Seattle pinball museum part of silver ball revival

By: DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP The Associated Press
February 4, 2014 Updated: February 4, 2014 at 8:25 pm
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photo -  In this Dec. 16, 2013 photo, Charles Martin, right, poses for a photo with his wife Cindy, center, and their son Michael, left, on the main level of the Seattle Pinball Museum in Seattle. The Martins own and operate the museum, which allows visitors who pay the admission fee to play unlimited rounds on the machines, which range from the 1960s to modern-day games. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
In this Dec. 16, 2013 photo, Charles Martin, right, poses for a photo with his wife Cindy, center, and their son Michael, left, on the main level of the Seattle Pinball Museum in Seattle. The Martins own and operate the museum, which allows visitors who pay the admission fee to play unlimited rounds on the machines, which range from the 1960s to modern-day games. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) 

SEATTLE - For $13, you can play pinball until your arms fall off at Seattle's working pinball museum.

The two-story storefront in Seattle's International District is filled with games from every era from the 1960s to today.

The museum, which houses about 50 or so machines, started in 2010 as one couple's obsession and grew to be something they wanted to share with others, or as Cindy Martin puts it: a good solution when they ran out of space in their garage.

"Any serious collector will tell you collecting these machines is an incurable disease," said Charlie Martin, her husband and business partner.

They keep the equipment fixed up - with some help from other collectors - offer brief historical information and "fun" ratings on small cards above the games and sell snacks, beer and soda to visitors from around the world.

The Seattle Pinball Museum is one of a handful around the country celebrating a pastime that seems to be in the midst of revival.

In addition to the look back at pinball through the ages, the 1,900-square-foot space also features a glimpse of the future. Last month, four one-of-a-kind artist-made machines were on display and - of course - were playable.

The Martins own dozens more pinball machines and constantly move machines in and out. The oldest machine in the building was made in 1963, but they have a few from the 1930s they keep at home.

The Martins continue to buy the newest pinball machines on the commercial market and just installed a state-of-the-art Star Trek game. Many of their machines are limited-edition models, but game enthusiasts are also likely to find a favorite machine from their youth.

The museum, which isn't a nonprofit, averages about 15,000 visitors a year. It isn't a profitable operation, although Charlie Martin said they're "holding steady." Both Charlie and Cindy Martin also continue to work full-time jobs.

It's smaller and less well known than the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas or the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, Calif., but Charlie Martin said they're happy staying small. "We're very comfortable with where we're at right now," he said. "We don't want a mob scene."

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