(Topic ID: 248327)

10 More Lessons Learned From My 4 Years In The Hobby w/ new ownership matrix

By sataneatscheese

3 years ago


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#1 3 years ago

2021-2022 update, year 4:

Another year… another 10 lessons learned along with more progress in slowly turning my entire basement into an arcade. Thanks for all the pinball trades, repair tips, and awful investment advice!
Ten more lessons for this year:

1. Competitive and/or group pinball completely changes the dynamics of what/how you play and makes things infinitely more fun. I’m doing a pinball tournament every other week and enjoying a pinball league every week this summer. League is too far away to do long term, but caters to all skill levels and is more social than the pinball tournaments. The 3 strike tournaments I’ve been going to have been a blast and change the way I look at location pinball. Crabtown USA is my “home location”, and the closest spot to my house. They have 40 pins (awesome), but I used to always play my favorites… Fish Tales, BK2000, Adams Family, Star Wars, Flight 2000. Since going to tournaments I have found that I excel at these games, but the ones I don’t normally play I “suck at” competitively. I am getting creamed at Strikes and Spares, Beatles, Kiss (all versions), and Johnny Mnemonic. Joining a league and doing some tournaments, even if I don’t win, has made so many more pinball machines entertaining and enticing to me. 10/10 at least try out a league or a tournament. Here is my writeup on the Allentown tournament https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/pinball-tournament-noob-10-lessons-learned-and-what-to-expect#post-6964425 and more on location pinball near me https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/maryland-location-play-club . Playing for score is very different than just trying to “beat the game”, which is all I used to do.

2. Make your old pinball machine new again… they make replacement boards for most everything now. I recently got a Nine-Ball with original boards, and… I broke some stuff. I spent hours troubleshooting before giving up and ordering Altek boards. Holy crap these things are plug and play, reliable, and nice. Anit-LED flicker, reliable solenoid board, reliable mpu… awesome. https://allteksystems.com/ At the same time I tried out some yoppcicle LEDS to fix some flakey lights… freaking amazing and easier to install (and cheaper) than a new socket and LED. https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/all-praise-be-to-the-yoppsicle- Highly recommended. Finally, I had to replace some displays on a fixer upper Stars I had. Bought new X-Pin displays. Freaking plug and play and amazing. https://xpinpinball.com/ In other words… you can actually get parts to fix a lot of old machines if you can’t fix them yourself or are having other issues.

3. On the note of putting new stuff to make your old games new again, lots of people prefer the vintage parts. If you drop a few hundred on new displays for your machine, you can generally get around ½ that for the used, even partially broken stuff. I have found this to be true of most boards. Never throw anything away pinball related and list it on pinside and/or for sale in the local show thread.

4. Never make an impulse pinball decision on buying or selling a pin. Someone talked me out of my Godzilla premium (got a great deal, but miss it already), and picked up a different machine instead of the one I went to see (wound up with 9-ball instead of Seawitch). I still like 9-ball, but overpaid as I didn’t do as much research as I should have. 9-ball is on its way out on a trade this weekend already at a loss. I was hovering over the buy button on an Ultraman and am so glad I passed after getting some time on one.

5. NIB does not mean reliable and no issues. Old games can be rock solid reliable. I have had 1 NIB pin (R&M) which was rock solid. My Godzilla Premium had 7 games on it when I got it. Both were rock solid the entire time I had it. I unboxed a Toy Story for my employer at the company office and it has been nothing but issues since setup with stuck balls, broken switches, and constant new issues. I don’t know if it is due to it being an early production model, but just know that if you are sticking to NIB due to reliability concerns, there are no guarantees the new machine will be more reliable. In my personal experience, the most reliable machines are DMD Stern machines.

6. Pinball is a portal into the basement arcade experience. The family has had tons of fun with MAME, One Ups, a ping pong table (just sold) and a pool table. My wife showed no interest in pinball, but she has shot pool with me and/or the kids just about every day since we got the pool table. If you have room and are at all interested, pool tables are much cheaper than pins (mine was $600… check craigslist). Just know that if you bring one into a basement it is never coming out. My coin op valley dynamo from the 90s weighs 600 pounds.
7. Temp trades, temp trades, temp trades. My normal temp trade buddy (my boss) moved but I have a new temp trade buddy. He has my Deadpool Pro, and I have his Spiderman VE. I am going to try and have one temp trade at all times going forward, probably on a 3 month rotation so I can always have something new (to me). I should be able to temp trade that Deadpool for Star Wars, Turtles, Black Knight, Led Zepplin, and others over the next year. I will probably try to trade out for a system 11 at some time so I can do temp trades on those. I like playing new (to me) pins, and learining the rules to a wider variety of pins will help me in the competitive scene.

8. Viva variety! I still stand by trying to have a wide selection (if money/space permits). When combined with the temp trade tips above, I have a game from each decade from the 80s to today. Note that one of my Sterns will be replaced by Weird Al/Heist/Cosmic Cart racing when that gets here later this year. Really looking forward to that one.

9. Get an F.U. machine. I picked up a Flash Gordon a few months ago and have played more games on it than any other pin since picking it up. That is partially due to how short the games are, but partially due to the experience there. Playing that game is COMPLETELY different than a story based game like Spiderman or Jurassic Park. It kicks my butt, and does so quickly. I would put Fish Tales, Bram Stokers Dracula, and a handful of other games in that category. A short game like this one also makes it so I can squeeze in another game when I otherwise wouldn’t have time. For ideas on similar games check out this thread. https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/i-hate-this-game-one-more-game

10. Pin theme dreams come true. With the exception of Harry Potter… all of my dream themes have now been made, and some of them many times over. I never thought we would see a Weird Al pin, but was pleasantly surprised when Multimorphic announced. No matter how obscure you think your theme is, it could happen so don’t give up hope!

That’s it! It has been a fun year in pinball. See a few photo updates along with my ownership matrix below. To help decipher my chart, items in red were “I hate it… set it on fire”, items in black were never working or set up in my house, items in purple are temporary trades I never owned but had in my house, and items in blue are what was out of my house in exchange for the temporary trade.
Thanks everyone and looking forward to another year of nerding out with you all!

2020-2021 update, year 3:

Yep, this makes three years in the hobby as I slowly convert my basement into the pinball dungeon. I have 10 more lessons learned for the crowd and am enjoying pinball more than ever. Thanks for all the help finding machines, fixing pins, bad investment advice, and keeping the hobby fun pinside people!
Ten more lessons for this year:

1. Once a shiester always a shiester: Two years ago I got screwed on a Hobbit that the seller had conveniently wrapped and packed for me. When I got it home the dragon’s mouth didn’t work. A few weeks ago I found something on Craigslist, a South Park I had been looking for. I emailed back and forth and shortly before driving up he sent a note that it was having problems with the menu buttons. I asked for clarification that it would boot, at which time he revealed it would only boot to the menu. He was going to have me make a 6 hour round trip and then spring on me it was non booting at the last minute. Always, always ask pointed questions when driving a long distance. When l looked through my emails I figured out this was the same guy who had screwed me on the Hobbit. The same is important with trades, especially when they are coming to you. I’ve let things slide because they did the driving that I shouldn’t have. Also, be very thorough in your ads to avoid misunderstandings.

2. Get a twofer: If you have the means and space always ask if there is something else they would like to move while you are there. This has worked about a third of the time for me, and I have found that you can almost always get a better deal on two pins than on one. When I got my Torpedo Alley, I picked up a Robocop I didn’t even have room for with it because I got it at a discout for two. After cleaning it up a bit, I was able to sell it at below the pinside average and greatly reduce the price of my Torpedo Alley. When I asked last weekend when picking up an old El Dorado E.M., they guy had a Space Shuttle that wouldn’t boot that we worked into the deal. I took the Space Shuttle, set it up, and sold it as a non-booting project for well below pinside prices. Guy I got it from, happy to have it gone, guy I sold it to, happy to have it as project pins are now rare. Lasted 20 minutes posted on pinside.

3. E.Ms. can be fun: I just picked up an El Dorado. After shopping around and accounting for the Space Shuttle cost offset mentioned above, it was under $1,000 for a good condition perfectly working Gotlieb E.M…. One of the best too. I have had a lot of fun with it and it’s kicking my butt. It’s a bit slow, but a 5 ball game still takes under 2 minutes with my skill set. The chimes sound awesome. Looking at it though I would never get a non-booting/playing E.M. without having a working one first as the learning curve on this is steep with repairs. Luckily nothing has broken so far on me but it is mechanically complex.

4. Mames/multicades rock! But don’t hesitate to get something prebuilt/easy like an arcade 1up. I have had a ton of fun with my MAME this past year. However, for most people I would solidly recommend an arcade 1up. I have found that I play my Outrun 1up more than the big MAME because when I play it I am spending my time actually playing it instead of tweaking the menus and controls. I plan on getting a handful more as they are relatively cheap and hold their value surprisingly well.

5. Off brand pins are a a great value and can rock! I cannot get over how awesome my Data East Torpedo Alley is. I know its sacrilegious to say, but I think I prefer it to High Speed. I really enjoyed my DE Jurassic Park and my DE Last Action Hero. Don’t fall into the if its not Bally/Williams from the 80s/90s it sucks trap. If you want bang for your buck this is where you will find it. These games play differently, but in their own fun way.

6. Game depth isn’t as important as early game breath if you’re not an expert. Pinside tends to heavily favor pinball wizards. Not all of us will make it to Escape Isle Nublar and Valinor. For people like me it is important to have a wide breath of things to do early in the game. Some games like Deadpool do a great job at this. Others like Jurassic Park do no. Remember that pinside ratings are heavily skewed towards pinball wizards.

7. Temporary trades are awesome. Do it with your pin buddies. I like playing different games. This year I got an AIQ LE for 3 months in exchange for my Twilight Zone. Am I glad I did this? Yes BECAUSE I HATE AIQ! After spending some time on it I realized I can’t stand it, and am glad I just did a temporary trade instead of paying to rotate one through my basement.

8. Branch out for locations: I really like playing different pins. This year I branched out and went a little farther out for some locations and found some really awesome ones. I actually started a thread here: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/maryland-location-play-club/page/2#post-6361822 Use the pinside map and pinballmap.com. If you are going out of town anyways, might as well try a new spot. I have discovered some random old games I really like doing this.

9. NIB rocks!: I had only been a used game guy until this year when I got my Rick and Morty. Does every game need to be NIB? No! Is it really nice? Yes! If you have the means it is something I would recommend doing at least once. I rotate pins too often to do this much and will continue to be a used pin guy for the most part.

10. Repeat customers are a thing, guard your reputation: Be honest with your ads folks. Put up lots of pictures, make a video, be forthcoming. The pinball community is not that large, if you get a reputation for being a shiester, nobody will want to trade with you or buy your pins. If you are honest with the flaws in a pin, people are more likely to come from a great distance to get your machine. My record so far is someone coming 600 miles each way for a Big Guns. Last weekend, my other record was a pin selling in 20 minutes. My phone rang from someone I had traded with before within 20 minutes of listing that Space Shuttle.

That’s it folks! I am hoping to try out a pinball league or some tournaments as COVID lifts and I finish up classes again in the fall. I’m still having fun and the hobby is still awesome!

2 Years in the hobby, 10 more lessons learned.

Year 2 update:

Whelp, I’ve been in the hobby 2 years now this July and have completely fallen off of the deep end into pinball. I have some more lessons learned to add to the year one list, but just wanted to say pinball is more fun than ever and pinside is awesome! Thanks mods for running the site and thanks internet strangers for helping me fix machines.

Summer 2019 to Summer 2020 lessons learned:

1.Decorating your arcade is a blast! My arcade wall is decorated with pinball backglasses, playfields, movie posters, and some paintings my dad did back in the day. As more and more people get repro backglasses and playfields to put in their games, there are plenty of nice, but flawed backglasses that can be gotten relatively cheap as wall hangers. Same thing with playfields. I’ve even done 2 for 1 trades to get original backglasses back into pins (traded my blackout glass for a seawitch and flight 2000). I really don’t care for the play of old E.M.s and early S.S., but really dig a lot of the art work. Look through the “let’s see pictures of game rooms” if you want some great ideas.

2. Good lighting is amazing… in the arcade. When I first had my basement finished, I put in recessed lighting spotlights. When one of these is on over your machine, it’s like staring into the sun. However, playing with the lights off is almost unworkable with some older machines. I installed some LED tapelights around the top edge of my walls in my arcade and hooked them up to some smart plugs. There is now nice even lighting coming from all directions into my pins. If they are bothering me, I can turn them on or off with my voice while playing a game. For less than the price of a set of pinstadiums I have nice even lighting throughout my arcade. There are several threads on pinside with much more advanced lighting setups. I’d highly recommend flipping through those if you are building an arcade room from the ground up.

3. Get a MAME/Multicade/60 in 1. Seriously, they are less than the cost of the vast majority of pins and nearly as fun. People get nit-picky on emulation, but you can get a really nice 60 in 1 machine in a Galaga, Pacman, Donkey Kong, or similar cabinet brand new for around $1000. I had a converted Arcade 1-up with 20,000 games on it I bought (and sold) on facebook for around $600. I currently have a full on MAME cabinet set up with every game made for every system before 2005. Every arcade, Nintendo, Playstation… you name it, I’ve got it. It’s so much fun to dig through that and re-discover old games. I put a different game on there for my kids to find and explore almost every day. 1 day it’s Galaga, the next Super Mario brothers 3, the next it’s missile command. I could play 5 games a day for the rest of my life and not even see ½ of what’s on there. You will find that many guests will be just as happy playin Dig-Dug or Street Fighter 2. They make great decorations and I cannot recommend them enough. With all the options, I keep coming back to classic 80s games so to me a 60 in 1 in a cool cabinet is almost 90% as good as the most high end MAME setup.

4. A 30 year old game can be just as reliable as a brand new one. The most reliable game I have ever owned was Medieval Madness (CGC) AFM (CGC), Whirlwind, followed by Taxi, followed by Fish Tales, followed by Stern Star Trek. The least reliable game I have ever owned is Star Trek: TNG, followed by The Hobbit, followed by Stern Jurassic Park Pro. All games will require some maintenance, but don’t be afraid of buying an older game. It is my experience that it really doesn’t matter how old a game is, it’s the number of mechanical do-dads that dictate how reliable a machine is going to be… With that said, I’ve replaced all the coil stops in my semi new JP Pro and am dealing with pooling issues around some posts. There are a few games that can be gotten for a lower price simply because of how difficult they are to keep running. I’m looking at you ST:TNG. Seriously, cut your teeth on something easy before getting one. I feel like mine is reliable but every time I think I have everything fixed something else breaks.

5. Who cares what everyone else thinks about a specific pinball machine. I love the Avengers Pinball Machine. It’s what got me back into pinball. I love the South Park machine. I enjoy (but don’t love) the Munsters. If it’s fun to you, and other’s hate it, that just gives you a chance to get the game a bit cheaper. The machines I got the most enjoyment from in the past few years are DE Jurassic Park and Last Action Hero. Those are really loaded. They are not classic Bally Williams and the Art Package is ugly, but they are so much fun and totally loaded. With that said, you can usually tell if a game is good or bad based off of pinside ratings before playing, but if your experience does not match the overall rating, as long as you are buying to keep a while it doesn’t really matter.

6. Pinside ratings are skewed towards games geared toward better players. Pinside is awesome, and full of pinball fanatics. Pinball fanatics tend to be pretty good at pinball. Pretty good pinball players can blow through the Munsters in 1 ball. I can’t. Pinball fanatics can enjoy how deep TSPP is and play 45 minute games. I still can’t get past Alien Invasion. Pinside fanatics can enjoy all the dinosaurs and wizard modes on Jurassic Park, I can’t. I have come to realize that how deep the code is doesn’t really matter if you are not great, so just go with a game that is fun. I’ve beat Deadpool, World Cup Soccer, Medieval Madness, and a few more, but there are some games like JP, TSPP, Hobbit, and most newer games on standard settings. I have learned to enjoy games with more depth early in the game.

7. If you can’t enjoy the game because you only see the first half… change the settings! Put your JP Pro and TSPP on 5 ball so you can see more of the game! If your games are too short, close up the outlanes! We’re not all pinball wizards, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have fun. If it’s your game, play it the way you want to. After you get a bit better, close things up, turn off the extra balls, and change it back to 3 ball. It’s your game, have fun with it. I’ve gotten better over time but am still no where close to the high scores at the local arcade.

8. Pinball designers have their own style. 2 flipper games play different than 3+ flipper games. Different era’s of pins play differently. An EM is completely different than a SS. A DMD game plays completely differently than an Alpha Numeric. Modern games with LCD screens have tremendous depth. Wide bodies play different than narrow bodies. Different brands just play differently. You won’t know what you like best until you play it. Steve Ritchie, Pat Lawlor, Scott Danesi, Brian Eddy, and Keith Johnson are my favorite. If my collection were static, I’d have one from each designer and one from each decade. If your favorite game is Stern Monopoly by Pat Lawlor, you will probably like his other games and should try out Whirlwind and Twilight Zone. If you find one game you particularly like, try the other games by that same designer and you will probably like it. Same holds true to a lesser extent for manufacturer and game era. Over time I have come to the realization that I like games with sideramp shots and extra flippers. Find what you like, but keep variety if you have the space and budget.

9. Rebuild your flippers, replace your rubbers, and clean/wax your playfield. Most games that I’ve looked at and played in local arcades, and many of those rotating through my basement needed some basic maintenance. My ST:TNG, and Whirlwind both had anemic 3rd flippers that rarely made it up the ramp when I first got them. Do you know how much more fun those games are with the 3rd flipper shots working? Flipper rebuild kits run around $40. The first time you do it may take a few hours, but once you have it figured out a rebuild will take 45 minutes. Strong flippers are awesome. Fast playing games are awesome. Clean playfields are beautiful and play so much better. Watch some youtube tutorials. If you are thinking about trading out some of your lineup, get your game working super good first. Not only will you be able to re-fall in love with your game, if you do end up letting it go you can get more for it when you sell it. Selling a dirty pin is like selling a dirty car, a little work up front will go a long way. As an aside, make a good ad, throw up some good videos, you’ll get more offers. Look at my past ads for examples.

10. Go to a pinball show! Listen to a pinball podcast! Watch a pinball Youtube Video! Go to a different arcade! There is so much more to pinball than just playing. Listening to a pinball podcast every once in a while is fun to hear the hype train about what pins are coming out. Watching a good player on youtube can teach you things about your game, and watching Todd Tuckey walk through games for sale can teach you a lot of things in general about pins. There are so many different personalities on different platforms that there is bound to be someone interesting to you. I also can’t recommend the PAPA pin tutorials enough. I am lucky enough that I have several arcades within an hour or so of me and can try out different games at different locations. It is amazing to me that even the same game at a different location can play completely different. I thought Twilight Zone was terrible until I played a good one. But above all, if you can, go to a pinball show (when they open again). I have my fingers crossed for York. If you go to a show the odds are you will see something new to you. I never would have even taken a second look at a Baywatch Pinball machine if I hadn’t seen one at a show (they’re awesome!). So many parts, new and used, so many wall hangers to pick up. If you are into competition they usually have options, and it’s a great place to meet other pinball people. Allentown and York are the only one’s I’ve been to and I can’t recommend them enough. The good deals tend to go fast at these shows, but they are a great place to “trade pins” in the parking lots. Bring a pin to free-play if you can. I’m going to bring an A-list game to the next pinball show I make it to.

Here is to another fun year of pinball!

2018-2019 update.

It has been 1 year since I got my first pinball machine, a World Cup Soccer. In the past year I have bought/sold 11 other games, and have learned a lot in the process. I currently have a Star Trek:TNG, White Water, and Fish Tales. In the past year, I have learned a lot which I would like to pass on below.

Games I’ve Owned- World Cup Soccer 94, Attack From Mars Remake (SE), Stern Star Trek Pro, DE Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Last Action Hero, Pinbot (x2), Big Guns, Star Trek: TNG, White Water, and Fish Tales

1. Not everything machine needs to be a fully restored masterpiece to be fun. My first machine was a World Cup Soccer 94. I LED’d it out, fixed some ramps, replaced the beat up legs, polished it up and it looked fantastic. These all added to the value of the game, made it play better, and were worthwhile investments. I also spent around $100 changing out the coin mechs and sinage on the front from Deutschmark to Quarters… I’m never going to route it. Educational and fun, but a complete waste of time and money in hindsight.

2. If you are going to LED a machine, replace the rubbers at the same time. LEDing a machine and replacing rubbers is relatively easy. If you can use a screwdriver and remember how you took it apart, you can change rubbers and put it back together. That World Cup Soccer has 2 giant ramps that are a pain to get in and out. I disassembled them to do the LED job, and then 1 month later I disassembled them to do the rubbers. It might have taken me an extra 5 minutes to do them at the same time, but I ended up adding 3 hours to the task for not planning properly.

3. Rebuild your flippers! If you buy a machine and the ball isn’t making it up the ramps consistently, rebuild your flippers. You don’t need a new coil, and the parts to do it aren’t bad ~$50 a machine. Along with new rubbers and playfield wax, this is an amazing way to rejuvenate the machine and speed up gameplay.

4. Pinside Rank isn’t everything. Out of everything I’ve owned, I would rank them in the following order from best to worst. White Water, Attack From Mars, Fish Tales, Jurassic Park, Star Trek: TNG World Cup Soccer 94, Last Action Hero, Stern Star Trek, Pinbot, Hobbit, Big Guns. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are fun games, but I’ve been surprised. I can honestly say that I’d rather own a Pinbot than a Hobbit, and would rather own a Fish Tales or Last Action Hero than a Stern Star Trek. Now don’t get me wrong, the top 100 is the top 100 for a reason, but your tastes are unique to you. As I have played more I have realized I like games with simpler rules that play fast than more complicated rulesets. Fish Tales, White Water, World Cup Soccer, and Attack From Mars can all be fun and quick players. It used to take me 45 minutes to play a game of the Hobbit and I’m not that good. I have found that my favorite games are the early 90s DMD games with simpler rules. At the moment, World Cup Soccer, Fish Tales, and White Water are probably my favorite.

5. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty with light board work. I have been able to get all of my machines 100% up and working with the exception of buying a non-working pinbot that had the wrong replacement MPU board in it. Replacing rubbers, retrofitting LEDs, and rebuilding flippers isn’t that bad as discussed above. However, more complicated problems are rarely that bad. Most issues I’ve had have been related to the old incandescent bulbs drawing a ton of power and burning out the GI connectors or something similar on the boards. When you switch out to LEDs, this problem mostly goes away. However, I have been able to diagnose most board problems between the manual and visual inspection. This switch isn’t registering? Where do the wires go and why does that look burnt? Soldering isn’t that hard and the basics can be learned within 20 minutes on youtube. It has been my experience that it’s always a bad connector, broken wire at a pinch point, or if it is something broken on a board, can be visually identified and fixed. I still haven’t actually had to use my multi-meter to fix anything.

6. You really can buy and sell pinball machines fairly easily. Moving them is a pain, but you can get a machine, play it non-stop for a few months, then sell it for about what you paid for it plus what you have in it. I currently have 3, but have bought and sold 9 others in the past year. Not counting travel time and labor I have in them I am up $435 between all of those transactions. I’m not ripping anyone off either.

7. You will have a bad time selling your game if you don’t put in the effort to make a good ad. Seriously people, post 40 pictures, give an honest accounting of everything that works and doesn’t work on your machine, and put up a few youtube videos. You’ll get more attention, inquiries, and people will be willing to drive from farther away because they already know the condition of your machine. Here is one of my ads. https://pinside.com/pinball/market/classifieds/archive/82280 I have sold every machine I have listed within a week. If it’s not selling, drop the price a bit every day or two until it sells.

8. Don’t buy a game in person without full inspection. The one time I feel like I got screwed was when I bought a Hobbit. I drove 3 hours to pick it up, and when I got there the seller had “conveniently” wrapped it up for me. I made him unwrap it and set it down for a quick test (no legs) It was borderline unplayable without the incline but looked okay. I got it home and low and behold the Dragon doesn’t fully work. A new one can be purchase for just… $600. I’ve never bought a machine and had it shipped, but I’d insist on a video at a minimum.

