PINBALL EXPO '86
-THE SECOND 'HURRAH'-
they did it again! Another
very successful Pinball Expo; the second in what we hope will
be an annual vent for many years to come. As with Pinball Expo '85, Expo '86
was held at the Holiday Inn O'Hare/Kennedy in Rosemont IL, and
again on the same November weekend as the winter Chicagoland
coin machine show. A very useful coincidence for coin-op
show, while quite similar in many respects to last year's,
seemed to me to be a little more oriented toward the
modern 'digital' pins
than the older machines, especially in the content of many of
the seminars. But, this is as it should be since Pinball Expo
is a "pinball show", not an "antique show".
As most of you know, my personal preference is for the older
electro-mechanical pingames, but I can appreciate the new games
as well. Modern pinball is certainly vastly different from the
pingames of the past and is reflective of the space/computer age
in which it was spawned. I can see how these flashy, colorful
machines, with their complex multi-level playfields, and space
age and rock music sound effects, attract the player of today as
they rightly should. In order
for pinball to live on it must attract a contemporary
following, and it looks like it may be doing just that. Well, enough preliminaries; on with
opening remarks by show producer Rob Burk, the first seminar speaker
was introduced. He was Don
Hooker, former designer of "bingo type" pinballs for
Bally, who is now 82 years of age. Mr. Hooker began by stating that he first joined the
games industry in 1936 when he went to work for Pacific Amusement
Manufacturing Co. (better known as PAMCO) where he worked until
1938. He recalled working on a
game at PAMCO called LITE-A-LINE which was somewhat similar to
the bingo pinballs he designed twenty years later at Bally.
later (he did not mention the exact year, but it may have been
1938 when he left PAMCO) he went to work for Bally. He mentioned working on
the "one-ball" horserace pin CITATION, which came
out in 1949. He remembered that it had "guaranteed
advancing odds" (Author's note: It was the first "one-ball"
with that feature) like the bingos which came out later.
then said that a man named Bernie Bernside came up with the
idea of the "Reflex Unit" which was used in the later
"one-balls" and all of the "bingos". The purpose of
this unit was to 'tighten up' Or 'loosen up' the payout
chances for the player based on how well the game had been
paying out in the past. This was a marvelous invention and
many people connected with bingos don't have any idea how it
works, certainly not the players.
about bingos having very complex electro-mechanical systems.
He said they developed automatic test
equipment to test the
games in the factory. He also said Bally had quite a few years
of big production of bingos (the mid 1950s) until "the
government declared bingos were gambling devices." (Author's note: he
was apparently referring to the "Korpran Decision"
of the Supreme Court in 1957 declaring bingo pinballs to be
subject to the Johnson Act.)
The players, he said, still liked the bingos but
"the Government said 'no' ". Finally he talked about
testing the games in New Orleans. He also said he left Bally in the early
1970s and he and a partner designed a dice game which Bally
bought from them. He then went back to Bally until around 1980
when he finally retired. He said he was the primary designer
of most of the Bally bingos.
deleted a huge paragraph)
speakers on the program were Steve Young and Gordon Hasse
discussing a subject that is certainly important to all
pinball collectors, backglass restoration. Steve first passed
out to the audience copies of his excellent article "All
Lamps Are Not Created Equal" which discusses the various
types of miniature lamps available for use in pinballs, and
describes the pros and cons of using them. Steve began his talk with the
observation that "a pinball with a poor glass is not a
pinball at all." He then
stated that the two major "enemies" of backglasses
were dampness and temperature change, plus others such as the
ultra-violet rays in sunlight which can affect certain colors
the glass from dampness he suggested using a de-humidifier or
storage in a place with low humidity.
He said a most important thing to do to protect your
glasses is to avoid sudden temperature changes of 10 degrees
or more, but remarked that this probably would not be a
problem for California collectors.
He then went
on to say that the lamps behind the glass constantly cause
temperature changes when they are turned on and off during
operation of the game, and that this is what generally leads
to paint flaking off the glass.
He recommended using the lowest heat lamps (NEVER type
'55') and even modifying the lightbox by moving the mechanism
panel further from the glass. Steve then said that lamps which have become
darkened at the top produce more heat and should be replaced
(something that I, for one, was never aware of). He recommended using short lamps and
those which require less current (which he also mentioned results
in less load on the game's fuses.), remarking that a type '130'
lamp was "the best of both worlds." He also said that "flasher" lamps
produce less heat and might be used.
Finally, he remarked that better lighting means the
game is more enjoyable.
