By Russ Jensen

This will be my first "all original" article for PinGame Journal. Way back in 1978 I began writing a column for a new coin-op magazine which had just started up called Amusement Review. I decided at that time to call my column "Five Balls, Five Cents" because that was the inscription on the instruction cards for almost all pingames from the early 1930's up until ten cent play began sometime around the 1960's, and my column was primarily to be devoted to older pinball machines.

When publication of that magazine ceased about one year later, I started looking for someplace else to write. Then in early 1981 I made arrangements with a magazine called The Coin Slot (at that time published by Bill and Roseanna Harris in Colorado) to put my column in their magazine - at first redoing some of my past columns I had done for Amusement Review, and then writing entirely new articles.

I continued writing for that magazine (under three different owners) until this June when that magazine sadly ceased publication - my articles having appeared in every issue (except for two, I believe) from 1981 until this year. I have since made arrangements with Jim Schelberg to move "Five Balls, Give Cents" to PinGame Journal, probably appearing several times a year.

This time Five Balls, Five Cents will be devoted to my visit to the 1999 edition of the pinball show called "Pin-A-Go-Go" which was held in the Sacramento, California area in May 1999. This was the third year for that show, but for the first two years something sadly always happened to keep me from attending.

The show this year was held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 14, 15, and 16, 1999. Early Friday morning, my friend Ron Tyler and I left our home in southern California in Ron's Cadillac for the over 300 mile trip to the show site in Northern California. Ron had to drive me since due to vision problems I am no longer able to drive. We made the drive in a little less than eight hours (we stopped at several roadside rest areas, and once for lunch) arriving at our motel a little after 1 PM, checking into our room which we had reserved at the special "senior citizen rate".

After putting our luggage in our room we made the approximately ten mile drive to the show site which was a large fairgrounds building in the Sacramento suburb of Dixon. After getting our badges (we had pre-registered) we began looking around the room to see what was there.

Near the back of the room we found a nice exhibit of early 1930's pins, supplied by my old friend, and pinball "super-collector", Richard Conger from northern California. At least two of the games were of "mystery manufacturers" as Richard later told us he has never been able to verify exactly who made them.

Also, sitting directly adjacent to Richard's games, was the newest pingame at the show - Williams/Bally's "hope for the future of pinball", REVENGE FROM MARS, the first in a planned series of what they call "Pinball 2000". The placement of that game next to Richard's vintage pins ably demonstrated how much the pingame has changed over the years!

In the remainder of the room there were many pingames already set up for viewing and playing. During our initial pass through the room we bumped into my old friend Sam Harvey who was busily engaged in one of his "projects" - making a list of the games at the show, including their serials numbers.

I then began my "project" - the photographing of electro-mechanical (and a few solid state) pingames which I don't already have pictures of in my 1000 plus game pinball photo collection. In order to keep from duplicating my existing photos I brought with me a computer-generated listing of my photo collection. As at other pinball shows, I was amazed by how many games were at the show of which I did not have photos.

One of my personal favorite activities when attending any pinball or coin-op show is always getting to visit with many of my "pinball friends" with whom I have become acquainted over the years. :This show was no exception. In addition, I got to meet several people who I had either never known before, or with whom I have had previous contact only through computer email correspondence, or the pinball newsgroup on the Internet.

As for dealers selling pinball related parts and literature, the major one who had a booth was Jim and Judy Tolbert with their "For Amusement Only" booth. In addition, there were a few other people selling things, but most of these were primarily selling pingames.

Several weeks before the show I had made arrangements to meet (and possibly have dinner with) a gentleman named Bear Kamoroff who had recently published a very nice book for pinball owners called PINBALL MACHINE CARE AND MAINTENANCE, which by the way I highly recommend to anyone owning a pinball machine (both electro-mechanical and solid-state). Shortly after arriving at the show on Friday I located Bear and we had a nice chat. During this conversation I learned that Bear and I had another interest in common, the history of New Orleans Jazz music (which had been my major preoccupation back in the 1950's).

At that time we talked about having dinner together (possibly that evening), but due to an unexpected personal errand Bear had to perform we had to postpone that plan. The next day, however, Bear, Ron, and I ended up sharing a nice lunch and good conversation at a small local café, during which we discussed pinball as well as New Orleans Jazz history.

When it got to be dinner time on Friday evening, my friend Ron and I joined my old friend Sam Harvey and another friend of his and drove to the nearby town of Vacaville (where our motel was also located) and had dinner at a local restaurant. After then returning to the show site and doing some more looking, visiting, etc., Ron and I returned to our motel to retire for the night.

