Tuesday, November 4, 2014

To Trade or Not to Trade...........That is the Question

In the world of pinball collecting, often times an aficionado has the option to acquire a game through trading as opposed to a straight sale. This usually consists of either a "Trade with Cash" or the "Straight Trade." Trading with cash is usually where two machines are traded and both parties agree to adding/subtracting cash on the side to make it even and satisfactory for both groups. Straight trade is when two people trade without any cash outlay on the side. While under most situations a straight trade would be done for two machines of equal market value, sometimes it might not be, especially if both individuals want the game the other person has. This has led to some very interesting possibilities for trades, game swaps that might not normally make sense, unless you factor in where one is located as well as the rarity and desirability of a particular game in that area.

Would you swap a Metallica for a Centaur?

Stern's Metallica Pro


That sounds crazy on the surface, a new Stern DMD game from 2013 for a 33 year old machine with limited sound, lighting effects, and more primitive rules. Yet in Florida (where I live) Centaur is highly desirable and almost never for sale. In that light, a trade for a Metallica Pro would not only seem possible, but some might consider it a bad deal for the initial Centaur owner, as getting another Centaur would be a lot harder than getting a new Metallica. Though in the end, if both parties are happy, that's all that matters.

What happens if the trade really isn't balanced? Lets say a collector has a Stern Lord of the Rings (market value around $4200.00 and commonly available) but really wants a Swords of Fury (technically an $1800.00 dollar game but super uncommon, maybe only 2 in the state he resides in and nobody letting go of one, and it never for sale anywhere)? He being a fantasy themed fan, and someone who's grown tired of chasing after the One Ring, has decided he wants a Swords of Fury above it all, none are for sale anywhere within 1000 miles of him, so when he finds an owner with one, that person will only take a LOTR for trade, and so he's got a serious choice to make, take the hit and agree to the trade, or hold out hoping another game pops up. Not all Pinball games get reprints, a rare game that's never getting remade will stay rare, and while most may dismiss a trade offer like that, one man's warm-up machine is another man's grail, and pinball people can do unbelievable things when they get the fiery desire to have a game in their collection no matter what.

It boils down to desirability and what the person or people are after in the trade, and what a person is willing to do to get a game that he really wants.

What do you guys think? Have any of you ever been in the situation where you REALLY wanted a game and were willing to trade down just to get it? Do any of you have any stories you'd like to share? 

Comment Below!

PS. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Marshall down at 24 Hour Distribution for sending me the flyer to one of my favorite games, Bad Cats!

Meow Meow Meow Meow.................

Marshall is a true Pinball Aficionado!!!! Thanks again man!!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pinball Collectors, Collections, and Why They Collect (Case Study #1)

Today on Pinball Aficionado, we're going to take our first look at the world of collecting; the people that do it, the games they go after, and the reasons why they do what they do. What drives someone to go and fill their house with machines that cost thousands of dollars and take up massive amounts of real estate
 and weigh a ton!

Some of FLECOM's collection in his living room

Historically, that great hobby we call pinball can usually be divided into two general realms. One is the world of the operator and location games, where pinball machines are out in public spaces and are playable by the masses. The other world is that of the home collector, where individuals (usually after getting their first machine) go after and acquire games they are interested in owning and before long can have rooms, and then houses full of pinball tables. In years past, a majority of pinball owners were operators, but in recent decades there has been an ever growing shift toward collecting, so with that, let's look at our first collector.


Collector: FLECOM

Location: South Florida

Number of Games: Over 20

Reason for Collecting: Mental Illness 

Mental Illness??? Wha?!?!?!...................

Pinball Aficionado: "Do you go after any particular types of games, eras, or the titles from a certain designer or company?"

Flecom: "I buy games that I can find for a good price, then fix them up and restore them to a playable condition. I really love seeing these games come back to life, that's when I know my hard work pays off.

My main focus has been finding good deals on games that I feel play well and then fixing them up. I tend to prefer DMD games with good flowing shots. As for designers, I do like John Popadiuk and am very happy to own all 5 of his released games including his self described 'Trilogy of Awesomeness' (Theater of Magic, Tales of the Arabian Nights, and Cirqus Voltaire)."

PA: "You say you have over 20 games, do you have them all in once place? Where do you put them all?"

Flecom: "I'm a collector/operator, I have several games here in my place, the rest are around, wherever I have room for them, including some on location at Arcade Odyssey.

PA: "What was your first game, and how did you come about acquiring it?"

Flecom: "My first game was a Data East Star Wars, which I picked up a little over 3 years ago. I was watching 'Pawn Stars' and saw they had a pinball machine in an episode (I think it was a KISS). I thought owning a pinball machine might be neat, decided I wanted one, and went to Ebay to see what was available. Seeing that nothing was for sale nearby, I then went on Craigslist, found a DESW for sale and bought it. I picked that game as I'm a Star Wars fan. Little did I know that it would lead me into this hobby."

