Wayne Schmidt's Addams Family Arcade (My pinball machine and how I set it up.)

 
Buying an Addams Family (TAF) Pinball Game

Purchasing an Addams Family pinball game is a challenging experience. They're so highly rated and so much fun that few people are willing to part with them. For the same reasons, most pinball enthusiasts wants one so when a game comes on the market they get snapped up very quickly. When I began my search for an Addams Family game on January 2, 2007, a two-hour Goggle search couldn't turn up a single available game. Three times over the next two weeks I sent emails to people who'd placed ads on the Mr. Pinball Classifieds within the previous day or two, only to learn that the games had already sold. Restoration companies had long waiting lists that I had to pay 10-percent of the typical asking price of $4,500 to get on... without knowing what my position on the list would be beforehand. (The expense and wait are worth it because a professionally shopped pinball game will most likely provide years of trouble-free service. However, I had the itch bad and wanted a game right away.)

(A comment on the TAF market: When I conducted my search there were 16 advertised for sale on the Mr. Pinball Classified site and as far as I could determine each and every one of them had already sold. I also checked the listing for Twilight Zone pinball games. There were over 50 for sale. Since there were more Addams Family games made than Twilight Zone games, this suggests that even though many people rate TZ games as better than TAFs, their owners aren't as tight-fisted about letting them go and buyers aren't scrambling for them nearly as fast. The price range for a TAF in January, 2007 ranged from a high of $8,000 for a professionally restored TAF Gold to $1,900 for an un-shopped original TAF with several playfield problems including minor magnet burns. The average was $3,500.)

Then I received an email from Chris Calwell, one of the three sellers I'd already emailed, telling me that the sale had fallen through and the machine was once again available if I still wanted it. I wrote back immediately saying that I did and within two days was in my van driving the 800-miles to pick up the machine.

The trip was long and hard but having my own Addams Family pinball game was well worth both the hardships and the expense.

 
My TAF Arcade Center

Once I got the game home, I decided I wanted to set the game up in its own special place to showcase it. The perfect location was in the small library alcove off one corner of the billiard room. (Please click on BILLIARDS to see what the rest of this room looks like.)

The alcove is much darker than the picture above portrays. The two low-power spot lights in the upper right and left corners of the photo focus just enough light on the upper playfield to bring out the field's colors without washing out the game's lights. The framed poster on the left explains in detail all of the playfield targets and the one on the right explains the mansion room rounds. These posters are very helpful when visitors new to the game want to read how to play it. The book shelf on the lower right has been completely devoted to documents about this game, copies of both Keefer's and Dominy's playing guides, the manual that came with the game, a list of all the quotes used in the game, two books on repairing/restoring pinball games, and the TOP3, TOP4 and TOP7 DVDs on pinball repair. This shelf also holds a repair kit filled with all the electrical items most likely to burn out as well as the usual cleaning and waxing supplies. Out of sight under the playfield is a step stool for my grandchildren to stand on so they can play. On the upper left is a whiteboard used to record everyone's highest scores so they can keep track of how they are doing. It's a great little pinball alcove and everyone enjoys it.

 
Set Up

Setting up the game was easy: just put on the legs and plug it in. It fired right up and in seconds I was happily flinging balls all over the playfield. After a few minutes of this I forced myself to stop and level it properly. One would think all that needs to be done is use a bubble level to get the game perfectly horizontal and a protractor to approximate the 6 to 7-degree playfield tilt. That's what I did and discovered that the game didn't "feel" right. The balls seemed to roll down the playfield too slowly and there appeared to be a slight tendency for balls to track to the right. I found the solution to both problems at the local Home Depot store.

This little inclinometer only cost $4.00 and solved all my problems. I showed me that in spite of double checking the tilt angle with a regular bubble level and protractor, I'd only set it up to 5 degrees. With the inclinometer I quickly adjusted it to a perfect 6.5 degrees. Equally, this tool showed that the table was horizontally out of level by 1.5 degrees. After correcting these problems the game played completely differently and much better (but not necessarily easier.)

