had a Bally which he was willing to sell for about that amount. He told me he would contact the man and call me afterwards; more about that later.
Now to the pins. I counted a total of six pingames at the show; most, if not all, in the booths of Herb Silver's "Fabulous Fantasies" and Jim Tolbert's "For Amusement Only" outfits. As far as decades of manufacturer were concerned, there was one model per decade for the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's, and three from the 1970's.
The 1940's pingame at the show was Gottlieb's SHARPSHOOTER from mid 1949. The backglass had a carnival shooting gallery theme. The 9 "targets" in this shooting gallery were numbered '1' through '9'.
There were 7 numbered bumpers near the top of the playfield which, when hit by a ball, lit the corresponding 1 through 7 targets on the backglass. Two "scoring rubbers" at the bottom of the field would light the correspondingly numbered '8' and '9' targets.
Lighting all nine targets on the backglass apparently lit the kickout hole just below the flippers for "special" replay scoring. And, of course, high scoring of points could also reward the player with free games.
The 1950's pin at the show was Williams 1957 game JIGSAW. This was one of only three pins I know of having a jigsaw puzzle theme.
The first of these, Rockola's 1933 mechanical marvel "(WORLD'S FAIR) JIGSAW", had a jigsaw puzzle in the center of it's playfield depicting a map of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Balls dropping into playfield holes mechanically turned over pieces of this puzzle. Approximately four years later that same company came out with another jigsaw pin (this time with a backbox); a rare game called JIG JOY.
Williams' JIGSAW, two decades later, had a special jigsaw puzzle display in it's backbox. Pieces of this puzzle could be "put into place" by the player getting balls to cross a myriad of roll-over switches on it's very complex playfield.
This game appeared to have some fascinating scoring features. The JIGSAW at the show was in excellent condition and was priced accordingly.
The following is a chronological listing of the pingames at the show:
GAME MANUFACTURER YEAR PRICE SHARPSHOOTER Gottlieb 1949 1600 JIGSAW Williams 1957 1295 TROPIC ISLE Gottlieb 1962 1900 CASINO Chicago Coin 1972 575 NIP-IT Bally 1972 875 OLD CHICAGO Bally 1975 800
To me the prices seemed rather high, especially for the later games from the 1970's.
At about 2:30 we decided to leave the show. All in all the show was very good, with a good number of dealers, despite the lack of many pingames. But, as I said earlier, the emphasis for this edition was supposed to be slots - and it certainly was.
After having a late lunch at a Chinese fast food place, Nat and I headed for the sheet music meeting which was held on the campus of a local community college.
One of the features of the meeting was a sheet music auction to which I even contributed a few pieces I had around the house, making a few bucks in the process. The guest speaker of the afternoon was a show-business music arranger who had done arranging for people such as Ricky Nelson - a very interesting speaker!
I met a lot of very nice people there, including the club secretary who I found out not only had a couple pingames, but she also had a copy of my book - proving once again that it certainly is "a small pinball world". Attending this show was something different for me, although old-time popular music has always been of interest to me ever since I was a young teenager.
After the meeting was over in the early evening I drove Nat back to Los Angeles and then headed for my home.
Well, I finally got a Bally slot machine - but not for several weeks after the show. Later that weekend Ray called me saying he talked to his friend about the slot, but he said he wasn't sure he still wanted to sell it.
About a week after that I got a message on my machine saying to call the same fellow regarding his slot. When I called him he said it was a Bally and he would sell it for $850. But when I asked what model it was he said he didn't know, but would look.
After awhile he told me he discovered that it was not a Bally at all, but was a Seeburg. Since there was no documentation that I know of on those machines - but there was on the Ballys - I decided I did not want to pay that much for a "odd-ball brand".
After another false alarm - a machine Ray thought was in good condition by wasn't - Ray called me one evening saying he had found a good Bally model 809 nickel "fruit machine" that I could have for $850. After telling me he would even bring it to me to look at (a trip of about 70 miles) that evening I said "OK".
Ray and his wife got to our house a little over an hour later and set up the machine. I decided it was exactly what I was looking for and bought it on the spot. I later discovered it needed a little electrical work, but since that's my "forte" (and I had a good book on those machines) it wasn't too much of a problem. And besides, I learned quite a bit about the circuitry and how the Bally electro-mechanicals work.
Since then I bought another great book on Bally electro- mechanicals written by Marshal Fey, and my good friend Phil Anderson in Reno gave me an original Bally service manual, so documentation wise I am really in good shape. I love my machine and enjoy playing it in the evenings - so your's truly is now (at least somewhat) "into slots".
