Bingo Pinballs

This page was created on 2-26-2012












Well, 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 lovers.


This year's 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 the show!




After the 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.


Sometime 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.


Mr. Hooker 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.


He talked 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.


(Here I deleted a huge paragraph)




The next 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 of paint.


To protect 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.


Following Steve's remarks on the preventative aspects of backglass care, Gordon Hasse took over with a discussion of

backglass 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 have

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 greater detail.


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.


The subject of "preservation" was next discussed.  Gordon first outlined four methods which have been used to try and

preserve 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.


Finally, he 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 worse.


So then, 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.


Their 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 methods:  "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)




This year's 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.

Exhibits of 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.


There were 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 booth to

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.


Several 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 classic FLEET.


Some fine 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 article.


The COIN 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 prototype pinball.


Copies of back issues of COIN SLOT were available at this booth, and people could also subscribe there as well.  I

personally directed 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 booth.


Expo host 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

called simply, 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.


There was 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.


To conclude 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 the new

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.


The games shown by the manufacturers included:


From 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.


From 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

MICROPIN. The other games, shown at the various booths (in chronological

order) included:


(Here I deleted the list of games _ No bingos were present)


Well, 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 year.








Along with Russ, Dick Buechel was present and I think this is the last Pinball Expo Dick attended _ When these Expos stopped I don’t know, but I will try to figure it out one day!! Once again we find ourselves in gratitude for the dedication these historians brought to the Industry _ Openly recording and sharing their expertise and love for these games.




~ Absolutely Excellent _ Thxs Mr. Jensen! ~








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