Our next Trading Card Spotlight features John Robertson who is displayed on card number 3413, from the Superstars of 2020 Collection. John is an extraordinary pinball restorationist. He has been repairing pinball machines since the 1970’s. He is passionate about his work and hates call backs so his shop tries to ensure that game repairs last a long time so they do not need to be looked at again. His expertise has been documented in many magazines and he loves to share his tips about fixing a pinball machine. He is the president of John’s Jukes’ Ltd., located in Canada.
Which company makes/made the best pinball machines and why?
Depends on when. In the 1930s Bally and Rockola, 40s Genco made some interesting machines, 50s, 60s, and early 70s Gottlieb ruled. Late 70s - Williams and Gottlieb through the mid-80s then Williams until they closed. Now Stern and Jersey Jack make the most solid games - that are easy to keep running and they both have good technical support.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
No, had actually never noticed them before!
What are your opinions about today’s generation of pinball? How do you compare them to older, classic machines?
Classic machines tend to be (but not exclusively) not tied-in. In other words, they are usually a new idea or presentation of an idea that captures people’s imagination for many years. Classic games are not short term, the following tends to build over time and the appreciation of the machine grows with it. Classic games are always fun to play, the artwork is catching, and the sounds and feel of the game submerges you in the idea that not only can you beat this game, but it wants you to really try! There are not a lot of classic games, but even now some games are coming out that shall assume that mantle as time goes by. However, you don’t often see the game as classic until after the production run is finished and the games have all been sold…Twilight Zone was an example of a sleeper classic. When it came out operators didn’t like it and distributors were selling the game below cost to get them out of the way of the next incoming machine. However, it has grown to be up in the stratosphere of collectable games - and is priced accordingly. And it was tied in to the old TV show. And then there was The Addams Family, another tie-in, a bit of sleeper as I recall when it came out, but quickly popular. But what about High Speed and High Speed II - The Getaway? Both games are classic and both were popular from the beginning.
Now, what modern games have captured the interest of folks for more than a few years since they came out…. you know I can only think of the remakes. Most games now are tie-ins and I think that has stifled creativity. I’d like to see new games that were about old rock and roll bands or space movies - even though I like playing them - are any of these going to become classics? I’m not so sure…
What was the best era for pinball gaming in your opinion?
Any time is good for pinball! It has always been an interesting game since they first came out in the 1930s. The progression of mechanical marvels, and the striking artwork has always appealed to me since I first got involved back in the 70s.
In your opinion, are there enough or too little pinball expos and conferences held each year?
Is it possible to have too many shows?
What’s your opinion of the console pinball games (Xbox, PlayStation) that recreate the original
machines onto the TV screen?
Boring. Sorry, they do not appeal to me.
Did you agree on the pinball ban in New York City on the 1970s? What is your opinion on this topic?
I thought pinball was banned in NY prior to the 70s and Roger C. Sharpe had his court case to overturn the ban in the early 70s. I am all in favor of pinball for entertainment so appreciated Roger’s work!
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Creative. The card idea is clever.
What is your favorite pinball machine past and present and why?
Well, I have several games I can’t pass up playing - no single one special. Recel’s LADY LUCK, Gottlieb’s COUNTERFORCE, William’s TWILIGHT ZONE.
Are you fan of the new digital pinball machines and what makes them better or worse than the standard machines?
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I have never met Walter, he sent me an email asking if I would like to be on one of his cards and I agreed.
I like games of all eras. The only problem with some modern games is they are way too bright - you can’t follow the ball. No point!
If you could only own one pinball machine, what would it be and why?
Probably TWILIGHT ZONE
What does it take to be a pinball restorationist?
Time! Some skill, a lot of research.
Do you prefer playing pinball alone or against someone and why?
Always more fun playing with my staff or friends!
Do you learn anything from playing pinball?
Only that I enjoy playing many different games and meeting folks who like chasing the silver ball…
Are pinball machines good for relieving stress?
Yes, but running a pinball shop can create stress! Mostly it is a lot of fun.
Where do you see the pinball world in the next 20 years?
I hope to see more one-off designs. the ability of people to make their own games from scratch is going to really open up the game. Better 3D printing machines will also change the world with parts that can only be imagined now…I’ve been in the pinball world for over 40 years and in many ways, it just gets better!