Pinball collecting before the internet

Started 1 year ago by dirtrider in forum All PinballAll Pinball.


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Pinball collecting before the internet


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  • Started 1 year ago by dirtrider
  • 22 Pinsiders participating in this thread.
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    1 year, 12 months ago
    #

    What did all you old timey pinball machines collectors do before the internet? It must have been a steep learning curve to maintain your machines without the printed word and photos on line. Like back in the 90's, 80's and before. I'm curious to know what I would've faced if I started collecting in the '90s.


    1 year, 12 months ago
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    I have been a collector since the early 80's, it was lonely

    I knew some people had a game in their house or garage, but I never meet another collector until a few years ago.

    Now I try to get to meet as many people as time permits
    Every time I meet another pinball collector I learn something new


    1 year, 12 months ago
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    I can tell you what it was like for me collecting in the mid to late '70's. It was awesome, there were only a handful of collectors in the SFBA to beat to the games and there was no hurry at all. I could pick up games all day long for $75 to $100 each, most of them worked and were just off route. Collecting was easy but money was hard to come by.

    dirtrider said:

    What did all you old timey pinball machines collectors do before the internet? It must have been a steep learning curve to maintain your machines without the printed word and photos on line. Like back in the 90's, 80's and before. I'm curious to know what I would've faced if I started collecting in the '90s.


    1 year, 12 months ago
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    It was a much smaller pinball world that's for sure, all you had for listings was the Recycler here in LA which was like a printed version of CL. Every thursday I'd go down to the newsstand and check all the cities under the various sections that pinball would appear under. There was a couple brick and mortar businesses avaialble though; one small pinball retail store near me which is where I bought my first pin from, and also the distibutors CA Robinson and Betson in LA that both used to be on Pico Blvd.


    1 year, 12 months ago
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    I know people that have collected since just around the start of the net,
    they're more happy now that more are into it.


    1 year, 12 months ago
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    I started in 1988, EATPM was the big new pin out!! Information was really only available thru my local distributors, luckily, that's who I bought my first games from, so I drove them crazy with questions for many years. It really was a different world back then!!


    1 year, 12 months ago
    #

    It was way better before the net.

    You had a coin op auction every month. Video games, pinball and a few pool tables.

    You still had a local Bally/ Williams distributor to buy new games and parts.


    1 year, 12 months ago
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    vid1900 said:

    It was way better before the net.
    You had a coin op auction every month. Video games, pinball and a few pool tables.
    You still had a local Bally/ Williams distributor to buy new games and parts.

    Did a good portion of Bally/Williams sales back in the 90's go to the home market? I always assumed the home collector at that point in time was much smaller than today.


    1 year, 12 months ago
    #

    Depended on classifieds in the Boston and local Papers, Bargain Hunters and Want-Ads local weekly classified publications and the vending businesses and auctions.

    As far as fixing games and technical info, you were generally on your own.
    However you could still get Service manuals and such. There was nothing available like Clay's guides, Forums such as Pinside, or individuals websites for help. A lot of trial and error.


    1 year, 12 months ago
    #

    I got back into the hobby in the late 90's. There were a few lists on the web but obviously no where what it is today. I learned about a game called "The Shadow" from a german website that said it was the most popular game in Europe. Another game called "Medieval Madness was listed on a very obscure web site in 1999 as a "very funny" pin. Both have been in my collection since. ( I will not bore you with the prices for those machines)

    In the 1970's I bought a lot of pins from arcades at the jersey shore ( the place did exist before snooky). I would go to an arcade and ask the operator if he had anything "in the back" for sale. I must have bought a dozen machines for 75 to 125 dollars, fixed them up a little and sold for a 25 to 50 dollar profit. It was all about play field condition back then. One of the best trouble shooting techniques to find a stuck switch was to look at the score reel on power up to see how many points immediately registered. I still remember using that technique to find a stuck 10 point switch on a real nice Bow and Arrow


    1 year, 12 months ago
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    Methos said:

    Did a good portion of Bally/Williams sales back in the 90's go to the home market?

    Speaking for myself, I was making way too much cash to take any brand new title home.

