I'm so grateful I stumbled on this site. Everyone has been so constructive and thoughtful, too rare a thing in online forums.
So here's the update, bullet style...
** Put some time in on a WOZ machine last night......LOVED IT!! It's haaaarrrd, but I could play that thing forever.
** This crowd has made me more comfortable with the notion of buying something used.
** Given the above point, it takes the time urgency off getting many of the various machines NIB
And the final answer is...
** Putting a deposit down this week for a WOZ 75th Anniversary, assuming we'll have to wait some time for the next build
** While waiting for the WOZ, going to check out a good restored example of LOTR, White Water, maybe Champion Pub (yeah, I know, we're suckers for the campy novelty of it). I know all 3 machines and am confident they'll be long-term keepers for us.
** We'll have time to save for the WOZ when it's ready for shipping, and have a great start on our collection.
I've already left a message for the folks at Jersey Jack...very excited. Once I've clarified everything on that end, I'll start the search for the used machine.
Thanks again, everyone! I'm glad to be part of this wonderful community and super excited to begin collecting and playing more often...it's great decompression time for me and my wife.
I'll post updates and any questions to this thread as we go along.