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Road Trip to the Pinball Hall of Fame


Pinball Wizard
Remember when there were these places called ‘arcades’? I’m not referring to some 20’ x 20’ room that your local movie theatre might have, or even the larger facilities out there like GameWorks or Dave and Buster’s. No, I’m talking about an honest to God arcade, where the sight owns, operates, and maintains all the machines inside. A place where the attendants actually cared more about you having a good time than making an extra fifty cents. My guess is you either never visited such a place, or you haven’t seen one since the late 1980’s. Well I’m here to tell you such a place exists again, and it’s a wonder to behold.

Welcome to the Pinball Hall of Fame. You’re gonna like it here.

The day started off with Tom (aka ValamirCleaver) picking me up at 7am on Saturday to head on out to Vegas. Two pit stops and 4 hours later we arrived. “Pit stops and 4 hours to get to Vegas from the OC? What a bunch of ninnies!†Yeah well, it’s a good thing Tom drove only slightly over the speed limit, cause with as many cops that were out on the highway and the lead foot I possess, I would’ve had a speeding ticket or three. Besides that, the Pinball HoF doesn’t even open till 11am.

Pulling into the parking lot, there is no signage, no identifiers at all indicating there’s an arcade. There’s a bargain movie theater, a comic book store adjacent to that, four storefront windows filled with pinball machines, a bar, next to that…snap the head back into place and recognize. Four suites with the walls taken out to form a giant storefront, and all you can see is pinball. Sweet.

We hopped out and immediately saw Tim (the owner), so we made introductions. Without missing a beat, he walked us through the entire space, pointing out tables of interest, commenting on the current state of things in the arcade, what can be expected in the future, and thanking us for making the trip. I just soaked it all in. I have never been in a place with more than 20 tables at one time, and here they have one hundred fifty-one. As if that’s not enough, there’s still room for fifty more, they just haven’t brought them over yet!

The tour ended, a twenty went into the change machine, and for once Las Vegas paid me out 80 quarters. The dilemma now was where to start. Actually it wasn’t that much of a dilemma, but you do feel like you just want to put a quarter into five machines at once just cause you can. All I can say is for the next 2 hours I played nothing but late 80’s, early 90’s Williams/Bally tables.

A little after 2pm Tom and I headed over to Hooters (no surprise to anyone familiar with Valamir’s posts in the forums) and had lunch. We got back to the arcade somewhere between 3 and 4. When we left, there had only been 1 or 2 other people there. Now there was a solid dozen, and that number progressed throughout the night as people exited the movie theater. We finally left a bit after 9pm, and I felt like I hadn’t even cracked the surface of playing machines. My wrists and forearms were aching from all the flipper action, my eyes a little bleary from the long day, and my smile was ear to ear. No trip to Vegas will be without me stopping by again, that’s for sure. Got back home at half past midnight, and all I could see when I closed my eyes was plungers and bumpers and flippers and outlanes and ……..


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Pinball Wizard
more on PoF...

Some random thoughts:
• The walls are white, the carpet is from the Vegas Convention Center floor, but who really cares when there are 6 rows of tables to play!
• There was a guy who was only introduced to me as “the hippy†cleaning a High Speed table right there in the rows of games. When I say cleaning, I mean he was stripping out parts and REALLY getting in there, even replacing rubber. Somehow that made me feel good.
• I got a ball stuck on a table. The hippy came over, slid off the glass, plopped the ball back into the shooter lane. A machine ate a quarter, the hippy popped the door and put in credits. One game seemed to want to work, but the flippers didn’t. The hippy turned it off and asked what other game I’d like to play. If that doesn’t tell you something about this place, nothing else will.
• Unless I tell you about how Tim and the hippy on separate occasions asked me if I’d tried out a particular table yet, and when the answer was ‘no’, they walked me over to it, plopped in the money, and wished me a good time. I had 20 bucks of change in my pocket, but they wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a particular experience. That’s a nice touch.
• Tim isn’t really interested in advertising the place much until he can work all the bugs out of the tables. Basically he doesn’t want anyone to be disappointed with having made a special trek to the place like we did. He really has nothing to worry about.
• Eventually there will be the ability to buy an all day pass for $15-$20, but for now it’s quarters only. The EM’s are all a quarter, the SS tables are mostly 50 cents. According to Tim, most people are playing the 50 cent machines, much to his dismay.
• I played only 4 EMs, and I couldn’t tell you one distinguishable thing from memory. I played 8 modern Gottlieb tables, and could tell you specifically why every one of them sucked from memory. So who technically wins there?
• There are no new era Stern tables, nor will there be unless a change in the club’s by-laws happens. Something to do with the government frowning upon use of money for newer tables and maintaining their ‘non profit’ status. Somehow this made me happy too. Stern has no place in a pinball hall of fame!
• Gottlieb tables from the 80’s and 90’s blow. They were easy, boring, and just lacking in so many respects. The Williams tables directly opposite them just magnified the suck.
• The lights are only on during the day. At night, it’s only the tables providing the light. Just the way it should be.
• All in all, I played 40 tables in the course of 6 hours in the arcade. I was torn between playing games I’ve played many a time versus trying something new. I kept going back to the Williams row. I’ll try new things when I can get the all day pass to play!


