PINBALL! I have been an avid player for 36 years, an amusement route operator for 12 years, and have been repairing / restoring pinball for 30 years.
I have witnessed and participated in the industry at it’s highest points, it lowest points, throughout it’s golden years, and watched it’s complete collapse.
During the last 6-8 years I have gladly witnessed the resurgence of pinball, not in it’s traditional coin-op domain, but rather in private collections, and as home game room entertainment units. Pinball is a timeless piece of entertainment that cannot be duplicated on the computer, and people are missing it. As any pinhead will tell you, you may play 20 games in a row on the same pin, but EACH game will be different, no pattern. The reason, to quote a famous pinball designer “THE BALL IS WILD”.
I coined a phrase years ago “PINBALL IS A MARRIAGE OF ART AND ELECTRONICS”. This exemplifies my passion for this art form, for it’s more that a game that provides hours of fun entertainment; it is truly a piece of art that can be admired and enjoyed, without being played. I think of it this way: many people buy artwork to hang, like Monet, & Picasso. For me, my pinballs are my Monet, and Picassos.
I would like to take a moment to explain the reality of pinball’s existence. Ask yourself, Why were pinballs built? What was it’s purpose? Entertainment! Correct. Well then, Who purchased them?, What was their motivation? Ok! seeing the picture? so it wasn’t just for entertainment, it was all about MONEY, & RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI).
For you, the player it was entertainment, at the Arcade, the Pub, on Campus, or the Corner store; but for the owner/operator it was only about the money. The pinball was a tool to get you to part with your cash. Back in the day (1983-1996) an operator could purchase a new pinball for $3000 +-, put it in a good location and see it earn $300 to a $1000- per week for 8-10 weeks. What I’m showing is most (90+%) of the operators were all about the money, not the love of pinball. As a result, most of the time just the bare basics of maintenance was done to keep that machine earning quarters. Bubble gum fixes, jury rigs, hack n dash, I’ve seen some amazing repair feats achieved with plumbers putty, paper clips, duct tape, you name it!
So, the money men would run a new pin for 1-4 years, then after it was beat to death, slam it into the warehouse and rob parts from it to keep newer ones running, or dispose of it through an auction, sell to a smaller operator, whatever, it was dead to them.
On the books it had been depreciated to zero through the tax system, and also earned 5-10 times it original cost.
This business model for whatever reason started to fail in 1995. There was also at the same time some sort of fundamental shift in the upcoming generations mindset, plus internet, home gaming advances, and video lottery proliferation, all contributed to the death of pinballs on location. Now, some people are asking hey! why can I not play a pinball anywhere? Some people did research to find out why there are no longer any pinballs out on location, and where did they all vanish to? This group then learned hey! I can purchase a pinball, as they would find operators who still had many sitting in their warehouse. So, for the last 10-15 years most pins have been sitting in storage, or been sold off to whoever. I see many pins come through my shop for repair. When I ask the history, most of the time it plays something like so: My dad bought it from a guy who use to run games about 6 years back. It never worked, but he planned to fix it. He tinkered with it for awhile and managed to get this or that working. Well, then the kids grew up and stopped playing it, so he moved it out to the unheated garage 4 years ago, and it’s sat there ever since. Mom wanted it gone, so I bought it from dad. I was trying to get this part working, that’s when all the smoke poured out of the back box.
What I’m trying to stress here is for you to understand what condition the pinball you’re thinking of purchasing may be in. Here at Absolute Pinball all the used units I offer are 100% operational, & fully restored. There are no shortcuts taken here when it comes to bringing these masterpieces back from the brink of extinction. Of course there are different degrees of restoration, and you can read about all of them here in “restoration process”; but each and every pinball at the very least requires the the following two components restored; to provide long term reliable play.
The playfield needs to be removed and completely stripped (See Figure 1), then rebuilt; topside (See Figure 2), and underside (See Figure 3). Then the electronics, or circuit boards (See Figure 4) need to be upgraded and/or rebuilt. Then, and only then, are you going to have a long term reliable pinball for your home. Ask yourself this, how many electronic items do you operate in your home that are 25+ years old?
Spend some time on my site. Really examine the close-up before/after photos of the pins that are already offered here completely restored. Most restored will be marked sold. Knowing you will receive a restored, playable pinball compare my price to others, then decide.
I’m here to help you with your pinball purchase decision, so call, or email with any questions you may have.