EXPO 2007

Date: 5th - 7th October 2007
Location: Marin County Civic Center Exhibition Hall, San Rafael, California, USA.

Friday 5th October 2007 will go down in history as the first day of the very first Pacific Pinball Expo show, held in San Rafael - just north of San Francisco - to raise funds for the Neptune Beach Amusement Museum.

The venue for the first Pacific Pinball Expo

Pre-show publicity promised as many as 300 machines with the emphasis very firmly on electro-mechanicals. Would the show live up to the promises? Could 300 machines really be brought together for an inaugural event?

Here's the answer:

The initial view as you came through the door immediately revealed something special had been achieved and the promotional material had it spot on. Whether there were 300 machines or not we'll discover later with the machine list, but clearly there were pins as far as the eye could see and row upon row of them.

A typical view from the hall

But to start at the beginning, as visitors entered the hall they were greeted by the Lil' Ju Ju trailer on the left side of the hall.

The "Lil' Ju Ju" pinball trailer

Inside the Lil' Ju Ju are six pinball machines, all space themed - Mars Trek, Apollo, Sky Lab, 2001, Space Odyssey and Outer Space.

Some of the machines inside the "Lil' Ju Ju"

Next to "Lil' Ju Ju" were a selection of modern pinball machines, including some of the most recent releases from Stern such as Spider-Man, Family Guy and the Dale Jr variant of NASCAR - one of only 600 produced.

Pirates Of The Caribbean and Dale Jr with The Sopranos behind

With the most modern dot matrix machines grouped together, the adjacent group included many classic solid state machines mixed including Stern's Galaxy and Earthshaker, with some less recent dot matrix machines such as Terminator 3, Twilight Zone and Fish Tales.

The grouping of slightly older dot matrix machines

But the vast majority of the machines were electro-mechanical with some nice collections grouped together. Gottlieb wood rails, for example, were well represented by Larry Zartarian's machines.

Larry also supplied this group of "Flipper" themed games.

Flipper, Flipper Parade, Flipper Fair, Flipper Cowboy and Flipper Clown

Throughout the hall, rows upon rows of single player and multi player EMs sat side-by-side with very early solid-state machines.

Machines on the show floor

Many machines also included information cards, either on the backglass or, like the machine below, on top of the backbox.

But that wasn't the limit of the educational value of the the show. Far from it, since there were several displays set up to teach how the mechanical and electrical devices within a pinball machine operate.

Probably the biggest draw was this "Visible Pinball" - a Gottlieb Surf Champ machine stripped of its wooden cabinet, backbox and playfield. Instead, clear perspex was used to allow the full workings of the interior of the machine to be clearly displayed.

The Visible Pinball machine

The playfield, plastics and backbox artwork was reproduced in black line form

Lighting tubes in the bottom of the cabinet show the inner workings

For those who wanted to try their luck following the wiring, the schematic was displayed next to the machine as was an unmodified Surf Champ for comparison.

The schematic diagram for Surf Champ

If attempting to understand how a full machine worked, other displays showed the principle of operation of different parts under the title "The Science Of Pinball"

The Science Of Pinball exhibit

This flashy and noisy exhibit was a draw for the kids

Just along from The Science Of Pinball was a graphic demonstration of how pinball began, presented by Silver Ball Ranch's Val and Richard Conger.

This quite extraordinary display of pre-war amusement machines tracked pinball's development from bagatelle through the pin tables which gave pinball its name, to some landmark games such as this 1931 Ballyhoo, shown here with two issues of the satirical magazine of the same name on which the machine and its colourful playfield design were based.

The Ballyhoo machine, after which the Bally company was named

And how about this? The first use of neon lighting in a pinball machine goes right back to 1935.

Neon tact uses neon tubes in the backbox and on the playfield

Richard Conger was happy to share his encyclopedic knowledge of these games throughout the show and even the biggest pinball fan could learn plenty as he described the games in his collection.

Although these games were not set up to play, if you subsequently had an appetite to try some of the machines, right next to the Silver Ball Ranch's stand were several rare games you could play. Because they were so rare and not intended for constant use, they were priced at $1 per play

The rare games available to play for $1

Other machines of note included this custom The Hellacopters machine designed by Wade Krause with artwork by Dirty Donny...

