Consider yourself a pinball wizard? You’re in luck. Dedicated pinball museums are popping up worldwide, and they’re all fully playable. Flaunt your skills at the following:
More than 90 machines, some of which are woodrails (games with wooden trim) and wedgeheads (named for the shape of the backbox), arranged in chronological order; a retail shop touts pinhead-centric tees and totes.
$15/adults & $7.50/kids
SILVER BALL MUSEUM
ASBURY PARK, N.J.
Has 200 machines, including a 1994 The Addams Family Gold Edition — one of just 1,000 produced. Information cards detail each game’s manufacturer, production run and features.
$10/ one hour or $20/all day
PINBALL HALL OF FAME
A nonprofit showcasing 152 of veteran arcade operator Tim Arnold’s 1,000-machine collection, most from the 1960s to 1980s — pinball’s golden age. Sales of restored games help defray costs.
25 to 50 cents per game
NATIONAL PINBALL MUSEUM
With plans to expand into a 17,000-square-foot Georgetown space this fall, pinhead David Silverman currently offers play on 50 of his 867 machines by appointment.
$25/adult & $10/ages 13 and under
Upstairs, 21 machines emphasizing Gottlieb and Williams electromechanicals. Bally’s 1975 Elton John–themed Captain Fantastic is also on hand.
50 cents per game
Glossary of Terms : Pinhead: pinball fanatic / Plunger: a button or spring-loaded rod that launches the ball into play / Flippers: player-controlled levers that propel the ball / Electromechanical: earlier-made games with motors and turn-dial scorekeeping / Solid State: games equipped with CPU components; began appearing in the 1970s
1800s: Pinball precursor bagatelle — a billiardslike table game featuring pins as obstacles and played with a cue stick — arrives from Europe, sparking a U.S. frenzy.
1871: Inventor Montague Redgrave upgrades bagatelle with a spring-loaded plunger.
1931: Automatic Industries releases the Whiffle Board, largely regarded as the first coin-operated pinball machine.
1931: Selling more than 50,000 units, David Gottlieb’s Baffle Ball becomes pinball’s first smash hit.
1950s: In efforts to attract returning WWII soldiers, machine artwork begins featuring busty women resembling pinup girls.
1976: Machine designer Roger Sharpe convinces New York City Council that pinball is a game of skill. Decades-old laws illegalizing it as gambling are overturned nationwide.
1980s: Pinball manufacturers add extras like speech, ramps and multilevel surfaces to compete with the popularity of video games.
1992: Midway releases The Addams Family, which at 20,270 units becomes pinball’s all-time best-seller.
2010: Stern Pinball, the only company still producing pinball machines, releases its latest design: Iron Man.