9. Don’t be afraid of commercial establishments. Yes, buying NIB is expensive and not a good idea if you trade out your machines every few months. Yes, buying a refurbished machine is also not a good idea going by that same logic unless you are after a long term keeper. However, there are many deals hidden between other machines at commercial establishments. I got my White Water this weekend from TNT amusements bargain basement. It was cheaper than any other White Water for sale on pinside or Facebook at the time of purchase. They also did the battery off-set, reflowed the solder in the backbox, and put in new capacitors in and the like.

10. Find pinball friends and do temporary trades. I’m lucky. There are over 150 pinball machines in the DC/Baltimore area at commercial establishments. There are 3 different pinball leagues. I am doing my first temporary trade this month trading my Star Trek TNG for my friends Metallica LE. After a few months, assuming all is good we will likely do another temporary trade of his LOTR or JJP Pirates for my White Water. We both go through machines quickly so hopefully this will allow us to both have new (to us games) without doing as many trades and drives.

Overall, I’ve had a ton of fun playing pinball over the past year, and being able to do it at home while the kids are asleep without taking away family time has been amazing. I’ll be doing the Pinball leagues when the kids are a little older. I think I’ve had just as much fixing up machines, buying, selling, and trading as I have had playing pinball.
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#2 3 years ago

I like ur little Asteroids cab. My first year of collecting was special and I went crazy. Its still great but the wonder of owning pins for the first time.

#3 3 years ago

Great write up. Great tips for not only new pinheads, but some veterans who may have missed the boat.

#4 3 years ago
Quoted from Hazoff:

I like ur little Asteroids cab. My first year of collecting was special and I went crazy. Its still great but the wonder of owning pins for the first time.

Thanks! I have wife approval to do whatever I want with the space between those 2 doors. It's enough room for 3 and a half pins... The MAME retrofit Arcade 1up cabinet fits the spot nicely and is worth an hour of fun a week and is the perfect size for little kids.

I'm slowing down and am trying to keep things a little longer... there are just so many games I want to play! I've been trying to limit myself to games that I can't play locally. Nothing like playing White Water for the very first time when you're picking it up to take it home!

#5 3 years ago

great write up! Quality pinsider here

#6 3 years ago

I like your style!

Good points!

#7 3 years ago

In the same boat but only months in and have 5 so far. Thanks for the post.

#8 3 years ago
Quoted from sataneatscheese:

Nothing like playing White Water for the very first time when you're picking it up to take it home!

Truer words have never been spoken!!! I actually miss the days when I was in the hobby back around 2000, where no pins could be found on location around the area. Most pins I purchased back then were used and I had never played them before, going just by the reputation the pin had on rgp.

Nowadays I've played a pin numerous times before I put the money down to buy a pin, as we now have great location pinball in the area, and also since the days for $1300 TZs are long gone.....

#9 3 years ago

Great write-up! I still wish I got the 2 pinbots!!! Lol!!!

#10 3 years ago

Great tips! I have been in the hobby for 7 months now and have owned Pin*Bot, Whirlwind, Earthshaker, STTNG, and JP. I have sold the JP just recently to make room (only have space for 4 pins). I currently also have a project Flipper Parade I am restoring and have an F-14 in need of restoration waiting vertical in the garage. I tend to really enjoy the chase of the good deal on a game, I think one of my favorite moments in pinball was the 14 hour round trip with my son to snag our Whirlwind which wouldn't boot but was in great physical shape for $1000. Today it is working great and is one of our favorites. I enjoy the process of bringing an old machine back from the grave and giving it some new life. My sons and I play the most, I still am searching for the pin that will get my daughters to play!

#11 3 years ago

Great post -- I have to suggest swapping LEDs from underneath the playfield. I am always confused when I see posts wiih people talking about how hard it is to get to certain lighting.

#12 3 years ago
Quoted from AUKraut:

Truer words have never been spoken!!! I actually miss the days when I was in the hobby back around 2000, where no pins could be found on location around the area. Most pins I purchased back then were used and I had never played them before, going just by the reputation the pin had on rgp.

I know the feeling. I really enjoy getting to explore a pin and have gotten to the point that I won’t watch tutorials on gameplay so that I can learn how to play it on my own. There are so many pin options around here (I’m spoiled) but even with all those options there are many great games that just aren’t available locally. Some of my most pleasant surprises have been on games I’ve never played. I’m looking at you White Water and Last Action Hero.

Quoted from Daditude:

Great write-up! I still wish I got the 2 pinbots!!! Lol!!!

No you don’t. I got the machine LED’d and most of the playfield working, but never got past the MPU board. The guy I traded the Pinbots with couldn’t get them working either and traded them… that’s 4 owners within a month so far as I can tell.

Quoted from Pinball_Gizzard:

Great tips! I have been in the hobby for 7 months now and have owned Pin*Bot, Whirlwind, Earthshaker, STTNG, and JP. I have sold the JP just recently to make room (only have space for 4 pins). I currently also have a project Flipper Parade I am restoring and have an F-14 in need of restoration waiting vertical in the garage. I tend to really enjoy the chase of the good deal on a game, I think one of my favorite moments in pinball was the 14 hour round trip with my son to snag our Whirlwind which wouldn't boot but was in great physical shape for $1000. Today it is working great and is one of our favorites. I enjoy the process of bringing an old machine back from the grave and giving it some new life. My sons and I play the most, I still am searching for the pin that will get my daughters to play!

We have very similar interests. I was looking hard at an Earthshaker and couldn’t find a Whirlwind when I had the funds available. Fixing these things up can be fun! I’m attempting my first cabinet painting restore (with mixing!) at the moment. I’ve still yet to bring one back from the grave. Look into “World Cup Soccer 94” for the daughter. Great kids theme with harder goals for adults, and easy goals for kids (literally). I’ve only got room for 3 and have had a lot of fun rotating through mine. I’m sure I’ll settle down with a few eventually but for now it’s great fun trying out new machines.

#13 3 years ago
Quoted from sataneatscheese:

No you don’t. I got the machine LED’d and most of the playfield working, but never got past the MPU board. The guy I traded the Pinbots with couldn’t get them working either and traded them

This should probably be in your original list. Putting LEDs into a non-working game seems like a huge waste of time and money.

11 months later
#14 2 years ago

2 Years in the hobby, 10 more lessons learned.

Year 2 update:

Whelp, I’ve been in the hobby 2 years now this July and have completely fallen off of the deep end into pinball. I have some more lessons learned to add to the year one list, but just wanted to say pinball is more fun than ever and pinside is awesome! Thanks mods for running the site and thanks internet strangers for helping me fix machines.

Summer 2019 to Summer 2020 lessons learned:

Decorating your arcade is a blast! My arcade wall is decorated with pinball backglasses, playfields, movie posters, and some paintings my dad did back in the day. As more and more people get repro backglasses and playfields to put in their games, there are plenty of nice, but flawed backglasses that can be gotten relatively cheap as wall hangers. Same thing with playfields. I’ve even done 2 for 1 trades to get original backglasses back into pins (traded my blackout glass for a seawitch and flight 2000). I really don’t care for the play of old E.M.s and early S.S., but really dig a lot of the art work. Look through the “let’s see pictures of game rooms” if you want some great ideas.

Good lighting is amazing… in the arcade. When I first had my basement finished, I put in recessed lighting spotlights. When one of these is on over your machine, it’s like staring into the sun. However, playing with the lights off is almost unworkable with some older machines. I installed some LED tapelights around the top edge of my walls in my arcade and hooked them up to some smart plugs. There is now nice even lighting coming from all directions into my pins. If they are bothering me, I can turn them on or off with my voice while playing a game. For less than the price of a set of pinstadiums I have nice even lighting throughout my arcade. There are several threads on pinside with much more advanced lighting setups. I’d highly recommend flipping through those if you are building an arcade room from the ground up.

