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There are times when it can feel like finding a buyer for your pinball machine can seem like a more arduous process than refurbishing the machines. Luckily, the internet has provided sellers of pinball machines with a wealth of resources to find out where they can go to sell their pinball machines and how they can better connect with interested buyers.
Where do I go to sell my pinball machine? There are many options a seller has when it comes to selling their pinball machine. The 9 top potential spots to sell your pinball machine include:
- Flea Markets
- Gaming Expos
- Pinball Conventions
- Swap Meets
- Pawn Shops and Other Retail Stores
- Local Pinball Leagues/Pinball Clubs
- At home by advertising in local classifieds
- At home by advertising on online classifieds/platforms
This article serves as a guide to the ins and outs of each way to sell your pinball machine. You will find tips regarding which method works best for your situation. For example, if you are in a populated metro area, it will be easy for you to attract buyers with ads in local classifieds. If you are in a remote area, you may need to travel more to conventions or auctions to attract buyers.
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1. Flea Markets
A great way to sell a pinball machine is to bring your machines to local flea markets. Flea markets are known for being filled with vendors hawking a wide variety of items, including pinball machines.
Take, for example, the biggest flea market in the State of Pennsylvania, which has a reputation for including pinball machines amongst its array of merchandise.
General flea markets may not come across as the go-to option for pinball enthusiasts, as hunting down one specific item at a flea market is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. However, you may be able to catch the eye of people who didn’t have pinball machines in mind when they were planning their visit to the flea market.
There is a burgeoning market out there for vintage items, as has been displayed by the popularity of television shows such as American Pickers and Vintage Tech Hunters. The latter of those two shows has visited flea markets in the past where vintage pinball machines have piqued their interest.
Potential clientele with disposable income visit flea markets often without specific items in mind. A few rousing games of pinball though may be all they need to convince them that they should buy a pinball machine for their personal game rooms. They will realize they should have onejust as they would seek out pool tables or air hockey tables.
2. Gaming Expos
You’ll be able to sell to a more niche audience by visiting gaming expos. Gaming expos such as Southern-Fried Gaming Expo are focused exclusively on arcade games, tabletop games, and video games.
Expos such as these often include flea markets among the list of events.
Gaming Expos see value in keeping the pinball machines centric to their event. Take, for example, the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo held annually in Garden City, NY. Organizers of the event just recently added a pinball section to their gaming expo.
The addition of pinball to the event was in response to a marked resurgence in the popularity of pinball, according to the avid pinball collector overseeing the pinball section of the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo.
Emerging pinball collectors are often those who came of age during the surge of pinball in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They are attracted to retro gaming expos because it reminds them fondly of their childhood. Young people are also beginning to enjoy the thrills of pinball.
Retro gaming expos provide visitors with large arcades where they can play a variety of pinball machines, as is seen at the retrocade at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. Entering your pinball machine in an arcade at retro gaming expo can provide you plenty of opportunities to connect with potential buyers.
Some retro gaming expos will reward collectors who bring their pinball machines to the arcade section of the expo with a booth in the exhibit hall where they can further advertise their machines.
3. Pinball Conventions
Pinball-centric conventions such as this one in Dallas or this one in Chicago are excellent opportunities to connect with buyers.
Pinball expos hold silent auctions, flea markets, and swap meets as part of a full slate of activities held throughout the event. They also often feature exhibit halls full of pinball games for attendees to try out as well as tournaments with prizes.
Pinball conventions are popular for potential buyers for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious as well.
We have found out that you could probably get 30 calls from potential sellers if you put an ad in the classifieds stating “Looking for a pinball machine,” but the machines may not meet the buyer’s expectations.
Pinball conventions provide buyers with an opportunity to purchase machines from verified sellers. There is more security with their purchases, and they get to compare the quality of what you are selling with machines other vendors are trying to sell.
The most serious pinball collectors will visit pinball conventions, provided that the seasoned buyer may work harder for a bargain than your typical casual arcade gamer.