Steve's remarks on the preventative aspects of backglass care,
Gordon Hasse took over with a discussion of
restoration. He began by
saying that as far as pinballs were concerned, there was
probably no subject more
controversial than that
of backglass restoration. He
then presented a list of options available to collectors who
games with deteriorating
backglasses. The list
included: 1) do nothing - not really an option if the glass is
really bad; 2)
prevention - change
lamps, etc., as Steve had discussed: 3) preservation; 4)
Restoration; and 5) reproduction.
He then began discussing some of these alternatives in
He said that
"reproduction" (creating an entire new glass) was
quite expensive, costing about $1000 in set-up cost for a 10
color process. Using a four
color process is considerably cheaper, he said, but not really
suitable for pinball glasses as far as he was concerned.
of "preservation" was next discussed. Gordon first outlined four methods which have
been used to try and
backglasses. First came
"taping and spray painting" the entire glass, which
he described as "horrible!"
The next was to cover the entire glass with a clear
plastic, adhesive backed, sheet. This he said was also a bad choice since the adhesive can
actually pull some of the paint off the glass' surface. A similar idea of
attaching a thin piece of glass to the back of the glass and
taping them together was then mentioned. Gordon said he considered that method only
useful for good glasses as a preventative measure.
talked about using a clear spray to "seal" the back
of the glass. He claimed this
was dangerous since these
products were made for
other purposes and their solvent bases vary and could
sometimes 'attack' certain colors of paint. He also mentioned the very important fact
that the force of the spraying operation could cause loose
pieces of paint to be blown off of the glass making it even
what was left?, he said. He
stated that there had been one product on the market which was
advertised just for that purpose. That product he said was not very good (primarily
because it 'attacked' certain colors, as this author can attest
to) and it had been taken off the market. Gordon then went on to describe a product
that he and Steve had developed and which they highly
recommended for backglass preservation.
He said that
he, Steve, and John Fetterman had been searching for a
solution to the backglass preservation problem
for years and had finally
come up with a solution which "met their
standards." They call
their product "cover your glass" and they claim they
have samples of glasses which were covered with it five years
ago which have shown absolutely no adverse side effects. In fact, they had such samples at
the show and they really looked good.
product was described as a "slow drying polymer" which
should be applied to the glass' surface without the use of a
brush, and allowed to flow over the entire surface. The glass should then
be allowed to dry for a week to ten days. The product is somewhat expensive, and they
said one can would cover approximately two glasses. But, if you value your glasses, the
cost of about $9.00 per glass is really not unreasonable. As a
final note, Gordon talked briefly on the subject of actual
restoration of damaged paint on a backglass. He said there were two primary
"Reconstruction" by a silk screen artist, and
repainting by a "fine arts restorer." He said that careful amateurs can do a passable
job using sign or model paints, especially on large opaque
areas. He went on to say that
colors should be mixed on the front surface of the glass first to
get a good match of the original color. For "translucent" areas
(where light must show
through) he said the task was more difficult. For these areas he suggested using
"tints" used in
oil painting. He said that you might either use
"Cover Your Glass" first, and then touch up the bad
paint areas, or vice
(Here I deleted about 40 paragraphs)
exhibits were displayed in a much larger hallthan last
year. Located in the center of
the room was a large
area occupied by Expo
co-hosts Mike Pacak and Bill Kurtz, who buy, sell, and trade
pinball brochures. In addition,
Mike Pacak had on display examples of some rare "limited
production" digital pins, such as the KRULL machine used
for the final round of the pinball tournament. Also in this center area were
located the PIN-BOT machines used for the "qualifying
rounds" of the tournament. All of the other booths were located along the four
walls of this large room.
new pingames were provided by the three major manufacturers,
Bally, Premier, and Williams, each showing their latest
games. The Bally booth, manned
much of the time by Bally designer Jim Patla, caused a small
"commotion" on two occasions by bringing out boxes
of "freebies" and letting everybody dig in and help
themselves. One of these
"grab bags" contained lamp sockets, while the other
held plastic playfield parts.
It was really something to see the crowd of people all
digging into these boxes at the same time.
no old parts for sale this year.
New parts/materials were again displayed by the
long-time coin machine "parts house" Wico, and a
plastics outfit also had some items on display. Steve Young and Gordon Hasse had a
promote their new
backglass sealant, Cover Your Glass, which was discussed
earlier, but they had none actually available for sale at the
show. There was a limited
number of backglasses for sale, mostly by Mike Pacak.
booths had old pingames for sale.