THE WILD WEST PINBALL FEST
Last year at Pinball Expo '93, Arizona pinball operator/collector Dann Frank was touting a new pinball show he was planning to hold in the Phoenix area in the Spring of 1994. This sounded kind of nice to me at the time since it's not quite so hot in Phoenix that time of the year (I might even be able to drive). So I sort of decided I might attend.
Well, when the time for that show drew near I received a special invitation from Dann, including a custom "historian" badge. I decided I would definitely attend the show.
My friend Sam Harvey (who also received a special invitation and badge) and I decided we would either fly or drive together. One of the airlines was offering a "two-for-one" fare to Phoenix at that time which sounded good to us.
Well, when we investigated we found there was only a limited number of seats available on that deal and those were already booked in advance. So we decided we would drive together in Sam's mother's car.
On the morning of Friday, April 30, I drove to Sam's house (about 80 miles) and within a half hour after I arrived we were off for Phoenix. We had a very pleasant drive, the time passing pretty fast as we listened to Sam's great "doo-wop" rock-and-roll tapes - some great music indeed!
The weather was great - in the upper 70's or low 80's, I believe. We stopped for lunch in Blythe, California, on the California/Arizona border. After a couple more hours of driving and listening we arrived at the Sahara Resort Hotel in Scottsdale, the site of the show, around 4 PM.
After checking into our room we headed for the Exhibit Hall for the "Friday evening preview", admission to which was free to anyone spending two nights at the hotel. When we entered the hall we found that many games, and several dealer's booths, were already set up - others being in the set-up process.
From the number and quality of games we could see it looked like we were in for a good show. We wandered around the hall for several hours looking at games and renewing old pinball acquaintances - people we feel like are "family".
When dinner time came we went out to eat with a small group of "pin buddies". We went to a nice restaurant a few blocks away. The place had a "sports motif" with a large collection of sports photos and memorabilia displayed on all the walls throughout the large dining areas.
The food was very good - they specialized in barbecued ribs, by the way - but the prices were somewhat high, but I guess that was to be expected. We all had a nice meal with much good pinball conversation - a relaxing interlude.
We then returned to the Exhibit Hall for awhile for more looking around and visiting. Many stayed quite awhile longer I am sure, but as for me, after about an hour or so I went up to bed.
The next morning we got up and first went to the special room where the hotel offered a free Continental Breakfast. The very friendly gentleman who served us remembered us from other shows we had attended in past years. After that, Sam and I went to the hotel coffee shop for our "regular breakfast".
After eating we went to the Exhibit Hall for the Saturday session. When we entered I noticed that Dann had a special deal going with the local Big Brothers/Sisters organization. Any "big brother/sister" who brought their "little brother/sister" to the show got a free admission for the kid. In addition, that organization held a raffle at the show of a pinball machine, all proceeds going to that charity - good idea Dann!
I'm sure the youngest attendee to the show was 10 month old Jennifer Stathatos whose family had the room below ours at the hotel. When I remarked to her mother Terry how her baby was peacefully sleeping through all the pinball noise, she said that Jennifer had heard the same at home, even while she was carrying her, and was used to it by now.
In addition to a couple of local people, dealers at the show included Jim Tolbert and Judy McCrory's "For Amusement Only" from Berkeley, California; Bob Nelson's "Gameroom Warehouse" from Wichita, Kansas; and Herb Silver's "Fabulous Fantasies" from Los Angeles.
Pinball author and advertising flyer dealer/collector Bill Kurtz from Ohio had a booth selling his books and flyers and publicizing his up-coming new large illustrated coin machine book. Bill has not been seen at a pinball show for many years and it was nice to see him again. He was also to be the featured speaker at the evening banquet - but more about that later.
There was a good assortment of pingames in the hall for sale, viewing, and of course playing. As far as the decades of manufacturer were concerned there were 2 from the Thirties (strictly mechanical), 1 from the Forties, 5 from the Fifties, and 32 from the Sixties. From the 1970's there were 23 electro- mechanicals and 13 solid-state pins. There were also 34 from the 1980's and 16 from the current decade.
One of the more interesting earlier pins at the show was Williams' 1955 game PETER PAN. This was one of several pingames that company put out around that time with a special type of "match feature".
If a player deposited a second coin before beginning a game - with only one coin the match feature worked in the traditional way - the game was set up to look for a "match" after each ball (instead of only the last ball). If the player was lucky enough to match on all five balls - a very rare situation, I might add - he won a large number of replays.
In order to accommodate this feature the game's replay counter displayed 3 digits instead of the usual two. This second coin super match feature, and the high counting replay counter, made these games candidates for gambling payoffs, and this provided at least a little competition to the "bingo pingames" prevalent at that time.