4. Swap Meets
An opportunity to sell pinball machines in a more informal setting is by attending the swap meets that are frequently held at pinball conventions, such as this one held annually at the Texas Pinball Convention.
Pinball machine swap meets may even be free of cost to enter, such as this one held in Atlanta.
Pinball swap meets, although informal and often small in size, have a reputation among buyers for being a potential gold mine. Take for example, the story on this collector’s blog where he attended a local pinball swap meet and was able to pocket some neat finds including a Terminator 2 pinball machine.
One potential way to sell your pinball machine fast is to enter it into an auction.
You may be able to find an arcade-centric auction, such as the series of auctions put on by American Amusement Auctions. Their auction calendar may be viewed here.
Keep in mind that you likely have to pay a fee to enter auctions as well as a commission fee to the auction service. Selling your pinball machine in an auction such as this is a good option if you’re looking to move inventory quickly.
Auctions are a good way to sell to buyers who are looking for machines that they can refurbish. In fact, online guides geared towards buyers recommend that potential buyers new to pinball machines stay away from auctions due to their reputation for being traps where buyers who don’t know what they’re doing over-pay for machines in need of repairs.
6. Local Pinball Leagues/Clubs
A great place to network with potential buyers is local pinball leagues and clubs. One way to find potential clientele is to scan pinballmap.com, an online map showing plotted locations of all the pinball machines in your area.
These pinball machines may be in bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys in addition to arcades. The app is available for download on both Android and iOS.
Pinball leagues registered with the International Flipper Pinball Association can be found on this site.
Leagues represent a great opportunity to meet avid collectors. The site recommends contacting the organizers of the leagues prior to approaching the leagues because some of the leagues are private.
Another good online registry for those looking to reach out to clients is pinballowners.com. The site allows registered members to:
● Post pictures of all the pinball machines in their collection
● Your pinball collection will be searchable by pinball fans all over the world
● The site allows you to search other owners wanted lists based on game titles or the condition of the games from “project machines” to “restored perfectly-working games.”
● There is also a resource available for owners to see how much their machine is worth
You can also seek out local pinball collector’s clubs. For example, the Las Vegas Pinball Collector’s Club is a well-known organization of collectors seeking out certain pinball machines.
7. Local Classifieds
The classifieds in a newspaper is a great way to attract local collectors. Browsing through local classifieds is one of the recommended resources to look for pinball machines according to the Game Room Guys, a business based out of Michigan that helps customers build their game rooms.
Advertising locally allows you to cater to buyers across all levels of commitment from the casual gamer looking to add a centerpiece to their finished basement to the avid collector hunting down that rare find.
Plus, the downside to going to conventions, flea markets or swap meets is that you have to find some way to transport your machines safely. If you can get buyers to come to your location, you will spend much less time and money ferrying your pinball machines around.
Potential buyers who are looking online for advice on where to start have been told that it is strongly recommended that they try out the pinball machines before buying them. Make sure that your pinball machine is set up in a location where potential buyers can try the machine out before committing to buying it.
One recommended tip for sweetening the deal is telling them that you will bring the machine to them at low or no additional cost.
8. Pawn Shops And Other Retail Stores
The quickest way to sell your pinball machine is to sell it to a reseller store such as a local pawn shop.
Depending on your location, resellers such as this one will even come to your location to pick up the machine for you.
This is definitely a recommended strategy for sellers looking to move their pinball machines quickly. You will not have to worry about the hassle of transporting your pinball machine from one location to the other.
One potential drawback is the amount of money you will be able to make on your sale. The resellers are doing the leg work of transporting equipment and attracting potential buyers. For this reason, you will likely receive less money for the machine.
Selling to a reseller is a recommended strategy if you need to clear out inventory fast or don’t have an affordable means to transport pinball machines.
In today’s digital age, there are a plethora of online resources for a seller to advertise their pinball machine and find a ballpark range of just how much their pinball machine is worth.
