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Weirs Beach New Hampshire

Neon sign in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, home to Funspot, the world’s largest arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita


A recent trip to New Hampshire took us to Weirs Beach, a summer resort on Lake Winnepesaukee that is also home to Funspot, named “The World’s Largest Arcade” by Guinness World Records. The indoor fun mecca was founded more than 60 years ago by Bob Lawton, who at 84 years young still runs the place, which is open year-round.

While kids rode coin-op carousel horses and pint-sized bumper cars and families bowled and played the Famous Landmarks of New Hampshire-themed mini-golf in the 75,000 square-foot fun center, we trooped upstairs to meet Hercules, the World’s Largest Pinball Machine. Manufactured by Atari in 1970, the giant size machine uses a cue ball as a pinball and dwarfs its neighbor, a 1938 Genco Stop & Go.

Hercules, Largest Pinball in the World

Hercules, ‘Largest Pinball in the World,’ at Funspot. Manufactured by Atari in 1970. Photo © Tricia Vita

Hercules is stationed at the entrance to the American Classic Arcade Museum (ACAM), which museum curator Gary Vincent describes as “like stepping into the Wayback Machine.” ACAM has over 200 classic video games as well as a selection of pinball machines, any of which can be played for a few tokens. Four tokens cost $1.00; we splurged on 100 for $20.

“We use 1987 as a cutoff date for video games in the museum,” says Vincent. He notes that when Double Dragon came out, there was a shift in the industry from quirky puzzle-and-fantasy-based games to what he calls “the kick punch shoot games.”

Among the rare video games you can play are Computer Space (1971), the world’s first commercially available coin-operated video game. Developed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, who would go on to found Atari, th mod looking machine has a fiberglass cabinet with sparkle gel coat. “It actually has a television set in it that has been modified to run with video game hardware, which is typical of video games until about 1974,” Vincent explains.

“Having worked at Funspot since 1981, and having watched the industry go way, way, way up and way, way, way down, I saw an opportunity to save a lot of the older games here by starting a museum,” Vincent says of the nonprofit which was founded in 2002. The fact that 60 video game enthusiasts showed up for the first classic arcade tournament in 1999 convinced him of the need to collect and preserve games and put them out where the public could learn about them and enjoy them again. “It’s really funny to see dad who is about 40 with his 15-year-old kid, saying look, come here, I played this when I was a kid.”

Although Funspot donates the space to the nonprofit museum, the games in the museum don’t make enough money to support themselves. “It’s sad but true, the only money to be made in classic games is selling them on eBay,” notes Vincent. “You don’t make money putting them out where people can play them, seven days a week, 12 hours a day. It’s kind of a labor of lovejust wanting to preserve games so people can come along 10, 15, 20 years from now and be able to play things that they just can’t play anywhere else.”

Sky Jump Grand Slam Pinball Games

Sky Jump and Grand Slam, pinball games from the early 1970s at Funspot’s American Classic Arcade Museum. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the electro-mechanical pinball games that we got to play were Gottlieb’s 1972 Grand Slam, a baseball game of which only 3,600 were manufactured, Sky Jump (1974) and Devil’s Dare (1982), and Bally’s Mr. and Mrs. Pac Man Pinball (1982). Rare video games include Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator (Sega, 1983), Cloak & Dagger (Atari, 1983), and Death Race (Exidy, 1976). The museum’s 501-c3 status lets it to run weekly bingo games as fundraisers, allowing it to buy more classics, fix them up and put them on the floor. Luminaries from the video game community such as Curt Vendell of the Atari Museum, and Robert Mruczek, the former chief referee of Twin Galaxies, have donated a number of games from their personal collections.

As we were about to leave, it was a great pleasure to meet Funspot’s founder Mr. Lawton. We talked arcades and exchanged business cards. His card entitles the visitor to $20 worth of free tokens and is tucked away in the glove compartment in anticipation of our next trip to New Hampshire.

Classic Pinball

A row of electro-mechanical pinball machines at the American Classic Arcade Museum. Photo © Tricia Vita

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November 15, 2013: Modern Pinball NYC Opens with New Arcade Business Model

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October 6, 2010: Traveler: Where You Can Play Fascination Year Round

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PinballNYC

Each player is allowed to use one flipper in the Split Flipper Valentine’s Day Pinball Tournament at Reciprocal Skateboards. Photo via PinballNYC.com

Happy Valentine’s Day! One of the day’s most playfully romantic events is New York City Sport Flipper Association’s Split Flipper Valentine’s Day Tournament for Couples. According to PinballNYC.com, the event starts at 4:30pm at Reciprocal Skateboards in the East Village.

