At the pinball show I had the chance to play some Electro-Mechanical (EM) pinball games. The relatively simplistic gameplay didn't appeal to me as much as the flashy electronic systems. So when a notice popped up on my computer for an "old pinball game for sale - non-working" I didn't hold out too much hope. But I like a challenge and I had a spare spot in the room, so I went down to the pawn shop to take a look.
It was indeed an old one, wooden-legs and all. The playfield looked different than any pinball I had ever seen, just a bunch of holes rather than bumpers and scoring slots. But looking closer, it appeared to be in decent shape: The backglass was pretty bad but the playfield showed little wear, we opened the back and I realized it was a EM pinball of some kind and the motors, gears, etc. all looked in great shape.
My initial thoughts were that since it looked so good inside, all I needed to do was to pop in a new fuse and it would probably run. We negotiated a price, they removed the "cash box" and took 100 or so nickels out of it, handed me the keys and for the price of a good dinner I was the proud owner of.....something.
I got it home and did some digging, it turned out this thing was a "Bingo Pinball" and they were used for gambling - who knew there even was such a thing! They were pre-electronics and are quite complex, with advancing odds and coin tracking, all using physical equipment rather than electronics.
I checked the fuses and they looked good, so without any knowledge of these mechanical beasts, I knew it was time to start posting for help on Pinside. I soon discovered there was a "Bingo" forum on Pinside dedicated to this sub-class of pinball and populated by friendly folk always eager to help a newcomer. With lots of advice (some conflicting) and links to schematics, I set to work.
I also discovered that my Bingo was relatively rare and that a replacement backglass would be extremely difficult/impossible to locate (typically defined as unobtanium) so I decided to brush off my limited Photoshop skills and see if I could scan in my existing backglass and clean it up enough to make a new one.
My posts for help soon attracted the attention of a serious Bingo collector who wanted it for his collection and we began discussions. Unfortunately I am on the West coast and he is on the East coast and the cost of shipping makes it prohibitively expensive.
Things went on like this for a couple of months. I spent some time tinkering with the mechanics, growing to appreciate the amazing complexity of the mechanical systems while failing to make much of an impact on its ability to run. I also spent considerable time getting the graphics cleaned up in Photoshop.
Just when a small breakthrough led to the lights coming on, I got another message from back east. He really wanted the Bingo. He wanted it a lot, and since I had no special attachement to it, and quite frankly liked the idea of this pin heading into a museum, I agreed to sell.
The problem was still the east coast-west coast thing, until I found out just how much he wanted the Bingo. He was driving out to the west coast just to pick it up! A 3,000 mile road trip to pick up a Bingo Pin. This shows the dedication and appreciation these units have for some people.
I was sad to see it go, I never finished my backglass recreation but my Photoshop skills have improved a lot, my mechanical skills have improved a lot and the legacy of my "first" Bingo Pin is that I have grown to appreciate the EM (Electro-Mechanical) era of pinball machines in a way I never thought would happen and I am now actively looking for a EM "project" pin. Quite frankly I can't wait to open it up, repair it and get it working!