Recently I had the chance to visit a new Pinball exhibit at the Strong National Museum of Play called Pinball Playfields. Opened in Late Feburary of 2016 this exhibit is a permanent exhibit at the museum and is sponsored in part by Stern Pinball. The exhibit features a wide range of pinball artifacts, drawings, artwork, displays and machines to play. The exhibit includes every kind of pinball machine from electromechanical machines to the latest releases. The machines are rotated out on a regular basis so there is always something new to play if you are a frequent visitor to the museum. Lets take a look at some of the featured machines in this exhibit.
This is the sign that greets visitors as they first walk into the exhibit.
The exhibit was created and is maintained by Martin Reinhardt who is the museum’s Arcade Game Conservation Technician. Martin has to make sure the machines stay in working order in the museum so the guests have the best experience while playing the games. He also restores pinball machines and arcade games to put in this exhibit and the various other exhibits around the museum. I was fortunate enough to run into him while he was playtesting a machine to make sure it was in working order.
The exhibit features many unique pinball machines, this is Atari’s 1979 pinball Hercules, the largest pinball machine in the world. Next to Hercules is a very small pinball machine, Super Mario Bros. Mushroom world made by Gottlieb in 1992. I am not sure if this is the smallest pinball machine in the world but it certainly seems like it is especially when sitting next to Hercules. This machine is unique because it is a pinball machine that spits out redemption tickets based on how well you do in the game (the machine seen here doesn’t have any tickets in it though, as the museum does not have a prize redemption center). It is a bit awkward to play this machine as I find an adult has to bend down to play it because it is so tiny, however it is a very fun machine that should not be overlooked. It is very popular with children as its perfect for their size however taller people will have a difficult time playing this one. I suggest kneeling on your knees to play it if you are able to.
This is Williams Banzai Run made in 1988. This machine has a playfield built into the head of the pinball machine.
Alvin G and Co. USA Football made in 1992. This is a 2 player pinball machine where both players go head to head in a football game, one person stands on each side of the game. If you choose to play by yourself the other side will be controlled by the machine as a CPU player so that side will effectively play itself.
Williams Hyperball made in 1981. While technically not a pinball machine, this machine has no fliippers and has players firing tiny balls, up to 250 per minute at targets located around the playfield. The game has 2 handles on it that the player holds onto to control the action. It reminds me of the old board game Crossfire that was produced around the same time. This is a very different type of machine, and I was kind of floored by it, it took a while to figure out how to play it as I guess I was expecting a regular pinball machine when I dropped the token into it.
This display is designed to teach visitors how a pinball machine works, you can see the inner workings of a flipper, a bumper and a target, by looking through the see through glass display. Exclusive drawings and artwork line the walls of the exhibit.
Electromechanical machines are represented here. Here we have Dancing Dolls by Gottlieb made in 1960 and Williams Vagabond made in 1962.
Some of the latest pinball machines, here we have Game of Thrones, The Avengers and Kiss.
Some of the other machines found in the exhibit, remember machines are rotated out regularly: Pinball FX 2 Virtual Pinball, The Wizard of Oz, Revenge from Mars (Pinball 2000), Cirqus Voltaire, Star Trek The Next Generation, The Simpsons, NBA Fastbreak, The Addams Family, Haunted House, Black Knight, Paragon, Superman, The Incredible Hulk, Wrestlemania and Tron. Many of the machines here are premium or limited editions of the games.
Here is my video tour of the exhibit:
These aren’t the only pinball machines in the museum, more machines can often be found on the upper level of the museum and in the main exhibit space on the first floor depending on what type of exhibit is running at the time.
More information on the exhibit can be found here at the Strong’s website:
An online collection of pinball artifacts can be viewed at the Strong’s website here: