by Dennis Kriesel
As we enter 2020 it is time to look back at some pinball market trends. Market behavior can be useful to many collectors looking to acquire or sell off games. The trending process itself is somewhat complicated due to variety of factors (What time period do we use? What counts in the data set? What games should be examined?).
For this article, the focus will be on the pinball machines that were eligible for the 2018 TWIPY for Game of the Year. I’ve selected these pins because we have at least a year’s worth of sales data to go through, which I believe provides both a meaningful timeframe for data while also staying relatively current (as many collectors like to focus on the current pinball machines) with relatively standardized quality (not a whole lot of project pins are coming out of 2018… yet at least!).
Here is the methodology of examination:
- All data comes from Pinside
- Only data flagged as “sold” was used (regardless of where sold)
- If a final sales price was listed, it was used. Otherwise, the list price was used
- Dataset period of examination is as early as sales data is available through December 31, 2019 (no 2020 sales included)
- There was an attempt to reject all New in Box sales from the dataset (New Out of Box was kept)
- There was an attempt to reject any “special” editions that distributors sometimes create
- Mods (aside from the “special” distributor modification scenario listed above) were not factored in or removed, and thus are a variable unaccounted for and the reader should keep this in mind
- Non-U.S. sales were ignored due to the currency conversion
- Only one tier, where applicable, of each game was chosen for examination
- Polynomial trendlines were used (where relevant) to help examine the trends (as will be shown in this article)
The following games were eligible for the 2018 TWIPY for Game of the Year. We shall examine them in order of vote popularity, which is as follows:
|Pinball Machine||Vote %|
|Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast [winner]||46.90%|
|Pirates of the Caribbean||28.60%|
|Houdini Master of Mystery||5.00%|
|Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle||3.80%|
|Cosmic Cart Racing||0.90%|
Iron Maiden (Stern 2018), Pro Model: Trending Down
Game of the Year for 2018, Iron Maiden is Keith Elwin’s freshman effort as a professional designer. As the vote results above indicate, the game was deeply popular. This is also reflected by a massive dataset of 50 sales figures creating the graph above. Overall, the trend line is relatively steady. A lot of built games plus the need to create room has shown a relatively steady, yet small, decline in sale prices. Used pricing initially launched around the $5,200 point but today the game tends to sell for around $5,000 (thus a decline of only about four percent). Given the slope on the trendline I expect this to continue gradually inching down.
Pirates of the Caribbean (Jersey Jack 2018), LE Model: Trending Up
Eric Meunier’s freshman playfield design effort, this game ended up seeing a much shorter production window than many consumers originally anticipated. As word-of-mouth spread, and more people were able to play the finalized versions, demand skyrocketed. While the growth has not been linear it has held steady or continued to grow ever since the value bottomed out in early 2019. Used pricing started at around the $10,000 mark when the game first released, dipped to around $8,700 at its low-point, and lately is trending up in the $12,000-$14,000 range. There are 24 sales datapoints used for this trend. While it appears that the game is still trending up, it should be noted very few sales have happened since November 2019. As such, the trendline’s final assumption is speculating off very little data. I agree with the line that it is trending up, but the last two sales are likely more outliers than anything. That said, the game is back above $10,000 and I expect they will sell above the old plateau price of around $10,250-$10,500 that was seen back in Summer 2019. If Jersey Jack does another run of Pirates of the Caribbean then expect this trendline to come crashing down, but that appears to be the only meaningful market change that could reverse this trendline with any speed.
Deadpool (Stern 2018), Pro Model: Holding Steady
Playfield design by veteran George Gomez, this is a pin that initially had a lot of mixed reaction but gained in popularity as the code advanced and owners figured out the ideal way to level the game to make the sword ramp shot enjoyable. The trendline, built around 31 sales, shows an almost sine-wave quality to it, hence why I am projecting the game is holding relatively steady. Used pricing started out around $5,200 at the pin’s release, dipped to about $4,800, then went back up to $5,200, and today is around $5,000-$5,100. Based off this behavior, and the healthy distribution of sale datapoints (consistent sales), I think this value will hold steady for the next few months but will likely be susceptible to disruption (either due to a code update that spikes interest in the game or another pin releasing that results in people pushing to unload their copy).
