SF Bay Area's Pacific Pinball Museum

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The Bay Area's Alameda Island is home to the Pacific Pinball Museum, a decade-old non-profit "dedicated to teaching science, art and history through pinball, and to preserve and promote one of America's great pastimes." The Bay Citizen spoke with founder Michael Schiess. From the Bay Citizen:
Disappointed by other museums’ pinball offerings, Mr. Schiess started snapping up the machines in 2001, buying 36 all at once. He installed 14 of them in a room that he rented for $400 in Alameda and put out a donation jar. In 2004, Lucky Ju Ju, as the arcade was then called, expanded to become the Pacific Pinball Museum, a nonprofit, and instituted a $15 admission. It now features 90 machines; most are free to play, but a few are for display only.

Pinball collectors abound, and many have organized museums in cities like Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Seattle. Mr. Schiess says his personal collection totals 800, and the machines not on display in Alameda reside in an 8,000-square-foot warehouse whose location he keeps secret.

"Local Intelligence: Pacific Pinball Museum, Alameda"


  1. From my not-terribly-recent youth: Pinbot and Creature From The Black Lagoon FTW!

    My brother owns the latter in his home office. Man, it’s fun, and funny to boot.

    1. Yeah, Pinbot. I also liked Comet, I could play that one well enough to win free games. And Comet had a “sequel,” Cyclone.

  2. Pinball is the extremely tragic victim of console and PC gaming. Probably my favorite type of game, they’re just too expensive and require too much maintenance for the remaining arcade to keep them without a lot of passion.

    They might also be the best way to learn the basics of programming and electronics as well.

  3. I was an absolute teen delinquent in the 70s, addicted to pinball and always on the lookout for arcades. I still miss it terribly. All these years later, video games still don’t interest me. (YMMV). I tried to “play” a video game with my 4yo nephew about a year ago – I think they’ve got three different kinds of consoles over there, but after only seconds of me faking it (my character just ran in circles and jumped up once in a while) the jig was up.

    Annoyed, he asked me, “Can’t you even TRY?”

  4. I went to an office pizza party at this Museum, and it was amazing. Not just pinball, but mechanical driving and shooting games, and a couple of betting games where real money was changing hands. My review here: http://petty.me.uk/?p=631

  5. Went there for my daughter’s godfather’s birthday. She was 3 and had a blast. We went to the gaming show in Santa Clara 1.5 weeks ago and had a blast there too. His garage is stuffed with junk and he’s going to give me a 1960’s erra pinball maching (keeping Bride of Pinbot and Austin Powers pinball machines for himself). What a great godfather, plus he’s my high school buddy. Some of the things that pinball machines have said over the years will never leave my brain. “Step right up and ride the ferris wheel!” “Tish…Gomez” “Gone fishin’ leave a message.” ahhh pinball. I used to go to the arcade (4 minutes walk from my house) in the mid to late 70’s and remember enjoying the “Star Trek” pinball game. :)

  6. I was visiting sf last winter and took my two teenage daughters – figured we’d spend at least 4 hours there…they lasted less than an hour…

  7. I am pretty sure I have spent more money playing Pinball over the last year than I spent on video games.

    I can easily drop $5-$10 on pinball in a week, happily I am in a town that is kind of crazy about pinball!!
    For example check out: http://www.portlandpinballmap.com

    Checking the URL it appears that they branched out to other cities, RAD!!

    1. Man, I was just in Vegas two weeks ago. Damn, wish I’d known. Guess I’ll have to make an excuse to go back!

  8. Medieval Madness is the best pinball machine ever created by humankind. It’s a scientific fact. Oh yeah:


  9. I recall that, more than once, we would blow off an entire Friday afternoon from work getting sloshed on pitchers of beer and playing Black Knight for hours and hours. The voice and sound effects got better and better as the afternoon wore on …

    1. Yes! I am the Black Knight. Give me your money! I always liked his saucy, untoward behaviour towards patrons.

      There’s better up-close videos, but this shows the board well. Really one of the best pinball machines at their pinnacle of art and technical progress. And damn fun…

  10. Long ago, when the only useful logic elements were relays and combinations of relays, those circuits were referred to as “pinball logic”.

  11. Head over to SF to Pier 43, near the famous Fishermans Wharf Sign and Boudin’s factory and visit the Musée Mécanique. It’s got nickelodeons (not the tv channel), and all kinds of mechanical as well as video games. Free to enter, bring lots of quarters..

  12. He has a ’50s style travel trailer filled with machines to play that I’ve seen at the Maker Faire. My dad brought a pinball machine home and set it up in the basement in the early ’60s. I could turn that thing over. The only Groupon I’ve ever bought was for this museum. See you in Alameda.

  13. A year or two back, I was transiting through SFO and these folks had set up a half-dozen of their tables in the terminal, free to play. Best layover ever!

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