Date: 16th - 20th October, 2019
Location: Westin Chicago North Shore, 601 N Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, IL 60090, USA

Hello and welcome back to our continuing coverage of this 35th annual Pinball Expo.

While Wednesday features the kick-off Bumper Blast party, Thursday is the first full day of events and, as in previous years, that begins at 9am when the buses arrive to transport Expo attendees to the Stern Pinball factory tour.

Expo attendees wait for the buses to arrive
Expo attendees wait for the buses to arrive
The first bus arrives for the Stern Pinball factory tour
The first bus arrives for the Stern Pinball factory tour

The Stern Pinball factory is located in Elk Grove Village, which is around 30 minutes by bus south of the Pinball Expo hotel in Wheeling.

More buses arrive and take tour guests to the Elk Grove Village factory
More buses arrive and take tour guests to the Elk Grove Village factory
The sign outside the factory
The sign outside the factory
There was a separate entrance into the factory for the tour guests
There was a separate entrance into the factory for the tour guests
The merchandise shop team were ready for the tour crowd
The merchandise shop team were ready for the tour crowd
The Stern arcade is located at the start of the tour
The Stern arcade is located at the start of the tour
You never know who you might find playing
You never know who you might find playing
Gary Stern welcomes tour guests to the factory
Gary Stern welcomes tour guests to the factory
The tour crowd was split into smaller groups before being taken round the factory
The tour crowd was split into smaller groups before being taken round the factory
Another group starts the tour
Another group starts the tour
Dwight Sullivan took this group
Dwight Sullivan took this group – here they are visiting the parts store
Playfields from recent titles are kept for reference and for sales
Playfields from recent titles are kept for reference and for sales
Racks of playfields for Elvira's House of Horrors
Racks of playfields for Elvira’s House of Horrors
The cabling department where the cable looms are made
The cabling department where the cable looms are made
In the cabinet and backbox section
In the cabinet and backbox section
Completed cabinets and backboxes
Completed cabinets and backboxes
T-Rex head assemblies for Jurassic Park
T-Rex head assemblies for Jurassic Park
The playfield production line
The playfield production line
More is added to the playfield
More is added to the playfield
Complete or near-complete playfields
Complete or near-complete playfields
Playfields being tested and fitted into the cabinets
Playfields being tested and fitted into the cabinets
The packing and shipping department
The packing and shipping department
Then back to the Stern store before returning to the buses
Then back to the Stern store before returning to the buses
More than an hour after the tour started there were still more guest joining the tour
More than an hour after the tour started there were still more guest joining the tour

Once guests returned to Wheeling and had a chance to get some lunch, the Pinball Expo 2019 seminar schedule began.

13:30 – Dino Gaspari: A Custom Pinball Is Within Your Reach

The first seminar was by Dino Gaspari from Pinballdepot.ca who spoke about how his company can create a custom-themed pinball to your own specifications. He said the cost is within your reach and usually takes around a month from start to finish.

Dino Gaspari
Dino Gaspari

He showed pictures of several custom games he has created, including a special Pinball Expo machine which he was displaying at the show.

A Custom Pinball Is Within Your Reach

14:00 – Jim Schelberg: Pinball – To Infinity And BEYOND!

Jim returned with more clips from his vast archive of pinball references in TV, movies and advertising.

Jim Schelberg
Jim Schelberg

In addition, he played a multiple-choice pinball quiz with prizes for those getting the correct answers.

Pinball – To Infinity And Beyond

3:00pm – Roland Nitsche: Pinball & People

Roland’s showed a series of pictures from his game hall in Germany where he has a collection of one hundred machines.

Roland Nitsche
Roland Nitsche

Roland said on social media in Germany, people don’t like pinball because the games are made in America, although he admitted that was just his take on their attitude. He buys both brand new and older games, with his most recent purchases being Black Knight: Sword of Rage and Elvira’s House of Horrors.