Get a MAME/Multicade/60 in 1. Seriously, they are less than the cost of the vast majority of pins and nearly as fun. People get nit-picky on emulation, but you can get a really nice 60 in 1 machine in a Galaga, Pacman, Donkey Kong, or similar cabinet brand new for around $1000. I had a converted Arcade 1-up with 20,000 games on it I bought (and sold) on facebook for around $600. I currently have a full on MAME cabinet set up with every game made for every system before 2005. Every arcade, Nintendo, Playstation… you name it, I’ve got it. It’s so much fun to dig through that and re-discover old games. I put a different game on there for my kids to find and explore almost every day. 1 day it’s Galaga, the next Super Mario brothers 3, the next it’s missile command. I could play 5 games a day for the rest of my life and not even see ½ of what’s on there. You will find that many guests will be just as happy playin Dig-Dug or Street Fighter 2. They make great decorations and I cannot recommend them enough. With all the options, I keep coming back to classic 80s games so to me a 60 in 1 in a cool cabinet is almost 90% as good as the most high end MAME setup.

A 30 year old game can be just as reliable as a brand new one. The most reliable game I have ever owned was Medieval Madness (CGC) AFM (CGC), Whirlwind, followed by Taxi, followed by Fish Tales, followed by Stern Star Trek. The least reliable game I have ever owned is Star Trek: TNG, followed by The Hobbit, followed by Stern Jurassic Park Pro. All games will require some maintenance, but don’t be afraid of buying an older game. It is my experience that it really doesn’t matter how old a game is, it’s the number of mechanical do-dads that dictate how reliable a machine is going to be… With that said, I’ve replaced all the coil stops in my semi new JP Pro and am dealing with pooling issues around some posts. There are a few games that can be gotten for a lower price simply because of how difficult they are to keep running. I’m looking at you ST:TNG. Seriously, cut your teeth on something easy before getting one. I feel like mine is reliable but every time I think I have everything fixed something else breaks.

Who cares what everyone else thinks about a specific pinball machine. I love the Avengers Pinball Machine. It’s what got me back into pinball. I love the South Park machine. I enjoy (but don’t love) the Munsters. If it’s fun to you, and other’s hate it, that just gives you a chance to get the game a bit cheaper. The machines I got the most enjoyment from in the past few years are DE Jurassic Park and Last Action Hero. Those are really loaded. They are not classic Bally Williams and the Art Package is ugly, but they are so much fun and totally loaded. With that said, you can usually tell if a game is good or bad based off of pinside ratings before playing, but if your experience does not match the overall rating, as long as you are buying to keep a while it doesn’t really matter.

Pinside ratings are skewed towards games geared toward better players. Pinside is awesome, and full of pinball fanatics. Pinball fanatics tend to be pretty good at pinball. Pretty good pinball players can blow through the Munsters in 1 ball. I can’t. Pinball fanatics can enjoy how deep TSPP is and play 45 minute games. I still can’t get past Alien Invasion. Pinside fanatics can enjoy all the dinosaurs and wizard modes on Jurassic Park, I can’t. I have come to realize that how deep the code is doesn’t really matter if you are not great, so just go with a game that is fun. I’ve beat Deadpool, World Cup Soccer, Medieval Madness, and a few more, but there are some games like JP, TSPP, Hobbit, and most newer games on standard settings. I have learned to enjoy games with more depth early in the game.

If you can’t enjoy the game because you only see the first half… change the settings! Put your JP Pro and TSPP on 5 ball so you can see more of the game! If your games are too short, close up the outlanes! We’re not all pinball wizards, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have fun. If it’s your game, play it the way you want to. After you get a bit better, close things up, turn off the extra balls, and change it back to 3 ball. It’s your game, have fun with it. I’ve gotten better over time but am still no where close to the high scores at the local arcade.

Pinball designers have their own style. 2 flipper games play different than 3+ flipper games. Different era’s of pins play differently. An EM is completely different than a SS. A DMD game plays completely differently than an Alpha Numeric. Modern games with LCD screens have tremendous depth. Wide bodies play different than narrow bodies. Different brands just play differently. You won’t know what you like best until you play it. Steve Ritchie, Pat Lawlor, Scott Danesi, Brian Eddy, and Keith Johnson are my favorite. If my collection were static, I’d have one from each designer and one from each decade. If your favorite game is Stern Monopoly by Pat Lawlor, you will probably like his other games and should try out Whirlwind and Twilight Zone. If you find one game you particularly like, try the other games by that same designer and you will probably like it. Same holds true to a lesser extent for manufacturer and game era. Over time I have come to the realization that I like games with sideramp shots and extra flippers. Find what you like, but keep variety if you have the space and budget.

Rebuild your flippers, replace your rubbers, and clean/wax your playfield. Most games that I’ve looked at and played in local arcades, and many of those rotating through my basement needed some basic maintenance. My ST:TNG, and Whirlwind both had anemic 3rd flippers that rarely made it up the ramp when I first got them. Do you know how much more fun those games are with the 3rd flipper shots working? Flipper rebuild kits run around $40. The first time you do it may take a few hours, but once you have it figured out a rebuild will take 45 minutes. Strong flippers are awesome. Fast playing games are awesome. Clean playfields are beautiful and play so much better. Watch some youtube tutorials. If you are thinking about trading out some of your lineup, get your game working super good first. Not only will you be able to re-fall in love with your game, if you do end up letting it go you can get more for it when you sell it. Selling a dirty pin is like selling a dirty car, a little work up front will go a long way. As an aside, make a good ad, throw up some good videos, you’ll get more offers. Look at my past ads for examples.

Go to a pinball show! Listen to a pinball podcast! Watch a pinball Youtube Video! Go to a different arcade! There is so much more to pinball than just playing. Listening to a pinball podcast every once in a while is fun to hear the hype train about what pins are coming out. Watching a good player on youtube can teach you things about your game, and watching Todd Tuckey walk through games for sale can teach you a lot of things in general about pins. There are so many different personalities on different platforms that there is bound to be someone interesting to you. I also can’t recommend the PAPA pin tutorials enough. I am lucky enough that I have several arcades within an hour or so of me and can try out different games at different locations. It is amazing to me that even the same game at a different location can play completely different. I thought Twilight Zone was terrible until I played a good one. But above all, if you can, go to a pinball show (when they open again). I have my fingers crossed for York. If you go to a show the odds are you will see something new to you. I never would have even taken a second look at a Baywatch Pinball machine if I hadn’t seen one at a show (they’re awesome!). So many parts, new and used, so many wall hangers to pick up. If you are into competition they usually have options, and it’s a great place to meet other pinball people. Allentown and York are the only one’s I’ve been to and I can’t recommend them enough. The good deals tend to go fast at these shows, but they are a great place to “trade pins” in the parking lots. Bring a pin to free-play if you can. I’m going to bring an A-list game to the next pinball show I make it to.

Here is to another fun year of pinball!

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4 months later
#15 1 year ago

This is a great write up. I recently got into the pinball ownership club. Wanted one for years. Unfortunately we have nothing real close by to really play and swap around. We got a WCS94. Slowly getting everything right. Still don’t have flashers working yet. Found some disconnected wires. All the board lights were LED and the rubbers are new. I put some frosted LED’s in the back box. Cleaned the play field and just ordered some new balls. Some of the others had corrosion. Really enjoy the game. Envious of your game room!

#16 1 year ago

Greatly written threadstart.

I rediscovered pinball while hospitalised for 3 months two years ago.
Last before that played was early nintees.

So far leasing games with three months duration and when traveling visiting thoose few pinball arcades left in the country.
It's such a mystery what games you really come to enjoy, and often doesnt correlate at all with general views.

I'm currently working on building a gameroom in a new building here at our farm. Sofar it's going slow.
I'm not really back on track healthwise, but working on it.

Btw played loads of all the new games (unfortunately not wonka, jjp-pirates or aiq).
Sofar my two favorites are hobbit and bksor(prem) go figure

#17 1 year ago
Quoted from bucky5454:

This is a great write up. I recently got into the pinball ownership club. Wanted one for years. Unfortunately we have nothing real close by to really play and swap around. We got a WCS94. Slowly getting everything right. Still don’t have flashers working yet. Found some disconnected wires. All the board lights were LED and the rubbers are new. I put some frosted LED’s in the back box. Cleaned the play field and just ordered some new balls. Some of the others had corrosion. Really enjoy the game. Envious of your game room!