PA: "Very Cool! Thanks for your time."

Flecom: "No problem."

So, all you aficionado collectors out there, why do you collect? What kinds of games do you go after? If you'd like to be featured in a future profile, shoot me an email!

Till next time!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pinball Art and the Whoa Nellie Controversy

Whoa Nellie! The game that is fruitful for some and rotten for others. - Photo courtesy of Whizbang Pinball

This week on Pinball Aficionado, we're going to look at a controversy that has developed in recent hours online. It was during Pinball Expo and involves Stern's announcement of a game they will soon be manufacturing in early 2015 for Whizbang Pinball (the design duo comprised of Dennis Nordman and Greg Freres).

It's Whoa Nellie, an older electromechanical style design that's been in the works in one form or another for over 4 years. As soon as the announcement was made on Facebook there were many who lauded the move, as it's essentially an original theme with a homage to classic pinball art of the 1970's. There were also dozens of comments by people who found the artwork offensive, misogynistic, even one person alluding that it fed into rape culture.

Whoa indeed!

It's an interesting debate, and could prove a very slippery slope for Stern. On the one hand, having a simpler, EM style game with "classic art" could definitely appeal to the hobby's prime demographic, older white men (statistically the average pinballer's age today is around 42) who grew up on games with that visual style. 

The  Warrior's Bride in Paragon

Slave girl from Hercules

Sacrifice in Gorgar

Girl in Genie
The Fire Queen.............She might be sexualized, but is she a "victim" or "inferior"???

On the other hand, this kind of art today could definitely rub some the wrong way. Today more people, especially women are now in the hobby, and they find these visuals to not have any redeeming or artistic value, and as such find that this older graphic style is offensive and outdated. It's a valid point, more people are trying to move past older stereotypes and trying to be more inclusive and respectful. There was even an article written for Skill-Shot.com showing female player Kayla Greet's view toward the sexualization of the feminine form in games past and present (including contemporary titles such as ACDC Luci) and how it was distracting, demeaning, and did not leave a positive impact for young people in general.

So that possibly leaves Stern in a vulnerable place, cater to the largest pinball playing demographic, or try to appeal to a wider audience. In a relatively small hobby like pinball, Stern's obviously catering to their largest audience, though if they continue to focus on them, its likely to remain small. Time will tell if it was the right move or not. 

The Playfield..... - Photo courtesy of Ministry of Pinball

Anyway, what does everyone think of this controversy, is it legitimate? Blown out of proportion? What's your view of the debate??? Comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Until Next time!

-- Special Thanks to Amanda Kotchon for contributing to this entry.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pinball Aficionado Facebook Page!!!

The Joker's Realm... In Batman: The Dark Knight Pinball by Stern!!!

Hey all you aficionados out there! Just want to give everyone a head's up! Pinball Aficionado is now officially on Facebook!!! Now you can more easily see blog posts, links, make comments, share info, check out photos, and more!


Lots of stuff is coming in the next few weeks to the blog, we're going to go from one end of the pinball universe to the other and back again, hope you guys stay tuned, it's going be a great ride!!!!!

-- Eric

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Makes You Prefer One Machine Over Another? -> The Responses!!!!!!!

The world famous "Wall of Pins" at Arcade Odyssey (in Miami FL)

WOW! You guys really responded!!! Awesome! I'm not sure I've ever had so many comments to a single post before! Last week we asked what makes you pinball aficionados prefer one machine over another and we got some incredible answers.

One reader, mentioned that first and foremost it was art (or how the table looked), followed closely by game play (amount of action and shots). Another comment, talked of how the rules of a table can differentiate similar layouts, so that they while two games may look VERY similar, almost the same, they end up playing and "feeling" completely different. 

Other replies went on, talking about not just the shots, but how much "flow" or continuous ball movement potential a table might have, and how well this factor of movement worked with other elements of the table, such as sounds, call outs, and light shows. 

Universes under glass...

Others went further, explaining that a major factor for them preferring a game over another was dependent on if they owned it or if they were just playing it at a location. If they owned it, it would need deeper rules (for longevity) and/or possibly have a lower production run, and be in near museum quality condition to make a game in a private collection just that more special for the owner.
Public Games...

Finally, one person, mentioned that another factor is nostalgia, as in a game they played in their youth versus one they are less familiar with. How playing a particular game that feels special to them, brings them to a happier place in their mindset, and gives them greater enjoyment. 