The next morning; (after having breakfast) we returned to the show site. There were apparently a few more games which had been added since the previous evening. I again photographed a few additional games for which I did not have photos in my photo collection. My friend Ron played many of the games, but I just continued roving the aisles and visiting with some of the pinfans who were there.

I shall now attempt to give a "rundown" of approximately how many games were there from each decade.

From the 1930's there were 14 games - all for display (not for sale) from the collection of Richard Conger that I mentioned earlier. From the 1940's there were only three pingames in the showroom - two owned by Richard - none of them set up. From the 1950's there were five games. There was also an interesting coincidence - two games from that decade were both the same game, Gottlieb's CRISS CROSS from 1958, one of which was beautifully restored by one of the people hosting the show. There was one other game in good condition, plus two others in "as-is" condition.

There were also 16 pins there from the 1960's. And from the 1970's decade there were 18 electro-mechanical pins, plus 14 more solid-state machines. There were also 25 pins from the 1980's, plus 32 from the current decade.

The following is a chronological listing of most of the pingames which were on display at the show:


    GAME                     MFG.            YEAR            PRICE

    Bingo                    Bingo Novelty   1931
    Whiffle                  Automatic Ind.  1931
    Baffle Ball              Gottlieb        1932
    Ballyhoo                 Bally           1932
    Daisy                    Peo             1932
    Jiggilo                  Ace Novelty     1932
    Midget                                   1932
    Shooting Star (square)   Specialty Mfg.  1932
    Six Star                 ?               1932?
    Unknown                  ?               1932?
    Zipper                   ?               1932?
    Airway                   Bally           1933
    Bullet                   Pierce Tool     1935
    Finance                  Chicago Coin    1936
    Formation                Genco           1940
    Sky Ray                  Keeney          1941
    Hot Rods                 Bally           1949
    Slugfest                 Williams        1952              1250
    Can Can  (As Is)         Williams        1955
    Casino  (As Is)          Williams        1958                50
    Criss Cross (2)          Gottlieb        1958
    Merry Go Round           Gottlieb        1960
    Corral                   Gottlieb        1961
    Egghead                  Gottlieb        1962
    Flipper Clown            Gottlieb        1962
    Preview                  Gottlieb        1962               250
    Skill Pool               Williams        1963
    World's Fair  (2)        Gottlieb        1964          595, 650
    Fun Cruise               Bally           1965
    Central Park             Gottlieb        1966               850
    Eight Ball               Williams        1966               200
    Pitch & Bat  (Baseball)  Williams        1966
    Subway                   Gottlieb        1966
    King of Diamonds         Gottlieb        1967
    Sing Along               Gottlieb        1967               695
    Pit Stop                 Williams        1968               200
    Target Pool              Gottlieb        1969
    Rock N Roll              Williams        1970           675 OBO
    Fireball  (German)       Bally           1971
    Jackpot                  Williams        1971               695
    Klondike                 Williams        1971               595
    Space Time               Bally           1972
    Time Zone                Bally           1972               650
    Darling                  Williams        1973               200
    Hee Haw                  Chicago Coin    1973
    Travel Time              Williams        1973
    Flicker                  Bally           1974           625 OBO
    Wizard                   Bally           1974
    Captain Fantastic        Bally           1975               675
    El Dorado                Gottlieb        1975               795
    Hi Deal                  Bally           1975               425
    Old Chicago (2)          Bally           1975      275, 650 OBO
    Top Score                Gottlieb        1975
    Aladdin's Castle         Bally           1976           675 OBO
    Blue Chip                Williams        1976
    Fandango                 Playmatic       1976               495
    Playboy                  Bally           1976
    Spirit of 76  (2)        Gottlieb        1976          200, 475
    Evel Knievel             Bally           1977           450 OBO
    Lost World               Bally           1977               425
    Contact                  Williams        1978               200
    Middle Earth             Atari           1978               200
    Space Riders             Atari           1978
    Buck Rogers              Gottlieb        1979
    Dracula                  Stern           1979
    Hercules                 Atari           1979
    Stellar Wars             Williams        1979           600 OBO
    Xenon  (2)               Bally           1979          200, 600
    Counterforce             Gottlieb        1980
    Fathom                   Bally           1980
    Firepower                Williams        1980               400
    Panthera                 Gottlieb        1980
    Spiderman                Gottlieb        1980
    Time Line                Gottlieb        1980
    Black Hole               Gottlieb        1981
    Spectrum                 Bally           1981
    Eclipse                  Gottlieb        1982
    Haunted House            Gottlieb        1982
    Spirit                   Gottlieb        1982
    Grand Slam               Bally           1983               200
    Sharpshooter (2)         Game Plan       1983               150
    Time Fantasy             Williams        1983
    High Speed               Williams        1986           800 OBO
    Pinbot                   Williams        1986
    Fire!                    Williams        1987               795
    Heavy Metal Meltdown     Bally           1987               795
    Spring Break             Gottlieb        1987           750 OBO
    Cyclone                  Williams        1988               500
    Swords of Fury           Williams        1988
    Taxi                     Williams        1988               795
    Big House                Gottlieb        1989               400
    Elvira -                 Bally           1989              1695
      And The Party Monsters
    Police Force (2)         Williams        1989     825,  750 OBO
    Back to the Future       Data East       1990               875
    Bugs Bunny's             Bally           1990              1295
      Birthday Ball
    Diner                    Williams        1990              1195
    Funhouse                 Williams        1990               800
    Game Show                Bally           1990               725
    Whirlwind                Williams        1990          1000 OBO
    Class of 1812            Gottlieb        1991              1475
    Gilligan's Island        Bally           1991               950
    Harley Davidson          Bally           1991              2300
    Terminator Two (2)       Williams        1991              1175
    Black Rose               Bally           1992               895
    Getaway                  Williams        1992
    Lethal Weapon 3          Data East       1992              1100
    Rocky and Bullwinkle     Data East       1992          1175 OBO
    Super Mario Brothers     Gottlieb        1992               850
    Judge Dreed              Bally           1993               850
    Star Trek -              Williams        1993              1195
      The Next Generation
    Tales From the Crypt     Data East       1993              1750
    Twilight Zone  (2)       Bally           1993
    Dirty Harry              Williams        1994
    Freddy (A Nightmare)     Gottlieb        1994              1495
    Road Show                Williams        1994
    Stargate                 Gottlieb        1994              1250
    Baywatch                 Sega            1995
    Breakshot                Capcom          1996              1695
    No Fear                  Williams        1996              1495
    Tales of the             Williams        1996
       Arabian Nights
    Cirqus Voltaire          Bally           1997              2500
    No Good Gophers (2)      Williams        1997
    Cactus Canyon            Sega            1998              3995
    Monster Bash             Williams        1998              3900
    Revenge From Mars        Bally           1999

