Like most coin-op col­lec­tors, Bren­dan Bai­ley grew up in an era when ar­cade games were easy to find. Un­like most oth­ers, though, he started col­lect­ing at the age of seven. To­day, he’s amassed 25 cab­i­nets, and is fo­cused largely on the lure of the sil­ver ball.

How did you get started? Well, I got ex­posed to pin­ball at a re­ally young age. The ear­li­est I can re­mem­ber, I was three years old and my dad took me to a Nathan’s hot dog place in Co­ram which had a huge game room at­tached to it with some­thing like ten pin­ball ma­chines in it, and I grav­i­tated to those games right away. But ar­cades dis­ap­peared real quick. That Nathan’s closed. The game room went out of business. All the other ar­cades where I used to play pin­ball went out of business, so my dad made the fate­ful decision to buy me a pin­ball ma­chine when I was seven years old, back in 1995. He bought me a 1978 Stern Lec­tron­amo, and I still have it. It broke down around 2001, 2002, and I de­cided that I wanted to fix this thing. So I opened it up and I found the fuse that had bro­ken, re­placed it, and that’s sort of what got me into the hobby. From that point on, it was like, “Ooh, there’s other games I can go ex­plore…” How much do you think you’ve spent on your col­lec­tion over the years? Not as much as you might think. I’ve got a

River­boat Gam­bler right be­hind me that I didn’t pay for – it was given to me. I’m think­ing for all 25 games… I prob­a­bly haven’t spent over $10,000 dol­lars. I think, if you fac­tor in the money I’ve made from sell­ing games after I’m done fix­ing them up, it prob­a­bly works out less than that, so maybe it’s be­tween $5,000 and $7,000 for all 25 games.

What types of game do you go after? Easy an­swer: late-’80s Wil­liams pin­ball ma­chines, also known as the Sys­tem 11 era. Those are the games I grew up play­ing. They were re­ally heavy in the ar­cades into the 1990s, with games like The Ad­dams Fam­ily and Twi­light

Zone com­ing out. The late-’80s Sys­tem 11 Wil­liams games were ev­ery­where in the ar­cades – games like Pin­bot, High Speed, Cy­clone, F-14

Tom­cat and Dr Dude. I just love the orig­i­nal­ity of those games, and I much pre­fer them to newer games with li­censed themes.

Which of your games is the rarest? With­out ques­tion, the rarest game I have is Brom­ley’s Lit­tle Pro, which isn’t a true pin­ball game but what’s known as a man­nequin golfer. It was a re­demp­tion game that the company Brom­ley put out in 1990 or 1991 and it’s ba­si­cally a minia­ture golf game. There are only 250 of those games on the planet, and who knows if that many are still in ex­is­tence, but I’ve got one of them that’s fully work­ing and in good shape.

How do you main­tain ev­ery­thing? When it comes to pin­ball, I do all my own re­pairs. I try my hard­est to fix it my­self be­fore send­ing a part out to get it re­paired. I’ll ex­per­i­ment with do­ing cir­cuit-board work even if I don’t re­ally know what I am do­ing. I’ll look up what other peo­ple have done and ask for help and try to fig­ure it out. With pin­ball, I do com­plete restora­tions and I do all my own work. When it comes to videogames, I’ll do restora­tion work like cos­metic restora­tion – chang­ing stick­ers, paint­ing stuff and re­fin­ish­ing stuff. When it comes to mon­i­tor work I haven’t done a ton of work in that area, so I’ll do some mon­i­tor ad­just­ing, but if the mon­i­tor needs a cap job or some­thing a lit­tle bit more com­plex I’ll ei­ther send that out or have a friend who’s more ex­pe­ri­enced work on it with me. Does hav­ing a col­lec­tion of this size ever present any prob­lems? Not re­ally, be­cause I know that if it ever be­came a fi­nan­cial prob­lem I could get out of it be­cause I’m very thrifty with the pur­chases I


make. I try to go after games that are well priced so I know that when I’m done with it I can ei­ther get my money back or make some money. Not that I’m into the hobby to make money, but at my age and the amount of money that I make, I have to be care­ful not to re­ally burn my­self. But at any given time if I needed money and I had to sell a game, I know that I wouldn’t lose money on it. I’m re­ally for­tu­nate that I’m able to have th­ese awe­some games and share them with peo­ple, and it’s a lux­ury, and I don’t take that for granted. If things start to go badly, I know that they can be a fi­nan­cial re­source, but let’s hope that doesn’t hap­pen.

How much use does your col­lec­tion get?

