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How To Choose the Best Backglass

Replacement For Your Pinball Machine

  All of us start as beginners at one time or another.  Owning your first pinball machine is no different.  Pinball collectors are no different.  When I was much younger my personal pinball collection grew to 116 and all of them were Electro- mechanical, EM’s.  Backglass replacements are necessary for one reason or another.  The one you may need could be a rare backglass and difficult if not impossible to find.  Settling for the best is always a given.  Who wants a used, worn out old backglass especially after you’ve reconditioned the playfield and stenciled the cabinet?  Having the best looking backglass shows off everything else.


  So, the first thing to take into consideration if it is not a NOS (New Old Stock) backglass, is if it is a licensed reproduction.  Licensed reproductions are individually approved by the pinball manufacturer licensor.  A licensed backglass reproduction will follow the stringent manufacturer’s requirements established by the manufacturer and proudly displayed.  Such items will clearly have the manufacturer’s copyrights or trademarks assuring you that it meets the manufacturer’s seal of approval.  Another way to confirm licensing is to check the website footer for license authorizations and manufacturers logos.  Don’t be fooled with a fake knockoff or pirated backglass reproduction.

How To Identify the Wrong From

the Right Methods

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  The method used for reproduction of backglass is another way to find the best backglass replacement.  There are two primary methods for creating a pinball backglass.


  The common method that had served the industry for decades is screen printing on glass.  Like all custom screen printed backglass they too are susceptible to screening imperfections.  Such as, among other things, a dirty screen that doesn’t lay the ink down evenly or perhaps chips in the cut glass used for printing to.


  The other method is digital printing on demand, on acrylic.  This method allows you to select the backglass image and have it printed and shipped to you usually in a couple weeks.  One benefit of acrylic is that it is 30 times stronger than glass and virtually unbreakable.  The image is printed to the back of the acrylic in a similar way as the screen printing is done.  Acrylic is also a third of the weight of glass making it less expensive for shipping cost and much less likely to break during shipment, like glass.  Unlike screen printing, on demand printing also allows for rejecting any flaws in the printing process.  Guarantying a perfect backglass reproduction.  

There are other reproduction methods for pinball backglass to select from.  Here’s more to be knowledgeable of when purchasing a backglass replacement for your pinball machine.

  Screen printing and prints on acrylic are the methods that you will find licensed by manufacturers.  Other methods will typically use glass and acrylic as well. However, they are not licensed.  These methods often utilize shortcuts and less effective processes.  There is also no guarantee that your backglass will be up to manufacturers standards or on quality material.  For instance, printing on clear vinyl and then laminating the vinyl to acrylic.  This method will often cause air bubbles to be trapped between the vinyl and acrylic, due to the vinyl stretching during this process, when laminating.


  Another method is restoration, the action of returning something to a former condition.  It is the process of repairing or renovating a work of art, to restore it to its original condition.  This is done with airbrushing or hand painting with a brush to fix damage.  Digital printing over the screen-printed image is yet another way of repairing the backglass you may have sent to the restorer.  There is no guarantee that you will be satisfied with the outcome of airbrushing or digital printing over an existing original backglass.  Some backglass damage is beyond repair or restoration.  And airbrushing or digital printing on old, damaged glass is not advisable or practical. 


  Yet another backglass reproduction method is a translite image.  Printed on vinyl and coated on the reverse side with a white ink that illuminates across the back of the image from a lit lamp behind it.  The translite is adhered to the reverse side of plastic.  It is inexpensive and does not look authentic.  If you are looking for authentic and beauty you should be looking for licensed backglass reproductions on glass or acrylic.

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Closing the deal on your backglass reproduction

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  You may be asked to be involved with examining proofs for your backglass or providing measurements for production accuracy.  This is often necessary to help verify the accuracy of your reproduction image.  Purchasing your new pinball backglass should be fun and not a crap-shoot experience.  If you know you’re getting a licensed reproduction, then you will know you won’t have to pay for it until it is ready to print.


  Shopping for your backglass will be fun.  And if you find a good deal on a backglass you weren’t looking for, then by all means, buy it.  It’s fun to have a collection of backglass.  They make beautiful wall art, and they are collectible.  You might just purchase a rare backglass and use it for trade or sale.  Happy hunting for backglass and happy pinball playing.



Dick McNicholas





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