Houdini (American Pinball 2017): Trending Down
The first pinball machine by American Pinball has seen a pretty dramatic fall in its value over time, though that fall has not always been steady. The game technically released in 2017, but too late to qualify for the 2017 TWIPY consideration, so it exists with a lot of sales due to the expanded date range of its existence (the graph above reflects 61 datapoints). Used pricing originally started at just under $7,000, dove down to about $5,600 in Spring 2019 and plateaued for a while, only to start sliding again as of Fall 2019. Present pricing averages around $5,400. The trendline ends pointing downward, and based off the data I agree, I expect this pin to continue sliding in value, though not at the rate seen across the 2018-19 period.
Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle (Spooky 2018): Holding Steady
Dataset details are quite limited on Alice Cooper (there are only six used sales from Pinside), so it is very difficult to identify a trend. From late 2018 until late 2019 the price of the game has held relatively steady, with over half of the sales going for the $6,400-$6,500 range. With information so limited I will predict the price will probably still hold relatively steady for the near-term, but the game will likely start to see a value decline now that production is wrapping up (I’d speculate as of Summer 2020, depending on the release schedule of competing pins).
The Beatles (Stern 2018), Gold Edition: Holding Steady
Another restricted dataset (nine sales), it appears Beatles has held steady since around June 2019. There is some sale variance versus the trendline, but on both sides of it, suggesting the trend is real (but that is a tough call given the number of sales involved). Still, with everything aligning so well, I think the trendline is accurate and the near-term value of Beatles will continue to hold steady at around the $6,500 price-point (give or take $250).
Cosmic Cart Racing (Multimorphic 2018): No Data
Unfortunately, I was unable to trend Cosmic Cart Racing. There appeared to be no easy way to identify P3 systems with Cosmic Cart Racing while also assigning what value of the platform’s purchase derived from this one game (I saw one sale that included it as a part of an entire P3 purchase). As such, it had to be ignored.
Primus (Stern 2018): Data Too Limited to Project
Primus is a contract game Stern Pinball manufactured reusing the Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons (Stern 2015) layout. There are only two sales of this pin on Pinside, the first at $7,400 and the last at $6,700. While obviously the latter sale is much lower than the former, two sales (especially so far apart) are not going to really tell us a trend. As such, the data is provided above for those interested, but I am not willing to interpret anything from it.
Supreme (Stern 2018): No Data
Much like Primus, this is another contract game Stern manufactured, with this one reusing the layout from Spider-Man (Home Edition) (Stern 2016). There were no recorded sales in the Pinside archives during the examined data range for Supreme, and thus there is no data to analyze.
Thunderbirds (Homepin 2018): Data Too Limited to Project
Thunderbirds is the first pinball machine to be produced by Homepin Ltd. While the game is officially listed as a January 2018 release (meaning I had a date range of almost two years to draw upon), Pinside only has one confirmed sale listed at $3,000. While that is well below the new-in-box price for the game, it is impossible to trend a single data point. So, enjoy the very dull graph above and then move on.
Mafia (Team Pinball 2018): Data Too Limited to Project
Mafia was a mid-2018 release and is the first pinball machine built by boutique manufacturer Team Pinball. The production count ended up well short of the original 100 pins planned. Pinside has registered a single sale within the timeframe chosen for examination at $6,000. Like Thunderbirds, it is impossible to trend one datapoint, and thus no speculation is possible from the data derived.
This has been your pinball market trends of 2018 TWIPY eligible pinball machines through the 2019 timeframe. While a number of these games lacked the sales figures to trend out, hopefully the data on several of them provides enough meaningful information to help those of you looking into these games (to buy or to sell) to make an informed decision. The market is a fickle beast of course, but with good data and consistent measurement we can get a real sense as to what the future has in store for collectors in this sometimes-volatile hobby of ours.