The 1st Sydney Pinball Expo

I’d always thought it should happen, but Michael Shalhoub & Rian Gledson have made it happen. The first ever Sydney Pinball expo.

One town hall. Hundreds of pinballs on freeplay. And I was all out of gum…

Last weekend, pinball fans took over Petersham town hall, in Sydney. For two days there were pinballs to play, a competition to enter, parts & memorabilia to buy, a pinball auction and an official dinner.

It was hard to miss the expo – they’d positioned 2 pinball machines outside – on the footpath. Excellent way to attract attention. Once inside, the smiling ticket sellers were ready to answer your questions, or sell you one of Michael Shalhoub’s incredibly detailed “Compendium” pinball books.

Moving on, the foyer of the hall contained 6 pins in very good condition – all there as part of Z Ball’s pinball competition. Over the 2 days, competitors battled long & hard, with the eventual winner being VAD from Dubbo. He won a Jackbot pinball machine – great prize!

And then, you entered the main hall.

View towards stage - click to zoom in

View towards stage - click to zoom in

Looks pretty good, eh? Click on the above picture to zoom in.

As you can see, there were are 100 machines in the hall, covering most of pinball’s history. All were on “freeplay” mode. It was a great chance for pinball nutters (like J-OMG) to try the rarer titles, and less obsessed members of the public to have a bit of a bash. Sadly, many pins developed faults throughout the weekend, and there simply weren’t enough technicians to keep them all going. (Perhaps next time they could just turn off one “row” each half hour, fix them, and keep going?)

Whilst the centre of the hall was taken up by long rows of machines, the edges were inhabited by stalls. Moving around the edge of hall in the clockwise motion, there was Capital Pinball (ACT) exhibiting Attack from Mars, Medieval Madness & Cactus Canyon. These games were in great condition, & you don’t get many chances to play a CC these days!

Next up, was the AMD company, exhibiting their 60-in-1 cocktail, with a 21″ LCD screen. But that didn’t catch my attention. The pinball next to it did. Stern’s “24” – as you know I love the show, so I waited patiently for a turn. And… it’s great. Sadly, like most machines at the expo, the sound was turned down. It would have been fun to hear Chloe in action. Next to 24 was the newer NBA machine. I didn’t try it – but it seemed quite popular.

After the event, I caught up with Tom & Michael from AMD. I asked them whether the expo met their expectations..

1200 people through the door on Saturday was a good result, with a constant stream on pinball fans coming through right up till closing time. Sunday’s attendance wasn’t as impressive but the Pinball Auction seemed to move at good pace.

And what did people think of Stern’s latest titles?

Many ‘24’ fans were pleased to see the correlation between the Pinball and the TV Series. NBA was more popular – as it appeals to all pinball fans. We anticipated many enthusiasts to comment on the ‘basic’ playfield of the 2 latest Pinball machines from Stern, but only a handful made such criticism.

Improvements to be made?

We believe the level of advertising was adequate but hopefully next time the Auctioneer’s microphone will work! Also, a program of events for the two days of the expo.

Next to AMD’s display was Three Ball Wizard, selling an array of pinball-themed T-shirts. I asked the stall holders what was selling well… their “What Tilt??” shirt was moving fast, as was a cute “polaroid” style design of a row of pinballs, labelled “My first love…”

Moving around the room, we found Arcade+ exhibiting a number of the “new” home arcade machines. If the style of their upright cab below looks familiar, that might be because they supplied the official “Good Game” arcade unit for the ABCTV show. You’ll see a piece of paper cover the screen in the below photo – it was sold mid-afternoon on the Saturday.

Speaking of Good Game – they were at the expo, and I was lucky enough to have a good chat with reporter Tracey “Rei” Lien. She was filming an upcoming story – expect to see it soon. I also bumped into Steven “Bajo” O’Donnell, who was hoping to play a 1992 Data East Lethal Weapon 3. Sadly for Bajo – the machine was broken… I’d just tried the game myself. My hope to share a game with one of the GG team will just have to wait for now…

Lethal Weapon 3 being repaired

Lethal Weapon 3 being repaired

Moving to the right of stage, there were a number of stalls, including “Flipper Rescue” pinball restoration, and the forum. One stall – containing just one pinball, would be seen by many enthusiasts as one of the highlights of the show.

Coconut Island is a home-made pinball game. Christian Verryckt aka “Nuggy” has been working on this project for around 2 years. His rather complex game is controlled by a PC-based system he’s developed himself. All the playfield parts/layout/graphics are also Nuggy’s work, with the exception of the cabinet artwork, by well-known NZ arcade enthusiast “Spacies”.

Saturday afternoon, I caught up with Nuggy at the expo, & he was thrilled at the feedback so far. He said the game had been surprisingly bug free (besides a rare multiball issue) and the only thing that concerned him at that stage was the issue of “wear” on the playfield.

