By Heinz Peter-Bader
A collector once said: “When you buy your first pinball machine, it is fine with your wife. When you buy your second pinball machine, she asks “Why? You have one already”. After number three and four she believes you must be crazy. But after the fifth pinball machine she proudly tells her friends that her husband is a collector.’
Guenter “Pindigi” Freinberger from Austria owns 493 pinball machines. Well, 492 actually, after my visit…
Freinberger’s pinball museum is located inside a storage depot some 80 km (50 miles) west of Vienna and nothing indicates that it contains one of the world’s biggest pinball collections. Historic machines from the 1930′s up to top modern models are all on display, in top shape and ready to play.
But for a pinball aficianado the most fascinating part is the second floor storage room. Hundreds of pinball machines are stored edgewise, with their backboxes dismounted, side by side. Some of the most precious ones are wrapped in plastic film to protect them. It feels like a journey across centuries walking through an endless maze of pinball history.
With the rise of video games, the end of the big pinball era began in the late 1990′s. If it was not for collectors like “Pindigi” Freinberger, most pinball machines would probably have disappeared for good, smashed like in The Who’s musical film “Tommy”, removed from bars and amusement halls, destroyed and forgotten.