( a new book)


By Russ Jensen

In early June of this year a publication, which many pinball collectors have been awaiting for quite some time, was finally released. This little book, titled "Pinball Collectors Resource", contains a virtual "treasure trove" of pinball information, and is also a "gateway" into the largest pinball information computer database ever assembled.

The book's author/compilers, Don Mueting and Rob Hawkins, are certainly no strangers to the pinball world as their pocket sized booklet, "Pinball Reference Guide", published way back in 1979, has been carried around by many, many pinball collectors (including yours truly) ever since it first came out.

To properly understand the scope of the new book a peek into it's history, and the history of it's two creators, is certainly in order. So I shall do that first, before describing the contents of the new book in detail.


Back in the mid 1970's aerospace industry computer programmer Don Mueting was becoming interested in pinball machines and their dates of manufacture. Don had obtained an electro-mechanical paper tape controlled typing machine (a Frieden 'Flex-o-writer') and decided to use it to help him prepare a listing of such information.

Around the same time, Los Angeles area high school teacher Rob Hawkins was doing research for his Master's Thesis on the subject of the history of the pinball machine.

Also about this same time, yours truly had decided to research pinball manufacturing dates for the period from the late 1930's up to the early 1950's using microfilm copies of BILLBOARD magazine at the Los Angeles Public Library. My project was precipitated by a list of pinball manufacturing dates for the period 1951 through 1972 which I had obtained; that information having been compiled by other researchers also using BILLBOARD microfilm.

While visiting an Orange County pinball operator one evening (who occasionally had old games for sale) I happened to tell him about what I had done with BILLBOARD. As soon as I told him he said to me "I got a call the other day from a fellow who said he was compiling a list of pinballs and their dates of release who, I am sure, would like to get in touch with you". He then gave me this person's name and telephone number.

The fellow he was referring to was none other than Don Mueting. I called Don, and when he explained what he was doing with his Flex-o-writer, I told him about the information I had, which I agreed to provide to him to aid his project.

A short time later I became acquainted with Rob Hawkins and obtained a copy of his thesis. When I told Rob about Don's project he was quite interested in helping, so I gave Rob Don's number and they quickly became 'partners' in the "pinball dating business".

Don's first 'Flex-o-writer list' was released in July 1976. He sent copies of the list to anyone he knew who was interested in pinball, asking for any corrections/additions to it, later updating it in December of that year. A short time later the Flex-o-writer was "retired" and the whole database transferred to a computer where it could be much more easily modified, which has been happening continuously ever since.


In 1979 Don and Rob, in conjunction with Mead Publishing Co., came out with a handy "pocket sized" booklet containing the pinball dating information from their computer database. The guide contained listings of approximately 2500 pinball machines manufactured up through late 1978 or early 1979.

The list contained columns for Model Name, Manufacturer (abbreviation), and Date (year, and month if known), and of course was in alphabetical order by model. In order to easily reference the game manufacturers' names, Don and Rob came up with a three letter abbreviation for each company. A listing of all the manufacturers and their abbreviations was given at the beginning of the book. Since the publication of "Pinball Reference Guide" in 1979, these abbreviations have become sort of a "de facto standard" among pinball collectors.

In addition, many of the game listings contained a reference to one or more "notes" regarding various game characteristics or historical facts. These notes were presented after the main listing.

Well, over the years since it's introduction in 1979, this little book has sold many copies and, as I said earlier, has been carried around and often referenced by a majority of the pinball collectors in this country and other parts of the world as well. Ever since I got my original copy of "Pinball Reference Guide" from Don Mueting right after it came out in 1979, it has always been carried in my inside coat pocket. In fact, less than a week before I received my copy of the new "Pinball Collectors Resource" the bedraggled cover finally totally fell off my copy of "Pinball Reference Guide".


In the years since the 1979 publication of "Pinball Reference Guide" Don and Rob's computer database has been continually expanding. In addition to the inclusion of all new models to come out since that time, they have been collecting and recording many different types of information about each game. The "Pinball Collectors Resource" is a "gateway" to the information now contained in the database, but more about that, and the types of data it contains, shortly.

The "Pinball Collectors Resource" is somewhat larger in format, and considerably larger in content than "Pinball Reference Guide". But, for the sake of us who like to carry around a pocket size listing of pins, Don and Rob have included (at not extra charge!) a small pocket version of the new book containing only the MODEL NAME, NOTES (Code only), MFG (manufacturer code), DATE, and P (number of players) for each game.

The main book is divided into four (well, actually 5) sections. After a detailed description (with examples) of how the book can be used, the book contains a 6 page listing of all the game manufacturers and their abbreviations used in the book. This is a much expanded list compared to the similar list found in "Pinball Reference Guide".

In addition to the abbreviations, this list also includes two other interesting pieces of information. First, there is a column which indicates the number of games in the database credited to each company. Last, but not least, in cases where more than one game are shown for a manufacturer, another column indicates the range of years for which games are listed for that company.

The second, and most important section of the book, is the alphabetical game listing which includes information on 3966 games (a far cry from the 2500 in "Pinball Reference Guide"). This listing is divided into 9 columns, the contents of which are described below.

The first, second, and fourth columns in the listing are MODEL NAME, MFG (manufacturer abbreviation), and DATE, similar to what appeared in the old Pinball Reference Guide. The third column, titled "NOTES", contains one or more two letter abbreviations which refer to notes appearing in the next section of the book; but more about that later.

The next column, labeled "P", indicates the number of players (1,2 4, or 6) the game was designed to accommodate.