Pinball And People

3:30pm – Neil Shelton & Kyle Troy: Pinquest 101- Learn How To Play From The Creators

Neil explained what Pinquest is, why he and Kyle created the pinball location finder and challenger app and how they launched it in May 2019 to bring new players into the game.

Neil Shelton
Neil Shelton

Kyle then explained how members of the audience could download it, find a location, see which games they have and the challenges they need to complete to finish the quest and win a prize.

Kyle Troy
Kyle Troy

The duo then answered questions about how the location or operator is incentivised to participate in the scheme.

Pinquest 101 – Learn How To Play From The Creators

4:00pm – Doug Watson: The Origin Of Ideas

Doug talked about his history in the games business, both in pinball and in video games, before going into teaching. He then spoke about the history of art in pinball and how it changed over the years, allowing far more detailed imagery to be printed on pinball backglasses.

Doug Watson
Doug Watson

Doug said the artists who most influenced the direction of his art were Paul Faris who spearheaded the new creativity and Gordon Morrison who Doug said he rebelled against in his initial style of design but subsequently came to appreciate it.

The Origin Of Ideas

4:15pm – Gordon Hasse Jr.: The Golden Age Of Pinball; The Men The Machines, The Memories

Gordon said everyone has their own subjective ‘Golden Age’ but he said most people would agree that the post-war period up to the 1960s was pinball’s true Golden Age.

Gordon Hasse Jr.
Gordon Hasse Jr.

Gordon examined the popular culture of the time, the trends, aspirations and innovations which sparked the public’s imagination, making them ripe for use as themes in pinball.

He then listed all the innovations in pinball design which were created during the Golden Age, with many types of flippers, bumpers, kickers and scoring features.

The Golden Age Of Pinball; The Men, The Machines, The Memories

6:30pm – Josh Kugler & Joe Schober: American Pinball Talk

Josh and Joe began by introducing some of the Oktoberfest and American Pinball team members in the audience before moving on to some of the changes made to the Oktoberfest game in the year since it was revealed.

Josh Kugler
Josh Kugler
Joe Schober
Joe Schober

Those changes include re-shaping of various playfield features – ramps, scoop, flippers – as well as improvements and additions to the artwork, music and the display animations.

Josh and Joe then explained the basics of the Oktoberfest game’s rules, including the role of the various steins, the different tents you can enter, how the Ducks affect the rules and scoring, why calories matter, and strategies to use or avoid.

American Pinball Talk

7:30pm – Mark Bakula & Don Caldwell: The Entire History Of Pinball By The Goofballs

Mark and Don began with a pinball quiz, giving out candy bars as prizes if audience members got the answer correct.

Mark Bakula
Mark Bakula
Don Caldwell
Don Caldwell

After that, the looked at the pinball artists in the solid-state era who defined the look of games during their time in the business.

They then looked at more modern DMD games, exploring the unique toys and game modes on each machine.

The Entire History Of Pinball By The Goofballs

8:30pm – Rob Berk: A Recap Of 34 Years of Pinball Expo

The final seminar of the day saw Pinball Expo organiser Rob Berk looking back at the last 34 years of the show.

Rob Berk
Rob Berk

Rob showed pictures taken over the 34 previous shows, naming the many people in the industry and the hobby who have attended.

David Marston then looked at the state of the pinball business when the first Pinball Expo was held in 1985 and how Pinball Expo has helped shape how other pinball shows operate.

David Marston
David Marston

Gary Flower then presented a Lifetime Achievement Award plaque to Rob. His family then took to the stage to present him with a special Pinball Expo clock.

Rob is presented with a plaque
Rob is presented with a plaque
The clock presented by Rob's family
The clock presented by Rob’s family
Rob is also presented the 35 chocolates from Japan
Rob is also presented the 35 chocolates from Japan

Finally, everyone was given a piece of celebratory cake.

Rob with the two cakes
Rob with the two cakes
A Recap Of 34 Years Of Pinball Expo

The Game and Vendor Halls opened to Pinball Expo attendees at 6pm on Thursday. Let’s look at the Game Halls first, and this year there were two of them on opposite sides of the main Vendor Hall.

