Date: October 2010, updated February 2011
Almost one year to the day, we paid our first visit to the Silverball Museum on Cookman Avenue in downtown Asbury Park. Rob Ilvento's collection of 94 pinballs and 12 amusement machines was an impressive sight, but as we reported at the time, Rob had plans to expand the collection even further and the basement location just didn't allow for any more machines.
He hoped to secure a new location on the boardwalk at Asbury Park, and that's exactly what he did, opening the new Silverball Museum Arcade to the public in February of this year.
After last year's visit, we popped along to the boardwalk to see what it was like. It was a dull, wet, miserable day and the waterfront was deserted.
Nothing could have been more different this year.
The sun was beating down, the temperatures were in the 70s and the boardwalk was teeming with visitors making the most of the unseasonable weather.
And there, in the heart of the action was the new Silverball Museum Arcade.
The old location, while never cramped, made the most of the space available by packing in the games. The new home of the Museum appears far larger, and best of all, almost every square inch is crammed with pinballs and other amusement machines.
We were visiting on a Saturday and several parties were being held at the Museum for both young and older groups. It was encouraging to see so many younger players - the next generation of players - sampling the whole range of different pinballs types. Curiously, the older, simpler games were just as popular as the flashier DMD models.
Machines are broadly grouped according to their age, with overhead signs showing the decade they were made.
The pricing scheme is the same as before. $10 gets you an hour of all-you-can-eat games-playing, but your museum visit shouldn't be rushed, so the all-day $20 ticket is the better deal. The machines are all set on free play, so once the entry fee has been paid you can play to your heart's content (or your hour is up). If you decide to stay longer, you can upgrade the one hour ticket to the full day one for the $10 difference.
The condition of the machines seemed very good. Naturally there were one or two out of action and a couple needing attention, but with so much choice, a faulty game was never much of a problem.
The history of pinball is illustrated on large posters on the surrounding walls.
Meanwhile, information about each indivual game is shown on a card mounted on top of the backbox. Also on the backboxes are cards showing the highest scores achieved so far along with the players' initials, giving you something to aim for.
There are plenty more signs around the Museum, on the walls and hanging from the ceiling.
Apparently it is possible to get tired of pinball, so there are several other games around the museum such as ball bowlers, puck bowlers, skeeball, pitch & bat and mannequin games.
A food service counter and eating area caters for parties and anyone else in need of refreshment or a snack.
During our visit, a 50th birthday party was one of the celebrations taking place. Although the Museum is not licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, party groups can bring their own drinks with them.
There are around 175 pinballs set up in the museum and about 25 other assorted amusements, which makes it almost double the size of the original Cookman Avenue home.
That extra space allows for many more visitors, and more prominent location on the boardwalk helps deliver them. There are even signs advertising the 3am closing time on Friday and Saturday nights, saying the museum is a good place to sober up after a night enjoying the boardwalk's other attractions.
The new Silverball Arcade Museum was certainly a lively, active venue during our visit with enthusiastic players young and old enjoying the wide variety of games. Having an inclusive entry fee seems to encourage visitors to try machines they might not otherwise consider paying for.
Rob and the team have done an excellent job setting up the new Museum. The large windows provide plenty of natural light, giving the room an airy feel and ensuring you don't feel as though you are missing out on the sunshine outside.
The initial sight of so many machines in one location comes as quite a shock. What to play first? The emphasis is still on '50s, '60s and '70s machines, but there are more solid state and dot matrix machines than before to improve the overall mix.
During the off-season the opening hours are reduced slightly, closing at 9pm on Sunday-Thursday (1am in the Summer months) and 1pm Friday & Saturday (3am in summer). Check the Museum's website for more details about the opening times, directions, game lists and party enquiries.
Pinball News reader Brendan Bailey visited the Silverball Museum at the start of 2011 and made a video tour of the collection which he has offered to share with us. Thanks Brendan.
© Pinball News 2011