Williams, by the way, was not the only company around that time to offer a "second coin bonus feature". For a short time Gottlieb put out a few games with what they called a "double award" feature. On these games the depositing of a second coin would cause any replays earned by the player to be doubled.
The PETER PAN at the show was in excellent condition, and was priced accordingly. The artwork was most likely by prolific pinball artist George Molentin.
Another interesting pin at the show was Williams' BEAT TIME from 1967. The backglass artwork, done by pinball artist Jerry Kelley, showed a four man rock group called "The Bootles", obvious caricatures of "The Beatles". The game itself is not particularly special, however, except for that tie-in.
A rarer game, I am sure (this is only the second one I have seen), at the show was Bally's BALLY HOO from 1969. That name (but only written as one word), of course, was the name of the game that got the company started back in 1932 - in fact the original BALLYHOO was named after a popular satire magazine of the time, and the company then named after the game. By the way, there was another BALLYHOO made by the company in 1947.
The 1969 BALLY HOO was a four-player pin, it's predecessors, of course, both being only single-players. The artwork on this BALLY HOO, featured a circus motif, promoted, I am sure, by the popular usage of the word "ballyhoo" denoting a "noisy shouting or uproar". The game's playfield was of the asymmetrical design prevalent on most Bally pins of the period.
The following is a chronological listing of the pingames at the show:
PINGAMES AT THE WILD WEST PINBALL FEST NAME MFG DATE PRICE -------------------------- -------------- ----- -------- BALLYHOO Bally 1932 NFS WAMPUM BANK Sunnisam Games 1932 NFS CITATION (1-BALL) Bally 1949 600 PALM BEACH (BINGO) Bally 1952 ARABIAN NIGHTS Gottlieb 1953 NFS PETER PAN Williams 1955 950 BALLS-A-POPPIN' Bally 1956 NFS CYPRESS GARDENS (BINGO) Bally 1958 NFS JUNGLE Williams 1960 450 WORLD BEAUTIES Gottlieb 1960 FOTO FINISH Gottlieb 1961 NFS SLICK CHICK Gottlieb 1963 1500 STAR JET Bally 1963 NFS ROYAL FLUSH Gottlieb 1964 NFS TENTH INNING (PITCH & BAT) Williams 1964 NFS APOLLO Williams 1965 BANK-A-BALL Gottlieb 1965 1500 COWPOKE Gottlieb 1965 KINGS AND QUEENS Gottlieb 1965 NFS POT-O-GOLD Williams 1965 200 SKY LINE Gottlieb 1965 NFS CENTRAL PARK Gottlieb 1966 850 EIGHT BALL Williams 1966 NFS TV BASEBALL (PITCH & BAT) Chicago Coin 1966 BEAT TIME Williams 1967 200, 450 DERBY DAY Williams 1967 DIAMOND JACK (AAB) Gottlieb 1967 NFS KING OF DIAMONDS Gottlieb 1967 TWINKY Chicago Coin 1967 175 ALL STARS (PITCH & BAT) Chicago Coin 1968 DAFFIE Williams 1968 NFS LADY LUCK Williams 1968 ON BEAM Bally 1968 NFS ROYAL GUARD Gottlieb 1968 350 BALLY HOO Bally 1969 NFS EXPO Williams 1969 NFS GALAHAD Bally 1969 250 GRIDIRON Williams 1969 NFS SEVEN UP Williams 1969 ZIP-A-DOO Bally 1969 300 AQUARIUS Gottlieb 1970 FOUR MILLION BC Bally 1970 NFS SEE SAW Bally 1970 NFS SEE SAW (WHITEWOOD) Bally 1970 NFS SUSPENSE Williams 1970 NFS VAMPIRE Bally 1970 NFS ROLLER COASTER Gottlieb 1971 275 CASINO Chicago Coin 1972 MONTE CARLO Bally 1972 WILD LIFE Gottlieb 1972 HIGH HAND Gottlieb 1973 NFS JUBILEE Williams 1973 JUMPING JACK Gottlieb 1973 400 TRAVEL TIME Williams 1973 NFS LUCKY ACE Williams 1974 TRIPLE ACTION Williams 1974 NFS HI DEAL Bally 1975 450 OUT OF SIGHT Gottlieb 1975 600 BLACK JACK (SS) Bally 1976 350 CAPTAIN FANTASTIC Bally 1976 1600 GRAND PRIX Williams 1976 NFS PIONEER Gottlieb 1976 NFS PLAYBOY Bally 1976 NFS SURE SHOT Gottlieb 1976 TOLEDO Williams 1976 200 HOT TIP (EM) Williams 1977 350 JACKS OPEN Gottlieb 