This is a couple’s tournament and competitors will play with a partner. Each player is allowed to use one flipper button during the game. The qualification period will start at 4:30pm will end at 9 pm (and will run concurrently with NYCFSA Winter Pin-Golf). The cost will be two dollars for each qualifying attempt. Each qualifying attempt is for a high score with no extra balls played.

The top four qualifying pairs will advance to the finals and play a best of four games series for high score with no extra balls played.

The format for the finals: 3 points for a win 2 points for second 1 point for third 0 points for fourth.

The partners with the most points at the end of the four matches will win the prize pool. If there are ties for first place, then a single tie-breaker match will occur.

Located at 402 East 11th Street, Reciprocal Skateboards has nine pinball machines including the Who’s Tommy Pinball Wizard, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Revenge from Mars and Spider-Man.

Study up on flipper techniques via rocketcarmike’s video:

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Rolling Stones Pinball Machine

Rolling Stones Pinball Machine at Margarita Island, Coney Island. May 26, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Pinball is back in Coney. It’s only one table–the Rolling Stones (Stern 2011)– but most New York bars with pinball machines have one or two, according to the New York City Pinball Map. The location is Margarita Island, the newly opened bar at 1205 Bowery that is the successor to Beer Island. There’s a Boxer and a few other arcade machines in the indoor bar adjacent to the patio.

Coney Island has arcades with redemption games galore–The Eldorado on the Bowery, under Deno’s Wonder Wheel, and at Luna Park–but no pinball. Back in 2011, Ruby’s and the Freak Bar each had one table, and Carl Muraco’s Game World on Surf Avenue had two. All were destroyed by Sandy.

Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2014: Spring Reading: “Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Machine”

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November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

August 15, 2011: Games: Where You Can Play Vintage Pinball Year Round

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Pinball at The Creek and The Cave

Pinball Machines at The Creek and The Cave in Long Island City, Queens, which is hosting their first Annual Pinball Tournament on February 16. Photo by Val Cihak

Queens’ first-ever pinball tournament is coming up on Sunday at The Creek and The Cave in Long Island City. The bar, restaurant, lounge and comedy theater has seven pinball machines, including Star Trek Limited Edition, X-Men Pro and the Wizard of Oz. The club’s first annual pinball tournament on February 16th from 12 noon till 8pm was organized by Francesco La Rocca, who pioneered tournaments at New York City bars starting in 2009. For Sunday’s event, Francesco teamed up with Rebecca Trent, the owner of Creek and Cave and the owner/operators of the pinball machines.

The entry fee for the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) sanctioned tournament is $10, with all money plus prizes paid out to the top 4 finishers. “It could be more if we have big turn out,” said Franceso, who told ATZ that 70 players had registered in advance. Of that number, more than half are newcomers to the NYC tournament circuit. The fact that their names are unfamiliar to the longtime New York City league player and tournament organizer points to the resurgence of pinball. From Modern Pinball NYC’s interactive showroom in Manhattan to New York City bars with one to several pinball machines, there are new opportunities for first-timers to become pinball wizards.

Among the local venues with pinball machines where Francesco has helped organize tournaments are Modern Pinball (32 tables), Reciprocal Skateboards and Pinball (11) and Pioneers Bar (4), all in Manhattan, and Jackbar (9) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Current and upcoming events include Modern Pinball’s Pin-Golf tournament on Mondays-Wednesdays through March 11, and Pioneers First Annual Pinball Tournament on March 16.

Jackbar

One of nine pinball machines at Jackbar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo via Jackbar

Qualification for Sunday’s Creek and Cave tournament will consist of one game on each machine (you must play with at least two other players), where top score overall will get 100 points, 2nd place 90 points, 3rd place 85 points, 4th place 84, etc. Each individual’s five scores (assuming there will be five machines in play) will be combined to determine their total point score. The top 16 players will go on to the next round and will be split in 4 groups of 4 players by their seeds. Players will then compete in a survival format until only one player is left in each group.

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February 5, 2-14: National Pinball Museum Founder’s Vintage Games Up for Auction

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United Tropicana Pinball Machine

Backglass of United Tropicana Pinball Machine, 1948. Lot #12, Silverman Collection via Morphy’s Auctions. Estimate $2,000-$2,500

In 2011, ATZ’s feature for Games Magazine on places where you can play vintage pinball year round included the then-new National Pinball Museum in Washington D.C. The museum showcased some of the more than 800 games from founder David Silverman’s 35-year collection, including a 19th century pinball precursor, vintage woodrail games and modern, solid-state machines.