Phew!!! OK, Let's compile all those factors:

Shot Geometry / Design


If one looks at all the responses, it would appear that the answer is complicated. While going by the number of comments, it seems that the most mentioned points are "design", "flow", and "rules", but that is not all. Other factors play into those for everybody, and so the key to desirability would seem to be more a combination of multiple attributes - many times working together in concert - to make a game more preferable to someone over another.

So many factors bring a game together...
I guess this is why when you ask multiple people to list their favorite game, you get different lists, and one man's bonfire pin is another man's grail treasure. 

So the answer appears to be multiple factors, combined in varying amounts, for different tastes. Wow, my hat off to the designers of these games. They bring all these disparate elements together and somehow make it all work, talk about a tricky proposition!

Finally! You're probably asking "So who won the T shirt!" I can now say that we have a winner!!!!!

Drumroll................................................................And the winner is.................................. 


Kevin, A Winner is You!!!!!!!!!
Kevin,  please message me (use the contact form on this blog) your address and I will send you the Stern Shop Tshirt! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Till next time.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What Makes You Prefer One Machine Over Another???

So many games.......so many choices.......

Recently I was on Facebook and saw some polls on pinball enthusiast pages that dealt with the usual "What's your favorite game" or "What's the worst pinball game of the 1980's" etc to start discussions. It got me thinking, what DOES make for a good game, or a bad game? Pinball is a funny thing, because one person might love the game you find abhorrent and vice versa. What kind of factors cause that? 

Shots? Art? Lights? Sound?

And why is it that in our hobby, unlike many others, we pinball aficionados obsess over the smallest things. Game might shoot great, but dammit, they got that annoying 5 note loop track or the color of the playfield is yellow and not red and so it's sucky, while that other game next to it plays similar, but has some different sounds and rules and you think it kicks total butt. 

Terminator 2

A non pinball person would see T2 and ACDC and think it was the same game, or at the very least, would think it was made in the same year, but not us, obviously. We'd see both of those very differently, and we'd definitely price them and rate them very differently as well. Why???
Other hobbies/industries don't seem to be that particular. If I or most people go to buy a new car, my main concern would probably be that it drives. It's not a deal breaker if I can't get the car in dark blue when all they have is regular blue, yet in Pinball something like that can be a deal breaker. Are we just a picky bunch? Or is there more to it??? 

Let me know!!!!! Discuss what factors for you, cause a game to suck, or a game to be great! Comment below, here on the blog (make sure java script and cookies are enabled for your comment to come through) and for your trouble one of you will be randomly picked to win a kick-ass "STERN SHOP" T-Shirt, totally free, that I picked up while I was visiting the factory last month!!!


Next time we'll check out your replies. 
Until then!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The World of Modding! - Part 3: Lighting!!!

Colorful LED's lighting up the ramps in a Black Knight

Last week we looked at the "Modding" scene (pinball... not piercings *snicker snicker*) , specifically the different "physical" ways that pinball aficionados modified their games to suit their tastes. That included adding toys, changing game artwork, and personalizing bits of their games to make them specifically their own.

LED's added to the inserts on a Stern: LOTR

This week we're going to look at another huge side of modding, and that is the LIGHTING side. This type of modification involves the changing of lights in a game, most commonly from incandescent bulbs to newer, more versatile, LED types. This is done to suit the owners taste, and in many cases, improve the look of a game. There is also a huge benefit to LED's, in that they're cooler than older style incandescent bulbs, and they typically last thousands of hours longer. The added color potential of LED's also means one can change the look of the game, as old style bulbs only came in white, 99% of the time. The downside to using LED's is that in many cases they do not look the same as older bulbs, and pinball players like what they are accustomed to and find LED lighting to be ugly or negatively impact play. Also in earlier years, LED's were not as sophisticated and the results were less than promising, resulting in older incandescent bulbs holding favor until now. 

Incandescent 555 wedge bulb on the left, it's LED equivalent on the right (old school flasher up top)...

LED's in pinball machines are nothing new, some games came with them (behind the scenes on pinball circuit boards) as early as the mid 70's on early Solid State games, and visible to the pinball player as early as 1987 (seen there in the shooter lane area on a Premier: Arena pinball game). Stern pinball has been messing with them to replace old style incandescent bulbs since at least 2004, but as you can see in the first 5 mins of that video (courtesy of mdclayton), LED's at the time were not quite as sophisticated as today and had issues, resulting in Stern continuing to use older bulbs until last year.

LED bulbs have gotten better lately, and are now available in many different colors, configurations, and brightnesses that can make older games really pop. 

Data East Rocky and Bullwinkle outfitted with Comet LED's

Metallica with custom LED lighting throughout
This has led to several major LED bulb vendors for the pinball community for hobbyists and owners to really trick out their games and modify the game's lighting. 

Some major LED vendors for the community are:

Comet Pinball (My personal favorite, great prices, great variety!)

