What is covered in this article: (Post questions below)
In this article, I’ll be explaining several aspects about a pinball machine that I believe are incredibly important items that add or take away value of a game, from collectability to the condition of the playfield, backglass, electronic boards (for modern solid state games), and all around general condition of the cabinet. Granted, there are even more factors that determine a pinball machine’s value… please read all of the factors to determine the value of a pinball machine (below). After reading the article you may want to get a Free appraisal of your pinball machine. Possibly for sales purposes, divorce or even insurance reasons (image upload is required).
For the illustrative purposes of this article, I’ll be using a recent Craig’s List ad I found for a Bally’s Eight Ball pinball machine (not the most sought after game, especially this one!). You’ll notice the asking price on this ad is $850 (Please see screen capture image below). Remember this isn’t a Medieval Madness, Monster Bash or even a Twilight Zone.
A Little About The Game.
Before contacting the owner, I checked the 2013 Mr. Pinball® Pinball List & Price Guide and found that the listed value is set at $850.00. According to the price guide, the listed value describes a pinball machine with a good playfield (missing minimal to no paint/ink) and a playable/working game. PLEASE NOTE: If you would like me to look up your game’s book value, please post a comment below and I will get back to you with that information.
Yet, the Craig’s List ad shown has NONE of these! It reads, “eight ball pinball game that needs serviced [sic] all bumpers and flippers worked when full game was powered up all lights worked but game won’t actually work now and cant find key to door.”
(Let me translate) The truth: This owner’s game does “Light up”, meaning the playfield lights turn on. But the machine is DEAD! The game does NOT coin up or play. The displays do not light up (that usually denotes board issues). To use this analogy: Basically it’s a junk car with no working engine but wants to sell it for book value! So knowing all of that, I offered $350 cash (sight unseen, except for these small pictures) for his game. At first he turned me down… but after about a month, the owner realized it wasn’t going to sell, and that I was giving him a more than fair price for the condition of his game. In fact he received several other offers for exactly $350.00 from other collectors as well.
The owner of this Eight Ball Pinball machine even mentioned that there is the exact same game on ebay for $1,095.90. I was kinda rude (more like full of pride) and said that I was the author of I saw the same pinball machine listed on eBay for lots more money. You’ll notice three things about that previously mentioned eBay auction… One: It hasn’t sold for that price (and it won’t because it’s way over-priced)! Two: The over all playfield condition is far superior to this owner’s game! Three: The displays have been tested and are in working order. Why is this so important? Because each Bally replacement display costs $54.95 plus tax EACH! (or $219.80 plus tax for all 4 displays) for this game!
I decided to take the almost two hour drive to go and inspect the game, and the condition it was in. Before I left, I questioned the owner about “how does the playfield look?” He replied with… “It’s in great condition! It has only minimal wear on the playfield”. I really had to take his word on that seeing that he wasn’t providing me more detailed pictures then the one’s he posted on Craig’s List.
Once I arrived, we went down to the basement to look at the game. I quickly realized that that funky colored green on the tiny pictures wasn’t a shadow or something wrong with the image. It was where someone handpainted it to cover up a HUGE bare spot of wood right in the middle of the playfield.
Pictures that I took of the pinball machine
The images that I took really show off the game’s damage. Look at that playfield! It’s been “touched up” poorly! In order to restore this game you’ll have to buy a new playfield. Just so happens that Marco Specialties sells an Eight Ball playfield for a grand total of $595.00 (PLUS shipping and handling)! Plus this game had some hacks on the electronic boards that would need to be fixed! Honestly, this guy would have to pay me to take the game!
The many things to take into consideration to determine a game’s value!
There are many other things you should also take into consideration when deciding on a pinball machine’s value. Below is a brief list, in random order, that may depreciate or enhance a game’s value.
Game Title – All games are NOT created equal. Some are just more fun to play and have a nicer art package. This often makes a specific title more desirable or sought after than others.
Condition – Probably the single most important contributing factor to value in almost every item. It’s the same with a pinball machine. A game that is HUO (Home Use Only), NIB (New in Box), mint condition and fully working will demand a higher price over a damaged, nonworking, hacked or poorly touched up coin-operated arcade game.
Appearance – If the game isn’t NIB, is it clean? Or at least well maintained? This is the over all look and feel of the game. If playfield paint/ink is missing, regular maintenance was more then likely neglected on this game. Replacing the ball with a non-corroded ball from time to time is mandatory. Dirty games, or games that smell of smoke, typically DO NOT command the same price as a nice clean, polished, and shiny game, whether it’s working or dead.
Enjoyability – Is the game entertaining to play or dull? Many of the most sought after games are wanted because they are funny and entertaining to play. Speech calls, playfield toys, etc, keep people coming back to play time and time again.
Desire to sell – This pertains to the owner. How badly is that owner willing to sell it/ how badly does the seller need cash? If the seller really needs to sell the game quickly, then good deals can be had. However, sentimental value or unwillingness to sell usually increases the game’s “Perceived Value”.
Trending – Popularity of a certain title can come and go. With the release of HULK, that old Atari game Jumped up in price during the release of the movie. Yet to me, the game is still dull. Events like this and others like this can often affect the game positively or negatively.
Invested – Amount of money and time the seller has invested in the pinball machine matters greatly. Let say I picked up the above stated eight ball pinball machine for $200. I install the Bally Ultimate MPU for $200. Dismantle, clean and touchup and clear coat the playfield, or replace it with a NOS (New Old Stock) play field for $600. Then redo the pinball machine’s cabinet (stencils cost around $119.95) making it as good as new, maybe even better than right off the Bally line! The game would command at least $1,700 price tag to just recoup a small portion of the time I spent working on the game. That is $600 for well over 200 hours of work!!! That is well below minimum wage! I must be working CHEAP! Basically, I’ll be upside down on this game seeing that the current going rate is only $850. It would be an extremely hard sell!
Reputation – The seller’s reputation can also effect a game’s price! There are high end restoration places that command BIG BUCKs for their games and get it. Then there are fly by night places that hack a game to get it to work and “flip” the game to make a quick buck.
Warranty – Some companies offer a 6 month to a full year warranty on parts and labor! This adds value to a game and often commands a higher price as well. Quite often this is great for brand new pinball machine owners who don’t know how to fix their games. Because sooner or later a pinball machine will break.
Interested in finding out what price is listed in Mr. Pinball Price guide?
Post a comment below, leaving the game’s name and general condition of the game. I reply to all questions.
This article was written by Aaron Van Noy who has been a pinball collector for over 15 years. He is the owner of WeBuyPinball.com (buying pinball machines for over 14 years accross the nation). He also owns sellagame.com (Sell us your coin-operated arcade games). He is also the owner of NorthCarolinaPinball.com.