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.

Friday sees the continuation of the seminar schedule.

8:15am – Ron Coon, Jr. : Pinball Repair In A Modern Era

Ron described the common problems with pinballs, from not starting up, the loss of certain voltages, damage to boards, failed components, battery leakage and operator errors.

Ron Coon, Jr.
Ron Coon, Jr.

He showed examples of connector, fuse and component probems, describing his diagnostic and repair techniques.

Pinball Repair In A Modern Era

9:00am – Derek Fugate: What Is My Game Worth

Derek said he’s been in the pinball hobby since the ’80s and is not amazed what’s happened to pinball prices recently, mostly due to the ‘Ebay effect’.

Derek Fugate
Derek Fugate

Derek said he is trying to understand why the prices of seemingly-unexceptional titles – such as the Stern Quicksilver he brought along – have risen so high, asking the audience to relate their experiences with pinball sales and the prices achieved.

What Is My Game Worth?

9:45am – Rob Ilvento: The Silver Ball Museum – The Top Attraction In New Jersey

Rob started and runs the Silver Mall Museum in Asbury Park, New Jersey and has more than 900 games in his collection. He explained how the museum developed from a basement in a second-hand store to what was rated the number one attraction in New Jersey with a second branch in Florida.

Rob Ilvento
Rob Ilvento

Rob gave advice on how to establish a museum like the Silver Ball, including the staff you will need, the best type of location to use, involvement with the local community and bringing in local pinball leagues and tournament players.

The Silver Ball Museum: The Top Attraction in New Jersey

10:30am – Antonio Ortuño & Gustavo Diaz: Quetzal Pinball – 10 Years Creating Pinball Machines

Antonio and Gustavo spoke about the creation of Quetzal Pinball’s first title – Captain Nemo – from the design of the pinball controller board, through the playfield design and the artwork.

Antonio Ortuño & Gustavo Diaz
Antonio Ortuño & Gustavo Diaz

Since then Quetzal Pinball have built their second game – Tokyo Perfect Drift – and are showing their third at Pinball Expo – Super Canasta which is a new version of a classic Spanish game from the mid-’80s.

Quetzal Pinball: 10 Years Creating Pinball Machines

11:15am – John Robertson: The Time Travel Warehouse

John spoke about his background in the coin-op business working for a major distributor in Vancouver where he got to experience all kinds of different games. He worked there until 1981/2 when arcade sales collapsed and the business went into receivership. He owner bought back all the inventory and stored them in a large warehouse for many years.

John Robertson
John Robertson

Over the following years, a few of these new-in-box machines were put up for sale, creating a stir when these classic older titles appeared on Ebay. John created a list, but the more than 700 machines were stored haphazardly over seven different floors making them near-impossible to access.

Eventually the landlord wanted the building back so all the machines had to be sold, but John has kept the story of the Time Travel Warehouse on his website where he also sells many parts for these games.

The Time Travel Warehouse

1:00pm – Luke Horwath: From Bricks To Balls, or, How I Built A Lego Pinball Machine

When his parents told him they didn’t want to buy a real pinball, Luke took it upon himself to build a Lego version instead.

Luke Horwath
Luke Horwath

Luke details how he build the game from a plain playfield, building standard mechanisms such as flippers and a ball return using existing Lego elements. He had always been a Batman fan, and incorporated all the villains from the Lego Batman movie into the game.

He described the challenges he faced in building the machine, from space limitations to the high speed of the Lego motor.

1:15pm – Bill, Jim & Emily Brooks: Fargo Pinball: How to Open Your Own Pinball Club

Bill, Jim and Emily were here to talk about how they set up their pinball club in 2015, why, and what happened since. Emily said they had developed an unbelievable number of friendships as a result of starting the club.

Emily Brooks
Emily Brooks
Bill Brooks
Bill Brooks
Jim Brooks
Jim Brooks

Fargo Pinball is family-friendly pinball club, but is also a distributor for several major pinball manufacturers and an operator in several local locations. They charge $45 a year for the initial year’s membership and then $20 a year for renewals. Games are charged at $0.50 per game.

Members have free access 6am to 1am (except for dates with private parties) and bring guests or family, but have to agree to background checks as part of their membership.

Fargo Pinball: How to Open Your Own Pinball Club

2:00pm – Oscar Terol: The Pinball History & Science In Spain

Oscar is a collector, player and enthusiast in Barcelona. He’s owned more than 50 machines but now has five new Stern games and a JJP Dialed In!.

Oscar Terol
Oscar Terol

Oscar talked about the history of pinball manufacturing in Spain, Saying there have been more than 60 different manufacturers making in excess of 500 different titles.

The first machines arrived in Spain from the US between 1945-49 with the US soldiers stationed in the country. After that, machines were built in the country, first from telephone components but then as copies of US titles before Spanish-derived machines started to be produced.

Now there are numerous tournaments across the country and some large collections – both private and in pinball clubs.

Pinball History And Science In Spain

3:00pm – John Youssi: Pinball Art Before Pixels

John talked about the pros and cons of using traditional versus digital production methods. He still has a fondness for the traditional methods even though he admits digital is ultimately more capable.

