This article is from the Pinball FAQ, by Andy Oakland sao@REMOVETOREPLY.mit.edu with numerous contributions by others.
Another source for machines is the gaming auctions. This isn't the
best place to buy your first machine, but with a little knowledge it
can be a good deal and a lot of fun!
Auctions pop up all over the US. The collector's magazines, like
"pinGame journal" or "Game Room", list upcoming auctions, and you
can also find listings at web sites such as:
You can also download a list of recent auction results from:
These auctions can include video games, change machines, slot machines,
juke boxes, crane machines, skee-ball, beer lights, pool tables, etc.,
as well as the pinball machines...Just about everything from the
arcade or amusement arena!
Machines available at auctions tend to be those that have stopped generating
enough revenue for an operator to keep them on location. However, they can
range from New-In-Box (NIB) to 30+ year old EMs. The biggest thing to note is
that all items are AS IS, and the only guarantee you get with an auction
machine is the guarantee that SOMETHING will be wrong with it!
If you find a machine that you are interested in, you should examine and play
it to determine if everything works. Examine the playfield, backglass, and
cabinet to determine if the amount is wear is excessive for the age of the
machine. Check to see if the manual/schematic is included. For a solid-state,
try to run the machine through the self diagnostic tests. Look inside the
machine and under the playfield for suspicious items such as cut/spliced wires,
burnt components, missing components, etc.
When you find one (or more) machines, determine what your maximum price will
be. It's easy to get caught up in the bidding and go higher than you want.
Realize that you may be bidding against the owner of the machine, who's
trying to drive up the price of the machine. (The issue of buybacks appears
as semi-regular topic in r.g.p.)
There are several things that you should take to the auction. These include:
1) 100 foot, heavy-duty, three prong extension cord. There will probably
be several outlets available, but all are not accessible from every machine.
2) Tools - This should include sockets and/or wrenches to use to remove the
leg and head bolts for transport.
3) Blanket, towels, cardboard, rope - Used for transport, or to place the
playfield glass on during inspection.
4) Food and drinks - The auctions can be quite long. Snack bar food is the
5) The afore-mentioned list of past auction results. This will give you
an idea of what the machines have sold for in the past. Although each
machine's unique, having a baseline like this will help you be a more