There is a fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness”
— attributed to Dave Barry


Dan Corkill's Pinball Pages

Welcome to my pinball pages. I enjoy playing, collecting, restoring, and maintaining pinball machines. Time demands, space, and funds limit these activities, but I'm always on the lookout for places to play pinball around the Amherst, Massachusetts area, for other older area enthusiasts (lower-60s), and for machines that might need restoring or a new home. Drop me an e-mail at dancorkill@comcast.net if you know of any of these!

Why I like Pinball

If you've been infected with the pinball disease, you already know; but I get enough of those “oh, grow up!” and “huh?” looks to realize that not everyone really understands.

Playing

The short answer is (my favorite Harry Williams quote): The ball is wild!

The physics of the ball and game and the coupling of the player to the game are never quite the same. This mechanical action results in differences in play that are subtle and unpredictable—but definitely not random! The play is strongly influenced by the player, but it is not under her complete control. One moment you can be really in the game, hitting the hardest skill shots and running up an incredible score. Then again, the ball can seem to have a mind of its own, taunting you to play again.

Unfortunately, many peoples' experience with pinball is on poorly adjusted and maintained location machines. It's no wonder that video games (in arcades or on PCs and home game boxes) are considered more engaging than a pinball machine that leans to one side, has a weak flipper, broken targets, a worn and dirty playfield, a stuck ball, and a scratched and dirty top glass.

Good Memories

For those of us of A Certain Age, playing pinball was part of the good times of growing up. I share a few of my own reminisces in this video (thanks Kellen!). Playing pinball today brings back those wonderful memories, but I'm sure that I would love playing even if I was just experiencing my first few games.

Maintaining, Repairing, & Restoring

Like many collectors, the task of repairing and restoring pinball machines is an enjoyable companion hobby to playing them. Advances in the technology used in machines—from the basic “simplicity” of electromechanical (EM) games through the varied systems used in the solid-state (SS) games of the late 1970s onward—require a range of skills and expertise. None of these technologies are inaccessible to the hobbyist, but all present learning challenges. My goal is to expand my abilities with these technologies, one by one. I'm feeling more comfortable with EMs and Bally/Stern SS games from 1977-85. Next on my list to tackle is the “dreaded” Gottlieb System-1.

Collecting

It is a joy to be able to come home from work and unwind with a few games on a favorite machine. I also enjoy watching friends and visitors re-experience a classic game (or experience one for the first time). I get a particular kick watching the faces of children light up when they hear the sound of an EM score reel for the first time. Although some of them have heard talking pinball machines—that's nothing new to them (videos and computer games all talk these days)—but that EM sound...

Having my own machines doesn't mean that I don't play machines on location. I do; every chance I get!

Current Collection

The following machines are in my collection (click here for details):

Want List

I never met a pin that I didn't like—not many, at least—and there are many, many pins that I would love to have! As most enthusiasts have discovered, you can't own just one...   Space limitations bring me back to reality!

Here are some of my very special wants:

And a few that my children (now young adults) wanted me to want:

Local Information

Pinball Hall of Fame Museum

If you are going to be in Las Vegas, be sure to spend some time at Tim Arnold's Pinball Hall of Fame Museum. The set of games available to play keeps changing. Bring your quarters (and avoid the one-armed casino bandits)!

National Pinball Museum

If you are planning to be near Silver Spring, Maryland, on a Saturday morning consider arranging an appointment to visit the temporary home of the National Pinball Museum. The museum has over 800 pins, with 50 set up for play at their temporary headquarters (visitation fee required). Also, please consider making a donation of $5 or more toward a permanent home for the museum.

Finding Machines

I'm often asked where to find machines or a specific game. For some, patient search is a thrilling aspect of collecting, and games have been acquired in strange and circuitous ways. In years past, making connections with local operators was a good strategy (and still can be for recent machines, but there are far fewer operators and less game turnover). Newspaper ads and garage sales yield occasional machines, but if you are looking for a specific machine (that favorite game you played as a teenager) success using this strategy will be nearly miraculous.

There are dealers who specialize in selling arcade games to collectors, and many of their ads can be found in the Pingame Journal. Some dealers meticulously restore games; others ensure they are operational (or will at least tell you if a game needs work). You will pay for the service and support a dealer provides, which can be money well spent if you simply want an operational game for your family room. Spend some time checking into the reputation of a dealer. Most have been in business for years and have worked hard to serve their customers.

Machines are regularly listed on eBay, but there are risks buying a machine without seeing/playing it and worrying about transport from a seller who does not regularly ship machines. Prices can also be all over the map (from bargains to ridiculously overpriced), but seem to be stabilizing on reasonable lately. Game conditions vary from very good to completely beat up and non-working, and you should understand what is involved (in cost and effort) to get your purchase transported and operating before bidding.

Arcade-game auctions are another source of pinball machines. (Regular auctions seem to be held nearly everywhere in the continental U.S. except here in New England!) Auctions can be fun, if you like in-person, live bidding. As with eBay, knowledge is your best guide in making an informed purchase decision.

I strongly recommend spending some time lurking the rec.games.pinball newsgroup (see the on-line FAQ) to get a sense of the landscape. The free Mr. Pinball Classifieds is also a valuable resource. Finally, if there is a specific game you are looking for, mentioning it on a public web page (one that is scanned by search engines) along with an e-mail address can result in leads—as well as an increase in spam—as some sellers (honest and otherwise) now search the web for interested buyers.

Restoration and Maintenance Information

    

If it ain't broken, it soon will be
— anonymous pinhead

Along with the privilege of owning a pinball machine is the responsibility of maintaining its condition for future enthusiasts. Not only is it important to protect the investment in a machine, but each machine is an irreplaceable member of a very finite group. Well maintained machines are more fun to play and hold their condition and value. I see all too many machines with avoidable playfield wear (due to raised/lowered inserts, failure to replace a worn pinball, and lack of proper waxing) and backglass deterioration (from improper environmental storage).

The web contains excellent maintenance and restoration resources! Clay's guides are required reading for anyone restoring/maintaining a pin. Gottlieb System-1 owners should consult John's Jukes.

I also highly recommend the This Old Pinball video series for anyone contemplating pinball restoration and maintenance. At $8 each, these DVDs are a steal! Get your copies today, before Norm and Shaggy recover from the naptha fumes and raise the price to what they are worth. (The proceeds go to great causes...)

Back to my home page.

Last updated: June 17, 2013
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