About 10 years ago I bought my first pinball machine; a Gottlieb Shaq Attaq. At the time I was strictly buying arcade machines only, but this machine was a part of a deal and I had to take it. Lucky for me, it worked and I found it a new home rather quickly.
Not until about 5 years ago we started to buy and sell mainly pinball machines, and have been responsible for many first time pinball purchases. Some people had to have certain titles, some were on a budget, yet others wanted to put some sweat equity into a machine.
Although we don’t sell pinball machines as much these days (we rent and route machines now), we still get inquiries from people wanting to buy machines. And just because we don’t sell machines as often, it doesn’t mean we can’t point you in the right direction to find one.
The following tips are what we recommend to mainly beginner pinball machine buyers, but can work for just about anyone. Here we go!!!
1. Pinball Machine Budget
First and foremost, set a budget and stick with it! This is the first question we ask potential buyers when asked if we can get them a pinball machine. You would be amazed as to how many people we come across who have no idea what they cost.
Unless money is no object, we typically recommend a budget between $2500 and $3000. This budget level will get you some great machines that tend to hold their value well. Cheaper valued machines for the most part are cheap for a reason. If you are going to buy a pinball machine, don’t skimp and do it right.
Just remember, a pinball machine will fluctuate in price. Brand new in box typically decrease in value. Used machines can go up or down a bit, so we recommend to buy a machine to enjoy, and not worry about its investment value.
2. Spend Time Playing
We would recommend spending time playing as many different machines out in the wild as possible. If you have set your budget, get out and start playing to see what you enjoy.
Maybe you don’t like a certain manufacturer. Or maybe certain themes don’t do anything for you. There are certain games we just can’t get into, but others love. You won’t know until you get out and spend a few bucks trying.
One of the best ways to try many different machines is to go to a pinball show. For right around $20 you can play dozens of machines. If you’re lucky you may run into others who live close to you that are into pinball as well. Pinball people love talking about their favorites. Definitely take what they say into consideration, but ultimately play the machines and find out for yourself when deciding on a pinball machine.
3. New or Used?
Pretty simple, but definitely something to consider. We buy a lot of our machines brand new for one simple reason; they don’t break, for the most part. There are out of box issues that do arise with a new pinball machine, but are covered under warranty. We recommend finding a good distributor when buying new, we like Game Exchange of Colorado simply for their top notch customer service. And no we aren’t getting compensated for recommending them.
A used pinball machine can be a great purchase as well. Just understand that there is typically more maintenance involved. One of the best investments you can make when buying a used pinball machine are the cleaning products. We have been using Novus products for years and always satisfied. Some Microfiber cloths, rubbers, and replacement balls would be a great investment for any used pinball machine purchase.
4. Research Pricing
Luckily with the internet today, it is very easy to research going prices for items, and easily determine if they are over or under priced. Unfortunately not everyone takes advantage of this tool.
Typically with a pinball machine, the really under priced machines go extremely fast. A lot of collectors are constantly on the look out for under valued machines, so unless you are constantly on the look out, we wish you the best of luck.
When you find a potential machine, do a quick search on eBay sold listings to see what things have sold for. A Pinball Price Guide book isn’t bad to keep around as well. You can also look up pricing on Pinside as well to get a good idea of value range.
Using a combination of all of the above should get you a general idea of what a pin is worth.
5. Basic Maintenance
Owning a pinball machine can get expensive if you can’t/won’t do your own maintenance. New machines don’t have very much to do maintenance wise besides a basic wipe down every month or so on the play field as well as changing out the flipper rubbers.
Older machines can be a different story. We come across more adjustments issues, components failing, rebuilds, etc. on an older pinball machine. We suggest breaking down the entire top of these machines and thoroughly cleaning and waxing everything. You would be surprised how dirty these older machines can get.
We hope you enjoyed our pinball buying tips. As always, any questions please send us a message. If you are still unsure about buying a pinball machine, pinball rentals is always an option. And if you found this article helpful or know someone whom it may help, please share with them on social media. We appreciate it here at The Retro!