(Topic ID: 112032)

Teach Me How to Buy My First Pin


By MeatWithGravy

4 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 32 posts
  • 25 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 4 years ago by NextoPin
  • Topic is favorited by 2 Pinsiders

You

#1 4 years ago

Hello! Been lurking for a bit. I just returned to pinball after a twenty-year hiatus. Glad to be back.

I've never owned a pin, so I don't know the first thing about maintenance or restoration, but I've now got it in my head that I need to own at least one, and I'd like to begin with my all-time grail pin, The Addams Family.

If I were a rich guy, I'd just click over to one of those high-end restoration sites and shell out $11,500 for a perfect TAF. Thing is, that's more than a third of my annual income. I don't know. Perhaps I've got no business getting started in this hobby. Anyway, I've seen less-than-perfect TAFs advertised for $4,000. That's more my speed, but then of course I'd be faced with a fixer-upper. Which is fine, provided I can somehow learn how to do all the work necessary to bring the machine back to semi-pristine.

My questions for the Pinside FOGs are these:

Is my dream of owning an excellent example of The Addams Family without spending a mega fortune a plausible one? I don't mind spending what's required to get a machine with potential. I understand one usually gets what one pays for. It's just that I sure can't afford to overspend, you know? I need to somehow learn the difference.

So, how do I buy my first pin? I've been saving up, I've ordered a copy of Roger C. Sharpe's Pinball! on eBay -- which just arrived! And I've been using the search function to comb Pinside for TAF relevant topics. I'm also reading up at PAPA. What else could I be doing? How do I become a well-educated consumer so that I can buy the best example of TAF that I can afford?

From what I've gathered in my very short time here, price depends much upon the condition of the playfield and cabinet. Damage to the PF, be it magnet burn or wear is not easily fixed, right? I mean, can it be fixed? Once I start looking, should I simply ignore machines with significant PF damage? Is the condition of the playfield the number one concern when shopping for a pin? I've noticed that NOS or reproduction playfields are not easy to come by, not to mention super spendy -- there's a few TAF playfields on eBay right now for $1,800-$2,300. Here's a question, if I want a truly beautiful TAF, would it be nuts to take the whole of my funds currently earmarked for a TAF and dump it into one of those TAF playfields and then build the pin from scratch from the PF out? Is that insane? Could a guy with zero experience even pull off such a thing? Am I thinking about this all wrong?

I know it's a lot of questions, but I'm obsessed! Any guidance would be much appreciated. Thanks so much in advance. And Happy Holidays.

#2 4 years ago

If I wanted a TAF, and couldn't afford one that was already in nice shape and fully working, I would probably wait to buy it. I don't really like working on the games though. In your case, I would suggest buying a much cheaper WPC game to learn how to work on those types of games. You don't want to learn from your mistakes on your dream machine that is really pushing your budget.

You might even sell the cheaper machine, and buy another more expensive one to fix up and resell. Using this method, your 3rd or 4th machine could be your TAF, and you will have a better idea on how to work on it when you get it.

I wouldn't buy a game with more playfield wear than I was willing to live with. I think it is possible to fix them, but I don't think it is usually worth the cost. It is probably a lot cheaper just to pay for a game with a good playfield to start with.

#3 4 years ago
Quoted from MeatWithGravy:

there's a few TAF playfields on eBay right now for $1,800-$2,300. Here's a question, if I want a truly beautiful TAF, would it be nuts to take the whole of my funds currently earmarked for a TAF and dump it into one of those TAF playfields and then build the pin from scratch from the PF out? Is that insane? Could a guy with zero experience even pull off such a thing? Am I thinking about this all wrong?

Yes it is insane, no you probably could not do it, you are thinking aboot it all wrong.

Buy the machine first...if you really want to you can deal with a PF swap out later. What if you get the game and love playing it and don;t really care aboot the PF anymore? Well that's a better what if then the fact that buy a playfield you'll just be some dude sitting around his house playing nothing...staring at a playfield

#4 4 years ago
Quoted from Nexyss:

In your case, I would suggest buying a much cheaper WPC game to learn how to work on those types of games. You don't want to learn from your mistakes on your dream machine that is really pushing your budget.