The Hellacopters custom pinball

Playfield from The Hellacopters

...and the reproduction King Of Diamonds prototype machines were also on display for visitors to play and compare to the original.

So with all these machines, how close to that intended total of 300 did it end up? Well, here's the list of all machines set up either to play or on display on Friday evening plus one brought in on Saturday morning,

Machine List

4 Square
Aladdin's Castle
All Star Basketball
All Stars Target Gallery
Attack From Mars
Baffle Ball Sr.
Ball Fan
Bank Shot*
Beat Time
Big Contact
Big Hit
Big Inning
Big League
Black Knight*
Blue Chip
Blue Ribbon
Bow And Arrow
Bow And Arrow
Bowling Queen
Buster Ball
Cannon Fire
Capt. Fantastic
Centigrade 37
Central Park
Circa 1933
Cover Girl
Cow Poke
Cross Town
Cross Town*
Dale Jr
Dancing Lady
Dog Fight
Doodle Bug
Egg Head
Eight Ball Deluxe*
El Dorado
El Toro
Evel Knievel
Eye Of The Tiger
Family Guy
Fifty Grand
Fish Tales
Flash Baseball
Flip A Card
Flip A Card
Flipper Clown
Flipper Cowboy
Flipper Football
Flipper Parade
Flying Carpet
Flying Carpet
Foto Finish
Four Million BC
Gold Rush
Golden Arrow
Golden Gate
Hang Glider
Happy Days
Harbor Lites
Harley Davidson (Stern)
Heat Wave
High Hand
High Hand
High Speed 2 - The Getaway
Hi-Score Pool
Hit The Deck
Hop Scotch
Hot Line
Hot Shot*
Hurdy Gurdy
Hurdy Gurdy
Ice Revue
It's Army vs Navy
Jack In The Box
Jacks Open
Jacks Open
Jumping Jack
Jungle Princess
Jurassic Park
King Of Diamonds
King Of Diamonds
King Of Diamonds
King Of Diamonds
King Tut
Kings & Queens
Kings & Queens
Knock Out
Lady Luck
Liberty Bell
Line Drive
Line Drive*
Lucky Strike
Magic Circle
Magic Circle
Major League
Mars Trek
Medieval Madness
Medieval Madness
Medieval Madness
Merry Go Round*
Midget Hi Ball
Mike & Ike
Mini Cycle
Minstrel Man
Moon Shot
Mystic Marvel
New York
Night Rider
No Good Gofers
Odds & Evens
Odds & Evens
Old Chicago
Op Pop Pop
Outer Space
Palace Guard
Parlor Bagatelle
Pinball Magic
Pirates Of The Caribbean
Play Ball
Poker Face*
Rock Star
Rocket Rifle Range
Roller Coaster
Roller Derby
Royal Flush
Royal Guard
Royal Guard
Scared Stiff
Scared Stiff
Sea Ray
Sea Shore
Seven Up
Ship Ahoy
Shooting Star
Show Boat
Show Boat
Sittin Pretty
Six Star
Skill Pool
Skill Roll
Sky Jump*
Sky Lab
Slick Chick
Slug Fest
Slug Fest
Slug Fest
Sluggin' Champ
South Park
Southern Belle*
Space Odyssey
Spot A Ball
Square Head
Star Rocket
Star Trek - The Next Generation
Star Trek - The Next Generation
Star Trip
State Fair Rifle Gallery
Strange World
Strikes And Spares
Strikes And Spares
Super Circus Rifle
Super Flite*
Super Soccer
Super Straight
Surf Champ
Surf Champ
Sweet Hearts
Sweet Hearts
Target Pool
Ten Strike*
Terminator 2
The Addams Family
The Addams Family
The Hellacopters
Theatre Of Magic
Time Zone
Top Card
Trade Winds
Tropic Isle*
Twilight Zone
Twilight Zone
Twin Rifles
Upper Deck
Upper Deck*
Viper Night Drivin'
World Fair
World Fair*
World's Fair Jigsaw

* indicates machine was not working at the time the list was made on Friday evening. It may have subsequently been repaired.

If you count them you'll see there are three columns of one hundred machines. In other words, exactly 300 machines.

But there was more to the show than just the machines. There were vendors selling various merchandise from whole games to posters, postcards, t-shirts, books, backglasses and DVDs.

