"This won't be your last..."
Like many children of the 70s and 80s, I fell in love with arcade games... starting with PacMan, and then Pole Position, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Gorf, Galaga, Rampage.. the list goes on... But then, the one of two arcades (oddly enough, located across from each other at the local mall) had some pinball machines, and my love of pinball all started with F-14 Tomcat and High Speed. Not too long after they appeared, the pinballs started to disappear, and the arcades eventually closed, mainly due to the rise of the home gaming systems.... and with that, the ability to see, let alone play a pinball, disappeared.
In late spring of 2021, my cousin had this idea of adding a pinball machine to his recreation room. He sent me some links to a Williams Indiana Jones he had come across on Craigslist, followed by a bunch of emails with more links to pinside, sharing with me all of these machines available for sale! My first reaction was, "Really, a pinball machine? We don't know anything about them." But after watching the numerous on-line videos of pinball gameplay I was more than intrigued. And before I knew it, my cousin was scheduled to pick up the IJ, and a road trip was on! Now mind you, my cousin and I have never owned, or even seen a pinball in years, let alone what ownership of such a machine would entail. Reagrdless, we were both beyond excited to make this 8 hour round trip. We talked the whole way out there; "How do these machines even work? Are spare parts available? Who do we know who can repair them?". All answers that would come in time, but for now, it was all about picking the pin up, getting us, and what seemed even more importantly, the pinball, safe at 'home' and powered up for play!
We arrived at the sellers location in the early morning. It was commercial business that appeared to be a used car lot. Once we found a decent place to park, we walked up to the front door; Sign says "all deliveries to be made on the side door". We make the short walk around the building, and ring the doorbell. A gentleman opens the main door, and allows us into the building vestibule. Two grown men, now standing silently in the small entry way, with a glass door to the outside, and a steel door in front of us. The steel door opens a few inches... and a man says, "You the IJ guys?", "Yup! That's us!'. (In all honesty, I had to whisper to my cousin what 'IJ" stood for, and then I realized how uneducated I was to this business). The man then steps into the vestibule with us.
We then ask, "Is Craig here?" Gentleman says "Yes... he's in the back". And all 3 of us just stood there in the vestibule. Silence. My mind starts racing. Are we at the right place? Is the pin going be in worse condition than we thought? What IS this place? Then the owner opens the steel door. "Hey guys! Come in.. come in... the pin is right around the corner". We all start walking in single file, not out of formality, but due to the fact that there are arcade games, and monitors, and jukeboxes, and parts galore, all around us. It was an organized chaos, that I am sure the owner, and all of his employees knew where every item was. To us, we felt lost. We then turn the corner, and there it was! A real pinball, all powered up, with lights flashing and with what I swear was a halo of light shining down on it from above! It was amazing!
My cousin starts talking direclty to the seller, and 3 other guys show up. I walk up to the pin, and look it over to make it look like I knew what I was looking for, and my cousin asks me, "How does it look?" "It looks OK", I said, all the while I am trying to keep my hands and arms from flailing in excitement. This machine was in much better condition than I imagined, but I had to keep my cool. One guy asks, "Do you want to take the glass of?" I said, "Sure... yea.. I guess.... should we?" Another voice says, "Do you know how?". Then the truth came out. "Nope. No idea... never owned own before". The cat was out of the bag. No hiding our inexperience now. Before we knew it, the coin door was open, lock down bar was off, and the glass was being removed ever so gently. And that was when the education of the Pinball Machine had begun.
Side bar; One of the main reasons I love this new hobby is how enthusiastically, and inviting every pinball enthusiast we have met is. This was our first experience with the pinball world. And since that first day, the enthusiasm has never stopped. In turn, I now love to share my knowledge and love of this industry with anyone who wants to listen.
