"If you know how many pinball machines you own, you don't have enough."
Things to consider as owners embark into the wonderful world of pinball.
Most people do not realize the overwhelming amount of experience, space, and parts required to maintain dozens of games. A handful of games is not a problem, until they begin to materialize out of thin air...
Time alone is basically a full time job, unless you store machines, and do not play them.
Particularly, if the machines are from multitude of manufacturers.
At one point, I owned titles from Bally (6 generations), WMS (5 generations), AGC, Zaccaria, Stern, LTD, Chicago Coin, Gottlieb (4 generations), Gameplan, Sega, Data East, and Interflip.
That is 24 different types of games, all with different parts and assemblies, EM and SS.
It was an absolute logistical maintenance nightmare even with decades of experience, both from parts managment and technical repair, as it required referencing nearly 55 years of pinball game design backgrounds.
Total amount of spare parts?
Over 10,000 lbs.
That's right, about 5 metric tons of parts!
Once you get to around 20-25 machines, realities of space and life, start to become readily apparent.
To put things into a visual perspective:
Games require a minimum of 40 inches of row clearance to get glasses to slide out (without lifting the front legs at an angle to gain a few extra inches), which applies to most EM and SS games except for EM metal framed playfield glasses. Even in this case, if you have this type of constrained space, sliding playfield glasses are still required to go "sideways" a bit on the channels in order to remove them.
20 machines fill up a standard two car garage, tightly, with barely enough room to get playfield glasses out.
Six machines can fit in a 10X12 bedroom, dependent on layout, sometimes only five, the limitation is the backbox width, as every game is a standard 3X5 ft "box".
A 3200 sf, 5 bedroom house can put around 50 machines, but this is in a very highly uncomfortable manner with games in locations that are not optimal or recommended. Three bedrooms are dedicated "game rooms". Essentially games are everywhere, in every room, except the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry.
Ceiling height, hallways, and door widths (or associated moldings) can also be also a problem.
Older game back boxes are wider than most modern doors, and hallways.
Stairways without landings are a challenge and painful without an Escalera StairCat.
Power consumption, breakers, and outlets are a challenge, you need multiple 20A circuits, no shortcutting methods are acceptable unless you like house fires or constantly resetting fuse boxes.
Practically, it would be better to own a british flat with no walls.
Essentially, modern homes are not built with pinball machines in consideration.
I know this because I became an expert at space maximization, as I moved around the world for over 20 years and owned four houses.
I have a 5X10 ft "closet" (in a manner of speaking) alone for my backglasses stored in vertical racks, which is a whole different challenge.
The only way for a person to effectively own more than 50 machines under "normal" circumstances is to rotate the games out of storage.
Most collectors start to "settle", begin to make plans for a larger house, or build another workshop, if they are reaching this point.
It takes over 4000 sf of DEDICATED pinball space to properly set up and run over 100 games.
Yes, you can compress the space down, quite a bit, but there are problems.
Remember, you have to have room to work on the games themselves, not counting parts space, and a workshop for tools in an organized fashion you can actually use effectively. Something that is overlooked.
Keep this factors in mind when you head to the next pinball show flea market with a trailer.
That is the "#1 source for too many project games" now, since landfills and warehouse raids are becoming less prevalent than 20+ years ago. Know your limitations, and you will always be successful. Rows upon rows of broken pinball machines can overwhelm new owners, to the point that they exit the hobby entirely out of frustration. Start simple, be methodical, move forward. Stick with one manufacturer until you are very familiar with their design, then move onto another.
"Every pinball collector passes through the same six phases in their lifetime. "Curious George", Player, Owner, Collector, Restorer, and finally Hoarder. The place that you stop depends on when you start in the age of your life, and how many times you regress to a previous stage based on time, other life commitments, and of course, money."