Pinball Machine Buyer’s Guide

Pinball Machine Buyer’s Guide

Now that we are entering the third decade of the new millennium we find ourselves well underway into the 9th generation of video game consoles. And since these powerful high-tech devices have taken over so many aspects of our entertainment needs, the pinball machines of yesteryear are beginning to look like the forgotten vestiges of a bygone era.

Thankfully, a staunch group of pinball machine manufacturers continue to innovate and develop exciting new machines that incorporate modern, high-tech features.

Additionally, pinball machines from the 80s, 70s, 60s, and earlier can still be bought today thanks to collectors and other enthusiasts.

As a result, pinball machines can still make a fantastic addition to any game room or man cave out there. But, given their objective obscurity in today’s pop cultural landscape, buying one can seem like a daunting task, and possibly an expensive one.

So today, we are going to answer every question worth asking when deciding to purchase a new or refurbished pinball machine.

A Little Bit Of Pinball History For Context

The first pinball machines, as far as we would recognize them as such, were introduced to the American market in the early 1930s. This comes as quite a surprise to most people since they don’t realize how old these machines truly are.

A pioneer in the field of arcade games, David Gottlieb, designed various games in which players fired metallic marbles with the aid of a plunger at pin-studded surfaces that had distinct holes marked with different scores.

These initial machines provided players with very little control over the final trajectory of the marble, except for the initial speed applied to the plunger.

Do your research before buying a pinball machine

Over the next couple of decades, pinball machines would continue to evolve into the modern designs of today. For example, player-controlled flippers and solenoid bumpers became practically mandatory features on the playfield of pinball machines.

These innovations allowed players the ability to keep the marbles in play for far longer, thus giving them more control over the game’s final outcome.

By the 1960s the design of the pinball machines that populated gaming arcades around the world was pretty much set in stone. These machines featured the now-familiar bottom-mounted player-controlled flippers, advanced bumpers, and drop targets that gave players the most control and interactivity possible, and prioritized skill over luck.

It is around this time that pinball machines began to widely feature extravagant and intricate artwork to attract customers.

Even though pinball machine manufacturers began to add advanced electronics, digital features, and video to their machines, the basic design had become stagnant by the 1990s thanks in large part to the arrival of video games.

Nevertheless, modern pinball machines offer players a ton of features and elements that add up to a unique experience.

Older players get a kick from the nostalgia factor, while newer players experience a unique physical connection to the game that video games in all their HD glory simply cannot achieve.

Choosing A Pinball Machine – The Things That Matter

Getting your very own pinball machine is a great way to add excitement and dynamism to your game room or man cave. However, there are a few variables that must be carefully weighed before you are able to make an informed decision.

Choosing A Pinball Machine

Before we get into that, however, let’s go over something very important. In today’s market, you will most likely find two main types of pinball machines: Electromechanical Machines, which were manufactured between 1940 to 1970, and Solid-State Machines, which began using modern-day electronic components.

For a long time, Solid State Machines were functionally the same as older Electromechanical Machines, with the exception of being a bit more reliable and making electronic scoreboards possible.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that the Solid State machines achieved a degree of sophistication that left older models behind.

And while Electromechanical machines provide a similar experience for a typically lower price, assume that for the rest of the article we will be talking about the more common, more modern Solid State models, especially those from classic manufacturers such as Bally, Williams Data East, Sega, and Stern.


The very first thing you should think about when thinking about buying a pinball machine for your home is the location. This, while it may seem obvious, should be given proper thought as it is an essential part of your experience. After all, pinball machines have never been known for being compact.

A typical machine will measure around 28 inches wide, 52 inches long, by 76 inches tall. This means the machine requires moderate space, especially in the overhead department.

Thankfully, you only really need to access the machine from the front, where the controls are usually located. Nevertheless, many machines have on/off switches near the back or underneath the main cabinet, so having a tight fit around the machine may prove inconvenient.

Moreover, the location of your pinball machines matters most in regards to the noise level they will produce. Even if you lower the volume significantly, the machine will produce loud noises which may prove distracting or even outright annoying to your family members.

Ideally, you want to place your pinball machine in a soundproof man cave or game room.

Budgetary Constraints

Pinball Machines in 2021 are not cheap. And while proper research and due diligence may result in significant savings, there is no way around the fact that a pinball machine, whether new or restored, will set you back a pretty penny.

This is the reason why you should carefully consider your budget before attempting to purchase a pinball machine for your home.

Starting at the bottom of the price bracket you will find that a pinball machine from the 1990s, in good condition, can range between $1,000 and $1,500. This price will vary depending on how well the machine has been kept or restored, and even the theme and artwork.

New machines, with all of the modern features and polish you can expect from Stern and other famed manufacturers, can range anywhere from $3,500 to upwards of $15,000!

Here are some quick tips to save money when buying a pinball machine.

  • Buy used, but try before your buy. I would request to play for at least 30 minutes to be sure there are no issues.
  • Buy local. Not only will you save on shipping but a site like Craigslist or FaceBook marketplace are bound to have cheaper prices
  • Exterior damage may land you a cheaper machine. If you have it up against a wall and can not see the damage, it will drop the price significantly.
  • Be patient. If you need a machine tomorrow, you are going to pay. Keep your eyes open and shop around.
  • If you are not scared to take on a technical project, setting up a virtual pinball machine might be the best option for you.
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ATGAMES Legends Digital Pinball Table HA8819D
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Maintenance Requirements

Something else that must be kept in mind when thinking about purchasing a pinball machine for personal use, is the fact that pinball machines have a very strong tendency to break down. This is due to the enormous amount of circuits, wiring, and mechanical elements that make up the inner workings.

Thankfully, there are a plethora of resources available for new and experienced owners to use in the eventuality of a broken machine.

Make sure you set up regular maintenance and service for your machine to best protect your investment and ensure the best experience possible.

Bumpers in a Pinball Machine

So, how do you pick your new pinball machine?

Pinball Machine Buyer’s Guide

  • Pick your machine. There are dozens of models and themes out there, so finding one that best fits your personal style and taste will be relatively easy.
  • Accessorize with things such as stools, special knobs, armor, leg protectors, toppers, etc.
  • If you can’t pick it up. Arrange for delivery. Keep in mind that while some manufacturers and distributors offer comprehensive packets that include delivery and installation, others draw the line at curbside drop-off.

And that is it. The only thing left is to start enjoying your new pinball machine!

Last update on 2023-02-09 at 00:25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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