Nuggy working on Coconut Islands software

"Nuggy" working on Coconut Island's software

Next up, were a range of older pinballs, and some rarer items like a replica “Zoltan” (as featured in the Tom Hanks film Big) There was also a stall that appeared to be selling arcade PCBs, but they were very poorly displayed (ie just spilling out of cardboard boxes). If there were any great bargains there, I’m afraid I wasn’t game to touch them.

View from stage - click to zoom in

View from stage - click to zoom in

So – that was the room. What about the events?

Saturday night was the official dinner, and I’m told it was a great event. Michael Shalhoub, Rian Gledson & Tony (aka “Illawarra Steelers) spoke passionately about pinball, making special mention of the numerous Australian web forums that have helped grow the hobby in recent years.

Sunday’s auction was a bit “hit n miss” according to my sources. The auctioneer had terrible problems with the microphone, and families coming to enjoy the advertised “after 3pm game session” found that most of the pinballs had been sold & packed up. Aussie Arcade member FurballX collated all the auction results, and most prices seem low to average. There were around 100 bidders, with “high” results like a “thrashed” Addams Family for $4,000 to “low” results like an “amazing” Black Hole for $1,750.

NB: I’ve now added a post with the complete list of auction results – and more photos!

Somebody bought an AFM pinball

Somebody bought an AFM pinball

Of course, anyone involved in the arcade/pinball scene would know there had to be some controversy. This expo did not involve any of the big pinball companies in Melbourne. There are claims & counter-claims – and I don’t feel the need to explore them any further here.

I wish I was... BIG!

"I wish I was... BIG!"

I’d hope all these groups might be able to work together so that the 2010 expo is even better. The first Sydney pinball expo wasn’t perfect, but it did some things well, and for one weekend – pinball was BACK in town. Thanks to everyone who made this happen.

13 Responses to The 1st Sydney Pinball Expo

  1. Thanks for the report on the Pinball Expo, we will definately be making this an annual event. Is it possible to get a copy of the photo of all the games.

    Over 1500 people came on the Saturday a absolutely fantastic turnout, yes there were things we need to iron out and this will be done next year, i hope to make this a three day event and hope to bring out a guest speaker from the States.

    I appreciate you doing this post as it keeps the Pinball Dream Alive.

    I want to clarify one thing for your readers, Bumper Action, Childs Amusemants, Mr Pinball, Bike City Warehouse, Pinball Shed were all invited to attend.

    I would like to thank everyone who attended, as you are the future in pinballs, it was great to see kids there playing games and getting away from the Playstation and XBox as they will be the next generation of Pinball Players. The stall holders were fantastic and all gave me positive feedback and will be back next year.

    Keep up the great work.

    Michael Shalhoub
    Author of the Pinball Compendium Series

    • justonemoregame says:

      Michael, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Regarding the “Melbourne attendance” issue, I only mentioned the topic as JOMG readers would be interested in the number, and makeup of stalls at the expo. I’ve included your clarification in full, and look forward to keeping readers informed about your future plans.

  2. Graham Jupp says:

    Hi Gabe,

    Thanks for sending me the link to your article, its a nice write-up. Shame I couldn’t actually make it to the event although I probably would have just embarrassed myself with my terrible gaming skills. 🙂

    What exactly was the AMD cocktail machine?? I’m assuming it wasn’t there to make Slippery nipples and bloody Marys?? Was it a pinball sim or some other arcade emulator?

    [Graham – “cocktail” is the proper name for a “table” arcade game. Here’s a link where you’ll find a picture of AMD’s cocktail. -Gabe]

    Hopefully Pinball Addicts will be represented at a future Sydney Expo… Im only about 7 hours drive north (Coffs Harbour area) so hopefully can make it down to the next event.


    Graham Jupp

  3. Martin says:

    His! Thanks for the great report. I’m glad to read this will become an annual event – and hopefully next year I’ll be able to attend as this year the universe was too much in the way 😉

    really wish I’d gone though! thanks again!

    • justonemoregame says:

      Martin/Anthias – great to hear from you again. Hopefully we’ll finally meet at expo 2010. 🙂

  4. This Expo was an excuse for an auction.

    All dealers were told they could not sell or promote they sell pinball machines.

    If the Expo had Collectors games instead of container machines that broke down all day, that would be something for the pinball community and the collectors to show their games.

    Our Company will only be involved in an event that is run mt an Association and not a one sided event to sell container games.

    • justonemoregame says:

      OK, both “sides” have now had their say.


