(Topic ID: 142092)

What was your first pin and what did you learn?

By Atreyu

5 years ago

Topic Stats

  • 47 posts
  • 44 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 5 years ago by Riptor
  • Topic is favorited by 3 Pinsiders


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#1 5 years ago

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

#2 5 years ago

What I learned was if you stop spending all your monies on over priced toys to clutter up the PF, you can buy more machines.

#3 5 years ago

Who Dunnit? - I learned I got lucky at a public auction and didn't grossly overpay for a basketcase.

#4 5 years ago

Super-flite. I learned that people smoked alot more than I knew of in the 70's, and I grew up in the 70's.

#5 5 years ago

WH2O - I learned that no one makes a remotely decent reproduction topper...

#6 5 years ago
Quoted from Atreyu:

I was impatient, impulsive, and didn't plan accordingly.

That sums it up for me. I would have been so much better off had I waited and gotten to know others already in the hobby. Of course, at that time I knew nothing of Pinside, nor did I know a single person who owned a pin, so I an easy mark for someone wanting to unload an overpriced machine. As they say, "Education is expensive."

#7 5 years ago

Virtual Pinball - I learned it's pretty lame in comparison. Fortunately after a few months I was able to unload it.

#8 5 years ago

My first game was an EM, Sure Shot . back in the early 80s

What I learned;
Pinball machines are amazing
Relays can do incredible things

#9 5 years ago

mmmhhh .... pinball good!

aannnnddd .... pinball is addictive

#10 5 years ago

Gottlieb Playmates. Learned that pinball machines get lonely and they require another to be happy

#11 5 years ago

Very few games are better than this masterpiece.

#12 5 years ago

Bally Eight Ball.. What I learned was...cosmetics...cosmetics...cosmetics... Electrical/mechanical easy...

#13 5 years ago

GnR was my first game and I still have it.

What I have learned is it is the only music themed pinball machine of the last 25 years that came out when the band was still relevant.

#14 5 years ago

TZ back in 1999, learned that I really really like this game. I just wanted a game at home as all on location all ways seamed to have mechanical issues.
Thanks to somebody I met back around then I learned a lot about how to take care of them and he helped me to stay in the hobby and I like pinball more then ever now.

#15 5 years ago

First pin was Addams Family, it needed some basic work (shop, flipper rebuilds, etc.) but basically a good solid game.

Learned that you can't just have one and a whole lot about creating great mods! Check them out at http://www.leesparts.com

#16 5 years ago

Bally KISS. Burned a bumper solenoid due to a bad transistor on the driver board. Before I knew about these things it sat 10+ years and could not get anyone to take a look. Of course, they didn't have a clue either even if they did look. A mailman told me the problem. Paid a tech a 100 miles away to fix it. He came to the house and did his job. I watched and asked questions. Haven't needed his overpriced slow ass since...................Pinside from here on out.........lots of help here.

#17 5 years ago

Gottlieb Foto Finish. Used to play it at an outdoor mall's amusement area on 163rd St in Miami when I was 10 or 11. Totally stumbled upon one in the classified ads around 1979 or 80. What I learned is that pinball games with carryover features are a lot more appealing in the wild than at home.

I also learned that is a LOT easier to get into the hobby today than in 1979, when you were pretty much on your own.

Game doesn't work? Parts broken or missing? Need a set of LEGS? No schematic? You were on your own. You had to network and develop personal relationships to find games, parts and people from whom you could learn how to maintain and repair pins and to read schematics. And being a corporate ladder-climber at the time, I was relocated every 2.5 years on average, so I had to find local help and hobbyists every couple weeks. Long distance calling was expensive

Here's what wasn't available: the internet, Ebay, Pinball Resource (Steve Young was working at IBM), Marco, PPS, Pinball Life, MAD (don't buy from them if you don't live in the USA , Clay Harrell and all of his contributions, pinball books, pinball repair guides, RGP, Pinside, pinball shows...(Expo was still 5 years away and when it started, who knew?), Paypal, repro parts (NONE), repro playfields, repro backglasses, Pinball Trader, Pinball Collector's Quarterly, Gameroom, Pingame Journal, Craigslist, Chicagoland, mods and LEDs, automotive clearcoat (not just on pins, but not at all), NAVL, Dennis Dodel's Pinball Moving Co Inc, Magic Eraser, home-use vibrating tumblers or ultrasonic cleaners, and Jelly Belly's.

#18 5 years ago

Evel Knievel. I was lucky to learn that if you buy your first pin from a friend of a friend, you don't get ripped off like a lot of first time buyers do. Oh, and I learned what a transistor really did and how it did it.

#19 5 years ago


I bought it in 2002 from a retail outlet out of state. I won't mention who it was, but they do not have a good reputation on Pinside...
I learned that I will NEVER buy form a retail store again. Or to buy sight unseen. I always buy from a private seller and pick it up.
It was not even CLOSE to the machine he sent pictures of, and he denied it over and over. Shipped with (rusty, pitted) balls installed, plenty of things not working that could not have ALL been from shipping, dirty as all hell, etc.....