The following column, labeled "OPFBS", contains combinations of one or more of these letters to indicate the presence of certain types of information in the computer database.

"O" indicates that the database contains information regarding one or more persons who have that game in their collections. "P" indicates that the owner of a replacement playfield, or set of "playfield plastics", for the game is contained in the database.

"F", "B", and "S" indicate that the owner of an advertising flyer, a backglass, or a schematic diagram respectively, for the game is referenced in the database.

The next column in the list, labeled "I" and referred to as the "information" column, can contain one of three letters. An "N" indicates that no further information on the game is contained in the database. A "P" indicates that additional information as to the location of pictures of the game is contained in the database, in addition to that shown in the "PICTURES" column to be described next.

The letter "R" appearing in the "I column" indicates that the database contains information referring to at least one "reference" to the game appearing in a book, magazine article, etc. The authors define a "reference" as: "written text referring to that particular model [of game], but containing no pictures".

The last column, and probably the most interesting (except, of course, for the columns defining the game itself), is the "PICTURES" column. It gives a direct reference to the location of a picture of the game to be found in a book or magazine.

In this column a two letter abbreviation indicates in which publication the picture is to be found (a listing of publications and their respective abbreviations appears in the book's introductory material). If the reference is to a picture from a magazine, information as to it's date of release (year and month or quarter) is also given. The page number where the picture can be found is then given.

Picture information of this kind is of great interest to many people who hear about a game being offered for sale and want to know what it looks like. Incidentally, there are 1753 such picture references contained in the listing.

If a "P" also appears in the "information" ("I") column, it means that additional picture references appear in the database. In some cases the "P" appears without anything shown in the "PICTURES" column. This indicates that the picture reference contained in the database is to photographs in the possession of individuals (such as my own 600 plus model photo collection) and not in a publication.

One final note before ending this discussion of the game listing section of the book. At the upper left-hand corner of each page is printed two large letters. These are the first two letters of the name of the first game listed on that page, making it a lot easier to find a particular machine in the listing.

The next section of the book contains the detailed notes referenced in the "NOTES" column of the game listing. Each note is preceded by a two letter code used in the "NOTES" column to reference that particular note.

These notes (which incidentally were written by Rob Hawkins) contain information on various special game characteristics, and a wealth of historical information regarding pingames and the pingame industry. Reading these notes by themselves, I guarantee, will give anyone a valuable insight into the fascinating history of the pinball machine.

Following the note section is Appendix A, a short listing entitled "War Time Conversions". This is a listing of pingames produced, mostly during World War II, by taking pre-war pingames and modifying ('revamping') them in some way to create a "new game".

This listing is composed of four columns. The first column shows the name of the "new game". Next is the three letter code representing the company that did the 'converting'. The third column shows the date the game was converted, the last column telling from which pre-war game (if known) the new game was converted.

In addition to those conversions made during the war, the list contains a few conversions, mostly made in 1948 and 1949, where pre-flipper pingames were converted to "flipper games". These conversions were done right after the introduction of the flipper to pinball in late 1947 made pre-flipper pins virtually obsolete in a few months time.

At the end of the "War Time Conversions" listing there is a short listing titled "Post War Conversions" listing 17 'conversions' done to pingames, mostly to solid-state pins in the 1980's. This listing does, however, include three conversions made in the early 1950's, even including a conversion to the first flipper game Gottlieb's HUMPTY DUMPTY itself!

A final comment on these "conversion lists". The conversion games contained in these lists are also included in the main game listing with a notation of "CO" in the "NOTES" column indicating that for information as to which game they were converted from you had to refer to the "conversion lists" contained in Appendix A. The only problem is that this "CO" does not seem to be referenced anywhere in the book.

The last three pages of the book contain three "forms" for the book's user to use. The first form is called a "Registration Form". The authors suggest you fill it in and send it to them as soon as possible after receiving your copy of the book so that they can let your know about future "updates" to it.

In addition to this, they offer each purchaser of the book the chance to get free information from their database related to one pingame of your choice which is listed in the book. After naming your game of interest, the form provides a checklist to use to indicate what type of information you would like regarding the chosen game (book or magazine pictures or references; owners of the game; the location of schematics, advertising flyers, etc.; backglasses available; etc.).

The second form, titled "Information Request Form", is to be used to request information, similar to that just described, for additional games. For this information they say there will be a charge, and that you will be notified as to what it will be after they have determined how much of the information you requested is contained in their database.

Considering the scope of their constantly growing database (believe me - I have seen it!) it would seem to me that the nominal charge would be well worth it, as this type of information is generally pretty hard to come by.

The last form in the book is titled "Reader's Comment Form". It is to be used, as the name implies, by owners of the book to provide the authors with information as to errors found in the book, or data on additional games which should be added to future editions. Don and Rob describe "Pinball Collectors Resource" as a "living document" saying it probably will be updated in the future if justified by the amount of new information they obtain.

Well, there you have it, a detailed description of the long awaited update to the old "Pinball Reference Guide", the "Pinball Collectors Resource". By the way, the main listing section contains 105 pages, in addition to the 6 page Manufacturers List and 21 pages of "Notes".

Now, if you are a long-time user of "Pinball Reference Guide" and want to get the latest, most accurate information, or if you have never heard of such a publication and are dying to get your hands on one, here's what to do:

         Send a check for $25.00 to:

              Donald Mueting
              6638 Eddinghill Dr.
              Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

I guarantee you you won't regret it!

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