Quoted from SimpleSam:
I've decided to get a pinball machine so I've been researching on this site (and others) and watching Craigslist for local machines. One of the things that I see people say is that if you don't like your pinball, they're easy to resell at little or no loss. I'm not sure that is true.
I was checking Craigslist today and I found this ad: reno.craigslist.org link . I won't post a screen shot because I don't know how and it appears to contain a lot of personal information on the seller. It's for an Excalibur and the seller is asking $1,200 to $1,800 (why there's a range is anybody's guess). The only description of the condition of the machine is "warms up". There are two pictures including one with the GI lights on. The other picture is what makes me nervous. It's a receipt from TNT Amusements showing that it had been sold to this guy (?) and delivered last May. The receipt shows it was $2,800 and $300 in shipping. I'm sure there's a story about why he is asking so little for a machine he's had less than a year. If he gets the $1,200 he's asking, he will have incurred a $1,900 loss in less than one year's ownership.
This isn't the only thing that makes me nervous about buying a pinball machine. I see machines posted on CL for months before they sell. A member here had a Robocop for sale on CL for quite some time. I wasn't ready to buy at the time but it seemed like a really good deal on an interesting title. He had done a series of videos showing the restoration of the machine so the condition was well documented. I think he eventually sold it here when he couldn't sell it locally. Currently, there's a Spanish Eyes for $950 locally that has been up since at least December with no takers. I know there's a limited market for EM games (and the seller is in an out of the way location) but that is a bit much.
I've decided that I need to be careful about the title I choose as a popular one would be easier to sell if I don't like it. My first pin will also be in the $2,500 to $3,500 range as that seems the sweet spot for great titles and easy to resell. I'm still nervous about my ability to inspect a used machine but I guess I will have to run that risk.
Any advice for a first time pinball machine buyer?
Getaway HSII would also be in that price range, and it is my first and only pin at this point.
My recommendation would be to find a friend who is into pinball to go with you to check out any machine you are interested in. I didn’t have anyone to go with me, but was able to talk in deatail to a couple of pinheads before I went to look at it (FYI, mine was a Craigslist find).
I would also highly recommend looking through ads here on Pinside within your driving distance. I would like to think that most Pinsiders are more honest and open about their pin’s condition, and you can see some history about them (how long they have been on the site, what pins they own, what they have posted, etc.)
There are plenty of scams out there, so you must be cautious with who you are dealing with, a pin’s condition, payment method, etc.
Don’t let your emotions control your purchasing decision. I had been seriously looking for and wanting a pin in a similar price range as you for about 3 months. Even with all the advice and homework I did, I overlooked a few things when buying my Getaway. I think I negotiated a fair price, but when I got it home there were several little things that needed repaired that I easily could have checked before. Actually play the game before you buy it. Also, open the coin door and use the service controls to run through all of the system tests to check for anything not working (switches, lights, DMD, etc.). Have them open the back box for you too to make sure all of the circuit boards appear to me in good shape (especially look for battery acid damage). Before you go see it, take the time to download and read through the manual so you don’t look like a complete newbie to the seller. Finally, don’t spend your entire budget on purchasing the pin. You will have repairs and mods you will want to add that all cost money.
Also, I have no issue asking someone why they are selling, but not right out of the gate and make it casual. No matter what I am buying, at some point later in the conversation after I have built some rapport but before I negotiate price, I’ll say something like, “From what I can see everything is in good condition and I think what you are wanting for it is in the ballpark, but before I make a offer may I ask why you’ve decided to sell it?” I’m not necessarily looking for a specific response (you will get all kinds), but by putting the seller in a position to tell the truth or to lie about a fairly harmless question, you can read body language and listen to tone to help decide if the person is someone you trust to do business with or not.
Some other conversational questions to give you more info and to let the seller talk:
- How long have you owned the pin?
- In that time what repairs have you had to make?
- Have you done anything custom to the pin?
- Are you aware of anything currently that is not functioning properly or is in need of repair?
- What did you like about this pin?
- Can you please show me anything you think I need to know about the pin (eg how to remove glass and lift Playfield, how to access backbox, an6nspecial features of the game, how to turn it on and off (make them cycle power so you can actually see it boot from cold start)
- Do you have the keys for the coin door and backbox (if you don’t first observe them using them)
The final thing I will say has to do with the seller’s pinball experience. If they are an experienced pinball hobbiest, they will probably proactively address most of your concerns and questions - they love pinball and are probably selling just to rotate their collection. If the are a pinball dealer, they will typically share that with you and they want their pins to be in good working order for the most part to keep a good reputation. In my case, I bought from a first time pin owner. He really didn’t know much about the machine. I think he got into the hobby thinking it would be fun, but in the end it just wasn’t for him. Therefore, I had to ask a lot of questions to help me assess if I thought he was truthful enough about the pin for me to do business with him, and I did and don’t regret it.