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Reading this FAQ from an archive somewhere? There may be a more recent version at the official web site, " http://cascade.mit.edu/pinball.html " ------------------------ Most recent update: January 18, 1999 Removed "Pinhead Classified" from list of periodicals. Sorry to see it go, pinchick! :^( Added info about buying last issue of Pinhead Classified. ------------------------ This is the first half of the collectors' FAQ for rec.games.pinball, giving pointers (both on-line and on paper) for more information about the world of pinball, and explaining how to buy your own pinball machine! The second half of the collector's FAQ includes helpful techniques and parts suppliers for keeping home pinball machines up and running. ========================================================================= ==================== On-Line information sources ====================== ========================================================================= How much is that pinball machine worth? Don Shoemaker's "Auction Results" at " http://www.xmission.com/~daina/auctions/index.html " indexes two thousand recent sales, with price, condition, location, date of sale, and notes about the individual machines! The "Flipper Cowboy" pages, " http://www.xenosgroup.com/folks/terryc/ ", contains a list of pinball historians and a variety of historical essays about pinball machines. Maintained by Terry Cumming. Randy Fromm's Amusement International Magazine is a web-based magazine for the coin-op industry. Reviews of the latest machines, tons of technical tips, and "Yellow Pages" and "Classified" listings. Heavy on the graphics, but very worthwhile! " http://randyfromm.com/ " There's the "Pinball Pasture" Web site, maintained by David Byers. It's located at " http://www.lysator.liu.se/pinball/ ". The URL for the "Pin-Wizard" Archive, covering league and tournament info, is " http://www.glue.umd/edu/~dstewart/pinball/ " Daina Pettit maintains a major pinball page at " http://www.xmission.com/~daina/pinball.html ", including photos, pinball classifieds, repair tips, and a registry of collectors. Two Bit Score Amusements, a pinball repair shop, has a Web page at " http://www.twobit.com/ " Steven Craig maintains an up-to-date list of pinball machines and their owners (the PAPS list), so that other net'ers can find people who have a specific game. " http://www.visi.com/~scraig/PAPS/PAPS.html " Federico "Wiz" Croci maintains a "FlipperPage" in Italy, at: http://tilt.it/ Star Tech Journal ("The Technical & Informational Monthly for the Coin-Operated Entertainment Industry") keeps a detailed web page at " http://www.cyberenet.net/~startech " Harold Balde maintains a slick web page at " http://tilt.largo.fl.us/hbalde/ " Marco Specialties provides an auction calendar and a section for "for sale" and "wanted" ads, as well as selling parts, books, and supplies. " http://magenta.com/marco " Russ Jensen wonderful articles online, mainly on the history of pinball, including topics such as the evolution of the thumper-bumper and The Year That Could Have Ended Pinball! " http://members.aol.com/rusjensen ". John's Jukes offers pins for sale and a random collection of technical tips. " http://www.flippers.com " The Pinball Owners Association in Cambridge (the _real_ Cambridge, not the upstart one I live in!) keeps their page at " http://ds.dial.pipex.com/poa/ ". Coin-Op Classics magazine has gone out of business, but their web page is still worth a visit. " http://www.coin-opclassics.com/ ". The Pinball Heaven specialises in selling 1990 and later Bally and Williams machines. " http://www.PinballHeaven.co.uk " Also, the FAQ editor (that's me!) has finally joined the Web! You can find my personal web page at " http://www.mit.edu/people/sao/home.html ", or tour my pinball machines at " http://cascade.mit.edu/pinball.html ". ========================================================================= =============== How do I buy my own pinball machine? =================== ========================================================================= Frequently Asked Question number one: "How do I buy a machine?" Buying a pinball for home use has a lot in common with buying a car: It is a big investment, the item requires proper care, and the business is filled both with honest, decent people and sleazeballs. ========================================================================= =============== Decide what sort of machine you want ================== ========================================================================= Games available for home purchase fall into three categories: Used electro- mechanical, used solid-state, and new (all new games are solid-state). Which is right for you depends on what you want, how much you're willing to spend, and whether you ever intend to sell or trade the game. Think a bit about why you want a game. If you want it to play, chances are that you want a solid-state game. They play faster, and the software has features that could take you some time to uncover. If you're looking for something to tear apart, down to the bare wood, and build back up again (only better), buy an electro-mechanical. Doing the fix-up on a solid-state game wouldn't be as fruitful--At some point, you'd be staring at an IC-laden circuit board, and that's way beyond cleaning contacts and tightening springs. Aside from knowing why you want a game, you should zero in on which game you want. The market is fat with choices, and there is a fair chance that, if you look in the right places, you can eventually find what you want. But you can't go into the market saying, "Oh, just find me something you think I'll like." It goes deeper than issues of color and whitewalls or no: You will fare best if you have a wish list of games you are interested in. How much will it cost? It depends on the popularity and rarity of the game, the