I did learn how to troubleshoot and fix a pinball machine. I learned how to clean, where to buy supplies, and how to totally get hooked on pinball.
It also led me to seek out the local pinball groups in Michigan, and that's how I got involved in the Detroit Pinball League and met that great group of guys.

#20 5 years ago

One of the games in my first lot was T2, which I have no love for at all. I learned to play games before I buy them. I also learned a lot about troubleshooting WPC resets

#21 5 years ago

Black Hole.

what i learned: Habo is a heck of a nice guy and Pinside is a great resource for answering questions about pinball maintenance and repair. it's also a great place to find a machine, if you do your due diligence and make sure you're dealing with a well-respected regular.

#22 5 years ago

JP. After one week of ownership at least 3 things needed fixing. I learned to always get the manual for my games and never a reproduction one that you can barely read.

#23 5 years ago

Bally Strikes & Spares.

I learned that there's an awesome community of people out there who are willing to help you along with testing and trouble shooting to get a pin running / keep it running. Also that these things aren't that scary, for the most part.

#24 5 years ago

Well got my first pin about 5 months ago thought it was a good idea to remove the Mylar and well yea still working on removing all the residue left behind on my Tmnt playfield. Have quite a bit of touch ups to do and bought literally everything but a new playfield and boards on this game. I need to wrap it up been hoping to find a vet here around lower pa to maybe give a few tips on restoring so I can play it and not just working on making it look cool. Probably still have a few months left of work to fix it up and then off to get the next pin lol.

#25 5 years ago

Williams Fire

I learned to not trust Pinside price checks or pinball price guides.

#26 5 years ago

Bally Strikes and Spares for $100 in working condition. What I learned:
- Learning curve is steep and progress slow, but small victories feel soooooo good!
- Start small, buy a replacement board if needed rather than try to troubleshoot and fix a board that beyond your skills (but work towards getting those skills)
- Pins can be intimidating, but it's a great hobby and pinside is full of helpful people

I'm still pretty useless when it comes to understanding how pins work and I don't think I could ever do a restoration or even playfield swap but I've learned a lot and I'm pretty comfortable I can fix most common (simple) issues

#27 5 years ago

Bally MotorDome, I bought 5 years ago.

Being that its a 6803, I learned, although fun to play, a pain is the butt at times to diagnose an issue in those machines.

#28 5 years ago

A Bally Flicker EM machine.

What I learned:
1. Don't buy pins off e-bay. (Wasn't bad as I only paid $400)
2. Pins stop working after you load them in your truck and get them home.
3. How much wire and solenoids it took to make such a wonderful device just to entertain me.
4. EM's are much slower than when I was a kid. Love the DMDs now
5. That there was a company that still made pinball machines. Thanks for hangin' in Stern.
6. There are guys with warehouses full of pins.
7. There is an interesting community of collectors out there (some really close by)
8. Not learning but I made some great new friends.
9. There is a nice little place called AllenTown, PA.
10. How great the breakfasts are at Badda Bings in the market.
11. Some guys set up pinball machines in their hotel rooms. (Bah, kids and their portable iPhones).
12. How much fun this hobby can be.
13. Novus is not a dwarf-planet in the Keiper belt. (Unless I can discover one and get to name it).
14. How much I missed the 80's arcades (even with the dingy smokey smells).
15. Pins R Fun

What I eventually learned:
1. The more times you bring a pin up-and-down your basement the heavier it gets.
2. How to work a DMM.
3. How switch-matrixes, light matrixes, GI circuits, etc. work. Cool!
4. I can use my smarts to figure this stuff out.
5. How much I missed using my hands to fix things. Long time since my backyard mechanic days.
6. Making pinballs is HARD!
7. Never give thousands of dollars to strangers with an idea. Fortunately I learned this from others.

I am sure there are more but my lunch break is over ... so back to work.

BTW: Great thread. Something to stimulate thought.


#29 5 years ago

Thanks for all of the responses. There's a huge variety of information here already. Hopefully this can provide some fair warning to some people who are just getting into the hobby.

Quoted from PBFan:

BTW: Great thread. Something to stimulate thought.

Thanks! I appreciate it!

#30 5 years ago

Never get your first pin

#31 5 years ago

ACDC pro, I over payed by not knowing better distributors.

#32 5 years ago

Diner: I learned that trading it out for another pin was way too painful - much better to just let the pins pile up all over the house.

#33 5 years ago

Had no business purchasing a Freddy (for $2500) that had several issues and was fixed by a known "tard" in the local pinball community who had creative boarding skills. This first purchase left me feeling ripped off. I am glad we have a great local pinball community here that helps out the newbs from getting hustled. Too bad I didn't find them before I found this boso

Now I call out hustlers and flippers and laugh, laugh at what they are doing all the while warning newbs to stay away from them.

#34 5 years ago

FirePower was my first

I paid a tad too much but I have learned a lot.