The increased accuracy of the inclinometer turned up several potential problems with using it. First, this was a mass produced item and I couldn't be sure if the inclination scale had been accurately leveled relative to the bottom. Checking this can be difficult because few homes have a truly horizontal surface on which it can be tested. Fortunately, my pool table was professionally leveled and tested so I have great confidence that it is level. Using it as a reference, I discovered that the inclinometer's indicator was off 0.5-degrees clockwise. I adjusted for this when setting the levels on the pinball game and was amazed to learn that this level of accuracy actually is required. Half a degree is enough to noticeably change the play of a game, in particular how balls ejected from the swamp and electric chair bounce off flippers held in the "up" position. The second problem came from placing the inclinometer on the playfield. I had to be careful not to place it where one end might be on a lens or mylar and thereby offset the level.

 
About This Particular Addams Family Pinball Machine

The serial number on the backbox of my TAF is 20017-I042850 and is the same all the serials numbers I could find on the junction boards and ICs throughout the game. This tells me the majority of the game is factory-original. Also, the playfield glass still has the Bally logo on the corner so I doubt it's been replaced. There's a label on the inside of the coin door that says, "Inspected by T Grove. Equally, there are two inspection stickers under the metal retainer that keeps the cover glass from sliding off the playfield. One says it was inspected by M. Sonera and the other that it was inspected by #1... whoever that might be. (Inspector #1 certainly gets around. I've found his tags on everything from shirts to automobiles.) The underside of the playfield also has an inspection sticker, this time with the name S. Zivulovic. The only date I could find was stamped on the end of the plywood base of the playfield. It is May 20, 1992. (One of my grandsons insists that we have a birthday party for the game on this date every year. Something tells me this kid's going to become a hard-line pinhead.)

Changing the batteries reverts the game to factory set defaults, which in the case of this machine turned out to be in German. From this I assume the game was manufactured for the German market. Later I noticed that most of the maintenance labels behind the backglass and under the playfield were printed in German. However, the pricing labels in the coin door say, "100 - Pulse Para Devolver," which means 100 pesos, Press to Return. This suggests the game originally went to Germany before spending time in Spain. This was later confirmed by the third owner, Mr. Chad Keller, who told me via email that he'd purchased the machine as part of a bulk shipment consisting of 8 original and 9 gold TAFs from Spain in 2001. Mr. Chris Calwell purchased it from Mr. Keller in December of 2002 and I purchased it from him on January 30, 2007. Chris decided to part with it because he was moving to a new house and only had room for six of his games. He selected the Addams Family game to sell because although he loved it, his main interest was in restoring older pinball games.

The game came with an upgrade subwoofer that's powerful enough to shake the house's foundations when multiball starts or you shoot into a super jackpot. It also has Uncle Fester (or Lester, if you prefer) in the electric chair. The game plays very well and appears to be in good condition considering it's 15 years old and spent at least 10 years in commercial use. There are no magnet burns on the playfield and although some of the plastic lens show cracking or blistering around their edges this doesn't seem to effect play at all.

 
The Future

While I feel an obligation to preserve this machine for future generations, I have several playfield and internal modifications I plan to make that I hope will make the game even more fun to play than it already is. To see what these changes are, please visit my ADDAMS FAMILY GAME MODIFICATIONS page. Be assured that any and all changes will be reversible and any components removed will be preserved in case some future owner wishes to restore the game to its original condition. Some of the changes I plan to make will be to change the bookcase to look like a bookcase, making the electric chair look like the real thing instead of a lump of beige oatmeal, covering Thing's box with something that more closely matches the box featured in the TV series (I don't think Thing used a box in the movies) adding lights to the playfield to highlight the ramps and swamp, and so on. I also play to upgrade the TAF Gold software.

Sometime in the distant future the playfield will need to be completely stripped and refinished and all the mechanical components rebuilt. I'm preparing for this arduous job by collecting articles from people who've done it and carefully studying them. One option I'm exploring is developing the techniques to make a completely new playfield base from scratch including new artwork and lenses. I've assembled the nuts-and-bolts knowledge of how to do this and look forward to beginning tests to see if it can be done. Look for a new page about it on my site in the near future.

 

 
(Click on main site to browse 70 other topics ranging from exotic kaleidoscope designs to the strange world of lucid dreaming. There you will also find several other pages dealing with the Addams Family pinball game.)