In December 1996 my five year old wrote a letter to Santa:
For Christmas I would like Bugs Bunnys pinball machine. The real one. My Dad and I love pinball and I would share. Mom says I have been a good girl and you can trust her I think she was on your list a long time ago.
Your friend Jennifer"
We were living in upstate New York at the time. I couldn't remember where (or when) we had played BB but called every operator I could find in the phone book. No luck. One day on my way to see an operator, I stopped at a little convenience store to get a drink. Inside was a Bugs and another machine. I took the card taped to the machine and after some begging and assurances I would take the machine as-is, no warranty. I bought the machine from Jackson Amusements on December 19th and he delivered it two or three days later. Santa was a hero on Christmas morning.
Pinbot came the day before New Year's and TNG, Strikes and Spares and Creature followed in the next six months. Then in August 1997, I ordered my first new in box machine, Medieval Madness. Over the next year I found a number of classic EM titles in the largest pinball warehouse I've ever seen (PA Gameroom Warehouse) along with a beautiful High Speed and a Flying Aces (one of two known to exist). Picked up everything else after we moved to Colorado in fall 1998.
At one point I thought I would finish the basement as a little pinball museum, as it was my goal to have a good example of a game from every major pinball era from Baffle Ball and Bally Hoo to Pinball 2000. That never happened (I have the games, but half were never set up or played).
Ten years later we decided to actually finish the basement as an actual game room. Realustically about 1/2 the current games will have to go (and making room for STLE to replace TNG, Tron to replace Haunted House and Earthshaker bumping Elvira). I'll probably only keep 4-6 EM machines and focus on the games the family actually like to play.
There are a few games I knew I had to have - Pinbot, Creature (for the drive in theme), a completely restored 1978 Bally Playboy (the game that got me really hooked on pinball in college), a restored Eight Ball Deluxe (the game Jen played at one of Herb Silver's Fabulous Fantasies shows and made it to the women's finals. "25 year old to her girlfriend: I can't believe your getting smoked by an eight-year old kid." And a NIB Monopoly. I love the game Monopoly, so that was a perfect fit.
Beyond those, I bought pins that we thought were fun, really enjoyed or games that were in really nice condition for games you don't usually see that way. NGG for the humor, Safe Cracker for the novelty, RFM because it was really cool.
Your first pin had to mean something to you for some reason. After that, it's the thrill of the find and the fun factor of the game that take over before you get to the holy grail - your very own new, in box pin. You will never forget taking it out of te box, setting it up, playing it for the first time and then just admiring it!