That deaf dumb and blind kid….Don’t know about him but I grew up with pinball. From the amusement arcades on Southend seafront throughout the first thirty years of my life I loved to nudge and flip my way around a pinball table. And now I’m going to do it all over again because I’ve just found out about the Pinball Hall of Fame located not far from the Strip in glorious Las Vegas.
The PHoF opened in November 2009 at 1610 East Tropicana – a standalone and dedicated museum, with pinball and nothing but pinball covering 10,000 square feet right across the street from the now closed Liberace Museum. It’s the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club’s vision to house and display the world’s largest pinball collection, open to the public. A not-for-profit corporation was established to further this cause. The games belong to one club member and range from 1950s up to 1990s pinball machines. Since it is a non-profit museum, older games from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are the prevelant, as this was the ‘heyday’ of pinball. It’s all pure pinball (and a few arcade novelty games) from the past and, since it’s non-profit, excess revenues go to non-denominational charities.
All machines are available for play, so not only can you see them, you can actually play your old favourites. The pinball machines are all restored to like-new playing condition by people that love pinball and understand how a machine should work. All older pinballs are set to 25 cents per play, and newer 1990s models are set to 50 cents per play. A far better return on fun than any Las Vegas casino! Here you’ll find wall to wall machines that deliver fun.
The PHoF is run by Tim Arnold, a veteran arcade operator who made it big in the 1970s and 1980s during the Pacman era. In 1976 Tim and his brother opened ‘Pinball Pete’s’ in Lansing, Michigan, and it quickly became a gamer’s mecca. At the height of their success, the Arnold brothers weren’t counting coins, they were counting shovelfuls of coins. Arnold sold his part of the business and moved to Las Vegas in 1990.
The best thing about the Pinball Hall of Fame is their complete lack of a ‘profit’ mindset. It’s about the games and charity, and not about making money. Tim explains, ‘we just don’t care that this or that game isn’t making any money. The minute we start becoming professional, it’s all gonna be about the dollars and it’s not gonna be about the games. I mean like the kind of things we do to maintain these games – we change the rubber rings more often than we have to. We replace light bulbs the minute they burn out. That doesn’t make any economic sense. If we were professional, we’d let things slide a little. There’s no real economic reason for this to exist, or capitalism would’ve already built it.’
That ‘cheap side’ approach gives the Pinball Hall of Fame its disarming, thrift-store feeling. The royal-blue carpet? It’s scrap from a Convention Center weekend show. The change machines? Grabbed from the Golden Nugget’s trash dock before the garbage men came. But it’s not about cutting corners – it’s about maintaining an almost obsessive focus on the pinball games themselves. Forget about public relations, marketing, uniforms, or even a sign outside. ‘If the games play, the people will come, quarters at the ready. There’s stuff here that hasn’t been seen since my mom was a kid. And it’s all up here, and it’s playable.’
Here’s a link to the website where you read all of the above and a whole lot more. Enjoy, I’m certainly going to.