Black Knight plastic with blue LED underneath

Check out that moon! LED bulb ADDED to that spot for extra effect!!!

With improvements in LED design, you now have dozens if not hundreds of different bulb styles and options to get the light and color just right for you. These vendors even provide entire kits so that you can just tell them the game you want to light up and they will send you all the bulbs in all the right colors to make your game look its best. The LED's themselves have been improved and many of the issues that people faced years ago are gone, so that even Stern has now adopted LED lighting as standard throughout all of their models.

LED lighting on Stern's Star Trek: Pro

This begs the question: "Is the old school incandescent going the way of the Dodo???" Not necessarily, as certain players and collectors will always want to remain traditional and not switch their games over, but for most other people and their games, as well as all newly manufactured titles from here on out, LED's seem to be here to stay. I guess you could say that Pinball is now officially in "The LED Era".

Until next time!!!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The World of Modding! - Part 2: Physical Mods

Hand crafted, customized "Candy Apple" plungers to go on many different games...

Continuing on from my last update about the world of Modding. I decided to start by looking into how people trick out their personal games with different art, toys, and customization options. 

Custom topper on a Sega Batman Forever
Let's face it, if you're gonna drop anywhere from 500-9000 dollars on anything, (let alone a pinball machine)  you better be happy with it! Jeez...It would totally suck if you weren't happy after dropping that kind of dough....*shivers*...yikes. Anyway, not everyone is happy with how a particular game looks when it leaves the factory. Some may like the gameplay but hate the artwork, others might find the interactive toys lacking, or the game missing that special something that the designer should have included, but didn't because of cost, time, or lack of foresight. Because of that, people turn to modifications to make their games look better, be more personalized, and in turn, the overall experience improves and they have more fun playing them.

Custom guitar toy and additional side wall art added to a Stern Metallica
There are many big name "Modders" out there who create these modifications and sell them online. Among them are the likes of "Mike D", "Aurich", "Pinball Pimp", "Pingraffix", "Mezelmods", and of course, "Pinball Refinery" just to name a few (click any of those links and prepare to go "Whoa!!!!" because all those guys do incredibly amazing work)! 

Here are some examples:

ACDC with an alternate translite, speaker panel, and custom speaker covers.

Custom snake fangs for Stern's Metallica.

Custom Metallica speaker panel from Back Alley Creations (photo courtesy of Elo Rey).

Custom pinball apron for Apollo 13...
Custom decaled and powder coated side rail for Stern Star Trek

Along with these guys, there is another big modder that has been making a name for himself in the scene lately. He goes by the illusive moniker "The Modfather" and has been creating several very popular items for pinball aficionados that have found their way on games from Seattle to Boston and everywhere in between. After moving mountains, making many clandestine phone calls, sending smoke signals, and solving intricate clues with secret passwords, I discerned his hidden location and was FINALLY granted access to see his work in person......Phew!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The mysterious man himself....

Here's some of his work:

Customized Carpathian Village for Bram Stoker's Dracula

Hand painted...
...And very detailed.
Actual grass in a Stern LOTR!

Custom sword mod for LOTR... (that is a real blade!)
Space Module mod for Apollo 13...
Custom Lockbar for Independence Day
Customized ACDC dynamite, guitar, and drum set toys...

Custom Terminator Exoskeleton mod for Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Custom lit "Warrior Souls" for the Path of the Dead in LOTR...
Custom lettering,  paint job, and shooter rod for LOTR...
Custom graveyard archway for Metallica...
Suffice it to say I was impressed. He's very good at doing customized pinball toys, hand crafted art flourishes, along with stenciling  and has a real passion for detail. Then he showed a few other things that he has done... 

Custom 3D rendered and hand painted witches castle walls for Jersey Jack Wizard of Oz...
That is the upper left playfield on the Wizard of Oz pinball game. Originally those walls were flat, the texture on them a simple print. The Modfather went and made his own set of walls that give significant depth and detail. The walls look great and have become very popular and as such, he has been selling them online to WOZ owners all over the world.

A Wall of Walls......
One last thing he showed me was his new "Candy Apple" shooter rod plungers. These are custom shooters that are hand painted to match any game that uses a standard plunger.
Custom painted shooter rod plungers...
Oooh Pretty!
Plunger for WOZ
Looks kind of like a planet almost....
The paints that are used....
Custom ACDC "Candy Apple" Shooter on the game...
I asked him where one could buy his mods, and he said that you can order his work from several websites including:

Pinside Forum


Comet Pinball

Little Shop of Games

Well there we are, if one is going to spend serious money on something like a Pinball machine, the least you can do is trick it out to your taste so that you love it all the more. Just like how people mod cars or boats, others mod pinball machines.

Till next time, where we see how modding has changed the look of lighting in pinball forever!

Feel free to comment below!