      1. No insults/personal attacks.
      This is not a newsgroup/cagefight like Rec.Games.Pinball.
      2. If things get out of hand here, I’ll put comments into “full moderation mode”
      or just “turn comments OFF”.
      I don’t have the time to play “net nanny”…
      so please show some respect when posting comments.

  5. Graham Jupp says:

    Thanks for the link to the cocktail table by AMD… I was already aware of the meaning though, just having a bit of a joke 😉 [Oops, humour fail! -Gabe]

    I was thinking it was the chip manufacturer AMD though, and was really wondering why they would be moving into this market, thanks for clearing it up that its another company altogether.

  6. Hmmm intersting comments from everyone……. I dont see the issue really as ALL pinballs at one point must come from overseas-container from their origin in chicago to little old us here in oz as we are an island. I have been in this bussiness of pinball for about 23+years and have seen it all…

    The expo was great exposure for us all, the auction at the end was to serve a purpose of satisfing the demand created by the expo. Don’t forget – anyone that sells machines and turns out a profit, whether you’re selling by auction, ebay, classifieds, website or what ever no matter who you are, if your selling your doing so for a profit for your self. Simple, selfish self-serving profit. This goes for everyone ever selling anything at a profit, the people that do it better benefit more than the ones that dont and the same genuine bussiness will keep going and serving their costumers needs and turning more profit as with any bussinees out there no matter what it does or sells. The ones that don’t make enough of a profit end up sadly enough ,well they go broke eventually.

    Good marketing really – I shared my CC , MM , AFM with the public and thats my contribution to the expo. I gave out cards and got exposure (hence the name “expo”) for my bussiness in canberra (and then the bussiness side of it all kicks in: profit, money). I met some really nice guys like Joe from perth… & I’m sure people would be curious to know what value/price I placed on my 3 machines displayed and whether I got any serious offers. If you’re that curious you may have to just pick up the phone and hope to find out! In any case supply + demand +- condition = value or price. Plus of course service and after sales warranties add more value and peace of mind specially from a ‘dealer” (which i offer on all my pins over certain $$)

    Nice shots of the expo and very nice shots from my 3 special pins…. I was telling Tom that my dearer /rarer/ highly sought after trio was actually helping him with the sales of his new stern pins, but lets face it the grin factor and the increasing demand for a say MM or CC outstrips the Stern all day any day.

    I tried to get a cc from dealers for 5 to 6 years; none of them could do it. I finally got one from private importer and paid a high price for it then onsold for for an even higher price after we gave it a full resto. Then i purchased another group of pins (2xCC, 2xMM, 2xMB, TOTAN, 2xTAFG etc) in a bulk deal. These are in excellent shape. Yes they did come from a “container” (how else would they get here?truck ? plane?) I have operated a CC in 2 locations and guess what? Incomplete or not it kicks butt on location even more than MM or even TAF, i mean even better than the good old days of operating pins.

    Let’s not forget – the real intended purpose of these machines is for making money for the operator on a public location. That is their primary intended function. It’s just that people collecting and hoarding them in their houses is causing them to be scarce and therefore more valuable as demands strips supply by more and more. I remember LAI trading pins like TOTAN, TAF, MB and MM for just 2k or less on a video game and growling internally as i tought 3k was too dear to buy!!

    Anyway i welcome any replies or comments to my lenghty post…

  7. Lol says:

    Being a businessman one would think you would know how to spell it ! Hmmm interesting….

  8. Wotto says:

    [ Personal attack edited out -Ed]

    Thankyou for this report on the Expo – I attended and left with a smile

    [Hey Wotto, I’m glad you enjoyed the report. I wonder if you see the irony though, of suggesting (in the text I censored) that another commenter “ALWAYS starts trouble wherever he posts” – when “starting trouble” appears to be what you were attempting youself? I don’t mind if you say you didn’t like Expo X or Game Y, but I won’t tolerate commentors attacking/insulting each other. -Ed]

  9. Wotto says:

    Hi Ed

    Just re-reading this site in May 2010 and noticed I had been edited.

    I never had intention of ‘starting trouble’ – I just find it AMAZING that even when I am ‘polite’ ( as polite one can be ) when mentioning Wayne Gillard that I AM THE ONE that gets censored.

    Why are his (edited) comments , the ONLY negative comments made by ANYONE about 2009 Expo , allowed to stay up on this posting. I also find it amazing how the ONLY & first warning about personal insults at this site came when Wayne Gillard put a reply here. (another sentence here edited)

    • justonemoregame says:


      I’ve just emailed you about this.

      Summary: Criticism of an event is OK (within limits).
      Criticism of a person is not.

      To answer your question re “Why his negative expo comments were allowed”…

      (1) See rule above
      (2) There were plenty of positive comments here to counterbalance them
      (3) The tone of the article was balanced.

      Wotto, if you keep your comments here about games & events, you won’t have any problems.

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