The museum, which later moved to Baltimore, closed its doors after losing its lease again last year. In August, Silverman told the Baltimore Sun that without investors coming to his rescue or a reasonable long-term lease, he’d have to sell off his pinball machines. Silverman’s collection is now up for auction in a series of sales at Morphy’s Auctions starting with a February 21 sale that includes 75 machines. Pre-sale estimates range from $600 to $3,500.

Bank a Ball Pinball Machine

Backglass of Gottlieb Bank a Ball Pinball Machine, 1950. Lot #13, Silverman Collection via Morphy’s Auctions. Estimate $2,500-$3,000

Highlights within the introductory grouping include Lot 13, a 1950 Gottlieb Bank A Ball, with a $2,500-$3,000 estimate; Lot 15, a Gottlieb Sittin Pretty, $2,500-$3,000; Lot 17, a Gottlieb Knock-Out, $3,000-$5,000; and Lot 66, a Bally Revenge From Mars, $3,000-$3,500. Online bidding is available via the Pennsylvania auction house’s website and live auctioneers.

Coronation Pinball Machine

Backglass of Gottlieb Coronation Pinball Machine, 1952. Lot #18, Silverman Collection via Morphy’s Auctions. Estimate $2,000-$3000

Some of the games took their inspiration from historical events such as a 1952 Gottlieb Coronation Pinball Machine released in anticipation of the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II which took place on June 2, 1953.

Pop culture phenoms also gave birth to pinball machines. The TV show “I Love Lucy” became the 1954 Lovely Lucy Pinball Machine. Both Coronation and Lovely Lucy feature original backglass and playfield art by Leroy Parker, whose work emblazoned Gottlieb machines for more than 30 years.

On the 50th anniversary of the Beatles, let’s not forget Williams Beat Time Pinball Machine (1967), a Beatles-themed game that was called the Bootles due to copyright laws. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

UPDATE April 26, 2014:

Day two of Morphy’s April 26-27 auction will open with the company’s second offering of pinball machines from the 35-year David Silverman collection, previously displayed at the National Pinball Museum. Film-related machines lead the grouping, with a 1993 Williams “Indiana Jones” pinball estimated at $6,500-$7,500; and a 1992 “Creature from the Black Lagoon” with fantastic artwork by Kevin O’Connor, expected to reach $4,500-$6,000. Other notable lots include two Gottlieb pinball machines: a rare, low-production 1950s “Buffalo Bill,” $2,000-$2,500; and a 1952 “All-Star Basketball,” $1,500-$2,000. Bidding is available online via Live Auctioneers.

Beat Time Pinball Machine

Backglass of Williams Beatles-themed Beat Time Pinball Machine, 1967. Lot #35, Silverman Collection via Morphy’s Auctions. Estimate $1,000-$1,500

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March 30, 2014: Spring Reading: “Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Machine”

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Punchy the Clown by Alvin G & Co

Punchy the Clown Pinball Machine, detail of lit playfield. Modern Pinball NYC. November 30, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last weekend at a birthday party at Modern Pinball NYC, Manhattan’s new mecca for pinball, one of the games we enjoyed playing was Punchy the Clown. It’s smaller than the other machines and has a decidedly retro look, calling to mind vintage pinball machines by Gottlieb. “Alvin G. and Co” is emblazoned on the backglass. ATZ asked Modern Pinball co-owner Steve Epstein how old it was and who made it.

It turns out Punchy was manufactured in 1993 and is the most expensive pinball machine at Modern Pinball’s interactive showroom, with a sales price of $24,995 due to rarity, Epstein says. By comparison, you can buy the sleek, full-size games at Modern such as Dr Dude, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Wizard of Oz and Batman for $5,995-$10,995.

Punchy the Clown by Alvin G. & Co.

Lit backglass of Punchy the Clown Pinball Machine at Modern Pinball NYC. November 30, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

“Alvin G.” is Alvin Gottlieb, whose family established D. Gottlieb & Co. Pinball in Chicago in 1927 and sold the business in the 1970s. “In 1991, Alvin Gottlieb and Michael Gottlieb went back into the pinball machine business,” says Epstein. Since the company folded after releasing only five titles, one of which was the 1993 Punchy the Clown, the machine is rare.

On the Internet Pinball Database, only one player has rated it, which is an indication of its rarity. He gave it a 9 out of 10. There’s also an original promo flyer for the game: “Punchy holds your ticket to a carnival of earnings.” The “Mini-pin™ configuration” featured an adjustable leg height for children and adults. It was designed as a redemption game for kids. Only 103 units were produced.

