Be a Pinball Wizard at Estate Sales

Bridget Brown  | September 4, 2017

classic pinball machine

There was a time when the pinball machine seemed headed towards extinction, its bings and boops fading to a plinky whisper in the collective unconscious. The pinball manufacturing industry, once booming in cities like Chicago where it all began, have whittled down to two in the entire U.S.

Just two.

Nevertheless, pinball has hit a resurgence as arcades and barcades pop up in trendy areas, and games are still produced, often based on the latest movie or TV show.

There’s a great history in pinball. So much so that The Who wrote an entire rock opera about it. Tommy centers around a young man who can't see, hear, or speak, but, as the song suggests, he played a mean pinball.

That history includes innovation after innovation, and a long stretch from the 1940s to the 1970s where the machines were considered gambling , making them illegal in most large cities. Thanks to that prohibition, they became an icon of teenage rebellion.

And now it’s not uncommon to find reasonably-priced pinball machines at estate sales. Whether it’s from the estate of a lifelong, avid collector, or someone who just happened to have one in their den, they spring up from time to time. And they’re hard to resist. Just think—YOU could be the next “someone who just happened to have a pinball machine in their den,” also known as "the coolest house on the block." How amazing would that be?