during The Great Depression, when Americans needed cheap, escapist
entertainment, pinball has been around almost as long as the talkies, but there
are very few books on the subject when compared to the film industry. Fortunately,
there are some worth recommending.
are seven quality pinball tomes—impressive volumes that you’ll be proud
to display in your office, library or game room. You might even want to keep a
couple on your coffee table for company to flip through.
pinball collector, designer, licenser, and competitive player, Roger Sharpe is
an industry icon. In 1976, when pinball was illegal in many states, he demonstrated
before the New York City Council that it was a skill game—not a gambling game
of chance—by nailing a clutch plunger shot.
addition, he authored Pinball!, one
of the earliest books on subject. Now an out-of-print collectible, it is a
virtual trip through time, bringing to life in text and gorgeous color photos (by
James Hamilton) not only the machines themselves, but also the places where
they were played in the United States and in Europe, such as arcades, bars,
restaurants, and laundromats. Sharpe’s experience with and love for the hobby
Pinball: The Lure of the Silver Ball
Gary Flower and Bill Kurtz
Flower and Bill Kurtz collected pinballs, contributed to various pinball magazines,
and were active participants in pinball festivals for years before penning Pinball: The Lure of the Silver Ball.
The book is a sturdy hardcover with color photos on most every page,
documenting our favorite hobby from 1930 to 1988. There are also chapters on “Pinball
at Home” and “Pinball Ephemera,” along with an appendix listing every pinball
manufactured in the U.S. from 1939 to when the book was published.
book is relatively slim at 128 pages, but it gives readers a nice overview of
the industry and brief commentary on many of its key machines, including such
classics as Mirco’s Spirit of 76, the
first digital pinball, and Williams’ Firepower,
the first digital pinball to feature multi-ball play.
Encyclopedia of Pinball: Vol. 1
late pinball historian Richard M. Bueschel plumbed the depths of the Great
Depression when penning Encyclopedia of Pinball: Vol. 1, which covers 1930-1933, including such early machines as Whiffle and Rocket. In addition to a wealth of pinball history (origins of
pinball, mechanical marvels, the pinball patent wars, payout machines, etc.),
this hardcover book features photos of vintage flyers, sales literature, patents,
and the pins themselves.
followed a couple of years later with Encyclopedia
of Pinball: Vol. 2, which covers 1934-1936 and features such topics as
bells, kickers, lights, buttons, and electricity. Both books are out of print,
but well worth hunting down.
The Complete Pinball Book: Collecting
the Game & Its History
thick coffee table book with tons of color photos, including extreme close-ups
of art and playfields, The Complete Pinball Book: Collecting the Game & Its History was first published in 1999, but is now in its third edition. Rather
than list the games by title or company, the book focuses on the evolution and
implementation of particular pinball components, such as art, scoring, tilt
mechanisms, voice effects, flippers, bumpers, and ramps. A convenient index
helps you locate pics of specific machines.
all the recent pinballs produced by Stern, along with a couple from Jersey Jack,
we’ve got our fingers cross that this book will be expanded into a fourth
The Pinball Compendium: 1982 to Present
(Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition)
Shalhoub likely devoted hundreds (if not thousands) of hours to his series of
pinball books, the most current of which is the revised and expanded edition of The Pinball Compendium: 1982 to Present. Instead of
focusing on detailed rules of the games, Shalhoub shines the spotlight on the artists
and designers, such as Ted Estes, one of the programmers on The Twilight Zone. Estes is given two
pages in this massive hardcover book to discuss his history in the industry, accompanied
by two color photos: one of Estes in his office and one of him standing in
front of The Twilight Zone.
on your preference, this emphasis on the creators can be a good or bad thing,
but we like the format as it sets the book apart from the pack.
The Pinball Price Guide, Ninth Edition
the price values of more than 2,000 pinballs released for the U.S. market from
1931 to 2012, The Pinball Price Guide, Ninth Edition distinguishes itself by dividing pricing into three condition
classes: 1 (best), 2 (good), and 3 (okay). A Condition Grading Guide helps you
determine the grade of the pinball you are trying to evaluate, from its
backglass to its cabinet to its playfield.
addition, the book has tips on caring for and maintaining machines, along with
four articles: “Electro-Mechanical Games of the 1960s and 70s” by Brian
Saunders, “Woodrail Pricing: The Big Picture” by Gordon A. Hasse, Jr., “Prewar
(Flipperless) Pinball Machines” by Rob Hawkins, and “Bingo-Style Pinball
Machines” by Dennis Dodel.
Pinball Machine Care and Maintenance
Bell Springs Publishing
machines are fun to play, but with all their moving parts, they do break down
from time to time. If you have one or more pinballs in your game room, or you
are responsible for maintaining the machines in an arcade, grab a copy of Pinball Machine Care and Maintenance 3rd Edition (third edition), which offers easy-to-read instructions on fixing flippers,
checking fuses, identifying pinball parts, protecting the backglass and playfield,
disassembling and setting up a machine, general cleaning and maintenance, and
much more. This is a useful tool for beginners and veterans alike.