This used to happen all the time in the early 90s. I was just talking with someone yesterday and we were both talking about how 10 years ago, you could get TZs and TAFs (and MANY more) for $1500 or less. In particular, TZs you could get super cheaply everywhere because the game sucked on route - not just did it not earn, but it fell apart constantly and had tons of problems.
Quoted from mickthepin:
Stern will never hold its value or improve (LOTR exception to the rule). I know this upsets you fan boys and I like some new sterns but if you can tell me with a straight face that sterns these days are built to the same quality standard of early 90's Williams and Bally you are in denile... Get real
Ha! Clearly, you're not an op.
The market is different, so whether Sterns will hold their value or improve is more difficult to nail down. They aren't on route any more. When Williams was making their DMD games, they were making them to put on route and earn money, not sell for tons of money down the line. 10 years ago, you could buy nearly every pin that B/W made for less than they sold it for, with very few exceptions (like Medieval Madness) because they were route monsters. Ops didn't want to give up old games that made more than brand new games...
But as for their build quality, EVERY operator that I know says that Sterns are FAR more solid out of the box than Williams games ever were. The thing is you're looking at them through a prism. When you guy a Twilight Zone today for instance, you don't see all of the work that has been done on it to get it to work. You don't see all of the adjustments that were done by the last person to make sure it's working perfectly. You just see that it is working and think it must have always been that way.
Then, you open up a new Stern that hasn't been playing 5,000 times and adjusted the whole way, and a couple switches are flaky or a few lights go out and people freak out because it is new and should work better.
The way that it worked (in general) was this, as confirmed to me by multiple different ops... Gottlieb games were the ones known for actually having real build quality, but they earned poorly. Bally / Williams games needed a bunch of tweaking and adjustment, but earned and worked solidly once that was done (generally, TZ was a huge exception actually, it SUCKED on route). Data East / Sega earned the best initially, but generally had the most problems out of the box and in the field. They got better with time however, and the games made at the end (like South Park) were very solid. Stern continued that trend.