Pinball machines have become popular additions to home game rooms in the United States and in many other countries the world over. The pinball machine has enjoyed something of a major comeback in recent years.
In addition to being a feature in an ever increasing number of home game rooms, pinball machines are also gaining favor by people who like to collect truly iconic and oftentimes valuable items.
Understanding the history of the pinball machine is important when it comes to appreciating its role as a valuable collectable in the 21st century. The reality is that we need to go back about almost a thousand years to really understand the birth of the pinball machine.
Development of Tabletop Ball Games
The ultimate precursor of the pinball machine is bocce and bowls, games that were played out of doors, oftentimes on or near lawns and gardens. These games were ultimately translated into other ball games that were played indoors and on tables, specifically billiards. The transition to billiards was the final step that ultimately led to the first derivation of what ultimately would develop into the modern day pinball machine.
Reign of King Louis XIV
It was during the reign of France’s King Louis XIV, and directly after, that the true foundation on what would develop into an actual pinball machine was developed. It was at this time that bowling and billiards merged. Holes were added to the beds of these game platforms and they became the targets which were aimed for by players. It would be only a short time before spring launchers were added.
By the mid-19th century, spring launchers were completely mainstream. It was in 1869, thanks to the work of an inventor named Montague Redgrave. It was Redgrave that began manufacturing what really were pinball machines in Cincinnati.
It was in the early 1930s, right on the heals of the start of the Great Depression, that coin-operated pinball machines hit the scene. These pinball machines could be found in arcades, and other public locations. It was also in this period that the beginning of the electrification of pinball machines started.
During the 1940s, the player controlled flippers were added to pinball machines. This was a major innovation that has stuck around to this very day.
This decade represented another time period when pinball machines underwent a major change. It was in the 1970s that Solid-state electronics and digital displays introduced to pinball machines.
Collectors and Pinball Machines
There are a growing number of people who are involved in collecting pinball machines from different time periods. In addition, there are individuals who are doing more than just adding pinball machines to game rooms in their homes. These men and women are finding pinball machines from a particular time period and using them as additions to their overall interior design concepts.
Where to Find Collectable Pinball Machines
In the 21st century, there are increasing resources available through which a person can find a pinball machine as a collectable, for gaming purposes, or to add to the interior design of a residence or business. Of course, as with virtually everything else in this day and age, the internet is a primary resource for a person looking to purchase a specific type of pinball machine. This includes pinball machines from eras more distant in time.
Antique stores are also solid resources when it comes to seeking pinball machines. These types of shops may have machines from about the mid-1970s back into time.
One resource that you must not overlook when hunting for collectable quality pinball machines, or those that would make great additions to a home’s interior design, is the long-standing bar or tavern. Some bars and taverns have really kept the game of pinball alive and have machines actively in use. Other bars and taverns have vintage machines tucked away in storage rooms that haven’t seen the light of day for years.
With a little legwork, a person looking for pinball machines may be able to find a proverbial treasure trove by visiting a few bars or taverns around town. As an aside, because these machines very well may have been doing little more than gathering dust for years, a person interested in making a purchase very well may be able to get a solid deal. A collector, or a person interesting in enhancing a residential interior, will not break the bank in the process of buying a pinball machine from a bar or tavern.
Jessica Kane is a writer for The Pinball Company, the best online source for new, used, and refurbished pinball machines, arcade cabinets, and more!
Buck Rogers Pinball and F-14 Tomcat Pinball courtesy of Barcadium Amusements.