Thanks! Having a World Cup Soccer in the basement was my first real dive into the hobby. It took me a bit to get my WCS working right... I had to have someone off pinside walk me through just raising the playfield. Took me weeks to get all the lights working. Such a fun process! I live where there are a lot mroe pinball people and it's easy to buy and sell pins. After you've had your fun with that one hopefully you can trade it for something else cool nearby. Aside from the pain of physically moving machines... there is always someone who wants to trade game (at least around here). Good luck with your pin!

Quoted from Dr-pin:

Greatly written threadstart.
I rediscovered pinball while hospitalised for 3 months two years ago.
Last before that played was early nintees.
So far leasing games with three months duration and when traveling visiting thoose few pinball arcades left in the country.
It's such a mystery what games you really come to enjoy, and often doesnt correlate at all with general views.
I'm currently working on building a gameroom in a new building here at our farm. Sofar it's going slow.
I'm not really back on track healthwise, but working on it.
Btw played loads of all the new games (unfortunately not wonka, jjp-pirates or aiq).
Sofar my two favorites are hobbit and bksor(prem) go figure

I know what you mean about general views not alligning with the games that you like. I thought I'd love the Hobbit... hated it. I like the original Avengers pin better than the new one and the original Data East Jurassic Park over the Stern version... to each his own. I hope you get well soon and good luck on your arcade! Once it is up and running, decorating it can be almost as much fun as playing the games in it!

7 months later
#18 1 year ago

2020-2021 update, year 3:

Yep, this makes three years in the hobby as I slowly convert my basement into the pinball dungeon. I have 10 more lessons learned for the crowd and am enjoying pinball more than ever. Thanks for all the help finding machines, fixing pins, bad investment advice, and keeping the hobby fun pinside people!
Ten more lessons for this year:

1. Once a shiester always a shiester: Two years ago I got screwed on a Hobbit that the seller had conveniently wrapped and packed for me. When I got it home the dragon’s mouth didn’t work. A few weeks ago I found something on Craigslist, a South Park I had been looking for. I emailed back and forth and shortly before driving up he sent a note that it was having problems with the menu buttons. I asked for clarification that it would boot, at which time he revealed it would only boot to the menu. He was going to have me make a 6 hour round trip and then spring on me it was non booting at the last minute. Always, always ask pointed questions when driving a long distance. When l looked through my emails I figured out this was the same guy who had screwed me on the Hobbit. The same is important with trades, especially when they are coming to you. I’ve let things slide because they did the driving that I shouldn’t have. Also, be very thorough in your ads to avoid misunderstandings.

2. Get a twofer: If you have the means and space always ask if there is something else they would like to move while you are there. This has worked about a third of the time for me, and I have found that you can almost always get a better deal on two pins than on one. When I got my Torpedo Alley, I picked up a Robocop I didn’t even have room for with it because I got it at a discout for two. After cleaning it up a bit, I was able to sell it at below the pinside average and greatly reduce the price of my Torpedo Alley. When I asked last weekend when picking up an old El Dorado E.M., they guy had a Space Shuttle that wouldn’t boot that we worked into the deal. I took the Space Shuttle, set it up, and sold it as a non-booting project for well below pinside prices. Guy I got it from, happy to have it gone, guy I sold it to, happy to have it as project pins are now rare. Lasted 20 minutes posted on pinside.

3. E.Ms. can be fun: I just picked up an El Dorado. After shopping around and accounting for the Space Shuttle cost offset mentioned above, it was under $1,000 for a good condition perfectly working Gotlieb E.M…. One of the best too. I have had a lot of fun with it and it’s kicking my butt. It’s a bit slow, but a 5 ball game still takes under 2 minutes with my skill set. The chimes sound awesome. Looking at it though I would never get a non-booting/playing E.M. without having a working one first as the learning curve on this is steep with repairs. Luckily nothing has broken so far on me but it is mechanically complex.

4. Mames/multicades rock! But don’t hesitate to get something prebuilt/easy like an arcade 1up. I have had a ton of fun with my MAME this past year. However, for most people I would solidly recommend an arcade 1up. I have found that I play my Outrun 1up more than the big MAME because when I play it I am spending my time actually playing it instead of tweaking the menus and controls. I plan on getting a handful more as they are relatively cheap and hold their value surprisingly well.

5. Off brand pins are a a great value and can rock! I cannot get over how awesome my Data East Torpedo Alley is. I know its sacrilegious to say, but I think I prefer it to High Speed. I really enjoyed my DE Jurassic Park and my DE Last Action Hero. Don’t fall into the if its not Bally/Williams from the 80s/90s it sucks trap. If you want bang for your buck this is where you will find it. These games play differently, but in their own fun way.

6. Game depth isn’t as important as early game breath if you’re not an expert. Pinside tends to heavily favor pinball wizards. Not all of us will make it to Escape Isle Nublar and Valinor. For people like me it is important to have a wide breath of things to do early in the game. Some games like Deadpool do a great job at this. Others like Jurassic Park do no. Remember that pinside ratings are heavily skewed towards pinball wizards.

7. Temporary trades are awesome. Do it with your pin buddies. I like playing different games. This year I got an AIQ LE for 3 months in exchange for my Twilight Zone. Am I glad I did this? Yes BECAUSE I HATE AIQ! After spending some time on it I realized I can’t stand it, and am glad I just did a temporary trade instead of paying to rotate one through my basement.

8. Branch out for locations: I really like playing different pins. This year I branched out and went a little farther out for some locations and found some really awesome ones. I actually started a thread here: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/maryland-location-play-club/page/2#post-6361822 Use the pinside map and pinballmap.com. If you are going out of town anyways, might as well try a new spot. I have discovered some random old games I really like doing this.

9. NIB rocks!: I had only been a used game guy until this year when I got my Rick and Morty. Does every game need to be NIB? No! Is it really nice? Yes! If you have the means it is something I would recommend doing at least once. I rotate pins too often to do this much and will continue to be a used pin guy for the most part.

10. Repeat customers are a thing, guard your reputation: Be honest with your ads folks. Put up lots of pictures, make a video, be forthcoming. The pinball community is not that large, if you get a reputation for being a shiester, nobody will want to trade with you or buy your pins. If you are honest with the flaws in a pin, people are more likely to come from a great distance to get your machine. My record so far is someone coming 600 miles each way for a Big Guns. Last weekend, my other record was a pin selling in 20 minutes. My phone rang from someone I had traded with before within 20 minutes of listing that Space Shuttle.

That’s it folks! I am hoping to try out a pinball league or some tournaments as COVID lifts and I finish up classes again in the fall. I’m still having fun and the hobby is still awesome!

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2021-2022 update, year 4:

Another year… another 10 lessons learned along with more progress in slowly turning my entire basement into an arcade. Thanks for all the pinball trades, repair tips, and awful investment advice!
Ten more lessons for this year:

1. Competitive and/or group pinball completely changes the dynamics of what/how you play and makes things infinitely more fun. I’m doing a pinball tournament every other week and enjoying a pinball league every week this summer. League is too far away to do long term, but caters to all skill levels and is more social than the pinball tournaments. The 3 strike tournaments I’ve been going to have been a blast and change the way I look at location pinball. Crabtown USA is my “home location”, and the closest spot to my house. They have 40 pins (awesome), but I used to always play my favorites… Fish Tales, BK2000, Adams Family, Star Wars, Flight 2000. Since going to tournaments I have found that I excel at these games, but the ones I don’t normally play I “suck at” competitively. I am getting creamed at Strikes and Spares, Beatles, Kiss (all versions), and Johnny Mnemonic. Joining a league and doing some tournaments, even if I don’t win, has made so many more pinball machines entertaining and enticing to me. 10/10 at least try out a league or a tournament. Here is my writeup on the Allentown tournament https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/pinball-tournament-noob-10-lessons-learned-and-what-to-expect#post-6964425 and more on location pinball near me https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/maryland-location-play-club . Playing for score is very different than just trying to “beat the game”, which is all I used to do.

