Date: 12th December, 2013
Anyone starting out in pinball collecting needs to understand several important points about buying, such as the wide range of machines available, how their condition can vary from scrap to mint, and ensuring they don't pay over-the-odds.
The newly-published 9th edition of The Pinball Price Guide set out to assist in all these areas, most obviously in the pricing of machines, but also by exploring some of the less prominent areas of pinball collecting.
The cover shows a scene from a penny arcade in Rolling Green Park, Pennsylvania. But when was the picture taken? See if you can guess the date from the machines and the style of clothing, and we'll give you answer at the end of this article.
This softback ninth edition is published three years and three months after its predecessor, and despite the cover price of $19.95 remaining unchanged, this latest tome has gained an extra 35 pages of content, taking the total to 189 pages.
The majority of the pages are devoted to the price tables. These list alphabetically just about every pinball from 1931 to Stern's The Avengers game of 2012, and include all the limited edition variants too.
Each machine listing includes the manufacturer, year of manufacture, type of machine, the number of players, the designer, the artist, and the prices. The layout has been tweaked to make better use of the space on each page and bring the key details for identifying the correct machines - name, manufacturer and year - together in the first three columns. The overall feel is less cramped than before, making it easier to follow the rows across the gutter.
Prices are given for three grades, each representing a different condition of machine, from rough (class 3) to excellent (class 1). A more detailed explanation of each class is provided in the guide, giving examples of the kind of damage you might expect on the cabinet, backglass and playfield.
The prices shown come from a number of sources; completed auctions, private sales, machines sold at pinball shows, dealers' sales lists, and by conferring with specialist collectors.
However, the data only comes from US sources. While access to the internet has evened out the prices in many areas, there are still variations around the world. So non-US buyers would need to be aware of how their local prices compare to those in the US, and adjust the guide's figures accordingly.
There have been a number of new machines added since the previous edition, but the bulk of the book's extra pages come from the detailed background articles written by four well-known authorities on pinball history.
The first of these articles sees Brian Saunders reprise his exploration of the most collectable electromechanical machines from the 1960s and 1970s. Then Gordon A. Hasse Jr. comprehensively examines the definition, attraction, collectibility and pricing of woodrail games manufactured from the late 1940s and throughout the '50s.
The third article is by Rob Hawkins, in which he travels further back in pinball's history to the time before the flipper when the player controlled the mechanical marvels through skilful plunging and delicate nudging.
Finally, Dennis Dodel turns the spotlight on a different type of flipperless game - the bingo machine. Dennis details the most collectable titles and how their prices are arrived at.
Each author also includes a list of their favourite machines in their respective areas of expertise.
The book begins, however, with some more basic information for anyone new to the pinball collecting hobby, including details of how to buy, repair, restore, store and sell machines. It then nudges those new collectors towards attending pinball shows and taking part in the many tournaments and leagues available.
Three years ago when we reviewed this books predecessor, we asked who the book would appeal to. Since then, a lot has changed both in pinball pricing and the ubiquitous nature of on-line pinball information. Given the availability of internet resources, you could be forgiven for thinking the need for a book such as The Pinball Price Guide has diminished, or even been eliminated altogether.
However, having a resource where prices and basic details for just about all pinballs can be quickly and easily found is invaluable. When bargain pinball machines can be listed on-line and snapped-up in just a matter of minutes, every second spent researching previous sale prices and the condition of those machines increases your chance of missing out on a deal.
But it's at sales and auctions where The Pinball Price Guide really comes into its own. You may not have a data connection, and even if you do it will take too long to research each machine as it comes up for sale.
Of course, the Guide would fail in its key mission if you could not trust the prices quoted as being accurate. Pinballeric - the publisher of the Guide - has consulted far and wide to establish and verify the prices as far as he can.
However, those prices can only truly be accurate at the time of publication, and the market may well change over the coming months and years before the 10th edition is published, especially for the more desirable titles. As an example, Cactus Canyon was listed at $7,900 in the 8th edition, but has shot up to $10,825 in the 9th, so you still need to keep an eye on what's happening to the market.
But when the price lists are combined with the informative and educational articles, they produce a compelling package of pinball knowledge which appeals to all collectors, from the novice to the expert.
The Pinball Price Guide 9th Edition is available from Amazon in the US for $17.96 plus shipping, for £12.08 with free delivery in the UK, and €15.56 with free delivery in Germany. It is also available from Steve Young at The Pinball Resource.
Quiz answer: The photograph printed on the Guide's front cover was taken on Sunday July 15th, 1941.
© Pinball News 2013