    We did have collectors who would buy new games from us and we would prep, deliver and maintain for them.

    You got the new (hopefully hot) games, you unboxed them and fixed whatever problems there were (there was always something), you looked over your route for an "A" location, and swapped the tables out.

    In a joint that had the room, you could put a worn or declining popularity table up for sale on location. Maybe a $200-400 tag on it would trigger an impulse sale. If not, you took the table the monthly auction and got a few bucks for it. By the time you took a game to auction, you had already made your money back many times over. We never stored more than a dozen used games; if it was not earning, we got rid of it.


    1 year, 12 months ago
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    yeah news paper classified ads


    1 year, 12 months ago
    #

    I had a local Pinball Shop pretty close to me in the early 90s.
    He would sell machines off route or let you root thru anything he was going to put in the dumpster and take it for free.
    I didnt really meet another collector till a few years back


    1 year, 12 months ago
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    Really cool thread! Thanks for sharing these stories!


    1 year, 12 months ago
    #
    vid1900 said:

    Methos said:Did a good portion of Bally/Williams sales back in the 90's go to the home market?
    Speaking for myself, I was making way too much cash to take any brand new title home.
    We did have collectors who would buy new games from us and we would prep, deliver and maintain for them.
    You got the new (hopefully hot) games, you unboxed them and fixed whatever problems there were (there was always something), you looked over your route for an "A" location, and swapped the tables out.
    In a joint that had the room, you could put a worn or declining popularity table up for sale on location. Maybe a $200-400 tag on it would trigger an impulse sale. If not, you took the table the monthly auction and got a few bucks for it. By the time you took a game to auction, you had already made your money back many times over. We never stored more than a dozen used games; if it was not earning, we got rid of it.

    Interesting. The one thing I can't understand - is why these warehouses exist. I know there are less and less of them, but why would an operation find a polebard somewhere, load all of his games in there, pay rent, and then just let them set for a few decades? Why not sell them all and take the cash now rather than waste the rent and time value of money on them?


    1 year, 11 months ago
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    Methos said:

    The one thing I can't understand - is why these warehouses exist.

    Sometimes there is a divorce, illness, turf battle (don't laugh, different mobs have their fingers in plenty of coin op routes), or somebody "gets into trouble". If you are using Coin Op to hide income (not that I'm telling anyone to do that) then an auction might attract attention. If you think you will lay low and then get back into business in a few months, you might do a pack and stack.

    There is still a warehouse in N OH that has vid games, pool tables, pinball, cigarette machines, stacked with a forklift all the way to the ceiling. Packed as tight as can be. Somebody set this up for storage, not usage; as you can't move anything around that is not right at the loading dock bay.

    One thing to keep in mind is that all that coin op stuff is already paid for many times over. Operators do not think of the machines as treasures any more than you think of your 2001 Ford Taurus as a treasure.


    1 year, 11 months ago
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    I only bought one pin in the early 90s from an OP when I first started out. Now I do some repairs for another one that has hudreds of video games and almost a hundred pins. It was hard at first, but with persistense and answering adds/meeting people I found out where to look for them.


    1 year, 11 months ago
    #
    vid1900 said:

    Methos said:The one thing I can't understand - is why these warehouses exist.
    Sometimes there is a divorce, illness, turf battle (don't laugh, different mobs have their fingers in plenty of coin op routes), or somebody "gets into trouble". If you are using Coin Op to hide income (not that I'm telling anyone to do that) then an auction might attract attention. If you think you will lay low and then get back into business in a few months, you might do a pack and stack.
    There is still a warehouse in N OH that has vid games, pool tables, pinball, cigarette machines, stacked with a forklift all the way to the ceiling. Packed as tight as can be. Somebody set this up for storage, not usage; as you can't move anything around that is not right at the loading dock bay.
    One thing to keep in mind is that all that coin op stuff is already paid for many times over. Operators do not think of the machines as treasures any more than you think of your 2001 Ford Taurus as a treasure.

    Interesting. I never thought of it from that angle. I had thought alot of that ended in the 50's.


