Posts Tagged ‘Seattle Pinball Museum’

A New Side Project: Pinball in Seattle

Author: robertinseattle
Robert Pinball

Pinball at the office in 2000!

Well, I had no idea that Seattle was such a pinball center when my kids and I first moved here back in ’97. But when we expanded my startup into our large office spaces in ’99 during that first dot-com boom, one of the fun things my CFO and I decided to do was set up a small pinball arcade room. All those young kids had their foosball tables and ping pong tables in their startup offices. But hey – we were older guys and we wanted some more serious classic stuff for everyone to enjoy! So we ended up building a glassed-in soundproof arcade room right off our front lobby, much to the amusement of our visitors.

Way back in the early 70’s, I actually owned an arcade for a year or so in between gigs. And it was not only fun but turned out to be a relatively lucrative little business. Not as much because my arcade was busy every weekend but because of the first big run on silver at that time. A lot of younger people won’t know this but a large majority of our coins back then were minted with real silver and copper. It wasn’t until later that the cost of these coins became too expensive to use pure silver and copper so the mints all over the world have now been using cheaper alloys to make our coins (and the actual cost of materials is still a lot more than the face value of the coin itself in many instances). But back in the early 70, most silver coins were over 95% pure silver and a silver dollar was just that: a silver dollar! So a month or so into running my arcade, I decided to start sifting through all my quarters and was shocked to realize how many pre-1965 quarters were in each machine! I was doubling and tripling my take as the silver value of those quarters kept rising. But unfortunately as more collectors started realizing that even old and worn quarters were worth twice their face value or more, the supply started thinning down quickly. Gradually in less than a year, my arcade became a whole lot less profitable and it was time to start a new business.

Among my favorite machines was Gottlieb’s Magnotron from back in the 70’s. I’d first run into Magnotron back in Paris during a semi-retirement phase in ’74. A lot of my time was spent painting and writing and it was while living in Paris that I first came across this just-released machine at an arcade close to my fifth floor walkup studio on the Left Bank. It seems there were thousands of pinball machines all over Paris, in the bars and caf├ęs and just about anywhere you could squeeze one into a corner. I made a lot of new friends playing pinball. And it was in Paris that I found my inspiration to start a new series of high-realism paintings on man and his machines, specifically machines that you put money into and received something in return. What better first piece than my beloved pinball machines? It was in Fall of 1974 when I started painting Magnotron and Sky Jump, working from some drawings and photographic studies taken at this Parisian arcade. I still remember carrying this half-finished canvas on board an Air Canada flight headed back home to Toronto after living in Paris for 10 months. In those days, we had no T&A Security or baggage restrictions; one of the stewardesses simply put my painting into one of the coat closets up front for me to retrieve as I got off the flight in Toronto. I ended up finishing that painting along with several others while I was living in a shared studio/living space with three other artists in the warehouse district in downtown Toronto. (more…)