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Pinball Wizard
Finally, I figured you’d all like a list of the tables that were there for our visit. Tim said that they’d rotate inventory, but for now this is what’s there…(* means I played it, # means it wasn’t functioning at the time)


*Orbitor 1 – The most bizarre table I’ve ever played. Too weird having the ball actually go past the flipper and back around into play. Wasn’t exactly fun, but I’m glad they had it for me to try.
Centigrade 37
Top Card
Home Run
South Park – Tim was too lazy to move it out of this row, so he just left it!
Funland Rifle – a gun game
Royal Guard
#Foto Finish
Cross Town
Flying Carpet
Strange World
Kings and Queens
Spin A Card
Show Boat
Big Casino
*Central Park
Sure Shot
Space Pilot
*Bowling Queen
Sky Jump
*King Pin
Abra Ca Dabra


*Terminator 2
*Pin Bot
*Space Shuttle
*Space Station
Space Mission
*Safe Cracker – no tokens to spit, and those mini flippers are killer (catching is REALLY hard)
#Scared Stiff
#Popeye – ugly table design
*Star Trek: Next Generation
*Pool Shark
*Taxi – whaddya know, Pin Bot target IS that difficult to hit!
*Whirlwind – I so forgot what that fan blowing on you feels like during the storm
*Bad Cats
#Gilligan’s Island
#High Speed – autographed play field!
*F-14 Tomcat
*Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Bash – my God is this an abortion of a table. Ugly and no fun to play.
*NBA Fastbreak – really pretty in the dark
*Game Show
#Black Knight
Jive Time
#Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
*Funhouse – much slower than VPM version, in that I could actually make the trap door shot.
*Truck Stop
#Twilight Zone


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Pinball Wizard
* means I played it, # means it wasn’t functioning at the time


Super Mario Mushroom World
Bone Busters
*Cactus Jacks – annoying polka music could be heard EVERYWHERE!
Surf ‘N Safari
Class of 1812
Car Hop
Deadly Weapon
Silver Slugger
Title Fight
*Barb Wire – free credit when I arrived, free credit when I left it. Too easy.
Mario Andretti
*Big Hurt – interesting but ultimately repetitive. Best of the row though.
*Shaq Attaq – could’ve been fun but fails in execution. NBA Fastbreak retains the crown.
Rescue 911
World Challenge Soccer
Street Fighter II
Wipe Out
*Freddy, A Nightmare on Elm Street
#Operation Thunder
*Tee’d Off – I like the messed up version of NGG on VPM more than this table!
Lights, Camera, Action


Mata Hari
Night Rider
Capt. Fantastic
Aladdin’s Castle
Old Chicago
Bow and Arrow
Nip-It – the table from Happy Days. Tried to play it, but it ate my quarter!
#Monte Carlo
*Fireball – spinning disc not so brutal as the one PD did, but still a real challenge.
Sky Rocket
#4 Million B.C.
4 Queens
#Trail Drive
#On Beam
#Loop the Loop
Gold Rush
Bus Stop
Mad World
Sky Divers
#Star Jet
Cue Tease


Target Roll
Target Gallery
*Big Flipper – more like weak flipper trying to compensate with size
Twin Win
Ticket Tac Toe
*Q Berts Quest – kinda like Mr and Mrs Pacman, but seriously easy to keep ball in play
Black Gold
*Strikes N Spares
*Alvin G’s World Tour – unfortunately the sound wasn’t working, so it made no sense to me
*Pistol Poker – even with sound it made no sense!
#Beach Queens
#Party Animal
*Strange Science – looked like Bally couldn’t secure the license to Weird Science to me.


Ace High
Maverick - $1800
Rocky and Bullwinkle – $1800
#BS Dracula - $1600
#Dr. Who - $1500 (Tim has a bunch of these to sell)
Slugfest - $2000
#Cue Ball Wizard - $1700
*Lethal Weapon 3 - $1500 – after playing it, I don’t know why you’d want it!
Aquarius - $600


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Site Nudger
Staff member
I'll be there soon, thanks for the thread friebus!

The list is very impressive, i have to scrounge around to play any pinball machine around here and am salivating, I would have been playing the EM's.


PN co-founder
If I had the room and the money, I'd get Hayburners, which was one of the pins I played lots of as a boy. So many great EMs, and a Target Roll to boot.