    RGR

    Pinball master
    2,533,400 2
    1 year, 11 months ago
    #

    Well it was one thing collecting and not having forums etc, however from the playing side there was no way to learn new tricks. The only way I found out about live and drop catches was when a mate of mine went to the states to play in IFPA3. Wow how times have changed. If it was not for the net then sure if it would have been alot harder getting to know people, however I wonder if pinball would be alot more popular now?? I think it would have to be, due to people having to go out for entertainment...


    1 year, 11 months ago
    #
    Methos said:

    Interesting. The one thing I can't understand - is why these warehouses exist. I know there are less and less of them, but why would an operation find a polebard somewhere, load all of his games in there, pay rent, and then just let them set for a few decades? Why not sell them all and take the cash now rather than waste the rent and time value of money on them?

    Actually, a more likely reason than the mob (although that is a true reason) is that these operations needed a 'base' to haul their games back to either to service them, or for doing game rotations (changing games regularly makes you a LOT more money, or at least it did), or to bring in new ones, or whatever. Machines you brought back from rotations that might have been earning poorly or were broken (or both) could be tossed to the side so that when a machine that was working and earning broke, you could salvage the old stuff for parts and keep your new machines running.

    Selling them to take the cash would be a huge headache, and might result in maybe like $100 per machine or something like that. Chances were, if you didn't sell it to knowledgable people, they would be calling you to come because a switch doesn't work or a monitor went out, and pain in the butt for sure, and definitely not worth the maybe $100 you could make off the machine.

    If you took working machines off route, you could toss them aside for the time that (hopefully) you get more route locations, so you don't have to go buy 10 brand new machines, and could instead use maybe 9 of the machines you've already paid off to see how the location is going to do.

    The only place that it really made any sense to sell machines was at auctions, as it was the only way to guarantee that the new buyer wouldn't come back and bug you about the machine they bought, but auction prices were so low on most of this stuff that it cost as much in labor to bring the games out as it did to sell them, so why bother? Besides, in a year, you might be able to use that machine for parts to keep another alive, or...

    About 15 years ago the market for classic video games really sort of exploded, and ops that didn't convert all of their old cabs to Street Fighter IIs and TMNTs found that they could sell in poor condition Ms Pac-Mans, Galagas and Tempests for nearly a grand, so suddenly those started coming out, and so did a bunch of not-quite-as-high stuff that people might be interested in. That market tanked when MAME became so popular, and has only recently started to recover. The pinball market picked up steam about the time that the classic vid market started tanking, and has been continuing ever since.

    There are still some warehouses out there, and some of them are in use still by route companies to do their thing. I've been in a couple in Milwaukee, and even found a great EM that I made a deal for in one of them a few years ago


    1 year, 11 months ago
    #

    Very interesting thread. Thanks for posting guys!


    1 year, 11 months ago
    #

    Great thread.

    Thanks for the stories!


    1 year, 11 months ago
    #
    sulli10 said:

    It was all about play field condition back then

    It still is all about play field condition, or is it not :?I enjoy reading the ol' stories from the 70'-80's route operator days. Know a guy who was an operator in the Phoenix area late 80's to mid 90's, he ran Williams machines video and pins and Williams had the operators come out to Chicago for tech. training so they knew how to work on the games. He had 25 High Speeds at one point, one he still has NIB if you can believe it, one set-up but never been played (still has the factory rubber on it in good condition) 5 playfields, 6 backglasses, etc. etc He said he just stocked up on stuff when ever he was out at the Williams factory and bought the mentioned items on the cheap. I believe he said a HS pf back in 87' was $140 his cost, and a Back glass was $50. NIB High Speeds at his cost was $1300 in 86'. He has some great stories, before the internet. That NIB High Speed is crazy, I saw it in the garage in the Williams box, he is just holding onto it.


    1 year, 11 months ago
    #

    The world was very different when I starting collecting in 1971!!!!