Whoa! You're right! I wouldn't want to make an irreparable mistake while learning on a TAF! I'd feel like throwing myself under a bus.

The whole of your post sounds like solid advice. Thank you. Of course, this would mean I need to find and buy another WPC game to learn on, fix, and sell.

#5 4 years ago

I think a lot of the fun in pinball is fixing and maintaining a machine. I say get your hands dirty and play around with one. Is a playfield swap hard? You bet. Easier with a rotisserie, or maybe two side by side. Get familiar with your machine then restore it. You can get a "players machine" then do a LED upgrade, remove parts, become familiar, then playfield swap down the road. You do not have to buy everything then be overwhelmed...do it in comfortable stages.

#6 4 years ago

Reguardless of the title, I recommend you buy a fully functional game first. Players condition games may not be as pristine as the more expensive ones, but provide a great learning experience and are much more reasonably priced while providing good play. You will learn maintenance and repair ( just as you would with a high dollar pristine game) without the capital risk up front. As you gain experience and knowledge, you will be able to answer your future questions yourself. Pinsiders are an excellent source of knowledge and will help you learn the ins and outs as you go. You are a long way from doing Playfield swaps or restorations at this point. Most of us eventually enjoy the maintenance and upgrade process dam near as much as playing! Get one you can afford for the time being and enjoy!

#7 4 years ago

I didn't make any irreparable mistakes on my first pin, but I certainly went back to fix things when I knew better. Playfield is the most important thing to me when I'm buying pins because I think electronics issues are easier to fix than cosmetic ones; I've bought pins from people who were the exact opposite though.

#8 4 years ago

My advice to you is buy a descent 5k addams family from someone fairly reputable on pinside. CPR is doing addams family playfields right now for like 900. Buy one and save it. Play your addams, do your first couple of easy mods, change some lights, polish some of the hardware and ramps etc all just a little at a time. You will learn a lot over the next year doing little improvements and reading things on pinside about restoration. A year from now should have a good base knowledge to think about really diving into a playfield swap and cabinet cleanup.

#9 4 years ago

I don't know if you want advice about buying a game from this forum. These guys break any sound advice rules for buying. Here are the staples to buying.

1. Never buy a game you havn't played at least 50 times to know if you like it.
2. Never buy something you can't see, play and pick up in person
3. Know your market. Look at what games of the same title actually sell for (not asking prices..selling prices) they are very different things.
4. Take someone with you that knows about games. Help you look over things, because things like chia boards, bad wiring, and other things the veteran would see, you probably will not. Plus they can help you break it down and move it out.

#10 4 years ago

Buy an early SS or alphanumeric, they are usually a bit cheaper and all the parts are just about the same except for the boards. Learn to work on them and repair them as Nexyss said. Find a good example that needs some work, a "players" version. Then, down the road, when you know more about what's involved and the time it takes you can make a better decision about your TAF.

Get to know the local pinheads in your area, sometime you can get a good deal from a new friend who needs the space. You don't always need money either, Pins are like any other hobby and sometimes people loose intrest, maybe you have something of value or a service you could barter to offset some of the cost.

Lately I've been getting into EM's. Not as fancy as a modern SS pin, but just as fun to work on (if not more) and you can usually pick up a really nice one for around $500.

Good luck on your pinball adventure! Welcome to the club.

#11 4 years ago
Quoted from NextoPin:

Buy an early SS or alphanumeric, they are usually a bit cheaper and all the parts are just about the same except for the boards. Learn to work on them and repair them as Nexyss said. Find a good example that needs some work, a "players" version. Then, down the road, when you know more about what's involved and the time it takes you can make a better decision about your TAF.
Get to know the local pinheads in your area, sometime you can get a good deal from a new friend who needs the space. You don't always need money either, Pins are like any other hobby and sometimes people loose intrest, maybe you have something of value or a service you could barter to offset some of the cost.
Lately I've been getting into EM's. Not as fancy as a modern SS pin, but just as fun to work on (if not more) and you can usually pick up a really nice one for around $500.
Good luck on your pinball adventure! Welcome to the club.

