Are there a lot of pinball machine collectors?
It is a fairly small hobby. I’m the co-editor of one of the pinball magazines, and the subscription number is 1,200 people worldwide. Now, I know not every collector subscribes, but that gives you an indication that the hobby is not huge. There are people who own pinball machines, but they’re not collectors. I would say there’s a difference between a pinball collector and a pinball owner.
We categorize collectors by digits: single-digit collectors, one to nine machines, or double-digit collectors, 10 to 99 machines. Well, I’m a three-digit collector, which is just sick. There’s something wrong with me. If you’re a three-digit collector, you’ve got issues. I think the largest collection known is around 1,500 machines. But the problem is that after you get so many machines, it’s hard to keep them all working and operating or even to have them all restored in the first place because they are a huge time suck.
We started a pinball club, a local Detroit pinball club. We call it the Detroit Pinball Collectors Club. We’ve got a little clubhouse, and so I’ve got a bunch of games there, too. And I’ve got games at a friend’s house. I’ve got games all over the place, unfortunately, just because the one single thread in pinball collecting is you can never have just one, and you always run out of room. If you’re a real collector, it seems like you’re just always amassing more games. I have a really great time restoring them and playing them. I’m probably an average pinball player, maybe above average, but I’m not great. But it’s fun. It’s a fun thing, and it doesn’t become old quickly like, say, video games.
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