During my recent visit to the USA to attend the Free Play Florida 2016 event, I was fortunate enough to be able to check out some other local arcade locations, including this gem of a place tucked away in the town of Delray Beach on the Atlantic coast of the Sunshine State. Housed in a 9,000 sq ft building, the Silverball Pinball Museum has over 150 pinball and classic video arcade machines on display. The good news of course is that all are playable.
Silverball opened just a few months ago, and replicates its sister site further up the Eastern seaboard in Asbury Park Boardwalk, New Jersey. As well as the machines, it serves food, hosts parties and has a fully stocked bar. Visitors pay a one-off fee at the door and are free to play everything for the duration of their stay. The New Jersey location was opened seven years ago, and judging by our visit at Delray Beach, clearly that expertise has served the owner well, as this is a slick, well-run museum with some great machines on display.
It got me thinking that having a place like this on your doorstep not only gives you an opportunity to play games that you might not otherwise ever see, but it also almost negates the need to actually own any machines. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big pinball head, but the cost of entry to ownership is something that I simply can’t justify. But with places like this, that host some of the best and rarest pinballs in the world, there’s an argument to say that you really don’t need to bother. It is so accessible, and at a very reasonable cost; pinball ownership by comparison just seems an unnecessary folly.
The building is located off the main strip and has plenty of free parking on site:
Update 30/12/16: Since my visit, the building has had a paint job! (Pic via Instagram user Maltinej):
What is clear when you walk through the doors, is that the owners of Silverball not only know their stuff, but they are hugely passionate about pinball. We were greeted at the door and given a tour of the place along with tips about where the rarer machines were located. The condition of everything is excellent, and from what I could see, everything was in working order. Plenty of staff were on hand if you had a problem with a stuck ball, and everybody was friendly and welcoming from the moment we arrived:
The machines are located across two floors – the view from the atrium above the main floor gives you a sense of just how impressive the pin line up is:
What a fabulous sight. Above every machine is a card that details the history of each machine: the manufacturer, the release date and table designers are all detailed:
There’s too much to list here, but you will find a multitude of pins from every era that you’ll be familiar with. The machines date back from the 30s, and there’s a huge number of classic electro-mechanical titles, as well as tables from the 70’s, 80s and 90s:
Speaking personally, I was able to play many tables that I hadn’t seen in the flesh since I was a kid. It’s a fabulous time capsule that will resonate with everyone with even a vague interest in pinball.
Alongside all this great history are more modern tables, dating right up to the present time. We were able to play Jersey Jack’s most recent release, The Hobbit:
But it’s not just all about pinball. Silverball has plenty of classic video games to get your teeth into too. Further round the mezzanine are a slew of video titles for you to play:
Centipede, Ms Pac-Man, Asteroids, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders are all on freeplay. And scattered around the museum were other video gems to be discovered. Stunt Cycle (in stunning condition), Space Invaders Pt II, Missile Command, Millipede, Pole Position are all pictured here:
And some real interesting older games like this Chicago Coin Speedway, that pre-dates the arrival of the video age of arcade machines:
Glorious looking thing. It was pretty basic by modern standards, but still fun to play, and you could imagine players seeing this as cutting edge on its release in 1969. Check out this gameplay video to see how it plays:
Lovely stuff. More video cabinets here:
I don’t know much about the history of Skee-Ball as a game, but it’s clear it was a key part of American popular culture dating back to the early 1900s, and machines are still built and sold today. A quick bit of research reveals that the game is still heavily played throughout America, and several leagues are in place in many states. Silverball has eight lanes – again all on free play. These date from the late 50s:
I’m hooked. What a great game – especially if you’re playing head to head.
Silverball Pinball Museum is a must-see if you are ever in the Florida area. You can easily lose an afternoon (as we did) just walking around playing and learning about the machines.
The team here have done a great job in creating a great looking space with an atmosphere that allows players to get hands-on with some truly amazing pieces of history. Delray Beach itself is a pretty cool town too. Here’s a short video with more detail about the place:
More information about Silverball Museum can be found on their website here, including a complete inventory of the games you can play on the floor. If you get an opportunity to visit, don’t hesitate – I recommend it highly!
Thanks for reading this week.