I consider this sound advice. There is a lot to learn in this hobby when you are a noob, and it is best done on an inexpensive machine. Too many people get ripped off on their first machine. If you get hosed for 200 bucks, fine lesson. When you get hosed for 2000 bucks, well you got hosed. You want to know enough to know that the 4k TAF you are looking at isn't a hunk of junk that needs 3k just to get working well. And the way to do that is experience.

It also comes down to learning basics. These things break all the time. It may just be a switch adjustment, or it may be a lot worse. It takes a deft hand to work on them. And the first time you work on them, you are trying to be gentle, so gentle that you are actually more likely to break something. After a while of flipping playfields and soldering it gets easy.

So I agree, start smaller, and work your way up to your grail game, TAF. Then when you get it you will be seasoned and enjoy it even more. The stuff that goes wrong will be easy to fix, and you will have a deeper enjoyment of the game.

#12 4 years ago

Sooo many TAFs made, that's one pin that comes up for sale frequently. Good advice to start smaller, and work up to buying a TAF (unless you bring a TAF owner with you.)
Yes, for best results, pick a pin with high production numbers, where there is a ton of support for the pin in reproduction parts and supporting documentation.
-mof

#13 4 years ago

I started out with a system one gottlieb machine and I'm having a blast. Find a project machine where there is a lot of documentation online and is cheap. Then begin.

#14 4 years ago

Owning pinball machines is a lot like owning Italian sports cars - they are very beautiful and require an unbelievable amount of maintenance to keep nice, and the most expensive pin you have is the cheapest one you buy.

The only way to make pin ownership economical for those of us less burdened with cash is to fix them yourself. Buy junkers, fix them up, and sell them off, keeping in mind that your time is now essentially worthless.

If you're not a fix-it type of person and you don't have the cash for new, then pinball is not for you.

#15 4 years ago

Save cash, buy NIB game, rinse and repeat? Seems to be model as of late.

CaptainNeo provides the best advice. Follow his four recommendations and you will be good to go.

#16 4 years ago

Some solid advice here, definitely be happy with the PF and cabinet condition as many of the typical mechanical issues are not that hard to fix (except maybe board work).

I'm pretty new to pinball as well, but I'm really glad the first pin I bought was in working condition. I've had to fix some things, change switches and lamps, troubleshoot various issues, clean and wax playfield etc, but I've not had a mountain of things to fix at any time. This has allowed achieving small victories at a time, making me feel really good. Had I had tons of issues to solve at the beginning I think I would have been discouraged and given up.

So buy a same generation game that works and meets your standards visually, do small fixes and get your feet wet, work your way towards your grail

#17 4 years ago

I'm not sure I've ever said this. Ok, maybe once. I completely agree with Neo.

Quoted from CaptainNeo:

I don't know if you want advice about buying a game from this forum. These guys break any sound advice rules for buying. Here are the staples to buying.
1. Never buy a game you havn't played at least 50 times to know if you like it.
2. Never buy something you can't see, play and pick up in person
3. Know your market. Look at what games of the same title actually sell for (not asking prices..selling prices) they are very different things.
4. Take someone with you that knows about games. Help you look over things, because things like chia boards, bad wiring, and other things the veteran would see, you probably will not. Plus they can help you break it down and move it out.

#18 4 years ago

If you are unsure of skills/repairs... and you are looking for a specific game.. consider buying from a retailer. They can guarantee a level of functionality, offer repairs, and do the game hunting for you.

Else, you should be putting out feelers and looking for a game you can pickup locally. You can also wait till the Allentown show in PA where you will have the opportunity to view lots of games in person.

#19 4 years ago

yeh what they said ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

#20 4 years ago
Quoted from freddy:

yeh what they said ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

neo and kelly

#21 4 years ago

This is probably the best thread I've ever read. All great advice here. From the standpoint of an obsessive personality, I can tell you that if you have it in your head that TAF is your grail pin, you will not stop wanting it if you spend $1,000 on a cheap pin to work on. It is rare in this hobby that somebody gets 1 pin and stops there. It definitely won't happen if it isn't a pin you love.