Back to the IJ. These guys start telling us how to be extra careful with the tempered glass ("It;ll shatter al over the place!", and then they start pulling the playfield right out. I almost wanted to yell and say, "Whoa, you're gonna break something". Glad I didn't, for again, I had no idea what I was even watching them do. Another stupid moment for me. But we were being filled with knowledge, stories, antitotes, the do's and don'ts, and we were both sponges. It was great! Now onto the final lesson; properly transporting a pinball - "here is how to remove the balls from the machine, how the legs come off, how to fold down the upper cabinet", I recall them saying, and then the proper protection and wrapping of the entire pin, just as if it was a newborn baby, coming home for the first time.
As you all know, Pinballs are heavy... especially the wide body cabinets like this one. Four guys assist to get the pinbal lifted into the back of the pickup, wrapped so water tight that even the 4 hour drive home, in soaking rain, never showed a drop of moisture on the pin - Another lesson learned - proper transport of pinball machines is key -
My cousin and I drive home, music playing, singing along, and just as giddy as kids at Christmas. We finally make it home, and now to get the pin off the back of the truck. This was not an easy task, for the truck sits high... very high (another side bar - now I know why minivans are used for transporting a pinball machine; much lower to the ground, and much easier to set the pin down and get the legs boldte on) - we get the pinball slid back enough to then place it onto a steel table, which almost buckled under the weight. After jockeying the thing around enough to get one set of legs on, it was to the ol' "place the other end onto a stool" method, and attach the other two legs. We then slid the pin to an approximate position, secure the upper cabinet, and plugged it in.. and then we both step back and just starred at it... "you turn it on... No, you do, you bought it..." and with one eye closed, my cousin flips the power switch on, and we wait for what seemed like minutes for it to boot up. A few beeps and boops later, we just stand and watch the light show. It was an awesome sight! My cousin now owns a real pinball machine! We remembered the steps to get the glass slid down, drop in the 4 pinballs, and start our first game... and a second one... and a third... we didn't even care how tired we were at this point. We couldn't stop playing, soaking in all the shots, lights, challenges, call outs. We were both hooked. For the next 2 or 3 weeks, we spent at least 4 nights a week getting together and playing well into midnight. We couldn't get enough of it.
A few months later, I am on my own adventure, browsing pinside everyday, looking at what's for sale, and continuing to watch pinball gameplay videos on-line... and I fell in love with the Munsters Premium, especially the black and white model. I found the exact one I wanted; a premium Black and White Munsters machine in Texas. But the ad said 'Sale Pending'. But I messaged the seller anyways, and asked, "If your current buyer falls through, please message me for I am interested in your pin"... A few days later, he messages me, and says that the initial purchaser had ghosted him, and if I was still interested. I told the wife what was going down, and she said "if you purchase it, and play it for 3 or 4 years, and then sell it for what you paid, it was worth every penny". So, I call the seller, and we ended up talking for over an hour, about everything pinball.He was so generous with his time and educating me even more on the pinball industy. I even said, "I am sorry to take so much of your time", in which he simply replied, "I always have time to talk pinball!" We then finalize a price, and I ask him that since this is my virgin purchase, would he be nice enough to get the shipping arranged, and I will pay the costs. He says, "I sure could.. but here is what I am going to do - I am going to email you the name of the company I use, provide all the contacts, and have you go through the process yourself, for trust me... this will not be your last pinball purchase".
That was over 12 months ago, two pinball shows and 11 additional pinballs later between my cousin and myself, we are beyond hooked. This industry has been addictive, educational, exciting, theraputic, and the relationships we have made with both locals and enthusiasts from across the country, has been priceless. Pinside and its members have been a major factor in our renewed love for this hobby. For me personaly, the learning and educating of others on the pinball industry has become even more gratifying than playing the pinball machines themselves! So many of my friends who ask about my hobby, are blown away that pinballs are being produced today! And I always tell them, if they are ever interested in getting one of their own, to let me know, and I will be morw than happy to guide them all the way through... and am sure to tell them, "If you buy one, it will not be your last!"
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