TESTIMONY. “I can recognize the brand just by the smell!” Jean-Luc Michaud, the Creuse second-hand dealer who fell for pinball machines

TESTIMONY. “I can recognize the brand just by the smell!” Jean-Luc Michaud, the Creuse second-hand dealer who fell for pinball machines
TESTIMONY. “I can recognize the brand just by the smell!” Jean-Luc Michaud, the Creuse second-hand dealer who fell for pinball machines
Published on 05/21/2024 at 6:30 a.m.

Written by Jean-Martial Jonquard And Marielle Camp

They reigned supreme from the 1960s to the 2000s in bar corners: pinball machines. Rarer today, they are the passion and specialty of a Creuse second-hand dealer, Jean-Luc Michaud, who restores and sells them… When he is not playing with them.

He says it himself : “Jean-Luc’s world is flea markets, antiques, curiosities, but above all pinball machines!”

In his flea market located in Saint-Hilaire-la-Plaine, in Creuse, it is difficult not to immediately spot the passion of Jean-Luc Michaud, with, on the ground floor, a gigantic room exclusively devoted to electric billiards, as they used to say.

Note for the anecdote that if the word flipper comes from English (to flip, return or bounce), we do not say pinball, but pinball in the language of Shakespeare or that of cowboys !

However, it was in France, in Paris precisely, that Jean-Luc Michaud was infected, almost 38 years ago. While he was studying there, obtaining a law degree, he came down from his maid’s room one day to go have a coffee at the bar downstairs.
The boss needed hands to load a pinball machine… He never left them for the next three years, even learning how to repair them. He jokes again: “I have two licenses, one in law, one in pinball.”

Mechanical, electronic, talking card, multi-ball pinball machines, old or recent, rare item or mass produced (more than 20 000 for some bestsellers), he loves them all, and even more, lifting their hood to see what’s hidden there.

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Delve into the depths to bring pinball, Jean-Luc Michaud’s great passion, back to life.

© France Télévisions

“Underneath, it’s fantastic! In the mechanics, there are contacts, open or closed, with coils to change. For the electronics, I learned on my own. They all have a particularity, they all have a smell. I can recognize the brand of pinball machine just by the smell!”

Although there are now more than fifteen of them, all in working order, the vein is not about to run out for Jean-Luc, although manufacturers are rare.

We certainly find fewer and fewer of them, but I am lucky to have a large network. There are some in cellars, in attics. You should know that in the heyday, there were several operators per department, who could own up to two or three hundred!”

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Jean-Luc Michaud has some rarities, produced in less than two hundred copies worldwide, like this game, not quite pinball, dating from the 60s (behind R2-D2).

© France Télévisions

A specialty like that of Jean-Luc Michaud is rather rare, so obviously the clientele comes from far away. Sometimes, with a particular pinball machine in mind, but often to leave with another. Pinball chooses you, he says. But even more satisfying for the second-hand dealer, he sees his clientele getting younger.

“Initially, I sold to people aged 50 to 70. But lately, it’s mainly young people under thirty, and who play with family. And that, I’m really delighted!”

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When he’s not repairing or selling them, Jean-Luc Michaud still has fun with his pinball machines.

© France Télévisions

Finally, when he sells them, because on certain models, after having refurbished them, Jean-Luc does not disdain to keep them a little, to benefit from them himself. After all, as he says,pinball is my life.”

We’re not going to blame him for tilting !

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