1977 MUSTANG Gottlieb 1977 NFS SOLAR CITY Gottlieb 1977 250 STRIKES AND SPARES Bally 1977 NFS DISCO FEVER Williams 1978 75 KISS Bally 1978 NFS STRANGE WORLD Gottlieb 1978 NFS VOLTAN Bally 1978 NFS GORGAR Williams 1979 NFS SPACE WALK Gottlieb 1979 NFS TOTEM Gottlieb 1979 ALIEN POKER Williams 1980 NFS EIGHT BALL DELUXE Bally 1980 NFS FATHOM Bally 1980 NFS FIREPOWER Williams 1980 450 FLASH GORDON Bally 1980 NFS PANTHERA Gottlieb 1980 350 SPIDERMAN (THE AMAZING) Gottlieb 1980 NFS BLACK HOLE Gottlieb 1981 CENTAUR Bally 1981 NFS MEDUSA Bally 1981 NFS PHAROH Williams 1981 NFS SPECTRUM Bally 1981 NFS BABY PAC-MAN Bally 1982 NFS HAUNTED HOUSE Gottlieb 1982 THUNDERBALL Williams 1982 NFS GRANNY AND THE GATORS Bally 1983 JOUST Williams 1983 READY, AIM, FIRE Gottlieb 1983 NFS PENNANT FEVER (PITCH & BAT) Williams 1984 NFS GRAND LIZARD Williams 1986 NFS PINBOT Williams 1986 NFS ROAD KINGS Williams 1986 350 STRANGE SCIENCE Bally 1986 F-14 TOMCAT Williams 1987 FIRE Williams 1987 HARDBODY Bally 1987 MONTE CARLO Gottlieb 1987 BANZAI RUN Williams 1988 NFS CYCLONE Williams 1988 ESCAPE FROM THE LOST WORLD Bally 1988 NFS TAXI Williams 1988 850 TIME MACHINE Data East 1988 1095 BIG HOUSE Gottlieb 1989 695 ELVIRA Bally 1989 1400 FUN HOUSE Williams 1990 NFS SIMPSONS (THE) Data East 1990 1195 CACTUS JACK'S Gottlieb 1991 NFS CAR HOP Gottlieb 1991 HARLEY DAVIDSON Bally 1991 FISH TAILS Williams 1992 TOURNEY GETAWAY (THE) Williams 1992 NFS STAR WARS Data East 1992 NFS INDIANA JONES Williams 1993 TOURNEY JUDGE DREAD Bally 1993 SHOW POPEYE Bally 1993 SHOW STAR TREK (NEXT GENERATION) Williams 1993 NFS TWILIGHT ZONE Bally 1993 SHOW WIPE OUT Gottlieb 1993 SHOW RESCUE 911 Gottlieb 1994 SHOW TOMMY Data East 1994 NEW
At around noon on Saturday, as has happened in past years when I attended pinball shows in Phoenix, my sister and her husband drove up from Tucson to have lunch with me. When they arrived, we, along with my roommate Sam Harvey, walked to the large mall across the street from the hotel to eat.
The mall had an area with tables surrounded by small stands serving various types of foods (Pizza, Mexican, Deli, Chinese, etc.). We each got the food of our choice and sat down together to eat it. After enjoying our lunch and good conversation we returned to the Exhibit Hall. After showing my visitors around the hall for about a half hour they left to return home.
Now a few words about the "special events" which Dann Frank thought up to make the show more enjoyable to all. Those consisted of the "Pinball Rodeo" and "Tag Team Pinball".
The "Pinball Rodeo" was divided into five "events" in which each of the participants could score "rodeo points" depending on their ranking in the event (1st Place - 10 points, down to 8th, 9th, or 10th Place - 1 point).
All show attendees could participate in the rodeo for free; the person accumulating the highest number of points in the combined events being crowned "1994 Pinball Rodeo Champion". Several events utilized specially modified pingames as described below.
One rodeo event, "Pinball Poker", was played on a modified pingame where the numbers on the score reels were replaced by playing card symbols. Players attempted to get the best "poker hands" by changing these "cards" by hitting playfield targets which were wired to advance the various score reel positions.
A second event, "Video Pinball", consisted of trying for the highest score on a 1978 Atari video game by that name. A third rodeo event, dubbed "Sudden Death", was to get the highest score on a modified Williams' TOUCHDOWN (1967) pingame without getting a ball into a special "sudden death" hole which ended the game.
