No announcement yet.

2020 UPDATED - Importing a container of pinball machines: My Experience


General Pinball Discussion.

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • 2020 UPDATED - Importing a container of pinball machines: My Experience

    Thread Navigation:

    - Intro

    - Whitewater Start
    - Whitewater Finished

    - The Shadow Start
    - The Shadow Finished (Not finished yet)

    - Family Guy Start
    - Family Guy Finished (Not finished yet)

    - Simpsons Pinball Party


    Hey everyone,

    This thread has been a long time in the making, but I've just finished my exams, so I finally have time for this write-up. As the title suggests, I've imported (with a little help from my dad haha) a container of pins from Europe. This has been a project over about 6+ months, and it's been an interesting journey.

    Now as some of you know, I'm 15 years old, so this was a project between my dad and I. My Dad wasn't mad about buying pinballs before this project, but since we've had them, he has really fallen for the hobby. We had three machines at home before this; TOTAN, Hurricane and BSD. We now have 27 pinball machines, and we're having a lot of fun.

    I'll post up pics of the unloading in this post, but since many machines are all still packed, I won't post pics of individual machines just yet. When I decide to clean a machine up, I?ll create a resto thread and detailed pictures will be there.

    We are not dealers, so this is not a business for us, and I am creating this thread purely to share the experience as I imagine some would be curious about the project. Of course we may be swapping or selling some machines from our collection over time, so for ANY machines that are sold, a donation will be made to the forum at that time.

    With that said, I thought I'd make this thread to share the experience with you all. I'll also give you my response to all the dealer-bashing threads we've all seen here because my perspective has changed significantly over the past months.


    OK so I'll start with where they're from. With respect to the dealers here, I won't be giving the details of the dealer we bought from, but our machines were shipped out of Italy. I believe there are dealers in various countries in Europe, so believe me when I say it's not just one dealer who supplies for all. Our overall experience of the process was good, although communicating was a little difficult as we don't speak Italian and they don't speak much English. As we were first-time customers, some machines we had reserved were being sold on us most likely to established customers. The whole process to get them out of Italy took several months, and we had to pay holding deposits so we would not lose reserved machines.

    In February of this year, the machines left Italy, and luckily a container turned up with our pins in it. The best part of this project is that I now have almost all of my grail pins. Although we were reasonably confident that our pins were going to arrive, we knew there was always a chance that we would receive a container full of telephone books, and there would not be much we could have done about being ripped off, as all the money had to paid up front. Luckily this did not occur.


    I assume some of you are curious which machines we ordered, so I've decided to put a list below of all of them

    The Addams Family
    Cirqus Voltaire
    Fish Tales
    Scared Stiff
    Star Trek TNG
    Theatre of magic
    Twilight Zone
    White Water
    Who Dunnit
    World Cup Soccer 94
    Simpsons Pinball Party
    Stern World Poker Tour
    Junk Yard
    Guns 'n' roses
    Dr Who
    Indiana jones
    Family guy
    The Shadow


    Ok so this was an interesting one. Customs will try to keep your container with them for as long as possible and try to squeeze out of you every little bit of money that they can. Here's an example. We were notified that our container had arrived at port, but since it was our first container, customs wanted to search it. I just had to pray that they wouldn't drill a hole through any of the playfields to check for white powder. The bill for this was a few hundred dollars, so it didn't really bother us, but this is where it gets interesting. Due to the hold up, which was not our fault, we were notified one day that we had 24 hours or so to have our container removed from customs. For each day we failed to do so, we would be charged $300 by the port and shipping company.


    Honestly, they weren't that cheap. They were well-priced, but they weren't crazily cheap or anything. We didn't do this because they were cheap; we did it because we wanted a CV and a project TAF. Along the way, we realised that it would be more cost-effective if we bought more. So we kept adding to the list and somehow it got to 30. Despite the reasonable prices, the outlay was HUGE. This is the part that turns most people off in my opinion. They won't sell to you if you want to buy 5. In fewer words, there's no money in it. The costs in getting them here, plus the cost of the machines, plus the cost of making them work, plus the time being spent on them, you wouldn't bother trying to make a profit.

    In the process of buying these pins, we spoke to other people who had bought from the exporters. We were told prices from exporters have skyrocketed over the years. None of the people we had spoken to had imported from them for quite a few years, since.


    We saw photos before we bought them, but there are always surprises. Overall, we were impressed with the accuracy of their descriptions. They were all pretty good, or at least as good as we expected. There were a couple of surprises here and there. Here's an example of a pleasant surprise. The world poker tour we bought, we expected to be in fair condition. I couldn't help but notice when unpacking it that the goody bag was still stapled to the inside of the machine and the playfield had no wear at all. I fired up the machine, and what do you know; 900 plays in total, and it was fully LED'd. Other machines, we had a giggle when we unpacked them as Dad and I saw the playfields and mouthed to each other "oh sh*t".

