PINBALL COLLECTING BROUGHT UP TO DATE
By Russ Jensen
In the March, 1981, issue of The Coin Slot an article appeared titled, "Are There Really Pinball Collectors?" In that article I discussed pinball collections. I thought it was about time that provide an update on the significant events that have occurred since that time and describe the increases in some of the collections previously mentioned, plus a few other significant collections that I know of.
As I hear of more collectors and collections, it is still a constant wonder to me that so many people have come up with the idea 6f collecting pinball machines. The increase in publicity in recent years may have something to do with it, but most of the collectors I know about have been collecting for quite some time.
Up until a year ago there were no publications devoted exclusively to pinball collecting. While magazines, such as The Coin Slot, contained some pinball material, any one magazine seldom provided more than one pinball article per issue. New York state collectors Steve Young and Gordon Hasse decided to take matters into their own hands and came out with Pinball Collectors' Quarterly. As the name implies, this publication is devoted strictly to pinball and pinball collecting.
As of December, 1982, three issues have appeared, each jam-packed with information vitally interesting to pinball collectors and enthusiasts The printing quality, illustrations, and text material are outstanding, and this is a must for everyone-seriously interested in pinball.
In addition to this publication, Steve and Gordon have recently come up with an adjunct to the "Quarterly," a newsletter dubbed Silverball Express. Provided to all Pinball Collectors' Quarterly subscribers, this little paper provides even more pinball information in between issues of the "Quarterly." With so much pin information for the buck, ($22 per year), how can anyone go wrong?
Prior to 1976, there were no books whatsoever on the subject of pinball. In the next several years came a small deluge of pin books, almost all of which are now out of print. Then last year The Coin Slot mainstay, Dick Bueschel, took on still another ambitious project, the creation of a projected ten volume series of Illustrated Price Guides to the 100 Most Collectible Pinballs
These books will not only contain photos of pingames (100 in each volume in chronological order within that volume), but will also contain a detailed history of pinball, a new era presented in each volume. Knowing Dick's diligence when it comes to coin machine research, I know that the history sections will provide the best history of the pingame industry ever to be published. The first volume in this series, which is being anxiously awaited by all of us, should be published later this year with the others to follow as time goes on. Dick has already collected over 300 photos of classic pingames, but more are needed to reach 1,000, so keep them coming! If the first volume is anything like most of us expect it to be, it will be a "lulu."
Also, for a little more than two years coin machine journalist and publisher Bill Gersh has been publishing a series of articles titled "Pictorial History of Pinball" in his coin machine trade magazine, Marketplace. These articles had provided a chronological history of pinball from 1931 through 1 935 when they were discontinued last November. The articles contained numerous excellent reproductions of pictures of pingames, apparently taken from early trade publication advertisements. The text material also contained interesting insights into the industry, including many references to the personalities in the industry in those early years with whom Mr. Gersh had personal contact.
When the series was discontinued without notice, I contacted Bill to find out the reason He stated that it was due to a lack of interest in this type of historical material among many of his coin machine operator readers with whom he had spoken. I might suggest that any of The Coin Slot readers who also subscribe to Marketplace contact Mr. Gersh and express a desire to see this series continue. This would have, I believe, special impact if you also happen to be coin machine operators. Incidentally, when it was discontinued, over 140 pages of the series had been published.
Of the collections mentioned in my March, 1981, article the most 'significant increase was probably in the Sam Harvey Collection. Since that time Sam's collection has increased from 14 machines to well over 80, but this number is also steadily increasing. As he acquires new machines he completely removes everything from the top side of the playfield thoroughly cleans and waxes it and replaces all worn or damaged playfield parts (bumper skirts, etc). Sam has, most likely, the biggest and best collection of games of the 1960s and '70s of anyone in the country, although he also acquires some older machines as well.
The John Fetterman/Steve Young collection has also increased some what in the past year and a half to probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 machines. The Fellman/Wright collection of Omaha (which contained over400 machines in March, 1981) has increased slightly, including some significant new games Marc and Wade are getting closer to the time when at least some of their large collection will be on display.
One of the largest, singly owned collections in the country is that of Richard Conger of Sebastopol, California Richard currently has over 120 machines and is constantly acquiring new ones as a result of advertising in newspapers and magazines throughout the nation. His games cover all eras of pingames from the early'30s to the late'70s He has recently constructed a new barn on his northern California apple farm to help house his growing collection.
In addition to his games Richard is acquiring old parts to aid him in restoring his machines He recently acquired a truckload of dismantled machines, dating from the’ thirties and "forties, including about 25 old playfields, cabinets, wood legs, etc. Another buy consisted of hundreds of old bumper caps and a number of 'heads' complete with backglasses Parts such as these are a must for anyone trying to maintain such a large collection of old games.
Comparable in size to the Conger collection is the collection of Rich Grant of St Louis, also numbering around 120 machines. Rich is employed at the recently opened Sally distributorship, Sally Midwest, in St Louis His contacts with operators have aided him in finding some of his treasures. Until recently Rich had no games from the 1930s, but a visit to the last Chicagoland Show corrected that situation. There he acquired three excellent examples of’ thirties pingames As a result, his interest in that innovative era of pinball history has greatly increased Incidentally, Rich's boss Bally/Midwest branch manager Joe McCarthy, is also collecting pins and his smaller collection is steadily increasing.
All indications seem to point to a bright future for pinball collecting. For the most part, prices are still fairly reasonable although future increases could result from increased activity and publicity in the hobby. There appears to be a growing number of pingames showing up at coin machine hobby shows, such as the Chicagoland Show and the Loose Change Fun Fair, as I reported in the January issue of The Coin Slot. This seems to indicate that dealers are becoming aware of the market for classic pins.
It is also quite likely that the publishing of Dick Bueschel's pinball books will further spur interest-) in pinball collecting and may attract new collectors into the field It may also result in more slot machine, trade stimulator, jukebox, etc, collectors expanding their collections to include some pins as well.
Last, but not least, the spirit of friendly cooperation among collectors appears to be still on the up swing. Think trading of information, documentation (schematics, etc), and leads on new machines is very much alive among most collectors. This spirit is exemplified by an offer by collector Bob Kennedy, of Apple Valley, California, in a recent days advertised in the Pinball Collector's Quarterly in which he offered free copies of any of the game instruction cards he has to any other collectors requiring such information. It is this spirit of sharing that I believe is one of the major factors leading to the enjoyment of this fascinating hobby of collecting pingames
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