One such resource is the classifieds section on Pinside. Signing up for an account on the site is free. Sellers can display their locations on the classified ads, allowing them to connect with potential buyers over an extensive geographical area limited only by how far they are willing to transport the pinball machine.
You can go to the advanced search form on the classifieds section on the website and select only the “wanted” ad option. This will allow you to look at what potential buyers in your area are looking for.
· Craigslist is a common resource that pinball machine sellers utilize to move their merchandise. On forums such as this one, past buyers recall numerous success stories looking for pinball machines by browsing through local Craigslist ads.
· Amazon Sellers can also list their machines and pinball equipment by using an online platform, as is shown in the results of this search query.
· Online appraisers. You can get your pinball machine appraised online by visiting pinballvalue.com. This website will appraise your pinball machine free of charge. You can then sell directly to them.
· Online marketplaces. Another good way to find potential buyers is to list your pinball machine on local online marketplaces such as OfferUp. You have to love the enthusiasm of this flea market flipper showing his pinball find on his YouTube channel. He purchased the pinball machine through OfferUp.
People often try to sell pinball machines through eBay. Unfortunately, because of shady practices by sellers on the eBay platform in the past, as is warned on this guide for pinball machine buyers, you will have to deal with buyers who are particularly skeptical of your intentions on the platform.
If you are trying to sell your pinball machine online on a platform like eBay, make sure that you are given thorough descriptions of what you are selling. Also make sure you take plenty of good photographs of the pinball machine you are trying to sell so that you come across as transparent.
If you are going to try to sell your pinball machine online, it seems that one of your best options for attracting good local buyers is via pinball-specific websites such as Pinside.
Streaming Your Pinball Collection Online
Since buyers are going to want to see how well the pinball machine you are selling works, one great way to show your collection is to create videos of your machines being played and post them on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube, Facebook Live, and Twitch.
Stephanie Traub, the 19th ranked female pinball player in the country, live streams her weekly tournament games on Twitch and Facebook Live. She routinely attracts around 1,000 unique views on her videos. You can read more about Traub, and the diverse emerging crowd of pinball enthusiasts in this story featured in the Washington Post.
You may not be a top-ranked player dazzling the crowd with your skills, but it is still a worthwhile endeavor to find ways to get your name out there, especially if you are a collector of pinball games who frequently refurbishes and sells the machines.
Take for example, the video uploaded by this user selling his Williams 1972 Winner pinball machine. The video has collected over 5,000 views. Taking videos of the pinball machines, you are selling is a good way to show potential buyers what you have available for them and makes them more likely to see you as a trustworthy and transparent seller.
Pinball Events Calendar
You can find a helpful pinball events calendar on the website on pinside.com. The calendar on the site has numerous tournaments around the country listed where you will be able to connect with players who may be interested in your pinball machine collection.
You can find an extensive list of pinball shows or conventions on the website pinballcalendar.com.
The calendar entries on the website include a brief description of the event including date and location, admission details and details on potential opportunities at the show to sell your pinball machine.
Pinball Machine Price Guides
You can also get a ballpark idea of how much your pinball machine is worth by purchasing a pinball machine price guide such as these ones shown here.
You can also visit online pricing guides such as the one found on pinballprices.com. This online pricing guide claims to pull data from online auction sites and verified brick and mortar retailers.
As far as the usefulness of online pricing guides, collectors and sellers on this forum report that pinball pricing guides such as the Mr.Pinball pricing guide are generally pretty good resources for finding out a ballpark range of just how much your machine is worth.
While this will give you an idea of how you will negotiate your prices, you will need to keep in mind that these values are largely subjective and do not fully account for your machine’s true value in the current market.
Pinball Machine Database
You can get a good idea of just how sought after your pinball machines within your inventory are sought after by visiting the Internet Pinball Machine Database.