Game Hall A was the primary room, with Game Hall B being set up later with the Spanish games and those machines arriving at the show later during the set-up.

Game Hall A
Game Hall A
More machines in Game Hall A
More machines in Game Hall A
More machines in Game Hall A
More machines in Game Hall A
More machines in Game Hall A
More machines in Game Hall A
More machines in Game Hall A
More machines in Game Hall A
It wasn't all pinballs
It wasn’t all pinballs
There was a good selection of videos too
There was a good selection of videos too

Outside Game Hall A there was a Firefly game built by Duncan Brown from a design by Harry Williams. Harry continued to send new designs to Williams Pinball long after he officially retired from the business, and Duncan has been building the most interesting ones as he and Clay Harrell detailed in a seminar two years ago.

Firefly, built by Duncan Brown
Firefly, built by Duncan Brown
The Firefly playfield
The Firefly playfield

Walking from Game Hall A to Game Hall B, there were several more exhibits and points of interest.

The ever-interesting pinball noticeboard
The ever-interesting pinball noticeboard
Promos for upcoming events and local businesses
Promos for upcoming events and local businesses
Pinball Expo T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies had arrived at the registration desk
Pinball Expo T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies had arrived at the registration desk

The Lego Batman pinball referenced in one of Friday's seminars was in the corridor near the Vendor Hall entrance
The Lego Batman pinball referenced in one of Friday’s seminars was in the corridor near the Vendor Hall entrance
Todd Tuckey of TNT Amusements had a table in the corridor too
Todd Tuckey of TNT Amusements had a table in the corridor too
Scorbit - the automated score recording system - had four demonstration machines set up
Scorbit – the automated score recording system – had four demonstration machines set up
Scores were shown live on the monitors above
Scores were shown live on the monitors above

Game Hall B was around the other side of the block of halls, next to the Seminars Room. Inside were four rows of machines – two running down the side walls and two more down the centre of the room.

Inside Game Hall B
Inside Game Hall B

There was a good mix of machines in the hall, from the very latest to some older classics, plus a line of Spanish machines. Sadly several of these didn’t withstand the long hours of play which began with Wednesday’s Bumper Blast party, but despite that, for many it was their first chance to see these rare (in the US) titles.

The row on the right side of the hall
The row on the right side of the hall
The row on the left side of the hall
The row on the left side of the hall
One of the centre rows
One of the centre rows
The other centre row
The other centre row
Some of the Spanish titles
Some of the Spanish titles

You can see our exclusive Five Minute Tour combined video of Game Hall B and the autograph session in Saturday’s report.

The Vendor Hall is where the majority of sellers are located, along with exhibits of custom or enhanced machines.

In all previous years when Pinball Expo has been hosted at the Westin the entry to the Vendor Hall had been at the side, next to the Game Hall. This year, with the tournaments moved to their own room, the entrance moved to the front of the building, just along the corridor from the Registration Desk.

The entrance to the Vendor Hall
The entrance to the Vendor Hall

We’ll begin our pictorial tour of the Vendor Hall on the right of the entrance shown above.

Hemispheres Amusements had a nice selection of modern titles from several manufacturers
Hemispheres Amusements had a nice selection of modern titles from several manufacturers
You could also buy Stern swag here
You could also buy Stern swag here
Rob and Jaden Berk teamed up with Mirco Playfields to share a stand
Rob and Jaden Berk teamed up with Mirco Playfields to share a stand
Time for neon
Time for neon
New playfields from Mirco
New playfields from Mirco
Pinball Inc. had their selection of pinball parts and unique artworks at the show
Pinball Inc. had their selection of pinball parts and unique artworks at the show
They were also showing the upcoming Kingpin project by Circus Maximus
They were also showing the upcoming Kingpin project by Circus Maximus
American Pinball were promoting their first two titles with four Oktoberfest and two Houdini machines
American Pinball were promoting their first two titles with four Oktoberfest and two Houdini machines
The four Oktoberfest games
The four Oktoberfest games

Next to American Pinball was a display of custom-made machines. Most were definitely work-in-progress but were here to show their progress so far and, perhaps, get some ideas for additional features which could be incorporated.

