Please sir, I want some more…

I bought my first pinball machine, and it revealed a passion I didn’t know I had. It started with a visit to the Asheville Pinball Museum. If you haven’t been and plan to visit Asheville, you must go. I’ve played Pinball in the past and enjoyed it; but the museum is extraplanetary. The variety of machines, digesting the history, and the spread which starts from the glory days of electro-mechanic 1900s and drifts into modern day solid states. We came, we played… we were hooked.

It left a burning desire to own one then having visited the Pinball museum a second time; I knew it wasn’t a fling. I had to have my own. So the search began. After scouring online communities, the consensus is that pinball ownership isn’t all flashing lights and hammering pop bumpers. Much like that ‘79 Chevelle you’ve been restoring, these things will spend more time with the hood up than down. But that doesn’t deter the masses. It’s every bit a part of the charm, and the joy in buying one isn’t just from playing, but from tinkering, working on it, and making it your own. That’s the pinball experience.

But these things aren’t cheap. The average price online for one in good shape is around $5,000 so when I spotted a “like new” Monopoly, made in 2001 from Stern (a game we all know and love) for $3,200, I hopped on it. The seller accepted my offer of $2,900 to which I began my 2 hour car ride to pick it up. Upon arrival, it felt like a drug deal. They ushered me into an ill-lit auto repair shop where my baby Monopoly sat neglected in a dark corner collecting dust. “Feel free to take a look at it.” But I knew nothing of pinball machines and what to look for, so when the seller said it was “like new” well… I believed the liar. After loading this Goliath into the back of our pickup truck, and word to the wise, they are HEAVY, we made our way back home.

We wrestled her out of the back of the pickup truck. Struggling with her awkward size and weight and where this behemoth would now live. Our downstairs “fort” is about the only room capable of this new house-mate, so once parked, we cracked this egg open to check ‘er out. She was dirty, neglected, smelled of an automotive shop, with several burnt out lights and other mechanical parts that needed some TLC. Bamboozled!

This may have been an expensive lesson, but it was a blessing in disguise. If I had acquired a “new” machine, it would have left me with a toy which only interaction with would have been playing. I’d have had no reason to get down and dirty (and my hands were filthy – layers of black soot all over my mitts) with her. Get inside, investigate, flirt, and check things out. Because of being forced to tinker, I learned a lot about this machine and what it means to be a pinball owner. I began obsessing with swapping out the incandescent lights with LEDs. Rummaging through forums in search of advice and inspiration. Inventing fun and interesting mods to add to the machine. I transitioned from Pinball Player to Pinball Owner earning a title among an eclectic few.

A fun toy for everyone.

I encourage everyone to own a pinball machine even if they don’t intend to get technical with them. There are enough service companies that will upgrade and repair machines if all you want to do is play. Because let’s call a spade a spade – playing pinball is fun. But for those who want to dive into how these fascinating and mysterious wooden boxes operate, you’ll find fewer things more gratifying than sliding the glass off, turning the lever, and lifting the playfield to reveal an autobahn of wires. But what you need to know is that they are finicky devices. Even if you buy new, it’s a matter of time before that Deadpool Premium of yours will require some form of maintenance. In other words, don’t buy a pinball machine expecting it to be easy, but owning one is so fun and gratifying. Seeing it in your man-cave, woman-cave or wherever you decide to park it, you’ll catch yourself meandering into that room just to take another look at it.

It’s been 2 months of ownership and I’m still enamored. I love the machine and how it’s raw inner mechanics work together to create a fun and interactive piece of art. The ingenuity and design that goes into a pinball machine is unique and passionate, and a growing community of modders and restorers keep this charming bit of history alive. Monopoly is my first Pinball machine, but it won’t be my last. And I gather most people that get these things feel the same. Much like owning a motorcycle or that dream car you’ve always wanted, it’s something you work on creating an extension and expression of yourself. Pinball is awesome.

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