Well, in terms of the games that are in our of­fice [at work], they get a ton of use be­cause we host a monthly gath­er­ing here called The Long Is­land Ar­cade Club, which is a free group that any­one can join on We also have the web­site LongIs­landAr­, which redi­rects to the meetup group. Kids to adults, col­lec­tors, un­col­lec­tors – we have a huge va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent peo­ple who join the group and come to the mee­tups and they see the games, they play the games.

Not one per­son that comes into this of­fice and sees our games has a neg­a­tive re­ac­tion. I mean, every­body’s eyes just light up. Clients of ours that see the games love to hang out and play them and chat with us. It brings them back to their youth, and it’s in­ter­est­ing to see who grav­i­tates to­wards the videogames and who grav­i­tates to­wards the pin­ball games, be­cause you never know what somebody’s into. Peo­ple joke about hav­ing all the games in the of­fice – like: “How do you get any work done?” But ob­vi­ously we do. The re­ac­tion that peo­ple have to see­ing the games is al­ways just im­mensely pos­i­tive and ex­cit­ing. It’s just joy. Is the coin-op col­lect­ing scene re­ally com­pet­i­tive, or is it har­mo­nious? It can be both. It’s com­pet­i­tive in the re­spect that when a great deal comes up, you know there will def­i­nitely be peo­ple fight­ing to get there, and you have to be ready to go at a mo­ment’s no­tice. I mean, I’ve seen a Craigslist ad, and within five min­utes of con­tact­ing the per­son I’ve hopped in the car with ev­ery­thing I need to move a game, be­cause there are cer­tain types of deals that pop up and you know that they won’t last. I mean, you have to be on it. You have to have no­ti­fi­ca­tions on your phone for Craigslist and Ebay, for ex­am­ple.

But it’s also har­mo­nious in as much as I’ve never met a group of peo­ple who are so will­ing to help each other out, es­pe­cially when it comes to stuff that you’re un­fa­mil­iar with. I’ve made some in­cred­i­ble friends from the ar­cade club, and when I do run into a prob­lem I’ve got friends that know the an­swer to it, and within a mo­ment’s no­tice they’re over there help­ing me fix it. So how do peo­ple around you, es­pe­cially peo­ple at your work­place who aren’t into ar­cade games, feel about your hobby? They sort of as­so­ciate it with my iden­tity, in a way – when­ever some­thing hap­pens in their lives that in­volves pin­ball or an ar­cade game, or they see a game out in the wild, they’ll get in touch with me. They’ll take a pic­ture with their phone and send it to me, or they’ll say to me, “Hey, a fam­ily mem­ber of mine is sell­ing a game – are you in­ter­ested?” I’ve ended up ac­quir­ing a bunch of games that way. What do you think lies ahead for your col­lec­tion in the fu­ture? I just bought a condo, so the ar­cade col­lect­ing has slowed down sig­nif­i­cantly. I’m not re­ally in the po­si­tion to go out and chase down games on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, and that’s also due in part be­cause I’m pretty much out of room at the mo­ment. So, as far as the im­me­di­ate fu­ture goes, be­fore I buy any­thing else, some­thing’s go­ing to have to go. And how long it takes me to sell a game is dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on how much I like the game. But some­thing’s gonna go, and some­thing else will take its place.

What keeps me mo­ti­vated is, with­out ques­tion, the ar­cade club – hav­ing the monthly mee­tups and get­ting a rush of en­ergy in here ev­ery month. You know, en­thu­si­asm for the games and peo­ple play­ing them – that kind of keeps me go­ing, and that’s def­i­nitely what gets me keep­ing them work­ing and try­ing to get new games in here for peo­ple to play. It’s a life-long pas­sion. If it’s lasted this long, it’s never go­ing away! [Laughs.]

What’s your Holy Grail game? I al­ready have it. I have prob­a­bly the nices­t­con­di­tion Pin­bot pin­ball ma­chine you’re likely to ever see. I bought it from this great guy named Steve from New Jersey who did an ab­so­lutely un­be­liev­able restora­tion on it, to the point where he ac­tu­ally re-screen­printed the play­field by hand and com­pletely re­stored the game to beyond like-new con­di­tion. He of­fered it to me at an un­be­liev­ably rea­son­able price given the amount of work he put into it. If there’s one game that’s never leav­ing the col­lec­tion, it’s that Pin­bot. It’s my favourite game, and it’s in un­be­liev­able con­di­tion. So I think I al­ready got the Grail.

Name Bren­dan Bai­ley Lo­ca­tion Co­ram, New York Three favourite coin-ops Pin­bot, Mar­bleMad­ness, Ban­za­iRun

Cab­i­nets in col­lec­tion 25

It’s not pin­ball, but it does at least have a ball in it: Mar­bleMad­ness


(Atari, 1984)

Keep­ing a col­lec­tion at the work­place en­sures plenty of in­ter­est from clients (and not a lit­tle dis­trac­tion)

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