I just recently purchased a TOTAN from The Pinball Company and thought some people who came across this thread might like to know what it was like. Overall I would say it was a positive transaction but also wish to provide full disclosure about the entire experience and let others decide for themselves.
I say this simply because I know a lot of members here fall into a group that like to search CL for the best deals, drive to play the pin in question, then restore it after bringing it home. If you see yourself as this type of collector, then TPC is definitely not the place for you. But I'm exactly the opposite. I didn't want to have to spend months searching for a deal on CL, didn't want to drive a long way to pick it up, and am way too new in this hobby to begin tackling a major restoration project.
Plus - even though I like the community on this forum (I never would have joined otherwise), I'm a little reluctant to send a check to a complete stranger selling his machine. Having been swindled before for purchases far less that weren't pin related on such sites as eBay and Amazon's marketplace, I figured dealing with TPC would be a safe bet since they are a legitimate, known business and accredited by the BBB. (That's Better Business Bureau - not Big Bang Bar. ) And you won't be getting a one-year parts warranty on a machine purchased from Joe Nobody.
So with that being said, my first impression was that Nic Parks was a very nice guy, enthusiastic about pinball and was happy I called. We worked out a deal where I paid him 20% up front by check on the TOTAN in his showroom, where it would get in line for a few weeks to be shopped, then I would send him a check for the balance. By agreeing to pay by check rather than credit card, he was able to work out a discount for me on the purchase price so ultimately I ended up paying $8,195 for the machine. This price included curbside shipping and full LEDs. (Incidentally, Nic never cashed the second check until after delivery of the machine. I thought that was interesting and worth mentioning.)
In the meantime, Brooke would send me pictures of the pin so I knew exactly what I was getting. If I asked for photos of specific areas she would send those as well. So from the photos you can clearly see the machine has cabinet fade on one side (kind of a moot point for me since the machine will ultimately end up in a corner where that side won't even be visible), some of the same wear I see on everyone's TOTANs around the left orb and ball scoop (but the genie magnet looks fine), and what appears to be some kind of blemish in the shooter lane (it actually looks better in person and is smooth to the touch). On the plus side, the playfield and cabinet look like they're in great shape.
This is my second pin - after thinking my first one would be my one and only. My first one was purchased from Allen at TC. Clearly there's a difference between a collector's quality TC pin and one from TPC at this price. But I will go broke real quick if I have all my pins professionally restored. One of the reasons I chose to purchase the TOTAN from TPC was to save at least $4,000 over a CQ pin. Is saving $4,000 worth some cabinet fade I'll never see and some normal playfield wear that can be easily concealed with cliffys? For me this was an acceptable trade-off. Based on prices I've seen other TOTANs sell for, I'm thinking I could have bought one like mine for around $6500-$7000 including shipping - maybe even less. But as I mentioned previously, there are also advantages to buying from TPC which justify the extra expense for some.
So when my pin finally arrived, I was very impressed with the skill and care at which it was packaged and pallet-shipped. The shipper was not NAVL, but it was tightly wrapped in two layers of plastic and THREE blankets. I'm convinced the only way you could have damaged this thing would have been to do it deliberately.
Now to point out some negatives which I noticed after I was able to examine the machine in person...
One of the skill shot decals is a little worn. (I ordered a replacement from marcospecialties.)
Before I purchased the machine, I asked Bally4022 (who started this thread) what his impression was of this machine when he played it. He was nice enough to reply and told me the one thing he remembered was how the ball always got stuck whenever it drained down the right outlane. He mentioned it to Nic, but just to be safe I mentioned it to him as well by email. Well waddaya know - I get the machine and immediately notice the ball gets stuck there. As you can see in the photo, there's actually no way it can drain because the lane is too narrow. The black dividing piece to the right was a little loose, so I unscrewed it from underneath the playfield then held it firmly while tightly screwing it back in place. It took a few tries for me to get this right, pushing the piece slightly to the right as I secured it back down, but finally was able to gain about 1/64th inch of clearance for the ball - just enough so that it never gets hung up anymore.
My main gripe can be seen in the photo of the captive ball on the left. The piece of plastic that should cover this part is broken off, and when I went back to look at the photos Brooke sent me I saw that it was broken before it was shipped to me as well. So when the pin arrived at my home, this ball was rolling around in the bottom of the cabinet. And now when you play the game, if you hit the captive ball too hard it actually gets knocked onto the playfield and becomes an extra ball in play! I immediately let Nic know about this and he ordered a replacement part for me the next day. (Incidentally, he couldn't find it anywhere local so it's shipping from Pinball Spare Parts Australia.)
So that's basically all the highlights. I would say if the price is right I would buy from Nic again. The shipping was top notch and the machine plays well with no errors. It doesn't feel run down and I was able to purchase the pin with confidence knowing TPC didn't have the kind of infamous reputation as FUN! My only real complaint is the questionable nature as to how thoroughly this machine was shopped. Mind you, I didn't pay for a collector's quality restoration and I can't say there were any surprises since I got exactly what I saw in the photos, but exactly how well was this thing playtested if a ball getting stuck in the right outlane went unnoticed? (After being mentioned by two other people no less!) And of course the aforementioned broken plastic was a pretty severe oversight which could have resulted in unfortunate damage with a loose ball rolling around during shipping. (Luckily nothing else got broken.) Being familiar so far with how to perform only minor pinball repairs, I can't say I'm too thrilled about figuring out how to tear down a portion of the playfield to install the replacement plastic on its way, but at least I know Nic stands by his warranty and will order outside the US if he has to do this.
Hope this detailed account helps others.