Pinball Wizard
I'e said it before and I'll say it again:

Drool ;)

Hey, they have a Jive Time, any chance of a pic? Of course if I get the pic I'll have to work out how to do that spinning arrow which don't look easy.



Pinball Wizard
Took these just for you! Hope they're remotely usable. Tom probably has a pic of it too (he took photos of every table while I only took a selected few).


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Pinball Wizard
Here are the two I took of Jive Time.

The ones I took of almost all the others that were there are from similliar angles. Anyone that is interested let me know.



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Pinball Wizard
Those pics are about 1000 times better than any I've seen before, fantasticc, I reckon they can be used. I have to finish Pirate Gold but I'll certainly have a go at Jive Time with those pics unless someone beats me to it.

Many thanks, hope you enjoyed playing these great old machines. My dim memory of Jive Time was that it was a difficult and frustrating machine but, what the hell, we need a reproduction.



Pinball Wizard
Posted by Friebus:

No, I’m talking about an honest to God arcade, where the sight owns, operates, and maintains all the machines inside.

Actually, Frieb, I doubt very much that many arcades (well, at least the ones around here that I used to frequent) owned their own machines, though I'll readily grant you that the better ones took very good care of them!

Seems to me that if you are (were) an arcade owner, there's no percentage in actually buying the machines, yourself. Within a year or two people will be looking for the next new thing, which will just cost you so much more money to invest in as well, and will wind up putting one of your earlier investments out to pasture.

Back in those days there were probably more than enough distributors (aka operators) willing to fill your arcade with newer machines, and promise you a good turnover of the newer ones to follow. Meanwhile, they could always recycle the old ones in bars and laundromats.

Yeah, the Hall of Fame is a wonderful concept for a taste of the history and nostalgia of the game...but it wasn't where the arcades were coming from. They were appealling to the kids that wanted the newest things.

I'm not saying (of course) that no arcade, ever, tried buying their own machines...but by and large I'll bet that most just did business with a jobber. (And, at any rate, I'm pretty sure the ones around here did.)


Pinball Wizard
Tudnut, I worked in an arcade in 1991 that owned 75% of the machines in there. The owners had two locations, and both were the same way. They wouldn't buy a brand new game, but if it was obvious that it was going to continually bring in big coin (like Street Fighter II), then they'd purchase one. A game like SF II was bringing in over $400 a day, so you do the math...buy one outright and make your money back in a week or two, or share the profits with a distributor.

The owners also did do maintanance on the machines, as joysticks and buttons would eventually wear. There was always an attendant on duty (though we weren't that friendly!) so that if a coin didn't register we could assist. Actually I think the owners really wanted us there to prevent theft, but they were too cheap to install mirrors or cameras or hire extra personel for the weekend, so we got robbed a couple of times. If the game didn't have a big bar across the front, it was gonna get emptied. I had a machine get busted into and robbed in less than the minute it took me to make my rounds. Scary.

Anyway, that was my experience from 1991. I have to believe the arcades that were doing crazy business during the mid 80's were owning a lot of the games. Wasn't much risk in buying a Ms. PacMan, Asteroids, Space invaders, Zaxon, or Centipede. I'm talkin' privately owned arcades too, not Chucky Cheese or the local Golf 'n Putt. There was just too much profit to miss out on back then.


Pinball Wizard
tudnut said:
Actually, Frieb, I doubt very much that many arcades (well, at least the ones around here that I used to frequent) owned their own machines, though I'll readily grant you that the better ones took very good care of them!

Tim briefly told me about his experiences having his own arcade locations in the latter half of the '70s & early half of the '80s. The reason why he started building up his huge collection of pins was when he tried to sell of his old machine to a local liquidation clearing house he found out that all they would give him for a table was $50, no matter what the condition. $50 if the table was in excellent shopped condition. $50 if the table was worse for wear, beaten up and not working at all. Tim figured that if all he was going to get was $50, he'd keep them. This was the same basic story he told when he was interviewed for "Pins and Vids The Video Magazine" DVD vol. #1.






Pinball Wizard
My sincere apologies (well after the fact...haven't been on much lately) about being misinformed, or at least presumptuous as far as arcades out there vs. those here in Chicago.

I may well be wrong as far as a lot of Chicago arcades went...but there were a LOT of distributors back then, who were trying to maintain a tight grip on the market, and it certainly was easier for an up-and-coming arcade entrepenuer to get machines from them instead of buying his or her own.

But again, sorry for being presumptuous.


Pinball Player
If anybody heads back to this wonderful sounding establishment one day I really need a good quality backglass pic of Queen of Hearts (Gottlieb 1952)
and would also like some plastics and backglass pics of Magic Circle (Bally 1965).
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