How pinball got a grip on me

By unigroove

May 20, 2012

10 years ago


My name is Jonathan and I am the Managing editor of Pinball Magazine. I'm based in The Netherlands (Europe) but got introduced to pinball as an 8 year old kid when my father took my little brother and me for a trip to Paris - France. We would have breakfast in a bar and almost every bar seemed to have the big playing devices with a ball rolling around in it. I wanted to play and soon I was hooked. Since then a pinball machine was on the top of my Christmaslist. I still remember some locations from my teenager years that had games and even which games. I did not play that often as I spent most of my money on buying music, but the pinball machines always drew my attention and I loved to watch others play.

My first game I got at the age of 17. I had worked during the summer holiday at a flower distribution centre and there was this technical service area where someone had brought in a Williams 'Dealers Choice'. it did not work properly, but no-one had time to take a look at it. They didn't mind if I took a shot and at the end of my holiday I asked if I could buy the game. When I went to pick it up the guy who told me I could buy it turned out to be on his honeymoon and his colleagues told me to just take the game as they got it for free too. Woohoo!

I put the game in my attic room and tried to fix it. Somehow I never got the outhole kicker to work properly. I even took the game with me to military service, where I eventually sold it. I was in my early 20s then and used to play pinball every friday afternoon after work. Back then there were plenty of Arcades that had pinball machines. The dotmatrix display had just been introduced and I played a lot on 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles', 'Hook' and 'Black Rose'.

For some reason the growing numbers of scoringdigits on the newer games sort of turned me off and I quit playing. I moved to Italy for 2 years, where I occasionally played a 'Twilight Zone' in a coffee corner and visited some other Arcades too, but that was about it.

I moved back to The Netherlands and started iving on my own. I was producing music and came up with this idea to use a character from a local beer commercial in a track. Stimulated by colleagues who said I couldn't do it, I managed to get a hold of the actor who was the star in that commercial in just 4 phonecalls. 2 days later I was flying to London and we recorded custom speech. I produced the track, got a record deal and ended up with a top 20 hit in Holland, top 3 in Belgium and a lot of internation CD compilations. The money I made then allowed me to move to a bigger place. As I used to produce music there too I figured I should put in a pinball machines as most recording studios I knew had one or more pinball machines. That's were things got out of control.

I found this local auction website were I spotted some pinball machines. I did not want to spend a lot of money, so I bought a Zaccaria 'Pinball Champ' for about 125 euro. Big mistake. I didn't like the game at all. So I figured I'd better buy a game that I had played before and liked. I looked at the website again and spotted a TMNT. Wow, Cowabunga! So I'm watching the auction for a few days and the price is slowly going up. However, the seller also had a Williams 'Black Knight' for sale. I did some research and appearantly this BK game was supposed to be a true classic. So I send the seller an email and offered him 500 euros for both games. Sold!

So, then I had 3 games. Oddly enough I found myself still checking the auction website on a daily basis. I was looking at games were being sold for abroad and realized I could buy them a lot cheaper than they were sold somewhere else. So when a 'Fire' came along for 200 euro, I bought it. 'High Speed' was also a bagain. A 'Xenon' really took me back to my childhood and was the first game I started to shop. I bought a second 'Xenon' with a dirty, but perfect, playfield and rebuilt that game to still the best looking Xenon I have seen so far.

By that time I had become a member of the Dutch Pinball Association and got to know some fellow pinball collectors / restorers. The amateurism of the way the association was run bugged me and in order to improve things I started to contribute. First with ideas, then stories for their Spinner Magazine, and that rapidly got me more and more involved.

In 2004 the association was looking for ways to grow their collection of, at that time, 6 games as operators were no longer willing to supply games for tournaments such as the Dutch Pinball Open. A group of people met to discuss what could be done. At some point I suggested there was no need to buy games. All heads turn in my direction. “What do you mean?” I figured there were plenty of people who have a game in their home, but don’t play it anymore. It may be broken, or whatever. I reasoned at some point they would want to get rid of it and I had heard stories of people just throwing their games out on the street for the garbagetruck to pick it up. If we could simply reach these people and offer to pick up their game and try to restore it, why wouldn’t that work? Laughter all over. “I don’t know anybody that would donate their pinball machine, no chance.” Well, just because they do not know anybody, doesn’t mean they don’t exist, right? So while no-one believed it could work I kept pushing the idea. Finally the chairman said “OK, you can give it a go, but you will be responsible for it. You will be picking any games, if any are offered”. So I called it the Pinball Donation Fund and put out an ad on a popular auction website. Did it work? Well, in 3 months time we had collected over 40 games. We quit advertising as we barely couldn’t store the games anymore and still games were being offered. In less than 2 years the association owned 100 games.

The success of the Pinball Donation Fund basically forced the association to find a storage for the games. If possible large enough so they could be restored at that location as well. Basically that’s how the NFV Funhouse came in existence.

In the mean time the editor of Spinner Magazine had quit. I was asked as I had contributed often, but I turned it down. I did however offer to help the new editor. Well, that ‘editor’ had no clue about making a magazine and quit after 1 month. I finished the magazine on my own and became editor after all. As I was studying part-time at that time, I could follow a class in making magazines. I put to practice what I was taught and tried to upgrade the magazine. I had a goal and managed to achieve that goal. In less than 2 years I turned a previously black-and-white photocopied magazine into a 64 page, full color glossy. At some point Martin Ayub ( told me: “If the spinner Magazine would be in English, it would be the best pinball magazine in the world”. That is flattering :)

In 2009 I quit as editor of Spinner Magazine.

Fast forward to May 2012 and here I am announcing Pinball Magazine :) A new glossy magazine about pinball. If it is up to me, it will be even better than what I used to do 3 years ago :)

Story photos



9 years ago

wow what a great story - I will keep my eye out for your Pinball Magazine

9 years ago

Thanks for the story Jonathan! Looking forward to your publication...

9 years ago

Just got back from Expo and I'm half-way through the Roger Sharpe interview. Wow! This magazine is the best thing to happen to pinball since the flipper. Great work, Jonathan, and great meeting you this past weekend.

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

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