Here you will see the “average fun rating” users give pinball machines as well as all sorts of information on the machine including, but not limited to:
● The theme of the pinball machine
● The notable features of the machine
● Top 300 lists of the top-rated pinball machines by category
The database is not a site where you can sell your machine or appraise it, but you can get an idea of how much demand there is out there for your pinball machine. This is a highly recommended resource for those looking to sell their machine, and also comes recommended from avid pinball enthusiasts as their first stop when they are doing research on pinball machines.
Pros and Cons of Outlets for Selling a Pinball Machine
Here I have included a short pros and cons assessment of each method for selling your pinball machine discussed above.
● Flea Markets: No matter where you are presently located, you are probably at least relatively close to a center where local flea markets are hosted.
- On the plus side, you may be able to connect with potential buyers who came to the flea market not planning to buy a pinball machine, but who come away from the market intrigued
- One negative about general flea markets is that you will have to transport your pinball machine, which may be easier said than done
- A general local flea market is not a pinball-centric crowd. They may not fully understand the true value of a pinball machine that is highly coveted. Negotiating prices may be more difficult with this kind of crowd.
● Gaming Expos: These events are designed for those who love to play, whether it is an arcade game or a video game.
- These expos often have exhibit halls where you will be able to easily connect your pinball machine to a power source and let potential buyers try the game out
- You may have to travel a long distance with your equipment to find the nearest game convention
- You will be able to negotiate pricing with people who likely understand arcade game pricing
- There may be an entrance fee associated with exhibiting at the event
● Pinball Conventions: These high specific events are an excellent way to connect with potential buyers.
- Unfortunately, you may have to travel a long distance to find the nearest pinball convention
- There will likely be fees associated with going to and exhibiting at the event
- You will be selling to a crowd that most likely understands the value of your pinball machine very well
- There are often swap meets, auctions and flea markets of sorts included in the grand schematic of events during pinball conventions and festivals
● Local Pinball Leagues/Pinball Clubs: Visiting local pinball leagues is an excellent way to connect with players who may be looking to add to their pinball collections
- Some leagues may be private
- Leagues may require a fee
- You may be in a rural area where pinball leagues or clubs are few and far between
● Local Classifieds (Print or Online): Advertising in newspapers or other local classifieds is a good way to keep your buyers local
- You can keep your machine in one location and have the buyers come to you
- You may not be able to get the word out about your collection in the same fashion as you would if you were traveling to expos
- Overhead fees will be at a minimum as you won’t have to pay a fee to get into expos or have to pay travel fees. Transporting heavy machines can get real expensive, real fast.
- You can keep your machine plugged in at a location where potential buyers will be able to give it a try
● Auctions: Entering your pinball machine into a local auction is a fast way to get it off your hands.
- Unfortunately, you will not have much control over how much the machine sells for
- You will have to pay auction fees such as a commission which may be 15% or more
- This is a good way to quickly sell pinball machines that are not in an ideal condition
● Pawn Shops and Other Retail Stores: There are always retail stores willing to take your pinball machine off your hands for you.
- One negative is that you may not make as much money off your machine as you would if you sold it yourself due to the store’s overhead costs
- If you are close enough to the store, some stores will come to your location to pick up your pinball machine
- This is a fast way to move a pinball machine.
● Online: Posting your pinball machine on an online platform such as Craigslist or Pinside will allow you to sit and wait as the buyers come to you.
- Advertising fees will be low
- You will not have to ferry your pinball machine around conventions
- If you have a large collection that you are willing to sell, you may be able to connect with players who will become frequent buyers of your machines
- You’ll probably be able to attract a lot of potential buyers if you live in a populated area, given the game’s recent resurgence
No matter how you sell or how many pinball machines you have, it is always fun to restore them, and watch them bring joy to you and those around you. You will get to see everything from children who are just learning about pinball machines, to avid collectors who have been looking for your specific machine for years! The best part of fixing and selling pinball machines, no matter where you sell them, is seeing the smile and joy they bring the buyers when they first set eyes on your machine.