• JL (contributor)

When I am buying pinball machines or appraising a pinball machine, I often receive feedback like "I have seen this machine listed online for way more money" or "These are selling on ebay for $$$$." Why is your value / offering price different?

Well, first, I agree with you. The first thing I would do when selling something is check the internet. It's a common reaction that when you are seeking to sell a pinball machine, you check on-line sources such as ebay for pricing data. Well, there are a few things to remember about ebay:

  1. Ebay prices are asking prices. Ebay prices are asking prices which do not correlate into the value of a machine. The best way to find a value of a pinball machine on ebay is to look at "completed listings" or "sold listings". This way, you can see what the pinball machines have actually sold for and not just asking prices. Many of the same machine have been listed on ebay for years at the same high price (especially those ones that appear to be in a store). Remember, just because its listed, doesnt mean that it will sell at that price. Its very similar to car sales, sure, the asking price is listed on the vehicle but t

hats not what the car will sell for. SItes like True Car.com have help consumers determine average prices. In Pinball, websites like Bostonpinball.biz , offer a listing of all pinball games sold via ebay (updated a few times a year) and the average selling prices (not listing prices) for the machines.

  1. Ebay machines are listed higher because there is a commission. Remember, listing on ebay is not free. (although Pinballvalue is free) Ebay typically charges 10% commission plus you have a paypal commission as well. That is potentially 12% added to the cost of the game. Retailers and sellers know this and factor it into their asking and selling price.

  2. Many ebay machines are sold by retailers who have higher costs. A brick and mortar retailer has costs to worry about...Buildings, employees, insurance, vehicles, parts, etc, etc. Retailers have to factor this into t

he selling price. However, when a collector buys from you directly, they are not concerned with overhead and costs traditionally associated with retailers. Whats ironic about retailers is they are typically the ones ot offer the least for your machine and sell for the most. Dont be fooled! The value of a pinball machine is a combination of factors including recent collector sales data, auction data, anticipated new releases, rarity of a game, rarity of parts for a game, playability, and geographic location. Not overhead!

  1. Many ebay machines, sold by retailers, include a warranty. One of the nice parts about buying from a retailers, especially if you are new to the hobby, is the fact that retailers offer a warrant

y for the machine. They will typically offer phone support or in-person tech support after you purchase a machine from them. This cost is absolutely factored into the cost/price of a pinball machine. For example, suppose the Pinball Factory sells a machine on ebay for $3500 to a buyer in Florida. The Pinball Factory is located in Chicago. Now, after the buyer has played the machine for 2 months, it develops a problem which cannot be fixed over the phone. The Pinball Factory, because they have provided a warranty, must now hire a local technician to fix the buyers problem at the expense of the Pinball Factory. This cost is defintely factored into the price of the machine and inflates the value.

  1. Many ebay sellers offer free shipping. Many of the machines sold by retailers come with free shipping. The cost to ship a pinball machine typically runs $400 - $500 depending on the locations. So when you see that machine listed on ebay, check whether it includes free shipping as well.


When trying to determine a valye for your pinball machine, ebay is not a great source. Sellers on ebay h

ave to account for commissions, overhead, shipping, and the possibility of warranty repairs. The cost of these features is added to the price of the game. Therefore, my best advice is to either look at the completed listings for a game on ebay to see the actual selling price or contact PinballValue.com for a free appraisal.

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  • JC

I didnt know the pinball machine had batteries? Yes, that is correct! Most modern pinball machines have batteries located on their circuit boards. Why? These provide a constant stream of power to the memory so the game can retain its settings as well as high scores.

Cool - but why should we care?

Well, batteries deteriorate over time. If the batteries are not removed every 1-2 years, they can begin to leak acid. That acid can leak on circuit components and destroy the CPU. Some CPUs cannot be fixed and replacements cost anywhere from $150 bucks to $450 depending on the game.

So - lesson of the day - replace those batteries! When selling a game, most collectors will want to see the batteries. If there is bad damage, expect a lower asking price.

Good luck!

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So over the past few weeks, I have completed some appraisals for sellers of pinball machines. Some of the more recent games included Addams Family Pinball, Medieval Madness Pinball, Twilight Zone Pinball and High Speed 2, Getaway Pinball. Let's talk about condition. Condition of a pinball machine is the greatest factor in determining an appropriate value for a game. I think is synonymous to classic cars. A classic Boss 302 Mustang which has been restored is worth way more than an unrestored daily driver.

The same holds true for pinball.

Take for example the Medieval Madness Pinball Machine I appraised. The game has been sitting in the owner's basement unplayed for years. The owner purchased the game in 1998. Was the game in an arcade, tough to determine; however, it looked good. The graphics were nice and bright and the playfield, although dirty, was wear free.

The ramps, plastics, rubbers and playfield assemblies all looked good. So you are thinking - this has to be worth major bucks. Well, what if I I told you that batteries leaked all over the CPU and that the game was not playing correctly? That was the case here.

The owner thought that because the game did not play correctly, it was worth less, basically 1-2k. I laughed and said - NO Way, the game is worth considerably more. I explained that even though it wasn't working correctly, these things can always be fixed mechanically. Cosmetics are most important. I provided him an appraisal and he was quite surprised when my number was over $7,000. Consequently, we found him a buyer right away. He was thrilled. Bottom line - condition is king with modern pinball games. Don't let something that's not working fool you on a value. Don't let a buyer tell you "that light doesn't work" or "that flipper doesn't work, so it's worth less" - that's baloney.

If you have a Medieval Madness Pinball, Twilight Zone Pinball or any others, contact us for an appraisal or to sell. Next Up - Lesson 2: Major Features and How They Affect Value.

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