The History


Stern Pinball, Inc. (“SPI”) is the oldest and largest designer and manufacturer of arcade-quality pinball games on the planet!

SPI offers a full line of commercial and consumer pinball games, merchandise, parts and accessories that are sold to pinball operators, enthusiasts and fans around the globe. The company traces its lineage to the early 1930s and the founding of modern pinball. Sam Stern, the father of SPI’s Founder, Chairman and CEO, Gary Stern, was part-owner and President of pinball pioneer, Williams Electronics. Williams and other innovative companies including Bally and Gottlieb formed the foundation on which the pinball industry was built.


In 1947, Sam Stern (left) visited pinball pioneer, Harry Williams (right), in Chicago

where, according to pinball industry folklore, Sam brazenly put his feet up on Harry’s desk and asked, “Why don’t you sell me your company?” Because of Sam’s success as an operator and distributor, it took Harry only three hours to decide to sell half of the company to Sam. Harry, an avid aviator, made his decision while flying his plane over Chicago.


During the 1950s and 1960s, Williams and other pioneering Chicago companies
introduced many new innovations to pinball including multi-player games, score reels and increasingly sophisticated playfield mechanisms and art packages.


The late ‘70s and early ‘80s saw the emergence of coin-operated video games.
As the coin-op market evolved, other companies acquired many of the existing pinball companies. In 1986, after the death of his father, Gary Stern helped found Data East Pinball, which was then purchased by Sega and re-named Sega Pinball. Gary subsequently bought the business from Sega and renamed it Stern Pinball, Inc.
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