(Topic ID: 147871)

EM price / restoration questions from pinball newbie

By rfordut

4 years ago

Topic Stats

  • 8 posts
  • 5 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 4 years ago by Superchicken
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    #1 4 years ago

    A few EM restoration questions from a pinball newbie...

    I recently got the urge to purchase an EM pinball for my young son to learn the game (plus dad always wanted one). I have several opportunities and wanted to get some advice from the community.

    In researching pinballs heavily over the past few weeks, my ultimate goal is to purchase a working classic Gottlieb EM with 3" flippers and drop targets. I see that these can be hard to find at a reasonable price. So, I have a few options to consider given my budget of $600 - 800 total.

    1) Wait it out until something comes along in my budget. Again, not sure how long this would take.

    2) Purchase two machines - one that works (but is not my target game) and a second non-working machine for restoration (cheaper way to get a game I want). I have an opportunity to do this.

    Obviously there are many ways to acquire a working machine that isn't my target game. But, for the non-working machine, I found a game that, according to the seller, needs a thorough cleaning of the lower PF banks and mechanics. From photos, the BG, PF, and body look to be in fairly good shape. It's tough to see, but I can look at the game before purchase. The machine is being sold by a company that restores pinballs, but they are willing to sell this before restoration due to a lack of resources to restore quickly.

    I guess I'm really looking for any advice on major red flags when inspecting a restoration machine. I don't want this to become a ridiculous money and time pit just to get one working machine. But, I am intrigued by restoring a game I really want. What is a fair price for a non-working classic EM like this?

    3) Bonus question... Where do you draw the line when buying working machines in terms of PF condition? There is a really cool 60's classic Gottlieb 2" flipper game with a very nice BG, but a very rough PF. The machine works, but I wonder if I should consider this if the PF would eventually need a complete overhaul (worn down to bare wood in several areas). I could consider this as my working game, but I'm curious if it's worthwhile. Over time, I would probably get annoyed by the appearance (and possibly its affect on play) and want to restore it. Not sure if this is something to consider given the condition.

    Thanks for the help!

    #2 4 years ago
    #3 4 years ago

    Where are you located and are there specific titles on your want list? Answering this questions may help. Often times local collectors have games in their collection they may cut loose or know of an example you could pursue.

    #4 4 years ago


    I made a list of the games I ultimately want (or think I want without playing them yet). They are all single player, Gottlieb 70's EM w/ 3" flippers and drops. No preference on replay vs. AAB yet, so the variants of the listed pins below would be OK too. I would also consider 2" flippers with drops, but it has to be a really cool game like Dimension or something like it.

    Gold Strike, High Hand, Atlantis, Captain Card, Sky Jump, El Dorado, Pin Up, Volley, Jacks Open, Centigrade 37, Abra Cadabra

    I am located in the NE Ohio area.

    #5 4 years ago

    You may find a decent example of a few of those in your price range. High Hand, Sky Jump, Pin-up and Volley seem doable. The other titles may require luck or project game.

    #6 4 years ago

    Game list is pretty good one. Your first EM to repair MUST be single player. It makes everything four times easier.

    #7 4 years ago


    While I am by no means anything even close to as expereinced as many others here, I might suggest the following;

    Agree with JBK entirely. A single player game is the way to start as it is simpler to learn on. As for a time to buy, waiting till spring would most likely afford better pricing. I have always looked at pinball, at least here in Cleveland, as a winter sport. Prices will drop as the warmer months come along. I was hoping they would already strat to drop now that Christmas has passed but I am inpatient.

    I would also suggest getting your hands on an e/m schematic and look at it and try to make sense of it. this took me a while but once you get the hang of it, it is pretty straightforward.

    As for playfield condition, that is a big one for me. I am not an artist in the slightest so I always like to get games with a playfield and cabinet that are in as good shape as possible. I can muddle my way, with the help of the experts here, to resolve issues but trying to re-do a playfield is just not in my area of desire. Have no wish to learn. So, it would depend on your interest level and what you find yourself proficient at. Maybe it is just the opposite for you. You are good with the artistic end and not so much on the electrical/electronic end. Only you know this and this will guide you to the condition of machine that you feel comfortable with.

    I am happy to show you my games if you have the desire and run you through the schematics/mechanics. This may prove helpful. Having your eyes and hands on a game and then going to the schematic can be very educational.

    I also rely on a couple local folks to bail me out when things get tough. I have one for SS games and one for E/M's when I cannot figure it out. This is also helpful I find.

    Hope the above is helpful.


    #8 4 years ago

    Finding a nice working game as described should not be a problem if you are buying from another collector. Retailers have a different model and are selling games to a buyer that may not be interested in ever getting there hands dirty.

    Being a newbie, I strongly recommend you buying a working game in person after spending time playing the game and liking it. Pinball shows are a great place to do this. Most of the games in the free play area will be for sale. Don't worry you will have plenty of opportunities learning repair and restoration skills as the owner of any pinball machine over 25 years old. You should start with your head above water for that first game and focus on keeping it working.

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