Some of the custom titles on show
Some of the custom titles on show
A Firepower re-theme by Robotech
A Firepower re-theme by Robotech
An Undertale custom game by Kelly Corcoran and the Underpin team
An Undertale custom game by Kelly Corcoran and the Underpin team
Party Time pinball
Party Time pinball
A Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire video pinball
A Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire video pinball
The Nightmare Before Christmas pinball by Mark Incitti
The Nightmare Before Christmas pinball by Mark Incitti
Ghost In The Shell by Pinball Mayhem
Ghost In The Shell by Pinball Mayhem
A Detroit-themed Motor City Taxi game by Benzik's Pinball
A Detroit-themed Motor City Taxi game by Benzik’s Pinball
Castlevania Pinball by Justin Kalinowski
Castlevania Pinball by Justin Kalinowski
A re-themed Wonder Woman game
A re-themed Wonder Woman game
Project Pinball were holding a large fundraising silent auction
Project Pinball were holding a large fundraising silent auction
Pinball Photos had a stand featuring pinball pictures and themed merchandise
Pinball Photos had a stand featuring pinball pictures and themed merchandise
Four popular '80s pinballs from Logan Arcade
Four popular ’80s pinballs from Logan Arcade
The Logan Arcade stand
The Logan Arcade stand
Lighted Pinball Mods' stand
Lighted Pinball Mods’ stand
Lots more lighted mods
Lots more lighted mods
Ryan had a stand for his Coin-Op Carnival publication
Ryan had a stand for his and Nick’s Coin-Op Carnival publication
ColorDMD were showing their regular and super-sized colour displays
ColorDMD were showing their regular and super-sized colour displays
Flip N Out Pinball had stair-climbers as well as machines for sale
Flip N Out Pinball had stair-climbers as well as machines for sale
Kiss and The Wizard of Oz on the Flip N Out Pinball stand
Kiss and The Wizard of Oz on the Flip N Out Pinball stand
Haggis Pinball were showing their Celts game
Haggis Pinball were showing their Celts game
The Celts game from Haggis Pinball
The Celts game from Haggis Pinball
The Celts translite
The Celts translite
Cabinet artwork
Cabinet artwork
The Celts display
The Celts display
The top of the Celts playfield
The top of the Celts playfield
The Celts playfield
The Celts playfield
MTZ Arcade had four new machines for guests to play
MTZ Arcade had four new machines for guests to play
Brian Allen was exhibiting his new Attack From Mars translite along with many other artworks
Brian Allen was exhibiting his new Attack From Mars translite along with many other artworks
More of Brian Allen's works
More of Brian Allen’s works
This rare Krull game was available to play
This rare Krull game was available to play
Super Skill Shot had numerous custom shooter rods
Super Skill Shot had numerous custom shooter rods
Pin Stadium had their familiar long gazebo showcasing their playfield lighting
Pin Stadium had their familiar long gazebo showcasing their playfield lighting
Dino from Pinball Depot was here to talk about custom games and pinball shipping
Dino from Pinball Depot was here to talk about custom games and pinball shipping
Pinball Depot's custom Pinball Expo game
Pinball Depot’s custom Pinball Expo game
The Pinball Expo game's playfield
The Pinball Expo game’s playfield
Great American Pinball had an impressive display of machines and merchandise
Great American Pinball had an impressive display of machines and merchandise
Assorted pinball swag
Assorted pinball swag
Great American Pinball's line-up of machines
Great American Pinball’s line-up of machines
Branded bar stools
Branded bar stools
Chicago Gaming had a nice display of six remakes, including four new Medieval Madness machines
Chicago Gaming had a nice display of six remakes, including four new Medieval Madness machines
The new Medieval Madness toppers from Chicago Gaming
The new Medieval Madness toppers from Chicago Gaming
Pinball Wizard Sales & Service had a big display of tools, parts and boards
Pinball Wizard Sales & Service had a big display of tools, parts and boards
More tools and parts
More tools and parts