condition of this particular machine, and whether or not you live in California. (Not a joke ... Prices run higher in The Golden State!) A semi-functional older solid-state machine can be had for as little as $100, while a new game fresh from the factory runs about $3500. Typical price for a game that's seen a couple years of use would be $400-$1000. An electro-mechanical game can run anywhere from $150 to $750, with real collector's items (like Humpty Dumpty) significantly more. If this is your first machine, it's highly recommended that you get a working one! Picking up a cheap junker may be tempting, but you'll never get it going without experience, specialized equipment, and a stock of spare parts. Try to buy from someone who'll deliver it in working condition, and stand behind it for a while. Ask for references! ========================================================================= ======================= Go looking for one ========================= ========================================================================= The path a pinball machine travels typically looks like this: Manufacturer--->Distributor--->Operator--->Collector or junkyard Unless you have very deep pockets, you won't be buying your machine from the manufacturer or distributor. Operators are the ones who put machines out in the field and maintain them...They're usually willing to sell used machines once they stop pulling in the quarters. Go to your favorite machine in the field, and ask who owns it. If the location doesn't, there's probably a sticker on the machine pointing you to the operator. Another way to find operators is to hit the Yellow Pages, and call up the companies listed under "Amusement Devices." First ask them if they sell machines for home use, then ask for the specific machines you're looking for. Part II of this faq also includes pointers to several sources for used pinball machines. These are typically large operators. You can also buy machines from collectors. In fact, this is pretty much the only way to go to find an Electro-mechanical. You probably aren't going to find an EM in the field, or with an operator. For both EM's and solid-state machines, the little ads in periodicals like Game Room are an excellent source of leads. (See list of periodicals below) Also, you can try to find something locally. Buy every newspaper you can, including the little "nickel ads" type, and check the classifieds. Keep doing this for months. Takes time, but good deals occasionally pop up. You can also find a "broker," a sort of super-collector in business to buy up old used games, fix them up, and resell them. Again, you can reach these people through the publications listed below. Also, believe it or not, check with a dart supply store! I know of two in my area (Boston) which sell used pins, and at least one Norwegian store does. <a name="auctions"> </a> ========================================================================= ================== Buying pinball machines at auctions ================ ========================================================================= Another source for machines is the gaming auctions. This isn't the best place to buy your first machine, but with a little knowledge it can be a good deal and a lot of fun! Auctions pop up all over the US. The collector's magazines, like "pinGame journal" or "Game Room", list upcoming auctions, and you can also find listings at web sites such as: http://www.GameRoomAntiques.com/show.htm http://www.empireamusement.com/supplies.html http://magenta.com/marco/auctions.htm http://www.usamusement.com/schedule.html You can also download a list of recent auction results from: http://straylight.cso.niu.edu/pinball/auction-results.html These auctions can include video games, change machines, slot machines, juke boxes, crane machines, skee-ball, beer lights, pool tables, etc., as well as the pinball machines...Just about everything from the arcade or amusement arena! Machines available at auctions tend to be those that have stopped generating enough revenue for an operator to keep them on location. However, they can range from New-In-Box (NIB) to 30+ year old EMs. The biggest thing to note is that all items are AS IS, and the only guarantee you get with an auction machine is the guarantee that SOMETHING will be wrong with it! If you find a machine that you are interested in, you should examine and play it to determine if everything works. Examine the playfield, backglass, and cabinet to determine if the amount is wear is excessive for the age of the machine. Check to see if the manual/schematic is included. For a solid-state, try to run the machine through the self diagnostic tests. Look inside the machine and under the playfield for suspicious items such as cut/spliced wires, burnt components, missing components, etc. When you find one (or more) machines, determine what your maximum price will be. It's easy to get caught up in the bidding and go higher than you want. Realize that you may be bidding against the owner of the machine, who's trying to drive up the price of the machine. (The issue of buybacks appears as semi-regular topic in r.g.p.) There are several things that you should take to the auction. These include: 1) 100 foot, heavy-duty, three prong extension cord. There will probably be several outlets available, but all are not accessible from every machine. 2) Tools - This should include sockets and/or wrenches to use to remove the leg and head bolts for transport. 3) Blanket, towels, cardboard, rope - Used for transport, or to place the playfield glass on during inspection. 4) Food and drinks - The auctions can be quite long. Snack bar food is the other option. 