Editors note: Ted “Doc” Finlay, PhD from PinballPrices.com is back again following his analysis on the size of the used pinball market to talk about the state of Pinflation, or price inflation in the pinball hobby. Some of you may recall Ted’s updates on Pinflation in TWiP last year (Pinflation 2022: Slower Rising Prices, and Pinflation 2022: Year End Update), and we’re pleased to feature him on Kineticist with a new update.
If you didn't quite get the price you were hoping for on that Guns 'n Roses (LE) you sold this year but you did manage to find a great deal on that Ghostbusters (Pro) - you are not alone. Used pinball prices are softening, at least relative to the rapid pinflation experienced in recent years.
The average price of a used pinball machine is up only 5% in 2023 versus 2022 prices. This is welcome news following 2022 price increases of 24%, stacked on top of 2021 increases of 31%! Even more surprising is that DMD (Dot Matrix Display) machines and newer have actually come down in price this year.
Tracking the Pinflation of 2019-2023
To date, the average used pinball machine in 2023 has sold for $5,684. The average includes ALL machines regardless of year, condition, or where it was sold. Looking at sales by pinball era also reveals numerous interesting trends.
Pinflation: Electro-Mechanical (EM) Games
For Electro-Mechanical era pinball machines (Bally’s Bon Voyage, for example), Pinflation has made only small gains in 2023, though it’s notable that EM games are working with a much lower average price base than other game groupings, so a 9% change doesn’t represent a staggering dollar amount (in this case, only $105). While we don’t think that EM games are necessarily getting more popular or more desirable, it makes sense logically that the longer these games are in the wild, the fewer of them there will be, and therefore the average prices will go up.
Pinflation: Early Solid State Games
The Early Solid State era games (for example, Williams Disco Fever) have been mostly flat on the year, rising a scant 2% or $52 from 2022’s noted highs. For those looking to get into the pinball hobby or fill out a collection on a budget, we think the games of this period represent considerable value, particularly as many get overshadowed by both modern games and the slightly more advanced alphanumeric games that would follow in the 80s and 90s.
Pinflation: Alphanumeric Games
No, that’s not a typo. Alphanumeric games (such as Bally’s Heavy Metal Meltdown) were almost in lock step with their Early Solid State counterparts, with only a 2% rise since 2022, albeit on a slightly higher average base. Again, if you’re budget conscious this is another excellent value area of games to explore.
Pinflation: Golden Age DMD Games
Golden Age DMD Games, best represented by those 1990’s Bally/Williams tables pinball enthusiasts often pine for (Addams Family), have cooled off ever so slightly in 2023. While the 2% decrease is certainly a welcome change for collectors, 2023’s average price of $5,602 is still 45% above 2018 levels. Even though there are some great games in this group, you’ll find yourself paying a bit of a premium for nostalgia.
Pinflation: Modern DMD Games
Modern DMD games (like Stern’s Austin Powers) are dropping the largest amount year-over-year as they get squeezed by demand for the Golden Age DMDs on one side and an ever expanding selection of new games on the other. Still, remember that these games are up 64% from 2018, so there’s still a lot of room to decline further.
Pinflation: LCD Games
LCD Games, or the latest machines from manufacturers like Stern, Jersey Jack, Spooky and others (like Jersey Jack’s The Godfather), showed the largest percentage decrease in average sales price since we started recording data in 2018, dropping 6% from 2022 highs. No doubt this is partially a result of supply normalizing post-pandemic, as well as the increase in new release machines over the last year. This trend may also represent a return to “normalcy” in that newer model machines should see a small drop from new-in-box prices for well-produced games.
State of the Used Pinball Market & Top 10 Most Expensive Pinball Machines
As you’ve seen, the trend is clearly that the newer machines are actually declining in price. Golden Age DMDs (1992-1998) down 2%; Modern DMDs (1999-2015) are down 9%, and LCD machines (2016-2023) have declined 6% to $9,514 (still a hefty price). But, keep in mind that many games from the 90's to 2022 command +$12K pricing, so we haven’t exactly hit fire sale territory just yet.
Looking at some of the most expensive sales recorded in 2023, you can see the top of the market is driven by newer model premium tier releases like Stern’s James Bond 60th Anniversary (limited release with its own unusually high base price), or always-in-demand classic titles like Williams’ Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure, Bally Twilight Zone and Bally Addams Family.
But there are "bargains" to be had. Stern’s Ghostbusters (Pro) is down to around $7,000, down $1,800 from last year. Bally’s Eight Ball has dropped below $2,000 for the first time since 2020. And Jersey Jack’s Guns N' Roses (LE) at $8,450 is cheaper than a Stern Stranger Things (Pro) at $9,029. Those two games are in the top 3 most actively sold games in 2023 only slightly less traded than #1 most active, Stern’s Godzilla (Premium).
Sales records are manually transcribed from Pinside.com, eBay, Liveauctioneers.com, and numerous other online auction sites based on final sales price, not asking price. Only sales records that include the final sales price are included. For auction sites the sales price recorded includes the “Buyer’s Premium”, usually ranging from 10% to 28%. Data that is not accepted includes any sale that includes “Free Shipping”, eBay sales marked as “Best Offer Accepted” (without indicating the actual price) and Facebook Market or Craigslist sales because there is no record of the actual price paid. Multiple sources are used because this more accurately reflects the total marketplace of buyers, not just “hard core” hobbyists. For more information visit PinballPrices.com.