We caught up with Pinball enthusiast and entrepreneur, Tommy Floyd to learn a few things about Pinball machines plus tips, especially for first-time buyers, on how to make your purchase worth every penny
♣ Knowing Tommy Floyd
I was 10 years old in 1974 when I first walked into the local Pool Hall in Powell River, British Columbia. The place was full of rough n’ tumble MacBlo Mill types and tough teens from the Townsite. Through the haze of cigarette smoke and “Bennie & The Jets” blasting from the juke box I spotted the now infamous “Fireball” backglass surrounded by a group of jean jacket hoods. As I stood there watching them play in amazement, I couldn’t help but think about my older brother’s change jar hidden in the back of his closet. I immediately ran home, grabbed a pocket full of “freeplay” and was officially hooked.
Fortunately for me, we were being raised by my Grandmother who worked 6 days a week at trucking company clear across town. I was able to spend after school and weekends feeding my addiction at “Lefty’s” (named after the one armed owner). Of course, this didn’t go over so well when I all but exhausted my brother’s silver stash and tried using “quarter sized” slugs leftover from the punch-out press at the Mill. I was caught “red handed” by Lefty himself after screwing up the coin box on “Jive Time”. He eventually allowed me to play for free after I agreed to make restitution by helping out around the place.
In 1979, I joined my first rock band and instantly had access to a much wider variety of pinball machines set up in bars & nightclubs across the country. Space Invaders, The Black Hole & Gorgar kept me busy during often boring afternoon soundchecks and rehearsals.
Throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s I toured extensively www.TommyFloyd.com and was always on the hunt for that special pin hiding in a new city or town. However, as time went on, it was apparent that a swift decline in the number of arcades & bars was afoot. Fortunately for me..….again, it was about this time I moved from performing, to managing hard rock & metal bands and spent a lot of time travelling throughout Europe. I was thrilled to find that silverball was alive and well with headbangers & geeks alike. Retro “Americana” was celebrated by nostalgic overseas collectors & club owners, and this included pinball.
After retiring from the music biz in 2006, I bought a “Counterforce” by Gottlieb. This was one of my all-time kick back in the day because of the 7 drop targets and descending invaders style time limit. Since then I’ve collected many personal fave’s including Nugent, Space Invaders, Rolling Stones, and Space Shuttle.
In January of 2011, I launched Flipper Freaks Pinball Club www.FlipperFreaks.com located in the Fraser Valley, BC and founded Fraser Valley FlipOut now www.VancouverFlipOut.com (Canada’s largest annual pinball tournament) in September of the same year. Nitro Amusements was established in January of 2012 and has since grown to become Western Canada’s #1 pinball destination www.NitroPinball.com.
♣ Tell us something interesting about Nitro Amusements
NITRO AMUSEMENTS INC. is a full service pinball coin-op sales & support business located in Mission City, BC, Canada. Just 65 kilometers East of Vancouver, 10 miles North of Sumas, WA.
We have a vast network of suppliers & collectors we can call upon anytime to source a hard to find title. As well, we are authorized Canadian dealers for Heighway, Dutch, Planetary/CGC, Jersey Jack & Stern Pinball.
We don’t sell pool tables, football or dart boards….and don’t even get us started on pachinko!We’re experts in pinball. That’s what we do…that’s all we do
♣ How did Nitro Amusements started? What motivated you?
I launched Nitro Amusements in 2012, shortly after I noticed a huge need in Western Canada for a strong pinball supplier and quality repair facility. I was also running the Flipper Freaks Pinball Club at the time and it was clear there was a lack of good solid resources for pinball in the area.
♣ How do you acquire the machines you sell or use for rental?
We purchase machines from pinball companies in the US, Holland & the UK. Stern is currently the largest, followed by Jersey Jack, Heighway, CGC & Dutch. As well, the vast majority of our used inventory comes from trade in’s or direct purchase via collectors.
♣ I’m sure you have a wide range of pinball machines, but among all the machines you have, what are your personal favorites?
Well, I’m a sucker for classics like Gorgar, Space Invaders and F-14. As far as the new machines coming out, JJP has set the bar for technical achievement. Jack has absolutely changed the landscape of pinball forever. Because of this, I’m a huge fan. I’m also blown away by many of the releases available now from Stern like Game of Thrones & Metallica…..as well as future titles slated for release like Heighway’ s “Alien” and Dutch Pinball’s “The Big Lebowski”
♣ Which is more viable for nitro amusements, selling or rental? Why do you think so?
All of the above. We have a wide variety of customers that range from casual players, to collectors to seasoned tournament pro’s. Sometimes a rental is the best fit for someone who has limited space and wants variety by changing the pin out every 3 months. Of course, collectors and operators usually buy new in box.
♣ What makes a Pinball Machine sellable?
The initial attraction has always been theme. But the game has to be a great player as well. Theme gets your attention. A fantastic game with great shots and a killer ruleset will keep you interested.
♣ Do you have any Pinball Machine that you don’t like or had a bad experience with?
I think we’ve all had the one pin that drove us crazy. For me it was Gottlieb’s “Black Hole”. When it was released it was problematic and unreliable for operators. Years later when they started making their way into personal collection, the ground connections had to be completely redone as well as a variety of other technical flaws corrected. I still love the game. Just hated the problems it was released with.
♣ If you were to create your own Pinball Machine, how would it look like? What will be your peg/inspiration?
I’m a huge fan of artist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. I think “Rat Fink” and some of his other legendary misfit creations would make a fantastic theme for pinball. Bright colours, comical characters and all out fun theme to release!
♣ Why do you think people are still hooked with pinball machines even after so many years and with all other gaming machines available today?
Pinball is a physical game. It’s also social. The interaction between friends & family is unique with pinball. It’s not the same as with video games. Even a great player can have a frustrating game and come back wanting to redeem his or herself.
♣ Out of all the Pinball Machines ever created, what do you considered the best? (even those you haven’t seen before).
It’s hard to narrow it down with all of the great releases available now. But if I could only own one pinball machine, it would likely be “Medieval Madness”. Great playing game from top to bottom, with humorous call-outs!
♣ Any Pinball Machine player you admire or give a shout out to?
Yes! Our good friend Robert Gagno (Canada’s #1 Player) who regularly visits us here at Nitro. You can learn a lot watching him play.
♣ Do you have any tips/advice for first time buyers of a Pinball Machine? Like what factors they should consider?
Always do your homework. Pretty much everything there is to know about any pinball machine is available on the internet. If you buy used, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Especially if you’re buying privately and there is no support offered. Always check the boards in the back box for signs of acid damage or burned connectors. Look under the playfield for obvious fixes and burned coils. Make sure the flippers, displays & lighting are all functional. Know the market value.When buying new, (it’s a big investment), love the game! Play it first, if at all possible. If not, watch videos online before you decide. Make sure there is a warranty offered and customer support.
Any words to all Pinball Machine fanatics out there?
Our company is proud to announce the launch of the Vancouver FlipOut Pinball Expo September 23-25, 2016. Players from all over the world are welcome to attend. We’ll also have 100+ machines, workshops, speakers, tournaments, vendors …. everything pinball! More info can be found at www.vancouverflipout.com Hope to see you there!
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