You can't go wrong following the advice of the people above. If it were me though, I would just get my grail pin at any cost and go from there. Once you have that, you can obsess over it while it's in your house. Otherwise you might obsess over how much you wish the pin you bought was TAF and be unhappy with the cheaper one you got. Also, TAF is an easy pin to re-sell if you have to. Much harder to flip a cheap EM or early Solid State, it might sit around for a while.

I also think if you are going to drop 4k + though, there are a lot of good NIB options from Stern that have all modern parts, uniform fuses and are generally easier to work on that the older pins. Plus parts warranty and generally guarantees no problems for a while.

I'm a complete newbie and having a blast with my Metallica Pro doing the simple fixes and LED work. Taking care of a 90's machine is a bit more complicated I think, but someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

But because of my aforementioned obsessive nature, I also had to get a Shadow or I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. So I can't even listen to my own advice when it comes to something that gets into my head.

If you are like me, just get TAF and don't try to deny your obsessive nature. If you want the best option for someone in your position, my personal suggestion is a NIB Stern pro in the 4.5-5.5k range. If you want to limit your risk and dip your toe into the hobby to test the water, find a sweet firepower, pinbot or high speed, pay a bit extra for a good condition one and enjoy.

#22 4 years ago

If you want to overpay for a machine get set on buying that one "special" title. If you are new to the hobby, I would buy whatever come available local and cheap or at least reasonably priced.

Buy from someone in the hobby, they normally will sell you a good machine that will work well for the price.

You can get a dead pin that has been in someones basement for years with all kinds of problems, that is how I started (I actually bought a pair of dead machines). I learned a lot, but I have a ton of tools, space, and have been fixing things for a longtime. It still was a huge learning curve.

I did not save any money buying dead pins to start. The price break was not enough. If you can find a pin for nearly free that is dead the price break might be good enough to justify the headaches of a dead pin.

Otherwise I would get pin that works and might have some cosmetic blemishes. Keep it for a few months and have fun with it, you will learn a lot. Don't worry it will break often enough for you to learn all about repair. This will give you time to find your "dream" pin and not overpay for the first one you find. It will also let you learn what you do and don't want to fix and repair and that will help you pick what level of pin you want to buy.

#23 4 years ago
Quoted from mg81:

Buy from someone in the hobby, they normally will sell you a good machine that will work well for the price.

+1
Buying from someone with a solid track record of sales documented on Pinside should lead to more of the same...
-mof

#24 4 years ago
Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

I'm not sure I've ever said this. Ok, maybe once. I completely agree with Neo.

You said it...I did a snapshot and now it's a poster on my wall.

-3
#25 4 years ago
Quoted from CaptainNeo:

1. Never buy a game you havn't played at least 50 times to know if you like it.

This might be some silly advice, I know if I love a pin well within 10 plays.

#26 4 years ago

So many thoughtful replies here, some good advice contradicting other good advice! Thanks for all the input, fellas.

Despite the fact that I'm not a great player, I'm thinking of assembling a ragtag team to compete in the local pinball league, mainly to meet other pinheads who I hope will be willing to tudor me in the hobby locally.

I'll keep you posted on my pin progress.

#27 4 years ago

Lots of good ideas but if you want to go super cheap, buy an iPad and The Pinball Arcade's Addams Family will be out in February. Total investment ,<$550.00.

#28 4 years ago
Quoted from CaptainNeo:

I don't know if you want advice about buying a game from this forum. These guys break any sound advice rules for buying. Here are the staples to buying.
1. Never buy a game you havn't played at least 50 times to know if you like it.
2. Never buy something you can't see, play and pick up in person
3. Know your market. Look at what games of the same title actually sell for (not asking prices..selling prices) they are very different things.
4. Take someone with you that knows about games. Help you look over things, because things like chia boards, bad wiring, and other things the veteran would see, you probably will not. Plus they can help you break it down and move it out.

very sound advice, but unfortunately, sometimes counterintuitive for people not in the know

1. in my neck of woods there are few machines to be played routed. I don't want to own any of them (only exception being TZ), I will go to play them regularly and own something else. When it's in the ads I don't have the luxury to play it 50 times before I decide.