When it came time for dinner on Saturday evening, my friend Ron and I drove into Vacaville and went to a very nice Mexican restaurant (I LOVE Mexican food!). After that great meal we returned to the show for some evening playing for Ron, and roving and visiting for me.

That evening I got to talk with two nice people (among others). First, I got to meet (I may have met her several years ago - I'm not sure) a young lady named Kelly Altmueller who, up until a few months before, had been the publisher of the interesting pinball magazine PINHEAD CLASSIFIED. That publication was always enjoyable to read because it always contained some very obtuse humor which was generated by Kelly herself. I really enjoyed talking to Kelly in person (one of my personal highlights of the show) as I had subscribed to her magazine for several years, as well as communicating with her via email many times.

Another person I got to meet Saturday evening (and again I think I may have also met him several years ago) was a gentleman named Steve Charland with whom I had also communicated via the Internet on several occasions. Steve had brought to the show for display, and for people to play, his collection of early Gottlieb solid-state pingames, which was a highlight for many of the show attendees. Not too long after visiting with these two nice people Ron and I left the show for the evening - and for that matter for good, since we had seen and done all we had come for.

On Sunday morning we had made plans to meet my friend Sam Harvey and one of his friends for breakfast at a small local restaurant/bar - Sam had been bragging about their food ever since we met him at the show as he had eaten there in past years when attending these shows. Sam was right about the food, and we also enjoyed the "small town atmosphere" at this establishment.

After breakfast we said goodbye to Sam and his friend and began our trip home. Our drive home was uneventful, and we arrived back in our town in the late afternoon. Both Ron and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the show!

If the Pin-A-Go-Go is held again next year we will probably attend, barring any conflicts. During the show I heard it rumored that the two people who have put on the show for the past three years don't want to continue since it's too much work. But they are trying, I understand, to get someone else to host the show next year. So, if there is indeed a show we will probably attend.

Use back to return to prior web page