View Full Version : Help me buy a pinball machine

11-23-2004, 04:50 PM
I'm currently in the market for a pinball machine for my parents. I'm looking to spend $1000-$3000. I've found at least one desireable theme from each of the six main manufacturers, so my window for purchase is pretty wide open.

So what is important? My dad is a tradesman, and should know enough to make simple electrical repairs a(I hear these things break down a lot). Me not knowing much about electonics myself, I don't know just how difficult repairs are.

Is there a preferred type of distributor for these machines (online, straight for mfgr., buying second-hand from arcades)?

Is new way better than used?

Does one manufacturer make more quality products than others?

What other questions should I be asking?

11-23-2004, 04:58 PM
Regarding where to find one, I'd check eBay. I have a friend who's a huge Incredible Hulk fan, and he bought a Hulk pinball machine on eBay.

If you have used eBay at all, you know what to look for to find a reputable seller. Plus, you could probably pick up a classic pinball machine for a lower cost than many other places.

11-23-2004, 05:05 PM
Here (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=13725&item=6132031 883&rd=1) is an example of one on eBay. They had over 600 machines listed when I just checked.

11-23-2004, 05:15 PM
hope that senor choppy responds to this

11-23-2004, 05:38 PM
If you go to www.superauctions.com (http://www.superauctions.com), you will see that there is an auction in the Milwaukee area on November 27th. Not sure if this is a possibility for you. I live in Dallas and went to a few of these auctions. They have a lot of pinball machines and arcade games. Sometimes you can find them for pretty cheap, and sometimes somebody really wants one of them and a bidding war erupts. I never actually bought anything from here (I wanted an NBA Jam, but I always had to bid against somebody and wasn't willing to pay more than I should have), and I got mine off Ebay. But since there is one in your area this weekend, I figured I'd let you know about it.

11-23-2004, 06:16 PM
If you want to go the non-online route:

Go to a local bar with pinball and look for a sticker that identifies who might operate/fix the machine and give them a call. In Seattle, that was a guy I knew and he was super knowledgable about the machines and always had some in his basement he would fix up and sell. There might be some college kid in Madison that does something like this and can give you good info about what kinds of games to look for, stay away from, etc.. or have one to sell.


Senor Choppy
11-23-2004, 08:15 PM
The best place to find nice, home-owned or at least well taken care of machines is through Mr. Pinball classifieds (http://www.xmission.com/~daina/classified/). You'll find all the major machines listed and in a variety of conditions, depending on what you're looking for, (from beat-up route machines to home-owned only).

As far as repairs go, they do break down from time to time no matter how well shopped a machine is when you get it. They are incredibly complex compared to something like an arcade game, and unless you enjoy fixing something for the sake of fixing it, you'll want to have the number of a pinball tech that can take care of repairs (or better yet buy a machine that someone will warranty or at least provide service for a price).

A few places not to buy from: Ebay and Super Auctions. Buying sight unseen from Ebay when you're new to this is not a good idea unless the machine is local. Shipping is expensive and can cause problems if not packed properly. Super Auctions has terrible machines that have been abused on routes and usually have some kind of problem that isn't apparent to first time buyers. The commission they charge is extremely high and they end up being horribly overpriced.

For manufacturers, Williams makes the best machines by far. I would avoid Data Easy, Sega, Stern, etc. The themes look good but the gameplay is usually crap.

Some good machines for people that don't want anything too difficult but is fun right off the bat (and I'm guessing your parents probably fit in this category): Theater of Magic, The Addams Family, Tales of the Arabian Nights, and Circus Voltaire, with Theater of Magic #1 by a wide margin. These are all top notch games, although they might run you a few hundred dollars more than 3k.

When you buy something, you'll want to a machine that's just been shopped with rubbers replaced, playfield waxed, that sort of thing. Ask the person you're buying from what he's fixed, replaced, etc. Buy from a collector, they're usually fanatical about the hobby and usually sell better games than dealers do.

If you have any questions just send me a PM.

11-23-2004, 09:31 PM
Man, that is just a ton of great info. Thank you. The link is exactly the kind of place of looking for.

Quick follow-up question:

unless you enjoy fixing something for the sake of fixing it,

[/ QUOTE ]

That sounds like pop. Do you know the learning curve on pinball machine repair? He's a carpenter, but has plenty of ingrained electrical knowledge. Is he a 100 page manual from being able to fix the most frequent problems, or is there specific equipment and knowledge that comes along with the pinball machine repair trade?

Ian J
11-23-2004, 10:07 PM
Some good machines for people that don't want anything too difficult but is fun right off the bat.... The Addams Family....

[/ QUOTE ]

Oh yes, countless hours and quarters have been spent as a result of my parents' bowling alley getting the Addams Family in.

Senor Choppy
11-24-2004, 08:17 AM
For starters, I know very little about pinball repair.

Is he a 100 page manual from being able to fix the most frequent problems

[/ QUOTE ]

I think this is probably the case. If I had to guess, I think 90% of the problems you encounter can be fixed with decent deductive reasoning skills (ie, a bulb is burnt out, so you trace it back to the spot underneath the playfield, check the connection, try a different bulb, etc.). The other 10%, I'm not sure.

I bought a Twilight Zone fairly recently and when it was delivered it had 5 or 6 problems almost immediately. All but 1 I could've fixed myself (although it was warrantied so I didn't have to), but one I don't know if I could've ever fixed myself without at least a few hours googling for info online (during one specific mode, the right flipper button would kick out all the balls in the trough into play for no apparent reason).

I don't think pinball repair is that difficult to learn, but I wouldn't like to buy something without having the option of paying someone for repairs if worse came to worse.

nicky g
11-24-2004, 08:45 AM
"I bought a Twilight Zone fairly recently "

I hate you.

11-24-2004, 09:04 AM
I have no experience with any of this but I was curious about the book thing you asked so I checked on amazon and got this (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0917510135/qid=1101301302/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/002-3209218-5397623?v=glance&s=books). Seems to have good reviews.