How Much do Pinball Machines Cost?
Owning a pinball machine was a childhood fantasy for me. I remember obsessing over a few at the local arcade. Pinball machines feel like a relic from the past, but much like vinyl records, they are making a comeback. So how much does it cost to buy a pinball machine?
New Pinball Machines
There are only two companies making pinball machines. Stern, based out of Chicago, was the only company for the last several years producing popular branding games like Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Avengers, Dark Night, and Spiderman. At the time of this blog post, they offer AC/DC, Metallica, and Star Trek for around $3500. The other company, Jersey Jack, opened in 2012 and offers machines with a new technology that has a very slick and futuristic feel to it. They only offer two games, The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit, for a whopping $8000. Alternatively, you can search for arcade and amusement stores in your area on Google which may offer some of the older Stern games in new condition. The advantage to buying a machine is that it will might offer discounted a local store might offer discounted or free transport to your home.
A good place to look for used pinball machines is on eBay or Craigslist. The advantage to Craigslist is that you can search locally and avoid the high cost of shipping the machine. There is a lot more variety of pinball machines on eBay, so that is better if you are looking for a specific game. There is a handy website called Bargain Pinball Machines that organizes eBay auctions based on price range or decade. For example, there is a $500-$1000 range and a $1000-$2000 range on the website which is a good spot to start to look for a good deal. You can find a decent game of the 90s for $2000 or less, and that's my recommendation for your first machine. The disadvantage of buying used pinball machines is trusting the seller about the condition. Most people don't know how to fix or inspect a game. If you do have experience repairing machines, you can get a very good deal on a "fixer upper" pinball machine typically under $500. There are also some very good online forums that allow collectors to publish classified ads for their games. Collectors usually will want a fair price for their machines, but the games are typically in very good condition because they have been handled with care. I suggest looking at Pinside, MrPinball, or posts on the rec.games.pinball (RGP) newsgroup.
North-American Van Lines (NAVL) or Precision Transportation are the two most popular companies to ship a pinball machine. The total distance between parties will factor into the cost, but it usually falls between $300 and $400. It is cheaper to ship the machine with the legs off, but ends up being more work reassembling upon arrival. The game can also be transported in a crate with the legs attached which is typically the most expensive (but easiest to set up) choice. EBay auctions should have shipping estimates included, but it's always best to contact the seller with your location and get an accurate shipping estimate.
If you have the funds, I would order a new machine from Stern or purchase one from an arcade store in your area for approximately $3500. Otherwise, I would look on craigslist and eBay for a post 1990 machine in good condition for $1500-$2000. Your hipster entertainment area also needs a jukebox or turntable with a sweet collection of vinyl records. So what are you waiting for? Start your search for that perfect pinball and become the envy of all your friends.