Pinball Rehab

pinball repair and restoration

Deciding What Pinball Game to Buy Deciding What Pinball Game to Buy Hot

The first two questions you need to answer before buying a pinball game are what is your budget and what type of game are you looking for.  This article is intended to help you make the best choice, especially if this is your first pinball.  The areas you need to consider are: maintenance, game play, theme, condition and budget.


The first thing to consider before buying a pinball game is they are aged, electromechanical devices that have been in tough environments and typically not  maintained well.  You will need to plan on doing a shop job after purchase, annual maintenance and the occasional repair.  If you're not comfortable with that, you will need to pay someone to fulfill those services.

If this is a major issue for you, consider a newer Stern game or a fully restored game, which will both be more reliable and more expensive.

Game Play

Hopefully you have an idea of what types of pinball games you like to play.  If not, spend some time at one of the various pinball shows and you should soon decide which of the following categories you fit in. Note: The suggestions in parenthesis are just general guidelines.

  1. Classic -- You prefer the older EM games.
  2. Beginner -- You're looking for a game with a basic rule set (80's to early 90's)
  3. Intermediate --  You've been playing a while and are looking for a game with a reasonable challenge (90's)
  4. Advanced -- You're very experienced and get bored easily unless the game has a deep rule set and probably a wizard mode (mid to late 90's)

One last category I'll add is party games.  A party game is fun to play and people can quickly figure out enough of the rules to have fun.  Even advanced players will often own one party game.

As you're looking at games keep note of the designer.  They each have their own unique stlye and if you like one game by them you may find others you'll like.

Two designers I should mention are Pat Lawlor and Steve Ritchie since you will see a lot of their games and they have very unique, but different, styles.  Steve Ritchie is known as the King of Flow, his games are hard and fast (F-14 Tomcat, Terminator 2, etc.).  Pat Lawlor's games have a complex rule set and a lot of features (Addams Family, Twilight Zone, etc.).  You will find many pinball nuts that find and stick with a specific designer.

One last thought, it's best if you can end up with several machines that meet your requirements.  Finding and buying a specific game at a reasonable price can take years.


I lot of people will buy a game based solely on its theme.  While that's fine just make sure it also is at least close to the type of game you like to play.  Nothing worse than getting bored with a game in a few months or pissed off at how hard it is.


The condition of the game is really a balance between personal preferences and budget.  Of course we'd all like a perfect game, but they're hard to find and expensive.  On the other hand, some people would rather have a very popular game like Addams Family even though the cabinet is pretty bad and there are wear spots on the playfield.


Here's a couple of tips that will help you get more for your dollar.

You can find some very good games manufactured by Data East or Sega that sell for a lot less than an equivalent Bally or Williams game.  They're not necessarily worse games, it's just that a lot of pinball players are biased towards Bally/Williams.

It's getting harder to find a game with a DMD for under $1,500 while pre-DMD games can be found for around $1,000.  Honestly, some of these earlier games are better than the DMD era games, they just don't have a DMD.

As I previously mentioned if you're not concerned about cosmetics, a game that's been rode hard and put up wet can be a very good buy.