Another rodeo event was called "Wild West One-Ball". This consisted of playing one ball on Gottlieb's 1967 pin KING OF DIAMONDS, trying to get as many of the 13 playing cards as possible on the backboard, the winners of the event being the persons scoring the most cards.
The last rodeo event, "Crazy Eight-Ball", consisted of trying for the highest score on a 1982 Bally EIGHT BALL DELUXE pin which was modified with special large curved "banana flippers".
In addition to the "Pinball Rodeo" events another "fun feature" of the show was what Dann dubbed "Tag Team Pinball". Players participating in this event formed two person teams each team with a chosen comical name. This event utilized a specially modified 1977 Gottlieb MUSTANG pingame, which had a bell mounted on top of the backbox wired to ring when a player hit certain "targets" on the playfield.
When a team was up to play, one member played the game while his teammate stood behind a "tag line" drawn on the floor five feet behind the game. If the player caused the bell to ring he must immediately let go of the game and run back and tag his teammate who then runs up and tries to continue play before the ball "drains." This continues until all five balls have been played by a team.
There was also a "penalty system" in connection with the play, involving two other tag lines located even further away from the game. The four top scoring teams participated in final play-offs at the banquet.
And Saturday night was the night of the "Wild West Banquet". After a nice meal of western barbecue we settled down in our seats to hear banquet guest speaker pinball author and brochure collector Bill Kurtz who had come all the way from Ohio (the farthest anyone had come to the show, I believe).
Show host Dann Frank got up to introduce Bill. He began by remarking that when Bill's name is mentioned many pin players would say "I've heard of him". This, Dann went on, could be partially due to the books he has written, but, he added, "there's more to the story".
Dann then told us that part of the reason we were there today was due to our guest speaker's "vision" ten years earlier when he was one of the founders of the Chicago "Pinball Expo". Dann then remarked that the apparent success of his show was due to a "core of dedicated collectors/players" which seems to grow each year.
He then asked us to imagine what it was like back in 1985 when the first Expo was thought of. Dann said that Bill and the other Expo founders had to have wondered if enough people would come to make their show successful.
He then commented that, of course, there were because the Expo was successful. Dann then added that he hoped Bill would tell us what it was like - dealing with that "unknown quantity" when deciding if they wanted to go forward with the show.
Dann then mentioned Bill's two published books - "Pinball - The Lure of the Silver Ball", and "Slot Machines and Coin-op Games". He then announced Bill's forthcoming new book which would be somewhat expensive (around $60), but would be worth it due to it's approximately 450 photos of coin machines, many of which will be in color.
After remarking that he hoped Bill would touch on the things that make pinball important to all of us, Dann said that possibly Volume II of Bill's new book might be out around 1998. He then said there would be a Question and Answer Session after Bill's talk. At that point Dann introduced Bill, which drew a round of applause.
Bill began by saying that he wanted to take a moment to thank Dann for putting on such a good show - drawing another round of applause. He then remarked that we were all here due to the "common ground" of pinball collecting.
Bill then commented that the hobby really didn't exist 20 years ago. He then said that pinball collecting is a lot different from collecting such things as stamps and coins.
When you tell a person you collect pins, Bill went on, their first reaction is usually "why do you need more than one?" Twenty years ago, he continued, there was really no established core of collectors.
In those days, Bill said, operators didn't even think of selling their old games for home use, many going to the dump and eventually being bulldozed. This is why, he said, the survival rate for older games today is only about 5 or 10 percent, making it tough to find certain pins.
Bill then commented that collecting coin-ops really started in the early 1970's - juke boxes first, then pins later. In the mid Seventies, he went on, Pete Bilarczyk started publishing his "Pinball Wizzard News" (yes folks, he spelled it with two Z's), the first pinball "magazine".
This, Bill continued, started getting collectors from different areas of the country in touch with each other. Many collectors at that time (and I know it was the case with me) he commented, didn't realize how many other pin collectors there were. It also helped collectors in different areas find games which were more prevalent in other sections of the country.
In the early 1980's, Bill next told us, Steve Young came out with his excellent pin-pub "Pinball Collector's Quarterly" which, he said, helped even more to get collectors in touch with each other. After that, he went on, there were other coin-op magazines such as Jim Tolbert's "Amusement Review" (the publication, by the way, responsible for launching this writer's "pinball writing career").
Bill then told us that in the mid 1980's he was part of a pinball club in the Ohio area along with Rob Berk and others. He said they came up with the idea that there might be similar groups in other parts of the country and thought maybe they could stage some sort of "pinball convention". He said they really didn't know at that time what would happen if they did - a sort of "shot in the dark".