One of the first things i learned was all about EOS switches and a lot of general maintenance on a machine

but getting an older CHEAPER game will help build confidence in pin repair and you won't have to worry about hurting your multiple thousand dollar game if its not worth even more than a grand

and the community is great and usually are willing to help.

#35 5 years ago

Bally dungeons and dragons. Learned that had i lifted the glass i might have been able to haggle a lesser price. Wow was that game in need of some cleaning!

#36 5 years ago

Bally Space Invaders.

Connectors, connectors, connectors.

#37 5 years ago

I got a basket case Meteor for free. I learned that with some help, I can figure this stuff out, and it's fun. I didn't even own a soldering iron before that and now I do most of my circuit board work.

#38 5 years ago

The guy that sold me my first pin 4 years ago told me this: "You're a young guy (I was 26 at the time) so let me give you some advice - you're never going to have enough money, and you're never going to have enough space... and your wife is going to hate it so get as many as you can before you get married"

#39 5 years ago

IJ, learned that one pin isn't enough.

#40 5 years ago

As soon as you refer to it as your "first pin" you hooked and there will be a second...third etc. My first purchase was off ebay local so I learned a lot. My first tear down..first lighting mod... first mylar removal and soon after pf touch up..first cab touch up and ended up being first pf swap and rail replace. I learned RGP was a non williams bally hate club lol. Thankfully I printed the pinrepair manual before it was removed. My first pin was my only pin for a year so I learned a ton. Oh for all the old timers it was jackie chan.

#41 5 years ago

blackout. i learned that i was about to become a pinball repairman...

#42 5 years ago

Bally Spy Hunter was my first and I learned that i would never have another one of those again.

#43 5 years ago

I too was only into video games prior to purchasing a pinball machine. Here are the things I learned in the first month or so of owning my very first pinball machine. The first item will let you know how much prior experience I had.

* How to lift the playfield... We forget it's not obvious until you see it once, it takes 8 steps!
* How to clean and wax a playfield (specifically what to use and what not to use)
* How to clean metal parts
* How to troubleshoot and repair cold solder joints on a lightboard
* How to replace bulbs (GI and inserts) - and the level of filth they accumulate!
* How to replace rubbers (i.e., how to tear apart a playfield)
* How to repair playfield damage, i.e., install a Cliffy
* How to repair a shaker motor that shook itself apart
* How to replace a playfield switch in the most difficult location possible
* How to repair playfield mounts that came lose, ultimately being the cause of the afore-mentioned switch
* How to replace an outgassed DMD
* Finally: how much time and money is really involved in a thorough shop job, none of which was expected when I bought it, yet set the standard by which I gauged value of all future purchases.

The advice from a friend prior to the purchase was prescient, yet understated: If know how to use a screwdriver you can fix a pinball machine.

#44 5 years ago

F-14 Tomcat (What did I learn?.....just about everything)

So I knew nothing when I bought it. Didn't even know there were supposed to be lights on top!

I had never soldered in my life....didn't even own one. So I learned about that.....even started replacing components on the boards (TIP 122's!!!).

Tought myself how to read a wiring schematic and how to use a digital multimeter. I had zero technical/electronic background. Everything was brand new to me. Completely striped the playfield and put it back together. Tracked down a new motor for the light on top but then could not find any rubber belts that were used to make it spin......ended up finding a John Deere belt that fit.

#45 5 years ago
Quoted from Astropin:

F-14 TOMCAT +......ended up finding a John Deere belt that fit.

=F-14 Johndeer

#46 5 years ago

Flash was my first title.

I learned within a week of owning that 5101 are flakey and fail often for no reason at all.
Which was my case as machine was already moved set up and playing then a week later dead. Since then about 3 other machines all with 5101 being bad. I swear don't even look at that chip wrong.

Then with that failure learned that the whole system 3-6 board set is really not for anyone just starting out. I have met real experienced folks that just stay clear away from them.

I have seen many games since at shows and such (system3-6) that look like a nitemare.

Price of machine does play a big role in first purchase of course but unless you are already fairly skilled with board work do NOT purchase an early Williams title.

You have been warned.

Reading some of the above posts very fun... as I miss the days of not knowing anything at all. All the simple things that you totally take for granted.

So huge thanks to all the ole RGP cool cats that made the learning so much fun. I know most all of you guys are here now. So thanks!

Stated all the time, you quickly learn one ain't enough.

#47 5 years ago

My first pin was given to me in exchange for removing a couch from the guys house. It was a 1974 williams Fan-Tas-Tic. I believe the machine was home use only. I can honestly say I can remember the machine at his house since the early 80's. Machine was owned by my dads best friend. I never thought about it until recently but the thing still looked like new. Unfortunately I sold it a few years back. So I guess I learned to really think about it before selling a game. I regret selling it now mostly because of the history on it. I also learned that I prefer working on SS games....no more EM's for me. It took a lot of fiddling to finally get that machine working correctly.

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