When buying anything, a common thought on your mind might be whether or not it will hold its value over time. Some things we buy as an investment, and some things we buy knowing they will lose value fast. This leave owners wondering if pinball machines hold their value.
Most pinball machines will not hold their value over time. However, there are a lot of factors to consider, including the condition of the table and the title itself, and these will all affect whether or not the machine will lose value over time, and how much and how fast this value will be lost.
Below, we will go through the ins and outs of pinball machine valuations and discuss the factors that affect how a pinball is valued. We will also look at what you need to think about when it comes to selling your pinball machine.
Do Pinball Machines Lose Value?
If you consider cars or motorcycles, you know that the second the vehicle drives a few miles off the lot the value has depreciated. This same premise can usually be applied to pinball machines. Unless you plan on buying a brand-new pinball machine and you leave it in your house without setting it up or playing, you’ll probably see a decrease in value.
Exceptions To The Rule
But there are exceptions to this, and there are a few quick questions to ask yourself about the machine to gauge if and how fast the machine will lose its value over time. Is it a fun game to play? How many were made? How popular is the title? Is it in demand by collectors and/or arcade owners? All of these are important to ask for any pinball machine.
There are of course other more environmental factors to consider as well. Perhaps the game the pinball machine is based on has a comeback, or a new remake of the title’s movie is released. This would spike interest in the genre. Likewise, if a pinball manufacturer went out of business there could be a surge in demand, but these are rare occurrences.
If you are buying a used machine and plan to sell it eventually, not necessarily for a profit, that is perfectly fine. But if you are attempting to make some money out of it, it’s most likely not going to happen. Unless you get a really good deal on a machine that the owner has no idea is worth more than he asked for, you probably won’t strike it rich with an old machine.
Make Use Of It!
If you are just buying it for pleasure, you shouldn’t lose too much money over time. Playing every now and then won’t put many “miles” on your machine, but repairs will potentially be needed. While this doesn’t necessarily decrease the value of the machine, it will increase the costs incurred, which is essentially the same result!
But there are some other factors to consider both when buying a pinball machine and when you are thinking about selling one.
Factors That Affect The Value Of A Pinball Machine
This, as with many used items, will really influence the price you pay for a machine. If the machine is being sold with known repairs needed or if the playfield has cracks in it, you can probably negotiate a lower price. If you are buying from someone who has really valued their machine and taken care of it, you will probably need to spend a bit more.
Make sure to check the playfield, back glass or translite, and take note of any cracks, scrapes, and rust you see around the machine. This can change a machine’s value tremendously, whether you are a buyer or a seller. It’s very hard to get an original reproduction of a painted playfield or back glass, and if you can find a playfield, it could be a plastic replacement, reducing the value.
Another important detail of the machine to check would be its overall cosmetic condition, as it is hard to replace the look of the machine if you can’t even get replacements anymore! The electronics can usually be replaced or repaired quite easily. It’s a good idea to check any batteries for leaking or corrosion, along with circuit boards and light bulbs for signs of overheating or burn marks.
Like a lot of hobbies, you’ll have collectors, and you’ll have small-time buyers that are just interested in the hobby. When buying a machine, it may help to get familiar with some big-time collectors as they will have a lot of pride in their collection.
They tend to keep their machines in very good condition, cleaning them and repairing any parts that need fixed. This can have an effect on the sale price as some bigger names will have a reputation in the pinball sphere, so getting familiar with who they are can help to know where to look for both buying and selling new machines.
For example, my dad collects Redline Hot Wheels cars and loves adding to his collection when he can. There are a handful of sellers on eBay that he talks to and will buy from here and there. They might get an extra $100+ for their cars in the same condition as someone else because they are known and trusted. People will spend the extra money knowing that they took care of their cars.
The same idea applies to pinball machines. A big-time collector might get an extra few hundred to a thousand dollars because the buyer knows they kept the machine in good condition and didn’t let it collect dust in a basement.
You may have a top-quality machine in excellent condition, but if no one is around you that knows its value, you may not receive your asking price.
Location can affect your sale place. If you are in a dense area that is booming with parlors and collectors, there will be a higher demand for the machines so that will slightly raise the price. Whereas if you are in the sticks with no one interested, you might have a hard time getting the price you want.
Supply And Demand
Simple supply and demand for any market will affect how much you can get for your machine, as shipping can be a pain. This means people would rather buy something from close to their home than pay massive fees for shipping. Or, you might just not want to pay the fees instead, so it can narrow your reach.
Plus, you have a possibility of something going wrong or breaking during the move. This is why a lot of people choose eBay local pick-up, Craigslist or forums for classified ads. This eliminates the need for external delivery services.
Many people put their location in these ads because a lot of people would rather pick them up themselves. Another plus is that the buyer can check out the machine before spending a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on it.
Of course, if you have an Addams Family, Medieval Madness or Cactus Canyon machine, and a collector needs one of these rarer machines, they will figure out a way to get to the seller! But the average machine will be harder to sell for its true value if there are no pinball enthusiasts around you.
There is no need to focus on the manufacturer. If you think you have a gold mine because Bally made the machine, that will mean nothing if it’s not a good title. The title is really the focal point as many manufacturers have made both good and bad machines.
Who Is Buying It
This will take the price range to different levels very easily, as you could be selling to a collector, or someone looking for an original machine. The buyer can change the value of the pinball machine, depending on how much it is worth to them.
The collector might offer a higher price because they need that machine in their collection, while someone else might low-ball you because the back glass has been replaced. Then there are dealers who need to make some money too, so they want to be able to protect themselves before buying your machine, offering you a lower price than a collector would.
Where Can You Check The Value Of Your Pinball Machine?
In order to get a ballpark range of the machine you are looking to buy or one that you already have, you can check eBay listings on the “Sold” tab and see if any of the same one have sold there recently.
Also, you can check out BostonPinball, which has collected a database of eBay sale summaries over the past decade or so on thousands of different machines.
PinballPrices is a relatively new site with just over 1100 game titles so far, but they have tracked eBay sales and Pinside sales as well, totaling over 5000 sales.
Mr.Pinball comes out with a yearly price guide also on pinball machines, as well as a classified ads page where you can see who is selling machines for certain prices or who wants a machine and how much they are offering.
These sites can help you determine if your pinball machine holds value or even has been selling for higher than for what you bought it.
You can also just ask around the communities and forums. Ask your local arcade owners and pinball parlors what they believe a specific machine should buy/sell for. Go to conventions and expos to see what people are paying for new machines and what sellers are charging for used machines.
Your pinball machine will most likely hold value as long as you keep up with repairs and cleaning. It’s no fun just to look at the machine while it sits there, teasing you to pull back the plunger. Buying a pinball machine isn’t really an investment where you hope to make thousands in a couple of years.
The good thing is that, since they are handmade with original art and a lot of moving parts and circuits and intricate designs, it is very unlikely that you will lose money purchasing a machine. So, play your machine and don’t worry too much about the money behind it. Also if money is the issue, check out our guide of why pinball machines are so expensive.