John Youssi
John Youssi

He then showed some of his art designs from Twilight Zone, Willy Wonka and Jackbot, asking the audience if they thought they were made by traditional or digital methods.

John related how he was first given an airbrush by his father which he couldn’t use until he went to college and could buy a compressor to go with it. After that he said he was known as the “Airbrush Guy” and that led to his first job designing album covers.

John talked about the production process from concept, through thumbnails, rough and tight sketches, colour comp and final art.

Pinball Art Before Pixels

4:00pm – Pat Lawlor: Modern Pinball Design And Engineering

Pat’s seminar began with him giving a brief biography of his time designing pinball at Williams, Stern and now Jersey Jack before looking at the origins of the game.

Pat Lawlor
Pat Lawlor

Pat said throughout its history, pinball has always relied on technological improvements to stay relevant, but, he said, their key task is to design fun, to provide entertainment in a box.

The introduction of microprocessors changed the way pinballs were designed and built, with software programmers and sound designers becoming part of the team. The introduction of the dot matrix display marked another leap in technology and capability, while adding a dot matrix artist to the team.

Pat said pinball declined in the late ’90s because, he said, they kept making the same game over and over with just minor differences between the models. Pinball 2000 was a minor divergence, but Williams wanted out of pinball.

Pat spoke about the philosophy of Stern Pinball as the only remaining manufacturer to keep going down that same route. As a result of that lack of innovation, he said, Stern Pinball were within one game of closing completely. Pinball only survived because home buyers stepped up to fill some of the gap left by operators ditching pinball.

Pat praised Jack Guarnieri for giving pinball the kick it needed to become relevant and exciting again by putting modern technology inside the game.

Modern Pinball Design And Engineering

5:15pm – Todd Tuckey: Mods And Innovations Over The Years

Picking up on the theme of innovations in pinball, Todd Tuckey and Frank Lindenmuth began by explaining how pinball is essentially the same game it’s always been.

Todd Tuckey
Todd Tuckey
Frank Lindenmuth
Frank Lindenmuth

Todd took the audience through some of the innovations in pinball’s 148 year history, ever since the spring-loaded shooter in 1871, including the tilt, automated scoring, the mushroom bumper, the disappearing bumper, speech, vertical bumpers, multiball and more.

Mods And Innovations Over The Years

6:30pm – Dino Gaspari: Tips On Shipping A Pinball Machine

Dino’s second seminar looks at tips and tricks on how to ship a pinball machine. He set up the company ShipMyPinball.com to provide shipping quotes and custom shipping services.

Dino Gaspari
Dino Gaspari

Dino said shipping is a commodity, with the price varying daily depending on capacity and demand. He plans to set up a knowledge base on the ShipMyPinball.com website to cover details such as tax liability and the paperwork which might be needed.

Dino concluded by showing a demonstration of a quote request on the beta version of his website.

Tips On Shipping A Pinball Machine

7:00pm – Dwight Sullivan and Corey Stup: Family Feud Without The Family

In the return of the prize quiz, Dwight Sullivan and Corey Stup brought the popular US quiz show Family Feud to Pinball Expo.

Contestants had to guess the top answers to questions such as pinballs with driving themes, the top toys used in pinballs and top music tracks used in games.

Family Feud Without The Family

Friday was also the first day of appearances by Cassandra Peterson (a.k.a. Elvira). She first turned up in the Pin Lounge in a scheduled event which coincided with Dwight and Corey’s seminar above.

The Pin Lounge was packed with the latest Stern Pinball titles, along with a DJ stage and a small area where Marco Specialties were selling some common spares and taking orders for free home delivery.

A row of Elvira's House of Horrors machines
A row of Elvira’s House of Horrors machines
A central circle of Elvira machines
A central circle of Elvira machines
Another row of new Stern titles
Another row of new Stern titles
The Pin Lounge was a popular place to play Stern's latest titles
The Pin Lounge was a popular place to play Stern’s latest titles
Marco Specialties were selling and taking orders for pinball parts
Marco Specialties were selling and taking orders for pinball parts
Our DJ kept the music playing
Our DJ kept the music playing

Although we were busy recording the seminar next door, M.G. Brown was on the case to report on events, and shot this video of Ms. Peterson’s arrival.

She remained as Cassandra throughout Pinball Expo and never donned the Elvira outfit. Cassandra signed various objects from pinball playfields and translites to Elvira books and other branded merchandise.

Guests queue to meet Cassandra
Guests queue to meet Cassandra
Cassandra Peterson meeting those who had paid $40 to have a selfie taken with her
Cassandra Peterson meeting those who had paid $40 to have a selfie taken with her

On Saturday night, Pinball Expo effectively closed with a party in the Pin Lounge at 11pm.

While the DJ blasted out dance music, those who paid $25 or got VIP passes could party the night away with free drinks and easier access to all the machines in the room, including the tournament games. For those looking to get their fill of the Pinball Expo experience, the party continued until 6am on Sunday.

Dancing the night away
Dancing the night away
Playing more Elvira games
Playing more Elvira games
Loud music pumped out throughout the night
Loud music pumped out throughout the night

That concludes our look at the halls and events which opened on Thursday, but news from this 35th annual Pinball Expo continues as we report on the action from every day. Check our daily menu for more news from Wheeling on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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