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What is a Pinball Machine Worth?

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Contents

1 Prices

The value of a pinball machine depends on a lot of factors. A totally restored Medieval Madness might sell to a serious collector for well in excess of $10,000. A pinball dealer might offer $5000 for the same machine a week later. A collector might want $7,500 for one. A tire-kicker might offer $3000 because the machine is "not original" and so on.

Price is dependent on a variety of factors, such as desirability, availability, location and condition. Guides, like Mr. Pinball List, are available that track the price on an annual basis, but these are a rough guide at best. Sites like Pinpedia list past auction prices. Unfortunately 'shilling' and other nefarious practices can happen on online auction sites, so take the results with a pinch of salt. Be aware of the difference between asking and getting on eBay; just because a machine has a 'Buy it now' for $3k doesn't mean it will sell for $3k.

Repairs can have substantial cost. A dirty machine, without serious damage, can take 40 hours to clean up and $400 in plastics, rubbers, lamps and materials. Add another $200 for legs, door and trim. Playfield swaps add another 40 hours and $600 - $900 for the playfield. And cabinet decals are another 20 hours plus $300 for the decals. That's a lot, even if you work for free.

Too often it seems people will 'discover' an old, undesirable, beat up machine in the back of their garage and assume as they just saw an Addams Family on eBay with a 'Buy it now' of $6k, then their antique Williams Darling is a bargain at just $3k! It can be hard trying to explain the reality of the situation to the would-be seller.

Rarity does not necessarily mean a higher price: fun games cost more, and if game was good, it tended to get produced a lot.

This is most evident with 'Addams Family', a well regarded table and the highest production run of the modern pinball era. This machine still commands a high price even though there were 21,000 made. Contrast this with Hurricane, produced around the same time, but can be found for a fraction of the price.

There are exceptions to this rule, including prototype machines and limited runs like Big Bang Bar and LOTR: Limited Edition (Gold Trim)

Broadly speaking, pinball machines price out into several groups. Each group has a high and low section. This list is only an example, as mentioned above there are many factors that can affect the price.

The high dollar machines tend to be modern solid-state machines with DMD displays. These machines have very broad appeal. Also, their parts are worth almost $1000 (electronics + display + transformer + mechanisms), which sets a floor for the value. Older machines appeal to a narrower audience, and so the price tends to be lower. Of course, there are still high dollar EM machines.

1.1 '90s and newer

Here are some broad categories of '90s and newer games. Note that these prices are still somewhat arbitrary. A Judge Dredd, retail, delivered, with warranty, and all original, might still be $4000. Or, a really rough Addams Family can be found for $3000 -- maybe.

1.1.1 Exceptions

Pinball machines that can exceed $10,000.

1.1.2 The "A" List

$4000 and up

1.1.3 The "B" List

$3000 - $4000

1.1.4 The "C" List

$2000 - $3000

1.1.5 The "D" List

Under $2,000

1.2 '70s and '80s solid state

Most '70s games can be had for less than $1000. Most '80s games are less than $2000. There are many exceptions.

'70s and '80s games haven't held up as well as '90s games. The playfields tend to wear more, because they lack the protective Diamondplate that stared appearing on playfields around 1990. Games that get full restorations, perhaps including playfield swaps, can be over $2000 or perhaps higher.

Relatively expensive titles include:

  • Black Knight
  • Black Knight 2000
  • Eight Ball Deluxe
  • Fathom
  • Firepower
  • High Speed.

Relatively cheaper titles include Frontier, Meteor.

Gottlieb and Stern titles tend to cost somewhat less.

1.3 EM games

As a general rule, single-player EMs are more desirable. Multi-player EMs are less desirable. Almost all are less than $1000.

Some games, like Fireball, Wizard, and Captain Fantastic, can be fairly expensive, violating the general rule posted above as these are all multi-player games. In the cases of Wizard and Captain Fantastic, the theme and tie in with the movie Tommy play a factor in the games' value.

Most EMs prior to the '70s had fairly short runs. A lot of ads will claim, "Only 600 made!" but 600 was a pretty respectable run for many games in the '50s. For an add-a-ball in the '70s, 600 can still be a respectable run.

2 Location

If you're in California, games cost a little more. If you're in Chicago or the midwest U.S., games cost a little less.

3 Resale value

In general, if the machine is well looked after you tend not to lose money when the time comes to sell it on. They can take a while to sell, depending on what price you set and current market conditions.


4 Pinball Price Guides

Price guides are available to show estimate and historical prices of pinball machines. These references can provide a convenient way to find aggregated price information to guide your value determination, but can not account for the exact condition or popularity of a specific game. Other factors can affect the sales price of a game, for example some retail sales may include a warranty that can impact the price. This cannot be determined simply from a list of hiistorical prices.

Price guides and historical prices can be helpful to determine relative prices of different games. It is not unusual for a popular game to sell for four to five times as much as a different game from the same time period and with similar playfield features. This can be surprising to people that do not follow pinball prices closely.


4.1 Mr. Pinball Pinball List & Price Guide

Printed guide published annually since 1990. Available from most pinball parts suppliers or directly from the author. Includes history and information on collecting beyond just pricing information.

http://user.xmission.com/~daina/pinlist_info.html

4.2 Mr. Pinball Classifieds

Although not a price guide, the Mr. Pinball Classified listings provide a view of what people are trying to sell games for. The listings are available from the Mr. Pinball home web page.

http://www.mrpinball.com/

4.3 The Pinball Price Guide

Currently in its Eight Edition, published in 2010. Originally published by Larry Bieza now updated by Pinballeric(TM). Includes tips for caring for and maintaining games and a list of resources of interest to pinball enthusiast.

http://www.pinballeric.com/

4.4 Pinballprice.com

Started in 2013 with data back to 2010. Allows you to look up price history as well as submit sales information.

http://www.pinballprice.com/

4.5 Boston Pinball Repair eBay Sales Summary

Tracks completed eBay sales since 2006. Click on "eBay Sales Summary" button at the top of their home page. Provides a table showing the average, minimum, and maximum sales price of pinball machines sold on eBay since 2006, as well as the current year-to-date average.

http://www.bostonpinball.biz/

5 Aftermarket Modifications

Some people prefer completely original machines, while others like to fit various modifications to the table. These can vastly affect the price depending on which mods have been fitted, some people pay more for original unmolested tables, whereas others will pay extra for a table that has been fitted with after market modifications.

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