    I believe gas was between .38 cents a gallon and .42 cents.
    We had only a local Pennysaver, and newspaper classifieds.
    Operators were not interested in an 11 year old.
    Yet, there were shows. Most of the shows only had antique arcade and slot machines, but a pinball machine, especially the 1930's would show up, and thats what I started collecting.
    I specialized in 1932-1935 and had gathered about 26 games in a few years.
    My heart was still on a full blown machine, and it took many months to find an operator working out of their house to sell me a Bally Safari, without a backglass for $50. I learned very well on that game...how to make a pin play worse then when I bought it!!
    It was truly a great deal of work to find ANY game to buy on Long Island!!
    Moving to Florida, the Operators did open their doors to home pin sales off route, but they kept breaking down for me, and I abandoned a home pin that was an EM, and dove into Pachinko and
    Slots, Strength testers, and Mutoscopes. Being all mechanical and I beiong not so talented, they were easier to maintain.
    Fast Forward. After thrilling in 1978 to be 18, with a car. Flash, and Gorgar, competed with Space invaders! Pins at home still hard to find, but managed a few Williams EMs like Gold Rush or Klondike.
    My family hated the noise and space it took up.
    After that short time kids came, and no time for pinball, until I bought a fishtales 15 years ago.
    I was so "out of touch" I never heard or played titles like AF, or TZ, I had no idea where games had gone! So even as an old collector, I am with you guys being more recent in the newer pins...that and some extra $$$. Ultimately, even without the internet, Super Auctions and other Auctions would be advertised in the classifieds, and thats where it took off.
    Some prices back then?

    Paragon $150
    Star Trek Bally, was hot $300.
    Mousin around $300
    Most pins off route peaked at $400-$500 and those were the 1-2 year old games.
    The even older ones like Gorgar or Flash were all in the $100-$150 range.
    You could fill a trailer for the price of an AFM today! Speaking of which, those used to be $700-$800 all day long. MM was around $1500 at the lowest I remember....

    Time travel trip!


    dmacy

    Pinball master
    2,255,300 2
    1 year, 11 months ago
    #

    These are great stories. I hope the thread keeps growing. If any one us knew then what we do now but that's always the case...


    1 year, 11 months ago
    #

    Paragon $150
    Star Trek Bally, was hot $300.
    Mousin around $300
    Most pins off route peaked at $400-$500 and those were the 1-2 year old games.
    The even older ones like Gorgar or Flash were all in the $100-$150 range.
    You could fill a trailer for the price of an AFM today! Speaking of which, those used to be $700-$800 all day long. MM was around $1500 at the lowest I remember....

    I like the prices, and still think thats what they should be worth today! Supply and Demand is the killer...


    1 year, 11 months ago
    #

    I started in the early 80's helping my friend and his dad with a small route. They taught me how to clean & rebuild score reels, stepper units, etc. Schematics? HA! They usually where nowhere to be found. Just keep cleaning and adjusting until it works! They had a half-dozen Puck & Ball Bowlers to add to the fun. There were buckets of parts that came from games that got smashed up, because that's just how they did it. Why sell a pinball to someone for their home when they'd just hound you for repairs?

    Then we got a Gorgar for $200, and Flash Gordon was cheap too. NOW we needed the books. I don't know how we kept them running, but the Distributor always seemed to have someone who knew what he was talking about that we could ask. We'd add a pinball to the route occasionally as they came up, and did a lot of video game conversions. The main money was in Jukes & pool. I don't miss doing AMI juke mech adjustments late on Friday night in a packed bar!

    I heard about Pinball Expo somehow in early '88. Missed that year, but made it to the one in '89. Police Force & EATPM were the latest, and Bone Busters was the Tourney Game. Data East had Monday Night Football out, but I don't think they were there. Pinball Resource and other vendors were there though, and that was a big help in getting parts. Tim Arnold would make it to those early Expos and was always interesting to talk to.

    I subscribed to Pinball Trader, and that kept us in touch with other collectors, vendors and other shows. Calling Steve Young was the only way to do it in those days. Russ Jensen, Sam Harvey and all the other old-timers were always willing to help out with any questions, but you'd have to call them, send them a letter or wait until Expo.

    Pingame Journal started up, and The Pinball Trader got bought by Gameroom. It wasn't until the Internet that the hobby took off and is what it is today.
    And it's no kidding, In the late '90's, WPC games were everywhere for way under $2000.



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