2. Make your old pinball machine new again… they make replacement boards for most everything now. I recently got a Nine-Ball with original boards, and… I broke some stuff. I spent hours troubleshooting before giving up and ordering Altek boards. Holy crap these things are plug and play, reliable, and nice. Anit-LED flicker, reliable solenoid board, reliable mpu… awesome. https://allteksystems.com/ At the same time I tried out some yoppcicle LEDS to fix some flakey lights… freaking amazing and easier to install (and cheaper) than a new socket and LED. https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/all-praise-be-to-the-yoppsicle- Highly recommended. Finally, I had to replace some displays on a fixer upper Stars I had. Bought new X-Pin displays. Freaking plug and play and amazing. https://xpinpinball.com/ In other words… you can actually get parts to fix a lot of old machines if you can’t fix them yourself or are having other issues.

3. On the note of putting new stuff to make your old games new again, lots of people prefer the vintage parts. If you drop a few hundred on new displays for your machine, you can generally get around ½ that for the used, even partially broken stuff. I have found this to be true of most boards. Never throw anything away pinball related and list it on pinside and/or for sale in the local show thread.

4. Never make an impulse pinball decision on buying or selling a pin. Someone talked me out of my Godzilla premium (got a great deal, but miss it already), and picked up a different machine instead of the one I went to see (wound up with 9-ball instead of Seawitch). I still like 9-ball, but overpaid as I didn’t do as much research as I should have. 9-ball is on its way out on a trade this weekend already at a loss. I was hovering over the buy button on an Ultraman and am so glad I passed after getting some time on one.

5. NIB does not mean reliable and no issues. Old games can be rock solid reliable. I have had 1 NIB pin (R&M) which was rock solid. My Godzilla Premium had 7 games on it when I got it. Both were rock solid the entire time I had it. I unboxed a Toy Story for my employer at the company office and it has been nothing but issues since setup with stuck balls, broken switches, and constant new issues. I don’t know if it is due to it being an early production model, but just know that if you are sticking to NIB due to reliability concerns, there are no guarantees the new machine will be more reliable. In my personal experience, the most reliable machines are DMD Stern machines.

6. Pinball is a portal into the basement arcade experience. The family has had tons of fun with MAME, One Ups, a ping pong table (just sold) and a pool table. My wife showed no interest in pinball, but she has shot pool with me and/or the kids just about every day since we got the pool table. If you have room and are at all interested, pool tables are much cheaper than pins (mine was $600… check craigslist). Just know that if you bring one into a basement it is never coming out. My coin op valley dynamo from the 90s weighs 600 pounds.
7. Temp trades, temp trades, temp trades. My normal temp trade buddy (my boss) moved but I have a new temp trade buddy. He has my Deadpool Pro, and I have his Spiderman VE. I am going to try and have one temp trade at all times going forward, probably on a 3 month rotation so I can always have something new (to me). I should be able to temp trade that Deadpool for Star Wars, Turtles, Black Knight, Led Zepplin, and others over the next year. I will probably try to trade out for a system 11 at some time so I can do temp trades on those. I like playing new (to me) pins, and learining the rules to a wider variety of pins will help me in the competitive scene.

8. Viva variety! I still stand by trying to have a wide selection (if money/space permits). When combined with the temp trade tips above, I have a game from each decade from the 80s to today. Note that one of my Sterns will be replaced by Weird Al/Heist/Cosmic Cart racing when that gets here later this year. Really looking forward to that one.

9. Get an F.U. machine. I picked up a Flash Gordon a few months ago and have played more games on it than any other pin since picking it up. That is partially due to how short the games are, but partially due to the experience there. Playing that game is COMPLETELY different than a story based game like Spiderman or Jurassic Park. It kicks my butt, and does so quickly. I would put Fish Tales, Bram Stokers Dracula, and a handful of other games in that category. A short game like this one also makes it so I can squeeze in another game when I otherwise wouldn’t have time. For ideas on similar games check out this thread. https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/i-hate-this-game-one-more-game

10. Pin theme dreams come true. With the exception of Harry Potter… all of my dream themes have now been made, and some of them many times over. I never thought we would see a Weird Al pin, but was pleasantly surprised when Multimorphic announced. No matter how obscure you think your theme is, it could happen so don’t give up hope!

That’s it! It has been a fun year in pinball. See a few photo updates along with my ownership matrix below. To help decipher my chart, items in red were “I hate it… set it on fire”, items in black were never working or set up in my house, items in purple are temporary trades I never owned but had in my house, and items in blue are what was out of my house in exchange for the temporary trade.
Thanks everyone and looking forward to another year of nerding out with you all!

#19 1 year ago

Nice write up and good tips. 33 years in this hobby and I'm still discovering new things.

#20 1 year ago

Very well done sir. Plenty of great advice and tips. I love that MAME cab you have and always wanted to have one but never gotten around to it. Of course space is always an issue as pins are the dominant factor for me. Like you said a 60 in 1 is way to go as I have a board lying around in my mod pile somewhere. Hopefully I'll get to it someday perhaps using an Arcade 1 Up cab. Seems like there a plenty of tutorials with modding them. I did pick up that SW Arcade 1 Up but haven't assembled yet. Love me some OutRun. That was always fun back in the day.

#21 1 year ago
Quoted from zarco:

Nice write up and good tips. 33 years in this hobby and I'm still discovering new things.

Thanks!

Quoted from FalconDriver:

Very well done sir. Plenty of great advice and tips. I love that MAME cab you have and always wanted to have one but never gotten around to it. Of course space is always an issue as pins are the dominant factor for me. Like you said a 60 in 1 is way to go as I have a board lying around in my mod pile somewhere. Hopefully I'll get to it someday perhaps using an Arcade 1 Up cab. Seems like there a plenty of tutorials with modding them. I did pick up that SW Arcade 1 Up but haven't assembled yet. Love me some OutRun. That was always fun back in the day.

I have had alot of fun with the Mame cab. In all honesty, I think the best bang for your buck you can get is a Retropie conversion of an Arcade 1up cabinet. You can find kits on Etsy, or there is usually someone of Craigslist or Facebook selling them local. I miss my old retropie. Mame does more, but retropie was simple enough that my kids could use it.

11 months later
#22 89 days ago

2021-2022 update, year 4:

Another year… another 10 lessons learned along with more progress in slowly turning my entire basement into an arcade. Thanks for all the pinball trades, repair tips, and awful investment advice!
Ten more lessons for this year:

1. Competitive and/or group pinball completely changes the dynamics of what/how you play and makes things infinitely more fun. I’m doing a pinball tournament every other week and enjoying a pinball league every week this summer. League is too far away to do long term, but caters to all skill levels and is more social than the pinball tournaments. The 3 strike tournaments I’ve been going to have been a blast and change the way I look at location pinball. Crabtown USA is my “home location”, and the closest spot to my house. They have 40 pins (awesome), but I used to always play my favorites… Fish Tales, BK2000, Adams Family, Star Wars, Flight 2000. Since going to tournaments I have found that I excel at these games, but the ones I don’t normally play I “suck at” competitively. I am getting creamed at Strikes and Spares, Beatles, Kiss (all versions), and Johnny Mnemonic. Joining a league and doing some tournaments, even if I don’t win, has made so many more pinball machines entertaining and enticing to me. 10/10 at least try out a league or a tournament. Here is my writeup on the Allentown tournament https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/pinball-tournament-noob-10-lessons-learned-and-what-to-expect#post-6964425 and more on location pinball near me https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/maryland-location-play-club . Playing for score is very different than just trying to “beat the game”, which is all I used to do.

2. Make your old pinball machine new again… they make replacement boards for most everything now. I recently got a Nine-Ball with original boards, and… I broke some stuff. I spent hours troubleshooting before giving up and ordering Altek boards. Holy crap these things are plug and play, reliable, and nice. Anit-LED flicker, reliable solenoid board, reliable mpu… awesome. https://allteksystems.com/ At the same time I tried out some yoppcicle LEDS to fix some flakey lights… freaking amazing and easier to install (and cheaper) than a new socket and LED. https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/all-praise-be-to-the-yoppsicle- Highly recommended. Finally, I had to replace some displays on a fixer upper Stars I had. Bought new X-Pin displays. Freaking plug and play and amazing. https://xpinpinball.com/ In other words… you can actually get parts to fix a lot of old machines if you can’t fix them yourself or are having other issues.

3. On the note of putting new stuff to make your old games new again, lots of people prefer the vintage parts. If you drop a few hundred on new displays for your machine, you can generally get around ½ that for the used, even partially broken stuff. I have found this to be true of most boards. Never throw anything away pinball related and list it on pinside and/or for sale in the local show thread.

