Date: 21st July, 2021

As we reported earlier, the future of the Museum of Pinball in Banning, California was in doubt following the aborted attempt to move to a new location in Palm Springs.

Now, all attempts to secure additional funding to either find a new home or put the collection into storage have failed. As a result, the entire collection of more than 500 pinballs, 900 video games and around 1,000 additional machines which couldn’t be displayed and were kept in storage will be put up for sale by auction.

Details of the auction – which will take place at the Banning home and will allow both in-person and online bidding – will be announced soon, but the collection is currently locked down with no pre-auction sales permitted.

The Museum of Pinball in Banning
The Museum of Pinball in Banning

The 44,000 sq. ft. building which currently houses the displayed pinball and video games has been leased to a marijuana-growing company with effect from October 2021, leaving just two months to completely vacate the pinball and video rooms.

Some of the hundreds of pinballs at the Museum
Some of the hundreds of pinballs at the Museum
There are rows upon rows of video games
There are rows upon rows of video games too
The video game room at the Museum of Pinball
The video game room at the Museum of Pinball

No explanation for the closure of the Museum and the disposal of its assets has been forthcoming from the owners, John and Johnathan Weeks, but the operation has had something of a difficult history due to the size of the collection, the costs associated with maintaining the games in good order, the cost of running air conditioning in a building in the desert, the effects of Covid on attendance limits and social distancing, and difficulty getting permission from the local authorities to open the venue more than a few times a year.

When the final event held at the Museum was announced, the Museum of Pinball Experience needed to reduce attendance to 25% of normal capacity, limited opening to twelve hours, closed the entire video half of the building and priced tickets at $150 per adult.

Although the Museum operated as a non-profit, opening just a few times a year to a restricted audience paying premium entry prices on machines maintained by volunteers seemed unsustainable in the long term.

The technicians could be seen working on machines all around the hall
Volunteer technicians worked hard to get the machines ready for events

The planned move to the Palm Springs location would have addressed many of those issues by permitting opening seven-days-a-week with a permanent dedicated staff for maintenance and customer service. Once those plans ran over budget and beyond the October deadline to vacate the current home, the writing was sadly on the wall.

Apart from being home of the Walter Day Trading Card collection, the Museum also hosted the annual INDISC (It Never Drains In Southern California) tournament, so work is underway to find a new home for the 2022 edition which was originally scheduled for January. The Museum provided excellent facilities, plenty of space and an almost-limitless supply of machines to use, so finding a suitable alternative won’t be easy.

So, we sadly have to say farewell to the amazing Museum of Pinball and look back on all the good times spent there over its short but inspiring history.

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