In the Fall of 1984, Bill continued, they sent out a questionnaire to about 50 or 60 pin people they knew of asking if they would attend such a convention. He told us they got back about 25 positive responses, but decided to attempt the project anyway.
Bill said they chose Chicago for the show site for two main reasons. First, because the pinball manufacturers were all located there, and secondly it was centrally located in the country.
As the time for the show approached, Bill said they wondered what would happen if only 25 people actually did show up. Well, he went on, the show was successful and the tenth show is coming up later this year. He then commented that the Expos brought collectors even closer together - many seeing each other in person for the first time at one of the shows.
Bill next told of the beginning of another great pinball publication, Dennis Dodel's "Pinball Trader", which started up in the Spring of 1986. He then commented that the hobby has changed dramatically in the past two years.
He then told us that things that seemed impossible ten years ago are now fairly common. One example of that Bill told us was "reproduction backglasses". He said that due to these more games can be "salvaged" which in the past could only be used as "parts machines".
As to what's in the future for pinball collecting, Bill said it's hard to say what people will collect - remarking that the hobby is constantly changing. As an example, Bill told us that today people are beginning to collect more "personalized" things such as original pinball art which he said in the past nobody seemed to want.
Bill then told us that he wrote his book, "Pinball - The Lure of the Silver Ball" (with coauthor, Englishman Gary Flower), back in 1988. He said it was the first pinball book to be published since around 1979. Bill then added that at that time he tried to bring new information into the hobby, including something on the newer solid-state pingames.
In the 1982/83 period, Bill next remarked, the coin machine industry trade magazines were predicting the end of pinball - with pingames possibly ending up only in museums. But, he continued, pinball made a comeback in the mid 1980's.
Bill next told about his later book, "Slot Machines and Coin-op Games". He said it was the first book dealing with other collectable coin-ops. Bill then remarked that many pinball collectors also have a few other types of games such as bowlers, baseball games, gun games, etc. These, he said, were the kind of machines he also tried to cover in his book.
Bill then told us he had recently completed work on his forthcoming book, which he said could be out early in July. He said that he tried to make it the "ultimate book for coin-op collectors". It will be fairly expensive, he went on, but will have photos that many collectors will like to see.
We were then told that some of those rare photos would be of such pins as Bally's SIX SHOOTER (a six player pin), Game Plan's LOCH NESS MONSTER, and Bally's BMX. Bill then said that photos of two rare Gottlieb solid-state pins, KRULL and GOIN' NUTS, would also be shown. He said many of those games have never been shown in a book before.
Bill then told us that his publisher decided to do the book because he felt that there was a growing interest in collectable coin-ops these days. Also, he believed that there is a lot of interest in nostalgia which would lead to support for that type of book. Bill then said that the publisher wanted this book to be "the book that would define the hobby".
At that point Bill began to discuss what he called "the good and bad things" about how the pinball collecting hobby has progressed in the past 10 to 20 years. One of the good things he said was that it was easier for people to find pins they were looking for due to cross-country connections and the pinball shows which have sprung up, adding that it is also easier today to find needed parts and to obtain repair assistance.
As far as "negatives", Bill began by saying that some people in recent years have attempted to "dominate the hobby". He said that 10 or 15 years ago a collector would sell a game he didn't particularly like to another collector at a low price. Now, he continued, they will often hold on to that item for speculation. Also, Bill went on, hoarding of certain games nowadays makes it more difficult for some collectors to find what they are seeking.
All in all, Bill then commented, the hobby has come a long way and he thinks in the next couple years there may be more significant changes. He then remarked that prices for some pins have risen dramatically recently, but he feels that they should begin to stabilize. Bill then said that prices probably won't come down very much in the future, and probably will never again be as low as they were several years ago.
Finally, Bill told us that he thinks the hobby has a long and promising future, commenting that 15 or so years ago a show like this would have seemed impossible because no one would believe that pinball people would come together from different areas to attend a show. All of us there, he finally commented, prove it is a serious hobby and here to stay, with the number of conventions growing even more in the future.
At that point Bill asked for questions from the audience. The first question asked was the name of Bill's new book. He answered "Arcade Treasures".
Bill then told us the book would have 450 photographs, approximately 275 of which are pingames, with many being in color. He then remarked that it will feature only "amusement" games - no gambling machines or juke boxes - adding that it should contain "something for just about everybody".
The next question asked was how many people attended the first Pinball Expo in 1985? Bill answered that is was about 125, remarking that there were more than that at this show. He then said that he and the other Expo founders "held their breath" when they planned the first show, commenting that they originally planned it to be "a one-shot affair".