When Alvin Gottlieb, 86, died in October, fans paid tribute on pinball discussion boards. “I’ll play a game on each of my Gottliebs today in his honor. RIP,” one commenter said, echoing the sentiments of many who grew up playing pinball.

As previously noted (“Modern Pinball NYC Opens with New Arcade Business Model,” ATZ, November 15, 2013), players buy time– $7.50 for a half hour, $10 for an hour, and $20 to play all day– in the pinball showroom, which has 31 games. Located on Third Avenue between 26th and 27th Streets, Modern Pinball is open 7 days a week from 11AM to midnight, with later hours on weekends.

Punchy the Clown

Punchy the Clown Pinball Machine at Modern Pinball NYC. November 30, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Modern Pinball NYC

Just Opened: Modern Pinball NYC on Third Avenue at 27th Street in Manhattan. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

This weekend, Modern Pinball NYC, a new destination for pinball enthusiasts in Manhattan, will celebrate its grand opening with a couple of tournaments, including a Saturday benefit for the Food Bank for New York City. Located on Third Avenue at 26th Street, the pinball machine retailer and interactive showroom is a brand-new business model for the arcade, which outside of amusement parks is a vanishing breed.

Modern Pinball NYC

Metallica, Star Trek and The Wizard of Oz Pinball Machines at Modern Pinball. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Instead of paying per game at Modern Pinball, players buy time– $7.50 for a half hour, $10 for an hour, and $20 to play all day. The bonus is that whatever you spend can be applied to the future purchase of a pinball machine. The 30 machines currently at Modern Pinball range from beautifully refurbished games from the 1990s like The Addams Family, Fun House and Dr Dude to new titles from Stern and Jersey Jack Pinball.

The Wizard of OZ by Jersey Jack Pinball

Playing The Wizard of OZ by Jersey Jack Pinball at Modern Pinball. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

When ATZ stopped by on Tuesday evening, we met pinball veterans who’d already made the place part of their schedule and passersby of all ages stopping to check it out. “It’s great family entertainment,” says co-owner Steve Zahler, who has fond memories of growing up playing pinball in the 1970s, when the games were everywhere–restaurants, skating rinks and Main Street arcades.

“Not like nowadays, when they’re mostly in bars,” says Zahler. “That’s why I didn’t want alcohol to be part of this business because I want to help bring pinball back.” His daughter and son, who are 6 and 9, are turning out to be pinball whizzes, but they’re lucky to have several machines at home. Zahler wanted to open a place where kids could play pinball with their friends and family, just as as he did growing up. Birthday parties and special event packages are among Modern Pinball’s offerings.

Steve Zahler, Modern Pinball

Steve Zahler, Modern Pinball’s co-owner, is the #1 Ranked Pinball Player in New York and New Jersey. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Players are encouraged to ask the staff, who include high-ranking tournament players and pinball enthusiasts, for tips and strategies. We were wowed to find out Zahler is the No. 1 ranked player in New York and New Jersey, 14th in the country and 27th in the world out of 21,000 tournament players! Steve Epstein, his partner at Modern Pinball is the co-founder of both the International Flipper Pinball Assn. (IFPA) and Professional and Amateur Pinball Assn.(PAPA) with Roger Sharpe. “We share the same philosophy about business, pinball and promotion,” says Zahler. “We have the same deep passion for pinball.”

AC/DC Pinball Machine

AC/DC ‘Let There Be Rock’ Limited Edition at Modern Pinball. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

With Modern Pinball, Epstein, who was the owner/operator of the Broadway Arcade aka “The Pinball Capital of the World” until it closed in 1996, is back in business. The place was legendary and is much missed. According to a 1985 article from the Times, Lou Reed held his wedding reception at Broadway Arcade, and Broadway stars, cast members and members of orchestras ran in during breaks between performances and during intermissions. At Modern Pinball, we met one of those musicians, a French horn player named Michael, who was ecstatic to have a place to play again. “I haven’t played pinball in 15 years,” he said.

Modern Pinball NYC, 362 Third Avenue (between 26th & 27th Streets), New York, NY 10016. Phone 646 415-8440. Winter Hours: Open 7 days a week from 11AM to midnight, till 2AM on Thu, Fri and Sat.

Modern Pinball

Modern Pinball, November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2014: Spring Reading: “Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Machine”

October 23, 2012: Playland Arcade Demolition Under Way in Coney Island

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

August 15, 2011: Games: Where You Can Play Vintage Pinball Year Round

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