Jersey Jack – April 2024


The Value of Trade Shows

by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball &

Is it worth it to attend a trade show? As I’m writing this, people who were still on the fence about going to this year’s Amuse­ment Expo were asking themselves that question. It’s the same one I’ve asked myself since “MOA” in 1975. Back then, it was worth it because my boss paid for me to go, so it was a free trip, and it also meant that I had a few days without games to fix!

It was held Oct. 17-19 at the famed Conrad Hilton in Chicago. The show really opened my eyes to the industry, with thousands of people in attendance in a packed hall. Rush Street was pretty fun at night, too. That first trade show hooked me…it checked all of my boxes.

Tradeshow Floor Blur effect Jersey Jack 0424 AdobeStock_232421247The show was at the Conrad Hilton until 1982 when it moved to the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, which was another cool venue. By then, it was called the “AMOA” show. Eventually, they held the event in other cities: in 1991, we were in Vegas, in 1992, Opryland in Tennessee (I skipped that one), then California, Texas and New Orleans. In 1996, it was back to Texas, then Atlanta, and then back to Vegas.

In 1990, I went to my first IAAPA Expo, taking the train to Washington, D.C., for the day. This may surprise some readers, but there were NO amusement games at that show back then. It would be another year or two before our industry exhibited product at IAAPA. Even without games, the show gave me a lot of ideas. At the time, I was operating an arcade in Brooklyn called Nelly Bly Park, so I hung out with them at the show.

Listing these exhibitions doesn’t really do justice to how many I’ve attended since that first one in 1975. If I had to guess, I’ve traveled to over 300 industry trade shows, pinball festivals and related industry events, either as an attendee or exhibitor. My memories of setup, breakdown, dinners, meetings, moving logistics, free passes and so much more are a mountain of industry history in themselves, traversing periods when business boomed, busted and boomed again.

I can only laugh and smile at my many memories: of deals done and deals lost, of games bought and sold, and people I’ve invited to join me at the events, and of many people I knew who are no longer walking the trade show floors (perhaps now only as ghosts).

Attending a show can be pretty costly and from the exhibitor standpoint, it’s wildly expensive regardless of whether it’s held in a union or non-union town. (I won’t bore you with the breakdown of all that’s involved.) What’s most important is that you get the most value from the money you spend, and to do that well, you need to set plans and goals you want to achieve in advance. Don’t be one of those people who travel to a show and complain afterward that they didn’t get much bang for their buck. What you intend to accomplish doesn’t even need to be complicated. Some have told me their only plan is to be at the show so people in the industry know they’re still alive! (My guess is that walking the aisles makes them feel alive, too.) Regardless, a plan is a plan!

As for me, I love the shows and go to most of them, and do so all around the world. Our industry has amazing products that people love, and it’s great to be there to show them off. There is much to see and learn if you open yourself to that, embracing opportunity, building new relationships and strengthening existing ones. No matter how you look at it, I believe it’s still valuable to go to a show because you never know what opportunities will present themselves. In other words, I was there and I hope you were, too.

Jack Guarnieri started servicing electromechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999,, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011, he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at [email protected].


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