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