How do I sell a pinball machine?
April 24, 2012 11:15 AM   Subscribe

What are the best online resources for selling a pinball machine?

Back in the 70s, my parents lived in Belgium and enjoyed a particular pinball game so much that they bought it and had the machine shipped back to the States with them. Now, 35 years later, they're looking to get rid of it and make a little more room in their apartment.
I've done some googling and it seems that, despite its foreign provenance, the game is not particularly rare or unusual (although I can't be 100% certain). It's still in working condition. I, an untrained eye, would rank the condition of the unit itself as somewhere in the "Very Good" range; it hasn't experienced a huge amount of external wear but some of the internal parts (e.g. the elastic around the bumpers) could stand to be replaced.
I suppose I have two central questions:
1) Is there a reference book (or website) where I could get some idea of the relative value of the machine? If I have to name a price, I'd want to know what a fair price would be.
2) Where should I look to sell the machine? Is there a specialty site/forum I should visit? Is eBay/Craigslist the best option? Is there a brick-and-mortar depot I should visit instead? If it makes a difference, the machine is currently in New York City.
posted by Bromius to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
TNT Amusements is relatively close to NYC. As far as your shipping costs go, they might be a good contact for selling your pinball machine or at least getting a rough idea of fair market value, if you go the auction route.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:27 AM on April 24, 2012

Mr. Pinball Classifieds:
posted by Gucky at 11:29 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

And depending on what game it is, you can figure out info/condition and demand at Pinball Database.
posted by Gucky at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have friends who collect pinball machines, and they will invariably drive to pick up their purchases in a pickup, sometimes 6 hours or more. Moving those things around safely gets very expensive fast.
posted by smackfu at 12:04 PM on April 24, 2012

Pinside is a good reference website.

Most localities have some kind of forum of fans where they are bought and sold (here's Montreal). Lots of people use Craigslist or Kijiji.

Due to their size, you're probably looking for someone local. There's also a few pinball/arcade museums across the US, they may be more interested in rare machines.
posted by dripdripdrop at 12:59 PM on April 24, 2012

I have driven unreasonably far to pick up a pin and just considered the drive part of my purchase price. I think I've found all but 1 of them on Craigslist.

I'd also second the Pinball Database. It's a great resource and if it doesn't list your machine I'd be very surprised.

As for the condition - physical appearance is very important, but if it's never had work done then 95% of buyers are going to want to "shop" it before use. This will be factored into price as well, but it's very common so I wouldn't worry about it. Typically all rubbers would be replaced, some lights, playfield treated (in one of several ways), voltages checked, etc. Some machines have known tweaks that will be done on principle. I have a machine with a rotary target for example which must have a spring replaced with a different style after a few years for it to work properly. Almost every used machine hasn't had this done, so smart buyers will know this going in.

If you don't know much about pins I'd suggest checking out what an amusement sales/service place around you would offer. I'd call a few though because like any business there are many levels of decency and competency out there.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:34 PM on April 24, 2012

Here is an Pinball E-Bay Summary Site that tracks prices of stuff that has sold on E-Bay. Yours might be on the list. Usually when I look for pinballs I browse Craigslist, Mr. Pinball Classifieds, or E-Bay.

The "shopping" cost on that era of pinball normally isn't too pricey - mostly labor for the time needed to clean and check things. Assuming that this is an EM pinball with bells and dings for sounds, and reel-scoring, you'll mostly be looking at maybe $15 in rubber pieces, $5-$10 for new balls, and maybe another $15-$20 for light bulbs. But the time spent replacing all this and the cleaning time is going to be the real effort in shopping.

Make sure you take LOTS of detailed pictures of the playfield, cabinet, and backglass. It'll help minimize questions of what condition things are in. Make note of any wear areas that you see where the ball path has worn through the paint, any issues with scoring, tilt, etc. Even take the playfield glass out and press each switch to make sure they all work so you can let the buyer know before hand the overall condition and not waste each others' time.

The games are a pain in the ass to ship if you aren't used to doing it regularly, so I'd recommend selling only to local buyers.
posted by JibberJabber at 1:58 PM on April 24, 2012

Mr Pinball Classifieds is a solid way to post your machine for sale.

Collectors will also scour Craigslist and on Usenet (aka Google Groups), but know what you want for the game before the bottom feeders show up. Especially on Craigslist.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:03 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older What is depicted on the cover of the New Yorker...   |   What do you call the head of a regional office in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.