Back Alley Creations brought many mods for your games, as well as their EZ Slide playfield sliders
Back Alley Creations brought many mods for your games, as well as their EZ Slide playfield sliders
Christopher Franchi was selling his pinball and pop-culture artworks
Christopher Franchi was selling his pinball and pop-culture artworks
Pinquest were promoting the pinball challenge app they spoke about in their seminar
Pinquest were promoting the pinball challenge app they spoke about in their seminar
Quetzal Pinball had all three of their titles for guests to play
Quetzal Pinball had all three of their titles for guests to play
Quetzal Pinball's Tokyo Perfect Drift
Quetzal Pinball’s Tokyo Perfect Drift
Quetzal Pinball's New Canasta game
Quetzal Pinball’s New Canasta game
Artfroh Illustration was exhibiting numerous comics, illustrations and caricatures
Artfroh Illustration was exhibiting numerous comics, illustrations and caricatures
CoinTaker has their usual large display of pinball mods, add-ons and enhancements
CoinTaker has their usual large display of pinball mods, add-ons and enhancements
Artwork, signs and toppers
Artwork, signs and toppers
If your game needs fixing, Speedy's One Stop Repair Service was on-hand
If your game needs fixing, Speedy’s One Stop Repair Service was on-hand
The PinGame Journal's stand was showing artwork by Stan Fukuoka
The PinGame Journal’s stand was showing concept artwork by Stan Fukuoka
Outside Edge's Hardtop playfield artwork system was being shown on Wizard! and High Speed
Outside Edge’s Hardtop playfield artwork system was being shown on Wizard! and High Speed
Kahr.us were selling their pinball power fix and volume control add-on boards
Kahr.us were selling their pinball power fix and volume control add-on boards
Lermods were showing their illuminated pinball add-ons
Lermods were showing their illuminated pinball add-ons
Some on Lermod's add-ons
Some on Lermod’s add-ons
Mayfair Amusement had an impressive stand packed with parts, tools, backglasses, manuals and more
Mayfair Amusement had an impressive stand packed with parts, tools, backglasses, manuals and more
More from the Mayfair stand
More from the Mayfair stand
There was a large stand featuring pachinko machines, with a charity competition to win a pass for next year's Expo
There was a large stand featuring pachinko machines, with a charity competition to win a pass for next year’s Expo
Get the high score to win a pass for the 2020 show
Get the high score to win a pass for the 2020 show
Rage Tilt was selling assorted pinball apparel
Rage Tilt was selling assorted pinball apparel
Derek Fugate had a stand selling all kinds of bric-a-brac
Derek Fugate had a stand selling all kinds of bric-a-brac
Starship Fantasy always have a huge display of ramps, and this year was no different
Starship Fantasy always have a huge display of ramps, and this year was no different
Starship Fantasy also brought playfields, backglasses and translites
Starship Fantasy also brought playfields, plastics, backglasses and translites
Artovision were selling framed pinball and arcade game artwork
Artovision were selling framed pinball and arcade game artwork
Jersey Jack Pinball brought eight machines to Pinball Expo
Jersey Jack Pinball brought eight machines to Pinball Expo
The game included the Willy Wonka Collectors Edition
The game included the Willy Wonka Collectors Edition
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory Collectors Edition
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory Collectors Edition
The Collectors Edition playfield
The Collectors Edition playfield
British game restorer Pinball Creative had a display of their work
British game restorer Pinball Creative had a display of their work
Time for tea (and biscuits)
Time for tea (and biscuits)

Finally for Thursday, you can experience the Vendor Hall for yourself in our exclusive Twenty Minute Tour video walk-through.

We will be back with much more from the show in our daily reports for Friday, Saturday and Sunday as we continue our extensive coverage of Pinball Expo 2019.

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