This is a question I frequently get when I buy pinball machines. Typically, the games have been sitting for years and are covered in dust. The playfields are dirty and there is a black firm on the playfield. This black film is flipper coil dust or carbon. The problem with this dust is that when the balls roll across the playfield, the dust gets ground into the playfield and causes scratches and damage. This eventually leads to the clear coat wearing away, then the paint wearing away.

How do you prevent this? Wipe with windex? NO. The proper way is to take the entire playfield apart. Meaning, take all the components, ramps, plastics - basically any piece on the playing surface off. These pieces are all then cleaned. The playfield is cleaned with a special cleaning agent safe for pinball machines. Then the playfield is waxed, the pieces put back on and bingo - you have a clean game. Now, how long does this take? Anywhere from 2 hours to 10 hours depending on the complexity of the machine.


So - when a buyer says to a seller..."This game needs a tear down and cleaning" - he means approximately 2-10 hours worth of work. Its simply not just windex and paper towels. Amusements retailers generally charge $40 - $75 per hour for labor and it can cost anywhere from $100 - $1000 to properly clean a machine. Most hobbyists, and buyers here on pinballvalue, do not attempt to knock this amount off the price. However, consideration should be made by the seller as to how dirty the game is and how much work is needed.

My rule of thumb - if a game is dirty, knock off a couple hundred for the buyer.

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  • JC

People sometimes ask me about Craigslist and how supposed buyer offer to send a deposit or payment and have a shipping company pick up the pinball machine. My response - NO!!!!! The only way to be safe is to receive cash! (a bank wire is also good provided it clears before you release the game).

Here are some common questions/scams.

Example: Buyer said he would paypal me a small deposit, send the rest when the shipping company arrives. Is this ok? Is paypal safe?

Answer: Paypal is not a recommended method for receiving payment for a pinball machine. Why? Because even if the buyer sends the money "Friends and Family", he can still reverse the charge if he paid with a credit card.


Here is typically how this occurs - you sell your beautiful game via Craiglist and a buyer offers to pay asking price. He offers a small deposit to hold the game. He organizes the shipping company to come pack and ship the game. A day before pickup, he sends final payment. All is good right? - WRONG - Buyer received the pinball machine then claims there is a problem with it (although there is nothing wrong with it). Buyer, because he used a credit card to fund the paypal transaction, files a dispute with the credit card company which then issues a chargeback to paypal. Your money is now stuck.


The Buyer then claims he wants to return the item or wants money back. You are now stuck and have no choice but to fight it ( and have your money tied up ) or take money off for a bogus problem. Bottom line - always deal in cash unless you know the Buyer!


Read our posts to learn about other scams. To sell your pinball, please contact us!

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  • JC

We often talk here about selling pinball machines but if you happen to stumble upon this website while looking to buy a game, here are a few tips:

1) If you are a first time buyer, buy from a retailer that offers a warranty. Yes, you will pay more for the game but the reality is that pinball machines break. Having a retailer in your corner is great and provides piece of mind.

2) Before dropping thousands on a game, head to a pinball show in your area. Most shows cost less than $20 to enter and have 100-300 games. Its a great way to find games you love. The last thing you want to do is buy a game for $5000 then hate it.

3) Research the game in forum sites. Find out what to look for when looking at the game. What is the game supposed to look and play like. For example, artwork on the cabinets often faded...this certainly affects value.

4) Dont buy from your friends neighbor who is moving. 90% of the time, there is something wrong with the game.

Email us with any questions. Good luck!


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