Remember the days of getting EM's for free out of people's garages? Finding pristine wedgeheads for $50? Or people who would *pay you* to take them away?
Yeah, with rare exceptions, them days are over.
It's 2020 and a lot of people are stuck indoors wanting new projects to work on and personal arcades to build out. However, no one is making any of these glorious mechanical classics anymore. Supply and demand, yanno?
I just bought a Gottlieb 300 project for $650 and was happy to get it. Dusty, needing some tuneups, but good backglass and playfield.
You know where I found it? Facebook Marketplace. It had been there for about five days at $650 asking price.
The guy said he received 28 IM's within the first 30 minutes. WITHIN THE FIRST 30 MINUTES, Y'ALL. All clear so far?
Amazingly, it sat for five days before I picked it up. Can you guess why? Everyone wanted a discount. Offers of $200-$600 all rejected. The guy had $650 in it, and he wanted his $650 back.
Apparently, that magical thrill of "getting a bargain" is so powerful it prevented 28 people from getting a nice EM for a few extra bucks. Now it is mine.
I've been collecting since 2013 and have never seen a price & demand spike with EM's like this before. Back then, it always seemed reasonably possible to get nice projects and great A+ titles every month in the $300-$400 range from Craigslist or even (gasp) eBay:
March: Out of Sight with perfect backglass and playfield for $350? I'll take it.
April: 2001 with perfect backglass and playfield for $400? I'll take it.
May: Old Chicago ditto ditto for $300? I'll take it.
In early 2015, it became every-other-month.
In 2016, it became one per season, maybe.
In 2017, it was one A+ per year and a few A-/B+'s.
In 2018, well, you get the picture.
Sure, you might still find someone who is moving and "NEEDS IT GONE RIGHT NOW" or maybe someone who used OfferUp letting you swoop in before anyone else saw the ad. But nowadays, if you see a good game listed around $350, it WILL get swamped and likely overbid within the hour.
Count on it.
That being said, fellow friends and Keepers Of The EM's, now is the time to firm up your wishlist. Do not wait any longer. Build the fleet now. Put them in storage if you must, but hurry up and get them under your wing. Even if you pay premium prices to get a few choice ones from your fellow collectors... do it.
You must also consider our patron saint of pinball parts: Steve Young. He is approaching 80. Still enthusiastic and no sign of slowing down, but, you never know.
Steve Kulpa's pinball pages are now gone. You can view some of them via the Wayback Archive, but this won't be true for Pinball Resource parts. They have unique dies for pop caps and parts not available anywhere else. Your future supply is not guaranteed. Beware.
Get your wishlist games identified and get them acquired. Just do it. Also, go ahead and buy the parts you'll need for them. Order your pop caps and drop targets and target faces right now.
I personally forked out $4500 for pinball parts, legs, etc. earlier this year in advance. It feels good knowing I'll have everything I need to rebuild my entire fleet when the time comes. Or, if I sell one, the buyer will have everything *they* need to finish the restoration. I hate the thought of EM's being out there with no path to restoration (or a long DIY one).
I could be wrong, of course. Maybe everyone will soon forget about pinball? Maybe get sucked into VR worlds instead? I know I'll be doing a massive PC upgrade next year for some awesomely detailed Microsoft Flight Simulator runs. Still, I think EM's are here to stay because they can be rebuilt again and again for generations to come and offer something "real".
If you haven't made a wishlist yet, I recommend using ipdb.org to build it. Create five columns: BUY, MAYBE BUY, PLAY ONLY, ART ONLY, NAH. Then comb through the database year by year and place the titles accordingly. I put each year on a new line in Excel. Works well.
Pardon the long post. Just wanted to convey the urgency. I'm especially sensitive to paradigm shifts whenever it comes to businesses changing/folding... and for some reason my radar alarms are going off in EM-land.
We will be the ones to keep the hobby alive and share with another generation. Something is happening... change is in the air... just sayin'.