Do you remember what it was like playing pinball at the arcade or a supermarket? No? Yeah, not many people do since pinball machines have pretty much gone extinct. But for the oldheads out there who still remember waiting for mom to pay for the groceries and playing pinball in the meantime, do you remember how large the machine was?
A typical pinball machine usually measures 51 inches in length, 28.5 inches in width, and roughly 76 inches tall. It had a 6.5° sloped playing field with a glass shield. Most pinball machines cost 25 or 50¢ to play.
Pinball machines would come in various sizes and have different themes. In this guide, I’ll explain the different pinball machine sizes and whether or not it’s worth sinking money into purchasing an antique pinball machine.
What Is a Pinball Machine?
For those who weren’t raised in arcades, this is for you.
A pinball machine used to be a coin-activated machine where players could earn points by hitting the pinball against various obstacles. The purpose of the game was to keep the ball moving throughout the machine for as long as possible while also scoring the highest points. You would lose the game if the pinball falls into the drain, forcing you to fork over another 25 or 50¢ to continue playing.
The game starts by pressing a button or pulling on a plunger. The button or plunger, when released, would push the pinball out of its slot and begin hitting the various obstacles located throughout the playing field. Players would swing the pinball away by pressing the left or right flipper button.
Pinball is a pretty basic game, even though the machines required some pretty advanced technology (for its time) to operate. Today, pinball machines are pretty much nonexistent, though you can pick up used pinball machines or have one custom-made to your liking.
Parts of a Pinball Machine
Ignoring the internal workings, there are still dozens of parts that make up a pinball machine. The most important parts of a pinball machine are as follows:
Cabinet—The portion of the pinball machine where the flippers, the plunger, the pinball, and all of the obstacles are located. The cabinet houses the internal components of the machine.
Playing Field Glass—The glass panel that rests on top of the cabinet. The glass prevents players from handling the ball.
Side Rail—The metal rails found on the top edges of the cabinet. The side rail keeps the playing field glass in place.
Leg Levelers—The leg supports that keep the pinball machine standing upright. The legs found at the back of the machine are longer than those at the front to accommodate the slope of the playing field.
Backbox—The “head” portion of the pinball machine that is usually decorated with artwork. It will also have a digital scoreboard that displays the current player’s score.
Plunger—The “hammer” that knocks the pinball machine out of its slot and into the playing field. The farther out you pull the plunger, the harder it will hit the pinball.
Flippers—The two parts of a pinball machine that players can actually control, apart from the plunger. The flippers keep the pinball from falling down the drain. They are usually button-activated.
Coin Door—For pinball machines in arcades, candy stores, or supermarkets, you would have to insert 1 or 2 quarters into the coin door to play a game of pinball.
Dimensions of Pinball Machine
Pinball machines do not have a standardized size. As such, they will vary in size quite significantly, depending on who made the pinball machine.
The typical pinball machine would usually take up 51 × 28.5 inches of floor space while standing about 76 inches tall from the bottom of the leg supports to the top of the backbox.
For such a machine, the cabinet would measure 16 inches tall. The underside of the cabinet would be sloped at roughly 3.5°, while the playing field glass is sloped at 12.375°. The playing field would have a 6.5° slope. Overall, a pinball machine would weigh 325 pounds on average.
Another common pinball machine size is 56 × 29 × 76 inches. While the size varies only slightly from the typical pinball machine, it can weigh over 100 pounds heavier due to a wider playing field, a thicker backbox, and a heavier built-in computer.
Should I Buy a Pinball Machine?
If you’re interested in purchasing a retro item that reminds you of the good old days, then why not? Pinball machines were, at one point, incredibly popular, and that’s the reason that so many people consider buying a pinball machine for their hobby rooms.
Apart from the actual cost of the pinball machine, which can be anywhere from $200 to $6,000, you will have to consider the following:
How much floor space do you have?
A pinball machine is quite big. Using the figures from a standard pinball machine, its legs and cabinet will take up about 598.5 square inches or 4.16 square feet. You won’t have to worry about whether your room has enough headspace since pinball machines only stand about 76 inches tall.
Can it fit through your door?
However, you will have to think about how you’re going to get your pinball machine into your house in the first place. Many older models will let you remove the backbox from the pinball machine, so it should be relatively easy cramming it through a 36 × 80-inch door. On the other hand, modern pinball machines with all sorts of cables make it virtually impossible to remove the backbox.
Do I know how to care for a pinball machine?
Pinball machines, especially antiques, can cost a pretty penny to repair since their parts are no longer in production. Thankfully, the only real maintenance you’ll have to do is keeping the playing field glass clean and probably waxing the entire playing field once every 6 months. You can do this by removing the side rails and carefully lifting the glass panel up and away from the cabinet.