PINBALL! I have been an avid player for 36 years, an amusement route operator for 12 years, and have been repairing / restoring pinball for 30 years.
I have witnessed and participated in the industry at it’s highest points, it lowest points, throughout it’s golden years, and watched it’s complete collapse.
During the last 6-8 years I have gladly witnessed the resurgence of pinball, not in it’s traditional coin-op domain, but rather in private collections, and as home game room entertainment units. Pinball is a timeless piece of entertainment that cannot be duplicated on the computer, and people are missing it. As any pinhead will tell you, you may play 20 games in a row on the same pin, but EACH game will be different, no pattern. The reason, to quote a famous pinball designer “THE BALL IS WILD”.
I coined a phrase years ago “PINBALL IS A MARRIAGE OF ART AND ELECTRONICS”. This exemplifies my passion for this art form, for it’s more that a game that provides hours of fun entertainment; it is truly a piece of art that can be admired and enjoyed, without being played. I think of it this way: many people buy artwork to hang, like Monet, & Picasso. For me, my pinballs are my Monet, and Picassos.
I would like to take a moment to explain the reality of pinball’s existence. Ask yourself, Why were pinballs built? What was it’s purpose? Entertainment! Correct. Well then, Who purchased them?, What was their motivation? Ok! seeing the picture? so it wasn’t just for entertainment, it was all about MONEY, & RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI).
For you, the player it was entertainment, at the Arcade, the Pub, on Campus, or the Corner store; but for the owner/operator it was only about the money. The pinball was a tool to get you to part with your cash. Back in the day (1983-1996) an operator could purchase a new pinball for $3000 +-, put it in a good location and see it earn $300 to a $1000- per week for 8-10 weeks. What I’m showing is most (90+%) of the operators were all about the money, not the love of pinball. As a result, most of the time just the bare basics of maintenance was done to keep that machine earning quarters. Bubble gum fixes, jury rigs, hack n dash, I’ve seen some amazing repair feats achieved with plumbers putty, paper clips, duct tape, you name it!
So, the money men would run a new pin for 1-4 years, then after it was beat to death, slam it into the warehouse and rob parts from it to keep newer ones running, or dispose of it through an auction, sell to a smaller operator, whatever, it was dead to them.
On the books it had been depreciated to zero through the tax system, and also earned 5-10 times it original cost.