Jake Danzig gives an analysis of what happened at the recent Museum of Pinball Auction, which resulted in some very impressive hammer prices for games. He provides reasons why the prices for games may have been magnified over their expected values for this particular event.

Quoting Jake Danzig:

My personal assessment, based on facts of the Museum of Pinball auction in Banning, CA

Having spent the entire first weekend of the auction in person, then following closely online for the second weekend, I can give a firsthand account of this auction and what was going on. In the days since the auction has been over It was quite amusing reading so many of the comments about the Banning auction on various groups. People claiming it was all a “scam, shill bidding, money laundering, owner buying back all his own games, fake, etc.” I was there, and can easily say that none of that was true and all those comments were ridiculous. Yes, we were all shocked at where the prices went with this auction, sky high for most items, and yet there were still some deals to be had. Personally I brought back five games, four of which are rare. I’ll attach some pics I took of the first weekend of the auction.

And so, in response to some of the uninformed commenters.

1. “A scam” Really? It’s not called a scam, it’s called a business closing and auctioning off the inventory. If you were there you’d have seen various bid winners loading up their games.

2. “Shill bidding/owner retaining the games” this claim is also ridiculous, the Weeks family had nowhere to put them, remember, this was well over 1,000 games. The proposed location in Palm Springs did not work out and the current location had already been leased out to a new business. Other options might have been available but Mr. John Weeks made a decision to get out of the business and auction off the assets.

3. “Money laundering” that seems to be a scapegoat excuse for would be buyers that are desperate to get prices back down to their level. Sorry guys, but these items sold to both new buyers and veteran collectors, operators, resellers, and arcade/barcade owners.

4. “Fake” ? Anyone that was actually there could see there was nothing “fake” about this auction.

Now for the actual reasons why prices were so often higher than normal for this auction. I’ll try to list them in order of the gradual price increase.

1. Heavily publicized, maximum exposure. This auction was not only publicized on many of the social networking groups websites, etc., but it also got national exposure from major media outlets such as ABC, New York Times, etc. Which brought in many more would be buyers including some that were not previously in the hobby.

2. It was the Museum of Pinball. Since it was at the Museum of Pinball many people wanted to take a piece of its history home with them, especially those who had such a great time there in the past events.

3. New buyers. Many new enthusiastic bidders were present, with surely more online and without basic knowledge of current market values.

4. COVID-19. We all know of the surging costs of goods and with transport and shipping costs increasing dramatically as well, especially for overseas shipping since the start of the pandemic. But in regards to specifically the arcade/pinball hobby, for the manufacturers the cost of parts and raw goods such as wood, steel, wire, integrated circuits, etc., have increased dramatically to the point where the manufacturers have had to raise prices to the consumers, which in turn have more consumers scouring the secondary market, and that’s where the law of supply and demand kick in. Dwindling supply, with increased demand just further push prices up.

5. Market trends. Arcade games and especially the pinball market have been in quite a resurgence for the last decade. Many of todays arcade/pinball buyers grew up playing these classic games and are now of the age with disposable income.

6. Foreign markets. Many foreign buyers including the South America, Australia, and European markets are already used to paying much more than the North American market. That coupled with the fact that many of them don’t have near the amount of games available to them as we here in the United States do, so this was a grand opportunity for them.

7. Rare games. There were more rare games there than I could count, when it comes to rare games, the kind that just seemingly never come up for sale, it truly is a sellers market. Many buyers spend years searching for the titles that were for sale in this auction.

8. Arcades/barcades. There are many arcade/barcade establishments all over the country, and many more opening with owners looking to fill their locations with games. To many of these owners, paying extra for these games is simply chalked up to “cost of doing business.”

9. Several very wealthy buyers. Last but not least, yes there were more than a few wealthy collectors looking to fill out their gamerooms, to these guys the “current market value” means nothing to them, and when there’s more than one of them competing for the same games, that’s when you would see the bids skyrocketing into what many common collectors would consider absurd.
This auction may or may not be an indicator of rising prices, or it may be hit and miss with games advertised for sale with owners using this auction as its basis for price, time will tell.
One thing is for certain, it’s a great time to be in this hobby of arcade/pinball, so have fun everyone, and don’t forget to go support your local arcades/barcades.

~Jake Danzig

Source: Southwest Arcade and Pinball Collectors, Arizona & Beyond! (Public Facebook Group)
(Click to see pictures by Jake Danzig)

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