VIDEO: Meet Paducah's Pinball Wizard, Todd Duff

Jul 25, 2014

Just a few of Todd Duff's 20 restored pinball machines in Paducah, KY.
Credit Lance Dennee

The sounds of ticking, clicking, dinging, and popping punctuate flickering and flashing lights that fill Todd Duff’s Paducah basement . The pinball collector began restoring pinball machines in the early 1990’s that led to his collection dating back to 1933.

“We call it our art collection,” said Duff. 

“…It is art, it is just a side of commercial art.

Duff owns his own Marketing company and is a magician.

“The goal was to separate a person from their coins and ultimately after they’re separated from their coins they think man that was a pretty good deal. You know, I want to do that again,”

The art isn’t just in what the gamer sees. Duff thinks the machines’ guts are their own form of art. Specifically, Duff is mesmerized by the color-coded bundles of wires that keep the bumpers bumping, bells dinging, and lights whizzing.  

Duff didn’t grow up playing pinball or video games. But, after restoring his first machine he purchased for $25 at an auction, he was hooked.

The challenge to fix a game that could include the smallest gap between electrical points keeps him interested.

You can tell by Duff’s collection of 20 pinball machines that he is dedicated to his craft and collection. But he says his collection is punctuated by a pinball machine he waited 15 years to acquire.  Duff bought a lot of machines  at an auction years ago and sold one of those machines to his grandfather. Not long after that transaction Duff learned of the collector’s value of that game. But, to his frustration, his grandfather had no interest in selling.

Fast forward 15 years later and he’s finally got the game back and added to his collection. 

Duff bangs out a game on one of his many machines, with a glass of wine and his wife, Laura in the background.
Credit Lance Dennee