Bill then remarked that there were a lot of changes to their original ideas for the show. He then cited as an example that the name was originally planned to be "Pinball Collector's Exposition" but was shortened to simply "Pinball Expo".
My friend Sam Harvey next asked how many others at this show had attended the first Expo in 1985? Bill asked that those people raise their hands - there were only 5 or 6 of us.
Bill was next asked how the Expo originators convinced Williams Electronics to provide new pins for use in the first Expo tournament? Bill answered that it was not easy, the game manufacturers at that time having a resistant attitude toward participating in such an event.
Bill then remarked that they probably asked themselves "what's in it for us"? He said that this was because they knew that most of the people attending would be collectors, while they were used to dealing with distributors and operators.
The first Expo "set the stage", Bill went on, the manufacturers seeing how many collectors there actually were. He said that they could see that many of these people were also serious players and that they should "treat them right" as they were the final users of their games, and without them there would be no market for their products.
Also at that time, Bill continued, pingames were beginning to make a resurgence and the manufacturers were "riding high" with production up. So they thought that kind of show might just be "a good promotion" for them.
Also, Bill went on, some of the game designers were also collectors and some of them helped convince their companies to support the shows. He said it was a "hard sell" at first, but the timing was right, adding that if they had attempted it in 1983 the manufacturers might not have gone for it.
Bill was next asked if he thought there might ever be any "reproductions" of pinball machines? He replied that the closest thing to that he had ever seen was Bally's FIREBALL CLASSIC, which they put out in 1986, which was patterned after their famous 1972 pin FIREBALL.
Bill went on to say that the first FIREBALL was one of the most collectable pins ever and that in 1986 Bally thought if they reproduced it they might come up with another "winner". But, he continued, many of the players in 1986 had never seen the original game, and pinball had changed a lot in 14 years.
Bally discovered, Bill told us, that "you have to keep moving ahead". He then described the differences in the action of a 1972 pin versus how games had progressed by 1986. Bill said that the old design just didn't translate well and the players in 1986 just didn't like the resulting game.
Getting back to the question regarding possible future pin "reproductions", Bill said that after Bally's bad experience with FIREBALL CLASSIC there probably would be no more similar attempts. He then added that the closest that they might come could be "updates" of past games such as HIGH SPEED being updated as "HIGH SPEED II", THE GETAWAY - a new game similar to an older one, but with a few additional things added.
Finally, Bill commented that we may see a few games based on popular games of the past, but saying that Arcade games translate better into new versions than pins do. So, Bill remarked, don't expect to see many old pins "re-engineered" in the future.
The next question dealt with "foreign language pins". Bill began by saying that there were some games sent to foreign countries which were the same as U.S. games but with foreign translations of some of the playfield or backglass words. He said he had never seen any of these games himself, only their flyers.
Bill then said there were some foreign "bootleg" copies of American games, like a 1979 version of Williams' FLASH - a single-player pin called STORM. He then said that for foreign markets either of two things often happen.
First, Bill told us, a company such as Williams might sell a "license" to a foreign manufacturer - the "legal way". The "illegal way", he went on, is that some foreign outfits illegally copy an American pin, making minor changes to it, and take their chances that the American manufacturer won't take any action against them.
Bill then told us that in this latter case it is very expensive for the U.S. company to sue a foreign outfit, and even if they did they probably wouldn't get very much. Therefore, he added, it would cost the company more than it was worth to fight it.
As an example of an illegal foreign copy Bill told of an Italian manufacturer in 1987 coming out with a "conversion kit" to translate another game into a copy of Gottlieb's 1986 pin ICE FEVER. He then added that many of these "conversion kits" are done in people's basements or garages and therefore very hard to track down. Bill then commented that foreign games seldom make their way to the U.S.
Sam Harvey then asked if Bill saw much chance of collectors making overseas contacts to obtain foreign pinball flyers? He also wanted to know why it seems to be harder for American collectors to get copies of overseas flyers than for foreign collectors to obtain our flyers?
Bill began by telling us that the pinball collecting hobby is developing at a slower rate in Europe, the European collectors being "a few years behind us". He then added that they never had many older pins in Europe, especially 1950's woodrails.
After remarking that in Europe old pinball flyers hardly exist, Bill told us that he has a good "pipeline" for flyers from some of the European manufacturers. He then went on to say that as collecting grows in Europe American collectors will be developing more overseas contacts, and material from Europe will become more readily available in the future.
After more discussion of conditions and pinball players in Europe, Bill remarked that in this country there is at least a possibility of finding almost any pingame you might want. He said, however, that is not the case overseas because many older games were never shipped out of the U.S.