Books, backglasses and posters on sale at the show

Various coin-op machines were also for sale

At the back of the hall, a number of tournaments were taking place - both individual, four player and kids along with a baseball-style tournament with a variety of prizes for the winners. The main tournament was the individual one on Saturday which had cash prizes and awarded WPPR points. It was almost cancelled due to illness but a concerted effort allowed it to go ahead using a variation of the format used at Pinball Fantasy.

Competitors bought a $10 entry which allowed them three games on any of the five machines used in the tournament. They were: 2001, Majorettes, Capt. Fantastic, Sittin Pretty and The Addams Family. The competitor's best scores on those five were then ranked and the top eight players went through to the next round. Multiple entries were allowed and in fact necessary to register a score on all five machines but in the end it was possible to qualify with just one entry if your scores on just three of the five machines were good enough.

Players compete in the individual tournament

By the end of qualifying around 5pm, the following players had qualified for the quarter finals: Neil Shatz, Dan Hoekstra, Mark Conant, Jeff Neumann, Hal Erickson, Martin Ayub, Andrei Masseukoff and Jon Garber.

Head-to-head best of three matches reduced those eight to four - Neil, Jeff, Hal and Jon who played the same format in the semi-finals.

Jeff and Hal triumphed to play in the final, while Neil and Jon played for third place which Neil subsequently won.

The final went down to the last game but it was Hal who took the victory and first place.



Hal Erickson
Jeff Neumann
Neil Shatz
Jon Garber

Jeff Neumann (left), Neil Shatz (centre left) and winner Hal Erickson (right)

Half the entry fees went to the Neptune Beach Amusement Museum with the other half split between the top three places. Hal won $108, Jeff won $54 and Neil won $18.

In the far back corner of the hall was a seminars area where a number of speakers talked about pinball maintenance, restoration, pinball science and the making of the Tilt! DVD.

Chris Kuntz explains solid state pinball repair techniques

On Saturday, Chris Kuntz did a talk about how to repair early solid state pinball machines, going through the different elements of the game - lamps, switches, solenoids, displays, sound, etc - and explaining how they work and what commonly fails. He used an Evel Knievel machine to illustrate his talk.

Later in the day, Bear Karmarov spoke about buying and maintaining a pinball machine, Michael Scheiss of Neptune Beach Amusement Museum (and this show) fame explained his Pinball Science project and how he plans to use and develop it. Michael Sand did a talk about techniques for restoring machines while he was followed by Jim Dietrick held a seminar on troubleshooting tips and techniques.

The day was rounded off by Greg Maletic screening and then talking about his documentary Tilt! - The Battle To Save Pinball.

Sunday saw Michael Scheiss, Greg Maletic and Jim Dietrick reprising their seminars for a new crowd.

The final event of the show was the raffle where various pinball and non-pinball related prizes were awarded to lucky ticket holders. The big prizes were two pinball machines - a 300 and a Jumping Jack - which were drawn around 6pm on Sunday. John Dimarco was drawn first and opted for the "300" machine. Second to be drawn was Steve Orlando who got the "Jumping Jack".

Most pinball shows tend to wind down quite early on the final day to allow machines to be packed away for the journey home, but the Pacific Pinball Expo kept going until the posted close at 8pm which meant much of the teardown would take place the following day. It did ensure the Sunday-only visitors got good value for money though.

So the original goals had been met - to bring together 300 pinball machines to create a new and unique pinball show in Northern California. The proliferation of electro-mechanicals and the educational angle, when coupled with the artistic influences of the Neptune Beach Amusement Museum and the Ju-Ju really did create a unique feel to this show - the sense of something more than a bunch of machines and vendors in a big hall.

The sheer numbers are impressive of course but the inclusion of some many unusual and rare machines, combined with the tournaments and the seminars made this event worth of the moniker "Expo".

Of course, none of this is possible without a huge amount of work, not only by those bringing significant parts of their private collections along to be enjoyed, but also by everyone who planned the show in the preceding months and executed it on the day.

Congratulations to you all and long may the show continue.


Pinball News Three Minute Tour

You've read about the show but now you can see it in action for yourself with our exclusive Pinball News Three Minute Tour. Simply click on the play button below and take a walk around the show.

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© Pinball News 2007