What To Do With 800 Pinball Machines? Play Them! David Silverman sees pinball games as "scrapbooks" of American history and culture. He's amassed a collection of more than 800 of them, which he keeps behind his home in Silver Spring, Md. His dream is to someday open the National Pinball Museum — but until then, he invites you to come over for a game.
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What To Do With 800 Pinball Machines? Play Them!

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What To Do With 800 Pinball Machines? Play Them!

What To Do With 800 Pinball Machines? Play Them!

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Before Nintendo Wiis and Sony PlayStations, there were pinball machines. Pinball may be history for today's generation of gamers, but it's a history that David Silverman wants to preserve.

In the past 30 years, Silverman has collected 867 pinball machines, from 1920s flat box games designed to be played on bar tables, to today's free standing computerized games with music and sound effects. One day he hopes to open a national pinball museum where his prized possessions will be on display. For now, they reside in a building he constructed behind his house in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Silverman works as a landscaper specializing in Japanese gardens. But he found the time this past week to show us his collection of pinball machines and explain how his passion for pinball began.

Mr. DAVID SILVERMAN (Pinball Enthusiast): I immediately was attracted by the color; the color and the artwork as a four-year-old. I mean I was just fascinated with it. And my father gave me a bunch of nickels, and from that point on, as they say, you know, history in the making.

HANSEN: Take us to a game of that era when you were four.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Yes. Okay. Over in here...

HANSEN: See if we can squeeze by these - the "Slick Chick."

Mr. SILVERMAN: Yeah, this game, "Coronation" would be a game of my era.

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

Mr. SILVERMAN: Now, realistically I would say I'm an average player. Not above average and I think probably when I was a young kid I was a better player than I am now. And most of the people I know who are older players feel the same way.

HANSEN: Look at you racking up one million.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Yeah, I got a million. And to get a free game, you have to get 5,200,000 and all I have is two million, so I'm a kind of a pathetic player.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of a pinball machine)

HANSEN: Now, we happen to be back into another game, which appears much much older - this one.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

HANSEN: How old is this game?

Mr. SILVERMAN: This game's about 1929.

HANSEN: Right. So there's no flippers.

Mr. SILVERMAN: No flippers.

HANSEN: What there are, are there are these silver balls and you put some nickels up here.


HANSEN: Does that mean I can put it in?

Mr. SILVERMAN: Yes, absolutely.

HANSEN: All my balls come out.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Now you shoot it.

HANSEN: Okay. Do you want me to shoot it?

Mr. SILVERMAN: Yeah, you got two balls, so (unintelligible).

HANSEN: All right, let's see what I got. Missed. Yeah. That's where they all end up. Did you restore this game?

Mr. SILVERMAN: Yes. Yes, we restored this one.

HANSEN: And that's what you do as well, you restore games, you collect games.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Display games.

HANSEN: Display games. You let people come in and play games.


HANSEN: And your ultimate goal is to actually have a pinball museum.

Mr. SILVERMAN: What I'm trying to do is save American history because these pinball machines go along the lines of history. The game you looked at before, "Coronation," was when Queen Elizabeth was coronated.

HANSEN: Really?

Mr. SILVERMAN: So this was...

HANSEN: Pinball was made in honor of the...

Mr. SILVERMAN: Exactly. And so many of the games that you see here have a lot to do with what was happening at the time. The artwork is similar as well.

HANSEN: I have to stop you, though, but Queen Elizabeth, I've never seen her in a bikini wearing a fuchsia cape with those little platform ankle shoes that they wore in 1950, blonde hair, something like, you know, Betty Grable or...

Mr. SILVERMAN: Well, you have to remember that pinball was a man's game. A lot of the pinball machines - the height of pinball was after World War II. So the soldiers coming home, who where used to pinup girls in their lockers, basically all the artwork � what we call the backglass � was to attract the player. And what was on them? Mostly women.

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

HANSEN: You're actually standing in front of "Coronation."

Mr. SILVERMAN: Correct.

HANSEN: But it is flanked by "Sweet Adeline."

Mr. SILVERMAN: "Sweet Adeline."

HANSEN: "Roto Pool" is next to "Coronation, "Nine Sisters" is next to it and "Green Pastures" is next to that one. These seem to be a heyday of pinball. But they were always in these dark kind of nefarious places. When did pinball become kind of a social no-no?

Mr. SILVERMAN: That was actually pretty early. A company called Bally invented a payout game and once these games were invented, that was gambling. So pinball was outlawed in the three major cities that were important for pinball. That was New York City, that was Chicago and that was L.A. But not until 1976 did they finally legalize pinball in New York City.

HANSEN: Okay, so it's, you know, in the middle of a Sunday afternoon and you've got the urge to play some pinball. And you say, I'm going to go down to my museum, such as it is at this point, and I want to play a game. What game do you choose to play?

Mr. SILVERMAN: Well, there's a game right next to you called "Bing Bang Bar." That is my favorite game.

HANSEN: All right. Come on over. Let's take a look at this thing.

Mr. SILVERMAN: The black light will come on.

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

Mr. SILVERMAN: And it changes the color - all of the greens, all of the colors, especially when the room is dark, which is what I like to play pinball in.

HANSEN: Now this has things modern that I recognize: the little tracks where balls go, the ramps, the kind of in and out, and down and above. I mean, this is really bells and whistle.

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

Mr. SILVERMAN: And this is called the "Attract Mode." This is quite innovative because watch, it'll tell you the story.

HANSEN: (Reading) On the night of July 2nd, 1947, a loud crash was heard near Roswell, New Mexico. Remains of an alien spacecraft were recovered. Although this was officially denied by the United States government, was this craft an advance scout of an impending alien invasion of the earth? Or was it simply an accident by a group of joyriders having one too many?

Mr. SILVERMAN: That's the "Bing Bang Bar."

HANSEN: That's the "Bing Bang Bar."

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

Mr. SILVERMAN: Anybody who comes in here who looks reputable can play the games with us.

HANSEN: All right, how do I look?

Mr. SILVERMAN: You look pretty reputable.

HANSEN: All right, I'm going to play this game.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Press that button.

HANSEN: Like I'm going to get that far.

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

Unidentified Man: Player one, Ray wants to see you at the bar.

HANSEN: Ray wants to see you at the bar.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Ray wants to see you at the bar.

HANSEN: Well, where's Ray?

Mr. SILVERMAN: Oh, Ray's up there.

HANSEN: All right.

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

Mr. SILVERMAN: You have 13 million so far.

HANSEN: All right.

Unidentified Man: Player one, I need to see some I.D.

HANSEN: I'm old enough.

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

Unidentified Woman: (unintelligible) upstairs.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Upstairs.


Mr. SILVERMAN: Well, watch what happens when the game's over.

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

Unintelligible Man: (unintelligible) impress me.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Watch. What happens when you're in a bar?

(Soundbite of pinball machine)

HANSEN: You drink too much?

Mr. SILVERMAN: You throw up.

HANSEN: David Silverman, thank you for showing us your collection of pinball machines and good luck with the pinball museum.

Mr. SILVERMAN: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

HANSEN: Would you mind if I played "Addam's Family?"

Mr. SILVERMAN: Of course.

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