    There is lots of discussion about the quality of container pins here. Let me tell you, it varies greatly from machine to machine. One was perfect, one was unplayable, they both came from the same container.


    This is the part I dread. My knowledge is not extensive. I'll be posting a lot of questions. If anyone would be willing to give advice or help repair some of the faults that are beyond my skill-level, please do let me know because I desperately need all the help I can get!


    Dealers have to charge the prices they do. Pinball machines are expensive. They get them at the prices we would like them for and then they spend hours on them. Don't forget about parts too. About 30% of the parts in my machines are original. The rest are weird temporary operator fixes. Our first parts order will cost quite a bit. Lots of rubbers, star post, targets etc need to be replaced ?and decisions to be made on whether to leave or replace playfields and cabinet decals.


    Was it worth it?
    Of course it was, we have 27 awesome pinball machines and a project Addams family.
    Would I do it again?
    Probably not. Prices have risen and with the Aussie $ since we bought them, it?s not really worth buying them anymore IMHO, especially considering the work involved that I didn't know the extent of before.

    I'm happy to answer questions if I haven't covered anything so either post on this thread or PM me, either is fine, and I'll try to answer as many as I can in detail

    Click image for larger version  Name:	20150508_160302.jpg Views:	1 Size:	139.4 KB ID:	1882969Click image for larger version  Name:	20150508_160251.jpg Views:	1 Size:	85.2 KB ID:	1882970Click image for larger version  Name:	20150508_155319.jpg Views:	1 Size:	153.3 KB ID:	1882971Click image for larger version  Name:	20150508_154707.jpg Views:	1 Size:	189.1 KB ID:	1882972
    Last edited by maxi; 25 April 2020, 09:08 PM.
    The name's Max; Bond Max

  • #2
    what an awesome write up, especially impressive @ 15, you must be a smart fella!
    It's really great you and your dad have this bond and experience together, that's what pinball is all about!

    look forward to more pics of machines


    • #3
      Congrats. I've been involved with importing several containers. While it was never a money spinner, it was always fun cracking open that container door for the first time and then getting to play all the games while you fix them up. Enjoy the experience!
      Last edited by fridgejam; 22 June 2015, 02:49 PM. Reason: typo
      The Pinball Network


      • #4
        Well done Maxi. Good write up too, I'm looking forward to the next installment.
        I have propelled the ball along the proper trajectory and been rewarded


        • #5
          Well done, nice write up


          • #6
            That is great! Good luck with the project and I'm sure it will pay off in lots of fun restoring and playing them all!!

            Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk


            • #7



              • #8
                Very nice collection of pins.Great titles.


                • #9
                  Very impressive write up, can't wait to get back over there


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by dloe007 View Post
                    Very impressive write up, can't wait to get back over there
                    Thanks dave! A couple more have been set up since you were here! I think ToM is being set up today
                    The name's Max; Bond Max


                    • #11
                      Thanks. Good thread


                      • #12
                        Mate, that is a brilliantly written article, congrats for your honesty and well communicated experience!

                        Ohh and congrats on the pins. Absolute ripper list of titles there

                        Sent from my SM-G900I using Tapatalk


                        • #13
                          It great that you and your dad share the same interest. I always enjoyed working and spending time with my dad.

                          Great write up .


                          • #14
                            Mate you have big brass ones (at 15 no less)
                            You remind me in life that anything is possible. Well done ! and I will be watching this thread with interest.


                            • #15
                              Holy moly Max...

                              I can relate to this, but on a much smaller scale. I picked up eight machines at the start of this year with my (very understanding) girlfriend. So I hired a truck, picked them up and brought them home. Most of them were in good condition but I am in the process of cleaning and repairing them now. It's been a rollercoaster ride - one minute I can't believe I have a particular machine and the next minute I am trying to restrain myself from kicking it over from frustration.

                              But boy did I underestimate how much work it would be. Even my first machine took months to shop because I could only do it after work and on weekends. And then splitting that time between family and other commitments - it's hard. Then you have the expense of spare parts, time delays in ordering, etc.

                              Total respect to you for taking on such a huge undertaking. I wondered multiple times what the hell possessed me to buy so many machines at once. I'm guessing you'll be thinking the same thing soon - just several times the magnitude! But then you look at your awesome collection and think, holy shit, I really am living the dream.

                              Awesome write up though, and I can't wait to see how it all goes. This will be a great crash course in pinball repair and you will know more than most people by the end of it. Good luck mate!

                              "Pinball... harmless recreation for a modest consideration"


                              Users Viewing Topic: 0 members and 1 (guests)