The Story Behind Classic Pinballs

Classic Pinballs website was founded some 15 years ago, to share my hobby with fellow enthusiasts and collectors.

My interest in pinball machines began when I played many of these now vintage machines when they were in amusement arcades and cafes. For example, I can remember playing a brand spanking-new Gottlieb Spin a Card, at the Ambassador Lanes Bowling alley, Belmont Hill, in sunny Lewisham, S.E London. The machines suppliers had just unpacked and set the game up and left me a few credits on it so that I could be the first to play it! That machine is still a favourite today and I am fortunate to own a nice example of it. And the header image above, depicts a typical section of artwork from a 1960’s vintage pinball machine, a Gottlieb ‘King of Diamonds’ [it’s in black and white purely for site design reasons!]

My first experience of a ‘pinball’ machine was in fact was a Bingo machine, a Bally ‘Cypress gardens’ They look very similar at first glance to a pinball machine but are very different animals. I watched men playing and gambling for money on it in a local cafe! I have read that in their day, men would try and gamble on payday and often loose their wages. No wonder they were banned!

My misspent schooldays were heavily influenced by pinball machines. I knew all the cafes along the bus route to school that had a machine, one in particular comes to mind, a cafe (still there when I last looked too) a few doors up from Lewisham hospital,  where they had a new Williams Apollo. I loved playing that and trying to nudge the ball into the ‘Special’ slot in the head unit. A terrific machine to play and again, I am fortunate to own one of those too.

There is a line in the Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard‘ song, where it runs ‘from Soho down to Brighton, I must have played them all’ I can at least say that from Sedgehill school in Catford down to Lewisham, I must have played them all!

Lastly, lunch hour visits to the local chippie close to my school with my mates, allowed us to play it’s Gottlieb Buckaroo. We would place our sixpences on top of the glass to reserve a game and if dinner money was tight, we pooled our money and played it using a flipper each. Naturally, that often lead to quite a few disputes on who should have flipped the ball at key times to hit a particular number on the roto-target, etc. Great fun, great times. I might not have learnt much at that school but I did at least learn the appeal of a pinball machine.

And that is what this hobby is all about, the simple fun and enjoyment that these machines can offer. It seems that more and more people are turning away from their play stations and other electric games and having their very own pinball machine set up in a spare room or games-room at home. Great fun for all the family,  at anytime of the year, like Christmas for instance. Now the kids can challenge Granddad and Grandma on a machine that they could well have played in their youth and see who is the best 21st century pinball wizard in the family, you really wont get that much fun from a Playstation!

Many machines lived their revenue earning lives in sea-side piers and amusement halls. The salt-laden, hot daytime and freezing cold overnight air temperatures didn’t do much for their condition but fortunately for us, because these were ‘over engineered’ with materials that would be hugely expensive to use nowadays, many have survived. And better still, specialist parts companies around the globe are now able to supply superb quality reproduction parts, often made from original tooling, so the future is bright for a machine that can sometimes be 50 or 60 odd years old.

Over the last 30 odd years I have built up an extensive collection of machines of about 40 machines, and am now selling some off so as to downsize so you might see one of interest to you in the ‘For sale or Restoration’ sections. Please take a look and get in touch if you see something of interest. And if I don’t have one listed, get in touch anyway and I’ll ask around other collectors that I know to see if they might be able to help you find your perfect machine.

Lastly, do remember that these old machines are now classed as Vintage. These suffer a mechanical version of Arthritis, so they soon seize up through lack of use and care. That is to say that they WILL go wrong from time to time, and they WILL need general cleaning and maintenance during your ownership.

But, just bear in mind that if you treat your machine like an old classic car, that you cherish it, you clean and polish it, and more importantly, that you use it frequently, it will keep it nice and supple to give you many hours of fun and enjoyment.

I do not advise you buy ANY pinball machine unless you are both confident and competent in doing basic routine cleaning and adjustments. I always give people details of various websites that offer great repair and servicing tips, etc so you are not on your own. And of course, I am always willing to offer as much repair and general advice as I can, via email, should it ever be needed. So enjoy your machine!

If you want further information, etc please get in touch via the ‘Contact Us’ page.

Thanks for looking.