I was thinking that there has to be tons of good stories on Pinside of people buying their first pin when they just get into the hobby. I can speak from personal experience that I was impatient, impulsive, and didn't plan accordingly. I learned a lot from that experience and thought this might be a good place to share what some more experienced hobbyists learned. Hindsight is 20/20!
My first pin was a Data East Secret Service. I went to the Midwest Gaming Classic for the first year in 2012. At the time, I was far more interested in arcade machines than pinball, but on the final day, as people were packing up, plenty of machines were on sale for steep discounts. One game in particular was Secret Service, which I found for $350.00. I knew nothing about pin repair, but was confident that I'd be able to suss out the details as I went along with the help of a friend who has done some light restoration work. The game itself seemed to be in decent condition with just a few cracked plastics, but the main issue was that it was missing an MPU. Knowing this and knowing what it'd cost to get a replacement, I pulled the trigger and brought this baby home.
Not being able to purchase the MPU right away, I figured the first thing I could work on would be playfield touch-up. As instructed, I took plenty of pictures for reference and started disassembling the playfield. As I worked my way across the top, I figured the best way to make it complete would be to follow suit on the bottom as well so that I could completely remove pop bumpers, lights etc. Once again, I took tons of photos to document my progress and assist in reassembly. After disassembly, I waxed and cleaned the playfield and I removed all of the mylar as well. Then the game sat there. For a long time.
Fast forward about six months and my family takes a trip to Africa to visit my brother in the Peace Corps. While there, my phone is stolen and I lose all of my playfield photos...photos that I never backed up. I was so discouraged that after a few attempts trying to reassemble based on "feel", I gave up. In the end, I ended up selling it as a project machine to a friend, but it still remains torn apart now.
TLDR: I learned a few things
1. Don't buy a game just because it's cheap
2. Don't look at a non-working game as a "learning experience" for your first purchase
3. Don't be afraid to ask questions to people who know more than you
4. Find a way to organize small hardware like screws
5. Back up photos
6. Don't leave a project in the basement thinking "I'll get to it someday"
7. Read Vid's guide to restorations. Painting doesn't work by hand with cheap paint