Dave Wolper has been col­lect­ing ar­cade hard­ware – mostly pin­ball, but with some well-known videogame cab­i­nets also thrown in for good mea­sure – for nearly 20 years, which means he’s watched the scene evolve from its early days as a hard­core hob­by­ist pur­suit to the mod­ern scene, which see sites such as Ebay strewn with op­tions for the as­pir­ing ar­cade ma­chine owner. Along the way, his knowl­edge of me­chan­ics has helped to keep his prized ma­chines in prime run­ning con­di­tion.

How did you get started? It was in the mid-1990s. Street Fighter II:

Cham­pi­onship Edi­tion and a Cap­com Fi­nal Fight were the first ar­cade ma­chines I had, and then I bought a Night Rider pin­ball in 1999. When my friend moved, he sold it to me for 25 bucks. That’s how it started. How much do you think you’ve spent on your col­lec­tion over the years? Well, back when I was buy­ing the stuff it was rel­a­tively cheap com­pared to what it is to­day. You know, it was only $1,200–$2,000 for a

Twi­light Zone back then. So maybe $20,000 to $25,000 on ev­ery­thing. Tell us about the rarest item you have in your col­lec­tion. The rarest would be the Break­shot and the Pin­ball Magic, be­cause I be­lieve they made

1,000 Break­shots and 1,200 of the Pin­ball Mag­ics. I got those at the Al­len­town Pin­ball Show. It was a pack­age deal for both. Those would be the rarest games I have.

What type of pin­ball do you look for? Fast-paced and noth­ing clunky. There has to be some­thing go­ing on all the time, and it has to be hard. If the game’s easy, that’s no good.

How do you main­tain ev­ery­thing? I’m a me­chan­i­cal per­son in gen­eral. The learn­ing curve was steep. Many blown-out tran­sis­tors [laughs], blown-out board prob­lems, and think­ing that the stripped wire on a pin­ball ma­chine is the pos­i­tive when it may not be. It could be – you think it’s a ground but it’s re­ally a pos­i­tive wire [laughs]. So, yeah, there’s been a learn­ing curve. I do ev­ery­thing my­self ex­cept re­ally tech­ni­cal stuff. When it gets deep into the boards and there are prob­lems that you just can’t find and you need equip­ment to find it, then I’ll send it out. What kind of re­ac­tion do you get when peo­ple see the col­lec­tion for the first time? I get the jaw drop at first be­cause you don’t see pin­ball ma­chines out in pub­lic very of­ten any more. In terms of keep­ing the ma­chines alive, I use a game at least once a day – once in the morn­ing or once at night. Maybe eight to ten min­utes per game, or it might be three games in ten min­utes, de­pend­ing how hard that I suck at play­ing [laughs]. Out of the 30, 40 pins I have, if you play one game once a day, they only get used 12 times a year, which isn’t re­ally much. The peo­ple that are my age come down and they see Street Fighter II and games like Ter­mi­na­tor 2 and they run to those. Twi­light

Zone, The Ad­dams Fam­ily – it’s al­ways like, “Ooh, where did you get th­ese games? How much did they cost?” [Laughs] And I ex­plain to them that, when I bought them, they didn’t re­ally cost that much. You know – mint­con­di­tion Ter­mi­na­tor 2: $1,200 [laughs]. Do you get a lot of peo­ple who’ll see a game and say, “Oh, I re­mem­ber play­ing that in an old pizza par­lour!”

Mostly the ar­cade games. Max­i­mum Hang Time,

the bas­ket­ball one from when Den­nis Rod­man was play­ing – I’m not a sports guy; I just played a few of th­ese games when I was younger, so that’s why I bought them. Lethal En­forcers was in ev­ery 7-Eleven and deli around.

Fi­nal Fight, the Mul­ti­cade, and the Street Fighter games – peo­ple come down here and go right for those, for nos­tal­gic rea­sons. How has the coin-op col­lect­ing scene changed in re­cent years? The pin­ball used to be a hobby – you know: buy one, fix it up. It was cool to have the ma­chine. But I think to many peo­ple it’s almost like a business now – and I un­der­stand why – where you try to squeeze ev­ery dol­lar you can out of the game to make your next pur­chase. It may have hurt some peo­ple, be­cause salaries haven’t in­creased at the same rate as the in­crease in pin­ball prices re­cently. If you’re new to the hobby and you look at a Twi­light Zone or an Ad­dams Fam­ily for $6,900 dol­lars, or Dr Who or Who­dun­nit for $3,500, it gets real pricey if you want to have five games in your col­lec­tion. You know, it’s almost 20 grand for five games, whereas I’ve spent 20 grand on 30 games. What keeps you mo­ti­vated to en­sur­ing that ev­ery­thing stays in good shape? Like I said, I’m re­ally me­chan­i­cal. So, bring­ing things back from the dead, main­tain­ing things like small lu­bri­ca­tion points, and sock­ets that have gone bad, and con­nec­tions that have gone bad is some­thing that I like to do to keep my­self busy. Some peo­ple will hunt for a hobby – maybe they’ll go bowl­ing on Wed­nes­day nights – and my hobby is to keep the game alive, and keep it in the con­di­tion that it was meant to be in when it was out in the field. Do you see this con­tin­u­ing as a hobby for­ever? Do you think about the fu­ture? Be­cause I have most of my games, the hunt for the game – the late nights of driv­ing hun­dreds of miles to get a game – has slowed down. By the time I’m 60, my vi­sion will prob­a­bly have changed to where lean­ing over and try­ing to solder some­thing in the bot­tom of a play­field will be a much harder task then it is now [laughs].

What would be your Holy Grail game? Hmm… I’ll tell you, I’ve got all the games I want so far. Of course, there are games out there a col­lec­tor would like to have just for the ‘I have it’ fac­tor – not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause the game’s great or even good. I’ve heard of a lot of th­ese games, such as Haunted House, which sounds right up my al­ley be­cause lots of things go wrong with it. Sup­pos­edly it’s hard to keep it in won­der­ful shape. But I have a Star Trek:

The Next Gen­er­a­tion, which is enough to take care of – talk about bro­ken parts!


Name Dave Wolper Lo­ca­tion Cen­tereach, New York Three favourite coin-ops JudgeDredd, NoFear:Danger­ousS­ports, WorldCupSoc­cer

Cab­i­nets in col­lec­tion 38

NoFear:Dan­ger­ous Sports (Wil­liams, 1995)


(Bally, 1993)

Own­ing a col­lec­tion of pin­ball cab­i­nets of this scale re­quires not just ex­per­tise, but plenty of spare parts

Orig­i­nal flyer for Judge

Dredd (Bally, 1993)

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