4. Never make an impulse pinball decision on buying or selling a pin. Someone talked me out of my Godzilla premium (got a great deal, but miss it already), and picked up a different machine instead of the one I went to see (wound up with 9-ball instead of Seawitch). I still like 9-ball, but overpaid as I didn’t do as much research as I should have. 9-ball is on its way out on a trade this weekend already at a loss. I was hovering over the buy button on an Ultraman and am so glad I passed after getting some time on one.

5. NIB does not mean reliable and no issues. Old games can be rock solid reliable. I have had 1 NIB pin (R&M) which was rock solid. My Godzilla Premium had 7 games on it when I got it. Both were rock solid the entire time I had it. I unboxed a Toy Story for my employer at the company office and it has been nothing but issues since setup with stuck balls, broken switches, and constant new issues. I don’t know if it is due to it being an early production model, but just know that if you are sticking to NIB due to reliability concerns, there are no guarantees the new machine will be more reliable. In my personal experience, the most reliable machines are DMD Stern machines.

6. Pinball is a portal into the basement arcade experience. The family has had tons of fun with MAME, One Ups, a ping pong table (just sold) and a pool table. My wife showed no interest in pinball, but she has shot pool with me and/or the kids just about every day since we got the pool table. If you have room and are at all interested, pool tables are much cheaper than pins (mine was $600… check craigslist). Just know that if you bring one into a basement it is never coming out. My coin op valley dynamo from the 90s weighs 600 pounds.
7. Temp trades, temp trades, temp trades. My normal temp trade buddy (my boss) moved but I have a new temp trade buddy. He has my Deadpool Pro, and I have his Spiderman VE. I am going to try and have one temp trade at all times going forward, probably on a 3 month rotation so I can always have something new (to me). I should be able to temp trade that Deadpool for Star Wars, Turtles, Black Knight, Led Zepplin, and others over the next year. I will probably try to trade out for a system 11 at some time so I can do temp trades on those. I like playing new (to me) pins, and learining the rules to a wider variety of pins will help me in the competitive scene.

8. Viva variety! I still stand by trying to have a wide selection (if money/space permits). When combined with the temp trade tips above, I have a game from each decade from the 80s to today. Note that one of my Sterns will be replaced by Weird Al/Heist/Cosmic Cart racing when that gets here later this year. Really looking forward to that one.

9. Get an F.U. machine. I picked up a Flash Gordon a few months ago and have played more games on it than any other pin since picking it up. That is partially due to how short the games are, but partially due to the experience there. Playing that game is COMPLETELY different than a story based game like Spiderman or Jurassic Park. It kicks my butt, and does so quickly. I would put Fish Tales, Bram Stokers Dracula, and a handful of other games in that category. A short game like this one also makes it so I can squeeze in another game when I otherwise wouldn’t have time. For ideas on similar games check out this thread. https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/i-hate-this-game-one-more-game

10. Pin theme dreams come true. With the exception of Harry Potter… all of my dream themes have now been made, and some of them many times over. I never thought we would see a Weird Al pin, but was pleasantly surprised when Multimorphic announced. No matter how obscure you think your theme is, it could happen so don’t give up hope!

That’s it! It has been a fun year in pinball. See a few photo updates along with my ownership matrix below. To help decipher my chart, items in red were “I hate it… set it on fire”, items in black were never working or set up in my house, items in purple are temporary trades I never owned but had in my house, and items in blue are what was out of my house in exchange for the temporary trade.
Thanks everyone and looking forward to another year of nerding out with you all!

History (resized).pngLineup (resized).jpgPT (resized).jpg
#23 89 days ago
Quoted from sataneatscheese:

No you don’t. I got the machine LED’d and most of the playfield working, but never got past the MPU board. The guy I traded the Pinbots with couldn’t get them working either and traded them… that’s 4 owners within a month so far as I can tell.

The final owner was me. However, I moved twice, was already building a game from scratch, and had to help a friend manage a whole bunch of his own broken machines. I found another CPU for the game - already with the right ROMs, at that - and that one won't boot up either. Pinbot's circuits are not yet activated.

BUT!! One way or another, I will not give up! I just got finished putting the 1.5 Pinbots in my new house's workshop area, which required removing the head from the complete game, because that specific title has a backbox too wide to fit through an older residential door. Once the game room has floor space again, I'm going to dig in and finally build a Bot that works.

...and then I have to clean and fix the Jungle Queen dumpster rescue after that.

#24 89 days ago
Quoted from Gornkleschnitzer:

The final owner was me. However, I moved twice, was already building a game from scratch, and had to help a friend manage a whole bunch of his own broken machines. I found another CPU for the game - already with the right ROMs, at that - and that one won't boot up either. Pinbot's circuits are not yet activated.
BUT!! One way or another, I will not give up! I just got finished putting the 1.5 Pinbots in my new house's workshop area, which required removing the head from the complete game, because that specific title has a backbox too wide to fit through an older residential door. Once the game room has floor space again, I'm going to dig in and finally build a Bot that works.
...and then I have to clean and fix the Jungle Queen dumpster rescue after that.

I fully expect to see pictures when done.

I am amazed at what some people can do. I actually picked up a free Space Shuttle to save someone a trip to the dump this year. It went through about 4 owners before I saw it at the Allentown Pinball show fully restored, before it made it's way off to the Roanoke pinball museum. From the trash to a museum in a few months. https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/leave-no-pin-behind-a-space-shuttle-story

ac70ba89ca34aef1171e203adda8c1f909b462bb (resized).jpgcefa144779d80dfd81606087482bcf3f761da12b (resized).jpg
#25 89 days ago

Strongly agree that variety is the key to having a collection that
you'll enjoy long term. I've seen so many collections that focus on
either NIB or one specific type of pin. Having some from each era
makes it more enjoyable for all visitors.

#26 89 days ago
Quoted from sataneatscheese:

10. Pin theme dreams come true. With the exception of Harry Potter… all of my dream themes have now been made, and some of them many times over. I never thought we would see a Weird Al pin, but was pleasantly surprised when Multimorphic announced. No matter how obscure you think your theme is, it could happen so don’t give up hope!

So, your dreams themes were ST:TNG, Godzilla, LOTR and Weird Al? Or did you sell some of your dreams? I know data and statistics can lie, so I was trying to infer from what you gave us.

I totally agree about variety. My non-pinball playing friends gravitate to the less complicated games, including my trippy Sonic EMs.

#27 89 days ago
Quoted from sataneatscheese:

4. Never make an impulse pinball decision on buying or selling a pin.

I agree! I've done it... went to look at one game and it was a load, so I took something else home with me. It never worked out.

However, I like "almost impulse" buying. I do that on "can't miss" games. For instance, a game that I wasn't really interested in, but is offered to me at a great price. I am sure I'll be able to get most of my money back if I don't like it. Sometimes I play it for a couple months, then ship it out the door to get my money back. Other times, the game is much better than I knew, and it just sticks around. Quite a few of my long term games came in like that.

#28 89 days ago
Quoted from sataneatscheese:

I fully expect to see pictures when done.

I will take plenty of them for sure then! There are at least four local people clamoring to see the Pinbot come to life, so I will have little chance to forget about that one. JQ is going to need quite a bit of work (including some significant cabinet repair) but I have high hopes for that one as well.

#29 88 days ago
Quoted from DaveH:

I agree! I've done it... went to look at one game and it was a load, so I took something else home with me. It never worked out.
However, I like "almost impulse" buying. I do that on "can't miss" games. For instance, a game that I wasn't really interested in, but is offered to me at a great price. I am sure I'll be able to get most of my money back if I don't like it. Sometimes I play it for a couple months, then ship it out the door to get my money back. Other times, the game is much better than I knew, and it just sticks around. Quite a few of my long term games came in like that.

Absolutely! When I go look at someone's game I always ask what the next pin on the chopping block is in case a deal can be made. If I can get a second pin or a project in a group buy I usually will, then take that second pin home, fix it up, play the crap out of it, then sell it for a little more to offset the price of a primary pin. However, what I won't do anymore is go to see pin A, see pin B for the first time and pick up pin B instead of pin A... unless it's TNA.

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