Bill then told us that overseas collectors are just starting to get organized. He then said that magazines and newsletters are beginning to appear, and that someone in Belgium is trying to set up a convention sometime in 1995.
The final question (well, actually is was a comment) came from Los Angeles area collector/dealer Herb Silvers who commented that he believes that pinball prices will continue to go up and not stabilize as Bill had previously suggested. He said that this should be especially true with electro-mechanicals, citing as an example Bally FIREBALL.
In answer to that Bill began by saying that he thinks higher pinball prices in the future will depend very much on the condition of the game. He then said that there will probably be fewer "mint" machines and therefore prices on these games will probably appreciate.
Bill next remarked that as some collectors get more "fussy" they will be willing to pay more to get exactly what they want. So, he summarized by commenting, some pin prices will go up, some down, and others remain the same.
At that point Wichita dealer Bob Nelson spoke up saying that he thinks pingame "market conditions" will cause prices to continue to increase, adding that it's hard for him to meet the current demand for pingames.
Bill then said that that would depend on the age of the machine. Nelson replied that "people want games of any vintage". Bill next commented that there always will be a demand for certain games so some prices will go up. Nelson finally made the comment "there are more collectors every day".
That ended Bill's talk, including the question and answer session. Bill was then given a healthy round of applause.
As I said earlier, the final play-offs for the "Tag Team Pinball" event were held at the end of the banquet. This was done on stage and was a lot of fun to watch. The final winning team was crowned "1994 Tag Team Champions", with awards also being presented to the 2nd and 3rd place teams.
At the end of the banquet Dann Frank thanked his co-workers. He then announced that a 1995 "Wild West Pinball Fest" had already been scheduled for March 28 through 30.
After the banquet the Exhibit Hall was again opened until the "wee hours", this being dubbed by Dann as "Midnight Madness". Well, I wandered around for an hour or so and then went up to bed; but many, including my roommate Sam, stayed there several hours more.
Sunday morning, after a late breakfast, we returned to the hall for our final day of visiting, playing, etc. The previous evening we were talking to one of the people at our table, David Vogt, who told us of an interesting old pingame he owned, Keeney's THRILLER from 1939. When Sam and I told him we would like to see and photograph it, he invited us to come to his home on Sunday.
Sunday afternoon we found Dave in the hall and he offered to drive us to his home in the nearby community of Chandler. After a pleasant drive we arrived at his home, were introduced to his charming wife, and led to their basement to view their games.
After photographing THRILLER, and several more of the Vogt's fine pingames, and visiting with David and his wife, we were driven back to the show. When we arrived we found we had missed the Big Brothers/Sisters pingame raffle, but found out that none of us were lucky enough to win the game so it really didn't matter.
We then made our final "rounds" of the Exhibit Hall as it was just about time for the show to close. Before we started home Sam and I made arrangements with the Stathatos family (including 10 week old Jennifer) to "caravan" with them as far as Blythe California so we all could have dinner together.
After a pleasant trip down the highway for several hours we stopped in Blythe (on the California border) at a restaurant for dinner. During conversation at dinner I again discovered that "it's a small 'pinball world'".
When the young lady, Terry, happened to mention she lived in Torrance California while going to school, I asked her if she had attended Torrance High? When she said she had, I then asked her if she knew my good friend (and pinball enthusiast/author) Rob Hawkins who has been a teacher at that school for many years?
Terry told me that, not only did she know him, but she had once been in one of Rob's "shop" classes. When I later asked Rob if he remembered her - she told me her maiden name - he said he didn't think so, adding that he had had a lot of students in his approximately 20 years of teaching.
By the way, Terry also told me she remembered the many pinball machines Rob and his students had at the school. In addition to teaching the kids in his class how to work on the games, other students could play the games for money at lunch time, the "take" being used to help finance the school's Electronics Club.
Well, after dinner we headed for home. After several hours we finally arrived at Sam's house around 1 AM. I then got into my car for the approximately hour and a half drive home.
All in all I had a real good time at the first ever "Wild West Pinball Fest" and have to say Dann's first show was a success. As I said earlier, Dann has the second edition of his show planned for March 28 through 30, 1995.
In my last article, "Pinball Expo '93 (Part 2)", the small listing of games which was titled "TABLE 1 - PINGAMES AT PINBALL EXPO '93" should have been labeled "A SAMPLING OF PINGAME PRICES AT THE AUCTION". The other larger listing was correctly titled as it was the listing of the games in the Expo exhibit hall. Also last time the editors inadvertently left off the photo credits for the photos of the last seminar speakers and the banquet speaker. These photos were courtesy of Jim Schelberg of PinGame Journal. Thanks Jim! Sorry about the omission!
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