Essential Information for a Pinball Machine Investor

If you are a pinball enthusiast, you may want to take your passion for the game to a while new level. You may have friends who’ve become involved in putting money into different types of collectable items as an investment alternative. For example, you may have colleagues you invest in such collectables as: 

  • wine
  • coins
  • stamps
  • automobiles
  • pins

With your enthusiasm for and interest in pinball, you may wonder you can make a go out of investing in vintage pinball machines. As part of contemplating pinball machines as a potential investment opportunity, you need to consider some essential information about the game and its history. 

The Big Three 

As part of your overall due diligence in advance of putting money into vintage pinball machines, you need to understand some basic facts about pinball machine manufacturers. Throughout the 20th century, when pinball was at its pinnacle in the United States and elsewhere around the world, there were three major manufacturers of pinball machines: 

  • Bally
  • Gottlieb
  • Williams

These three companies each came up with some unique derivations of pinball machines which remain collector’s items, and even potentially profitable investments. Gottlieb was established in 1927 in Chicago. The company produced one of the first tabletop pinball machines. The machine went on the market in 1931 and was called Baffle Ball. It sold for $17.50. 

Williams came up with a unique game in 1952 called Horsefeathers. This game allowed to players to play next to each other on the same machine. 

In 1966, Bally developed a game called Caperville. This pinball machine featured highly stylized spies found in an underwater world. 

Pinball Machines Through the Years 

By the 1970s, there was a major shift in pinball machines. The electromechanical pinball machines popularized in the 1950s and 1960s were replaced by solid-state ones. These newer pinball machines were able to compute scores instantaneously. Pinball machines in the 1970s featured an amazing array of sound effects. 

The rise of video games in arcades during the 1980s nearly wiped out pinball machines all together. In many ways, pinball was saved by creative licensing deals from movie producers. These licensing deals resulted in the development of movie themed pinball machines. Indeed, the post popular pinball machine of all time came out in 1991. The pinball machine was based on the Addams Family and was the brainchild of Bally. Over 20,000 units of the Addams Family pinball machine have been sold. 

These three major pinball players from days gone by are out of business. Thus, their machines oftentimes have increasing value because these companies will not be manufacturing any more. 

The leading manufacturer of pinball machines in the 21st century in the United States is Stern Pinball. Indeed, this really is the only major manufacturer of pinball machines in operation at this point in time. 

Although Stern stands alone, this may not be the situation in the not too distant future. In the past few years, there appears to be something of a revival when it comes to pinball and pinball machines. 

This revival is two-faceted. First, there is an increasing number of people who are taking up playing the game, which accounts for the fact that a company like Stern is enjoying steady business. 

Second, the vintage pinball machine collectors market is advancing as well. This is the market that you will need to be in tune with if you decide to include vintage pinball machines in your overall investment scheme. 

Pinball Machine Collectors and Investors Resources 

Thanks to the internet, there is a decent number of helpful and reliable resources for people who have an interest in collecting or investing in pinball machines. These include everything from websites at which pinball machines are bought and sold to informational resources that provide vital data about a wide array of different types of vintage and valuable pinball machines. 

There are also an increasing number of pinball collectors and investors groups forming. These are coming together in cyberspace but also in the brick and mortar world. For example, a notable number of larger communities are seeing the creation of Meetups dedicated to pinball enthusiasts, collectors, and even investors. This trend is expected to carry forth into the foreseeable future. 

A final note about using vintage pinball machines as an investment vehicle. You may be able to make money collecting and investing in pinball machines. However, you need to bear in mind that this type of investment is risky and should not be the only egg in your financial basket.

Jessica Kane is a writer for The Pinball Company, the best online source for new, used, and refurbished pinball machines, arcade cabinets, and more!

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