Category Archives: Collecting

I bought a (Bally) Star Trek; or, how not to drill a lock

A friend posted a link to a $400 Bally Star Trek on Craigslist. It was clearly bombed out, but I was looking for a restoration candidate. I went for it.

The seller said he didn’t have the head key. This meant two things: first, it was going to take a  big vehicle to move it back to my house. Second, the computer was going to be corroded. But the game was mostly working, how bad could it be?

I a U-Haul van, a little Ford Econoline, at the place near my house, and headed to the seller’s place. I got there around 5 and after some smalltalk, I paid and then started figuring out how to get the game in the van. I have skates so it wasn’t too bad. I got the front legs off and we got the front of the game onto the van; then, the back legs off, and slid the game right into the door latch of the van.

That’s right, a classic solid state Bally game won’t fit in an Econoline van with the head on.

Fortunately, I was somewhat prepared for this eventuality and had my drill and a bunch of bits. But I didn’t think carefully about how the backbox works and spent two hours trying to open a door instead of just lifting the glass out.

I finally lifted the glass out in the relative dark and got the game home in three pieces: head, cabinet, and glass, which I won’t put back in until I have a proper lift channel on it.

Anyway, I bought the game in early November and am just starting to shop it. Eventually I’d like to restore it, but this is at the end of a long list of projects.

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You don’t play the paint.

Want to save a lot of bucks buying a pinball?  Look for a “player’s” game, not a “collector’s” game.

Collectors worry about numbers of plays, scratches on the cabinet, “orange peel” effects on the playfield, “ball swirl” marks. They ask, “Is it home use only?”

I suggest asking instead: “Is it fun?”

Always remember: You don’t play the paint. A little wear around scoops, inserts, or a few cracks in the paint can bring down the value, sure, but it generally doesn’t affect play at al.

Massive damage to the paint, or a completely worn out playfield, could seriously affect play. And it’s OK to worry about cosmetics. But it can become an obsession, and it’s not worth it.

Related, You don’t play the cabinet. It is crucial that the cabinet is square, and also important that it keeps out pets, spilled drinks, and dust. Does it matter if the cabinet is faded? Well, sure. It affects the value. If ugly enough, it can annoy one’s spouse.

My Kings of Steel has some cabinet damage. Is it obvious? Not really, because it is cleverly hidden by Black Knight 2000 and High Speed..

That said, I have games where I would swap the playfield, or touch up the cabinet. There is heavy damage and it would improve the cosmetics. But there’s a cost to these, both in money and time. It’s OK if they are not cosmetically perfect.

It’s a pinball machine – not a shrine. – “Shaggy”