2. this is important, my first purchase was WH2O I didn't see before. It was nicely priced but very rusty and with moldy smell inside and under playfield (probably routed somewhere outside near the sea coast as it wasn't water damaged directly but have certainly been in some contact with water and even had small white salt deposits on certain places). Wouldn't buy machine in a condition like that again unless it is priced further down from that price.

4. most people don't have anyone knowledgeable to take with them.

#29 4 years ago
Quoted from MnHotRod:

CaptainNeo provides the best advice. Follow his four recommendations and you will be good to go.

+1 sound advice!

#30 4 years ago

Okay just reread your starting thread and here of some of my thoughts. I bought my first pin (not counting one given to me as a child I never learned to work on. Some things I've learned since then.

1. If you can, go to pinball shows or wherever you can find pins to play and try them out for yourself. You might find the ones you really like might not be the most expensive but very fun to you. Don't become overly obsessed with how other rate pins here, on IPDB or other sites. They do contain some good insights and not putting down thoughtful reviews, but only you can discover for yourself your unique tastes. And yes as said earlier play a lot of game once getting down to deciding whether to put one on your wishlist. Sometimes one you like at first can grow boring after several plays or one you don't like at first might actually be a better choice. Not the same at all, but if there's one you just can find to try out there are some free options on line to play video versions and PAPA on Youtube has some great tutorials and gameplay videos of many pins.

2. If you ever need to replace any IC chips and you likely will as a pin owner, be very careful in taking the old ones out and notice which way the little notch is in each one. Can tell you how many of those I blew putting them in backwards. Same with diodes as I put some in with the silver band backwards and then wondered why my pin acting weird.

3. Don't replace light bulbs or leds with the lights on. Did that many times and blew transistors.

4. Learn how to solder and desolder very well if you don't know how already. Watch some Youtube videos and seek advice here. Get a very good desolder gun not the bulbs, suckers or the one from Radio Shack. Unless you're good at those, you'll get real frustrated and burn up traces and create even more repairs which cost you a lot more. Sadly I know this from experience.
Never ever work on a board including soldering and desoldering if you're tired, frustrated or don't have lots of practice and skill. You can learn by finding a junked electronics board, even an old computer board and practicing a ton.

5. Read "Dear Lloyd" and ask him questions once you get a game and need to learn how to diagnose and repair your pin. It's on the forum of Pinside. When I started on this I kept noticing he kindly and often answer questions about many of my technical issues. He usually signs LTG and is a great guy like several here who also give great advice.

6. Try to find a friend or a local group of people who like playing and working on pins. I've learned so much of what to do and what not to do and wish I had connected with my local group earlier.

7. Personally the thought of swapping a playfield and trying to get all of the wiring switches, mechanics etc. etc. sounds so overwhelming to me. However, many here do that and maybe you could eventually feel the desire and work up to the skill to do that. That being said, I had one of the worst playfields on an Earthshaker. Got the game playing 100% and it was a blast to play and after awhile I never really cared that the game was a beater. However, you might really desire a beautiful game and so need to consider researching and being patient until you find one in nice shape.

8. I'm sure there's much more, but people here can really help once you purchase a pin and you have even more specific questions about working on that specific pin. I wish you well and hope you really enjoy this hobby!

#31 4 years ago

I've been thinking about this since you first posted, and I'll offer my two cents. As others have already suggested, the single best thing you can do is to find an experienced collector in your area who is willing to evaluate a pin with you. In the long run, it can cost a lot more to buy an "inexpensive" pin and then replace a lot of its parts. I speak from experience. Things that look like a bargain often aren't. Also, there are many pins out there that are considerably better than "fixer uppers" but that would not qualify as fully restored/collector quality. Most of my pins are in excellent shape but would not be considered true CQ. If possible, buy something in that range, a pin already babied by its previous owner. In this case, the difference between a $4k and a $5k TAF can be enormous. You could easily invest another $1k or more in the cheaper machine and still not bring it up to the standard of the initially more expensive pin.

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