5) The afore-mentioned list of past auction results. This will give you an idea of what the machines have sold for in the past. Although each machine's unique, having a baseline like this will help you be a more informed buyer. ========================================================================= ======================= Publications ========================= ========================================================================= There are many periodicals good for getting background information on the pinball world and for contacting other collectors. pinGame journal is probably the best one for home pinball collecting. Game Room Magazine covers general home gamerooms (soda fountains, jukeboxes, etc) with a healthy dose of pinball included. Other magazines are largely "for the trade"; i.e., arcade operators and their ilk, though it's fun to have a look from the other side of the backglass! ------------------ Pinhead Classified ------------------ Pinhead Classified has gone out of business (Jan 1999), but the 100-page final issue (No. 29) is available for purchase. "There's only 7 pages of display ads, and we've left out the classified ads this time cuz I didn't feel like typin' 'em in--they woulda been stale anyway. This issue is packed with stuff written by subscribers, the way a fanzine should be. There's even less white space than usual. It's always been just for the fun of vintage pins, so, as usual, there's nothin' about any new games." Rates: Thru Jan 22, '99 -- $31/US; $36/Can; $38 Holes. Issues No. 1-28 are available for $7/US; $9/Can; $10/Holes. First class mail included. Checks must be made out to Atomic Groove. Atomic Groove Attn: PC Back Issues 1945 "N" Street, Hole 111 Newman, CA 95360 -------------- pinGame journal -------------- 31937 Olde Franklin Drive, Farmington Hills, MI 48334 Phone: (810) 626-5203 message/fax URL: http://www.pingamejournal.com Written by pinball collectors. Includes info about new games in development, as well as articles on finding, reconditioning, and playing older games. Subscription includes one free classified ad per month. Often includes cool plastics and flyers. 12 issues--$34 (add $20 for First Class). Canada $38, Europe Air: $67, Pacific Rim $77, $40.00 (all overseas surface--very slow and unreliable.) Sample issue: $4.00, Information: Free. ----------------- GameRoom Magazine ----------------- PO Box 41 Keyport, NJ 07735-0041 Phone: (732) 739-1955 (Fax 24 hr): (732) 739-2834 Email: email@example.com A monthly hobbyist publication, covering pinballs, slots, jukeboxes, Coke machines, arcade videos, etc. Equipment and parts advertising. Steady supply of pinball articles. Successor to the defunct "Pinball Trader." $30/year for US, $50 first class; $35/year Canadian (surface), $55/year Canadian (air); $53/year European(surface), $87/year European(air); $57/year Pacific Basin (surface), $93/year Pacific Basin(air). Accepts credit cards. Sample issue $5.25. URL: http://www.gameroommagazine.com ---------- Play Meter ---------- PO Box 24970, New Orleans, LA 70184 Thick, slick trade journal, mostly aimed at arcade owners and operators. Provides uniformly glowing reviews of the latest games. Covers crane games, kiddie rides, etc., as well as video and pinball. $60/year US & Canada, $150/year overseas. Sample issue $5 USA, $10 foreign. URL: " http://w3.thegroup.net/~aim/pmhome.html " -------------------------------------------------- Distributors Research Associates (DRA) Price Guide -------------------------------------------------- 11522 State Road 84, Suite 223, Davie FL, 33325 Voice: (954) 423-4000 FAX: (954)423-4005 $85/year, 8 issues (quarterly with mid-quarter updates], USA check/MC/VISA Price listings for conversions, pins, bowlers-shuffles-misc., video games, jukes, pool tables, other vending equipment currently in active trading, although phonographs [jukeboxes] and vending go back as far as 1975. ------ RePlay ------ P.O. Box 2550, Woodland Hills, CA 91365 Another monthly trade magazine with the same content as Play Meter. $65/year US, $85/year Canada & Mexico, Foreign $220 (air) $80 (boat) sample issue $6. --------- Coin Slot --------- 4401 Zephyr St., Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-3299 A quarterly covering all collectible coin-op machines. $40/year. URL: " http://www.hoflin.com/Coin%20Slot.html " ----------------- Canadian Coin Box ----------------- NCC Publishing, 222 Argyle Ave., Delhi, Ontario N4B 2Y2 Canada. $38/year, sample issue $3.50. ------------------ Coin-Op Newsletter ------------------ P.O. Box 2426, Rockville, MD 20852 A bimonthly hobbiest publication. Covers antiques and coin-op collectables. $24/ten issues. ----------------------- Coin Drop International ----------------------- 5815 West 52nd Avenue, Denver, CO 80212 a large-format newsprint magazine (11x17) covering electromechanical coin-op amusements. The most likely place to see old horse race machines, strength testers, etc. Pinball articles are just as likely to cover bingos or pre- flipper machines as they are the more conventional EMs with flippers. $15/year for US, $21/year for Canada, $40/year foreign. Sample issue $3. All funds must be paid in US dollars! Visa/MasterCard accepted. Fax subscriptions: (303) 431-6978 ========================================================================= ======================= Manufacturers ========================= ========================================================================= Alive and flipping: Sega Pinball Inc. (Includes Data East) 1990 Janice Avenue Melrose Park, IL 60160 tel: 708-345-7700 fax: 708-345-7718 toll free: 800-KICKERS URL: " http://www.sega.com/central/history/history.html " Williams Electronic Games Inc. (Includes Bally and Midway) 3401 North California Avenue Chicago, IL 60618 tel: 312-961-1000 URL: " http://www.pinball.wms.com " Now sadly out of business: Premier Technology (Includes Gottlieb and Mylstar) 759 Industrial Drive Bensenville, IL 60106 tel: 708-350-0400 fax: 708-350-1097 toll free 800-444-0761 Capcom Coin-Op 3311 N. Kennicott Arlington Hts, IL 60004 tel: 708-797-6100 URL: " http://capcom.ms.wwa.com/ "