I have been toying with the idea of starting my own pinball operator business for quite a while now, but now is the time to take this big step for these reasons:
- I need the space. 37 pinball machines seems to be my limit here at Pecos' Palatial Pinball Parlour.
- I need the money. I don't expect the income to be much, but even a little bit will be welcome.
- My machines need to be played. They don't get much play here at the PPPP and they were meant to be played.
- If my pinball machines will bring even a little bit of the joy that I got from playing pinball in my youth, my efforts will be well worth it.
- I put so much work into the restoration of my games, that routing the machines from my collection means that I will benefit from all of the hard work to make them reliable and nice looking while still maintaining ownership. I sold some of my games last year and got nowhere near minimum wage for the hours I put into the restoration. Add the costs of the parts, and it just makes more sense to keep the games and try to make money routing them.
I wanted to start my business, Pecos Pinball, as soon as possible, but thought better of that idea. There was a lot of work to be done! I chose April 1st, 2018 because Tucson business license costs are pro-rated by quarter and that gave me a month and a half to prepare.
If it weren't for all of the paperwork required to run your own business, I would have done this a long time ago. I despise with a passion tax forms and all of the documentation needed to do the income, expenses and depreciation. Just getting a Vendor Distributor license in Tucson is a hassle. Michael, who works for the licensing division here in Tucson has been very helpful. He sent me a package of paperwork that needed to be filled out and answered a lot of my questions. I need four licenses:
- TPT - Transaction Privilege Tax
- Tucson Business License
- Vendor Distributor License
- A license for each pinball machine
In addition, I had to be fingerprinted by the Tucson Police Department. Okay, that is just a tad bit over the top, doncha think?
Getting ready to put my pinball machines on route, now residing at Pecos' Palatial Pinball Parlour, is a big task. Items that don't matter in a home environment take on importance when a machine is put in the public. The coin mechs have to work. Locks are needed for the coin door, coin box and back box. Many of my Project Pins came with no backbox backdoor and the lids on coin boxes always seem to be missing. Tilt plumb bobs and balls for the ball roll tilts are almost always missing and need to be replaced. The games need to play 99% or better and that is a tough task to accomplish. And you want the machine to look as good as possible so playfield touch-ups are important too.
A restoratation of my games is a lot of work. It's hard enough to get a game working 95% and that fits most of my working machines. Getting that last 5% can be a real bear. Here are the steps I am doing in the restoration and the preparation for routing a machine:
- Remove rust from legs, wax and replace leg levelers with new leg levelers. Shine up the leg bolts.
- Check power cord for splices. Replace if necessary. Check wire nuts for missing or loose.
- Remove fuses, one at a time, and check to see if Amperage is correct. Replace if not. Buff with Magic Brush the contact points on the fuse holders and fuses. Pinch fuse holders to tighten if fuses are loose. Replace fuse holders if necessary. Test with a DMM for continuity.
- Check coin door switches for mal-adjustment. Clean and adjust as necessary.
- Disassemble shooter rod, clean, replace sleeve, replace barrel spring and lightly lubricate with SuperLube. Reassemble and install. These old plastic shooter rod housings are often broken. A new metal one may be needed.
- Remove, clean and insert new nylon solenoid sleeves for the pop bumpers, sling shots and flippers.
- Remove mech board and vacuum cabinet - if needed or dust off mech board.
- Clean and repaint bottom of cabinet if needed.
- Glue and clamp cabinet, if needed.
- Clean and adjust all switches on mech board.
- Shine all screw heads, washers and metal parts if removed.
- Disassemble score motor and clean cam and brackets.
- Clean and adjust all switches on score motor.
- Clean and adjust all switches under the playfield.
- Replace all playfield insert lamps with new #44 lamps.
- Replace all playfield general illumination (GI) lamps with new #47 lamps.
- Replace all backbox lamps with new #47 lamps.
- Replace pop bumper lamps with new #47 lamps.
- Clean playfield and wax with Carnauba Wax.
- Clean all playfield parts - flipper bats, posts, plastics, aprons etc.
- New rubber rings on playfield.
- Disassemble and clean all stepper units - Credit Unit, Player Unit, Match Unit.
- Disassemble and clean all parts for each score reel.
- Adjust and clean score reel switches.
- Clean and adjust all switches in the backbox.
- Take apart chime box and knocker, if needed.
- Coat backglass with Triple Thick to prevent flaking.
- Clean outside of cabinet with blue window cleaner.
- New locks on coin door, coin box and backbox door.
- Replace backbox door, if missing.
- Replace coin box and coin box lid, if missing.
- Clean and adjust all tilts. Pay special attention to the coin door slam tilt and the kick-off tilts on the bottom of the mech board. These are normally closed!
- Replace Ball Roll Tilt ball and Tilt Plumb Bob, if missing.
- Replace coin mechs and make sure the machine will take coins and add credits/start game.
- Set up replay point values and change instruction and score cards
- Test tilts, features and play game to find issues
For the solid state games, these tasks need to be completed:
- Replace all electrolytic capacitors
- Add NVRAMs
- New connectors where needed
- Upgrade Power Supply Boards
- Add LEDs, as an option
- Add new drop target decals and Mylar
- There are always a few lamps out on the old Bally SS pins needing SCR/MCRs replaced
- Tweak settings to allow for more points, easier to achieve features - but don't give away the store
I'm sure that I have missed something, so consider these lists a work in process.
I use the 'fist test' to find any switches that are set too close. A firm banging of your fist on different parts of the playfield will trigger switches that are set too tight. This is important because kids will take advantage of pins that give free points. I know I did!
I have called my insurance agent to get some quotes on liability insurance but have not heard back.
I thought it would be easy to find some businesses that would want to add pinball machines. It hasn't been so far. I began by dressing up and visiting some local places. The Moose lodge doesn't have the room. The Mulligan's manager has twice told their employees to get my name and number. The manager said that the owner was looking for new entertainment devices; I will keep trying. The local fitness center would be a perfect place to route Hardbody, but their corporate office won't allow any vending machines in their store. I plan to start calling some businesses that are not as close. I called a local pizza eatery and one of the owners was interested when I told them that my pinball machines were vintage, but needed to contact their partner and I haven't heard back from them. There will be no 'Grand Opening' if I can't find some businesses to put my games in!
I plan to route these games:
- Aztec EM - 1976 Williams, two available
- Spanish Eyes EM - 1972 Williams, two available
- Travel Time EM - 1973 Williams
- Super-Flite EM - 1974 Williams
- Steller Wars SS - 1979 Williams
- Future Spa SS - 1979 Bally
- Mr & Mrs Pac-Man SS with LEDs - 1982 Bally
- Hardbody SS with LEDs - 1987 Bally
The following games will be available soon:
- Liberty Bell EM - 1977 Williams
- Laser Cue SS - 1984 Williams