And another one. And another one. And a few hundred other ones. Most of them are stored, stacked eight high in his sheds. All of them are wonderful - vivid pieces of Americana he hopes to someday put on exhibit, complete with historical context and other scholarly accouterments. Plus, of course, a constant supply of nickels and quarters. His pinball machines might end up in a museum, but they won't be museum pieces. They'll be played.
"I'm really focused on establishing the museum," Silverman says, "so it can go on beyond when I'm here. I'm trying to save a piece of history that is disappearing."
Silverman's wife of 25 years, Mimi, must be the most tolerant woman in the world. "My wife is an extremely giving person," he says. "She knows I'm always here, that this was something I was interested in as a kid. It's an outlet for my creativity. People have different ways of blowing off steam."
The Silvermans have a 22-year-old son, Zackary, who is autistic. The machines, with their constant sounds and flashing lights, help to engage him. "Having different outlets for him is very important," Silverman says.
Strangely, Silverman confesses to not being much of a pinball wizard himself. "I'm an actually mediocre player, and I hate that," he says. "I have done everything to try to become a better pinball player. I practice all the time. I just don't get any better."
To prove the point, Silverman approaches his favorite game, a 1996 whirling dervish of a machine called Big Bang Bar, from the Japanese company Capcom. One of only 15 prototype machines made (it was never mass-produced), this is Silverman's pride and joy; a pinball version of the interstellar bar scene from "Star Wars," complete with exotic dancing aliens, wide-mouthed frog creatures and a computer-generated voice box that can be pretty insulting when it wants to be. He was once offered $40,000 for it, but refused to sell.
Silverman slips a quarter into the coin slot. "Player one," the machine asks, "didn't I see you in a lockup?"
He pulls back on a spring mechanism and shoots his first ball into the game. It bounces about harmlessly for a few seconds, amassing just enough points to be embarrassing, before heading straight down the middle of the playfield, just out of reach of the two flippers.
"Wow, that didn't last long," says a bedeviled Silverman, as the machine makes the sound of a toilet flushing. Of such abuse and frustration is pinball love born.
To see the museum
For now, visits to David Silverman's National Pinball Museum are by appointment only. Call 301-384-3802 or go to nationalpinballmuseum.org