Dennis Dodel of St. Louis, publisher of the fine
newsletter "PINBALL TRADER", had several postwar
pre-flipper pins for sale, as well as original bingo pinball
schematics and manuals. Some
1950s era "wood rails" were offered for sale by
Canadian Dave Currie at his A-1 Amusement Games booth. The outfit called Hi Tech, from New
York state, who had a large number of games for sale both this
year and last, had several machines from the Sixties and
Seventies, plus Bally's 1940 "remake" of their 1934
machines from the Sixties, mostly "Add-A-Balls",
were also offered for sale by Chicago coil manufacturer and
pinball and backglass
collector, Donal Murphy. Other
dealers also had pins for sale, mostly of later vintage. A complete list of all
pinballs displayed at the Expo appears at the end of this
SLOT was also represented at the show at a booth operated by
collector/author Dan Kramer.
Dan's booth also
featured, in a
"hands-on" display, his rare Atari pinball prototype
NEUTRON STAR, which was the subject of an article by
Dan appearing in the Fall
1986 issue of this magazine.
This machine was available for play and many Expo
participants had a rare opportunity to play a real factory
back issues of COIN SLOT were available at this booth, and
people could also subscribe there as well. I
several potential new subscribers to Dan's booth, some of whom
subscribed. Dan had also
prepared a list of all pinball articles appearing in the
magazine (since it went quarterly) which he gave out at the
Rob Burk also had a booth which, among other things, contained
two quite interesting machines.
The first was
a 1931/32 era counter-top
pingame called DOUBLE PLAY, which was actually manufactured in
Rob's home town of Warren, Ohio, by an outfit calling
themselves Warren Manufacturing.
This was a "two player" game with a playing
card theme (in fact, it appeared that actual small playing
cards were glued to the playfield).
The machine had "ball lift" and
"plunger" mechanisms at each side of the front of
the cabinet, one for each player.
Two sets of
balls were contained in the game, each set being a slightly
different color, and apparently having a slight
difference in size, which
allowed the machine's ingenious mechanism to return the proper
balls to the proper player's "ball lifts" at the
start of a new game. The apparent
object of the game was for each player to shoot balls to land
in playing card holes, thus forming a "five card
hand". The two players
could thus play against each other to see who could get the
"best hand" in either Poker or Twenty One. A very rare, interesting, and
novel pingame indeed.
The other interesting
game in Rob's booth was a Genco "roll-down" game
from the late Forties with a baseball motif, and
BASEBALL. This was an example
of the "roll-downs" designed by Expo guest Harvey
Heiss, and mentioned by him in his talks for the past two
years. It was also the type of
game that Harvey designed recently which he showed at this
year's show as I mentioned earlier. I remember playing that type of machine in
the Los Angeles area as a kid; in fact, this was the closest
thing to a pinball in many areas of Los Angeles county for many
years, due to "anti-pinball" ordinances. It was nice to see one
of these games displayed at the show so that others could see
what Harvey had been talking about.
also a booth selling Pinball Expo '86 souvenirs. For sale were various
pinball bumper stickers, including one that said "I
'Love' Pinball", the 'love', of course, replaced by a
'heart'. Also available for
purchase were "Pinball Expo '86"
caps, and some very nice
satin jackets with "Pinball Expo '86" emblazoned on
the back. Even Expo napkins
were available at the booth.
my description of the exhibits I have decided to include a
list of all the pingames on display in the hall, an
idea which was suggested
to me several months ago by my good friend Jack Atkins from
Utah. I will first list all
games displayed by the
manufacturers present at the show, then list the rare
"limited production" solid state games exhibited by
Mike Pacak, and finally all the other games offered for sale at
the various booths.
shown by the manufacturers included:
Bally: STRANGE SCIENCE,
SPECIAL FORCE, MOTORDROME, and HOT SHOTZ (a very interesting
"pool game" using pool balls and having large
flippers. Also on display was
a midway pin from 1964 called RODEO.
Premier: GENESIS, and GOLD
WINGS; and also displayed was the rare two player, two
playfield, Gottlieb game from 1971, CHALLENGER.
From Williams: PIN-BOT and ROAD KINGS
The "limited production" digitals displayed by Mike were:
Gottlieb's KRULL, Stern's ORBITOR, and AF-TOR, produced by Wico,
and a small "counter top" (shades of the Thirties) pin called
The other games, shown at the various booths (in chronological
(Here I deleted the list of games _ No bingos
that concludes my coverage of this fine show, Pinball Expo '86. The number of attendees was about
the same as at the previous show, but there were a lot of
"new faces" who did not have the pleasure of
attending last year. I'm
sure all who were present are hoping that there will be a
"Pinball Expo '87".
So lets hope that we can attend another fine Expo next