Update: I got one! Just picked up a WPT from anther pinsider yesterday. Poker theme is perfect for me, and it will go great in my game room. I drove 12 hours round trip to get it and set it up last night, and it plays great. Thanks to the people who made recommendations to me.
Now I can begin the long task of learning about care/maintence/repair when something eventually fails on it.
First I wanted to thank everyone for the advice and raitings they post on this forum. It is incredibly helpful, especially to people looking to start a collection or learn about the hobby. I've poured over the site for a few weeks now and it is a gold mine of good information. Nothing would leave a bad taste in someone's mouth more than getting ripped off on their first purchase or buying a lemon.
Anyways, I have about a 2,000 budget, but could go up by a few hundred if necessary, and was looking for advice from the experts about what type of machine I could buy to start a collection. I mostly enjoy the games made after the 1990s with a Dot Matrix board. I've spent the last month just reading craigslist and checking estate sale listings near me, (St. Louis) and so far nothing has popped out. I've also checked out two local stores that sell used pins and the machines seemed to be not only overpriced but in fair to poor condition. I should also add that I have no experience in repair or knowledge of pinball machines, so I'm also toying with the idea of saving up for another few months and buying a shopped out 3,000 or 3,500 range machine to avoid repair problems for awhile, at least untill I can learn more over the next few years.
Advice is welcome. Thanks again