How to Start Collecting Old Slot Machines on a Budget
The gambling world has seen a big shift in the type of slot machines found on casino floors.
No longer do you find many coin-operated slots with mechanical levers. Instead, casinos now have ticket-in, ticket-out (TITO) systems, which dispense tickets instead of coins.
Casinos have largely done away with coin-operated games. But this doesn’t mean that these slot machines are extinct.
In fact, you can find a wide range of old slot machines on the resale market. Some people see these as collectors’ items while others just want a conversation piece in their home.
If you enjoy gambling, the thought of having a slot machine in your house is especially appealing. The good news is that you can find several places willing to sell you old slot machines.
But what if you want to collect slots on a budget? I’m going to discuss how you can do this, including where to find old slot machines, want to look for, and why knowing your state’s gambling laws is so important.
Where Can You Buy Old Slot Machines?
Casinos are like any other business in that they try to maximize profits. And this means that they routinely get rid of old slot machines and add new ones to boost play.
This happened on a wide scale when land-based games phased out coin-operated games in the 1990s. Coin-based games require more attendants to empty and fill hoppers, soMGM solved this problem by introducing TITO machines.
Casinos gradually replaced their coin-based games with TITO machines, because they were more profitable due to smaller labor costs. But where did all these old games go?
Here are some of the different places that these games have gone:
- Casino basements, where old slots are kept as antiques.
- Workshops, where they’ve been dismantled and either sold as scrap or salvaged for parts.
- Sold to smaller casinos in other parts of the world.
- Sold to small convenience stores and restaurants in Nevada, where gambling is legal across the state.
- Sold to businesses that resell slot machines.
- Sold to private collectors.
The last two points represent your best chance to purchase older slot machines. Of course, you’ll have to pay more on average to buy from resellers, because they’re looking for a profit.
Your best opportunity is to find a motivated seller who’s looking to unload slot machines for quick money. You can sometimes find these people on eBay, which commonly has slots available for sale.
It’s hard knowing which sellers are in this situation. But you can always search for a specific slot machine and compare prices.
Here’s an example:
- I search eBay for Bally’s 6000 Blazing 7s slot machine.
- The first listing is $650.00.
- Second listing is $575.00
- Third listing is $550.00.
The third listing is obviously the best in terms of price. But you want to take other considerations into account, such as the machine’s condition, sellers’ notes, and shipping (discussed later).
The Bally 6000 Blazing 7s slot is a full cabinet. You can find even cheaper slots, though, by looking for bar-top machines.
These are smaller than the full-sized cabinets that you see in casinos, and they often come at a cheaper cost too. I see a Jennings bar-top slot machine for $400 in the eBay listings that I’m currently viewing.
Other times these games are even more expensive than a full-sized cabinet. I see a small antique slot machine with a Roman head on it listed for $995.
It’s up to you to decide what size and kind of slot machine you’re looking for. Here are some considerations:
- What do you want the slot for? Is it for show? Nostalgia from an old Vegas trip?
- Are you buying an old slot for an antique investment?
- Do you want a full-sized or bar-top machine?
- Does the game need to be operational? (I’m assuming you want it to be.)
I’ve discussed buying old slot machines on eBay up to this point. But you can also find other resale sites and businesses that refurbish and sell these games.
Just run a simple Google search for terms like “buy slot machines” or “buy antique slot machines.”
Online businesses tend to sell slots at a higher price than what you’d pay on eBay. But they also collect and buy some of the best old slots too.
Sometimes eBay sellers are even more expensive than what a business is offering a game for. After all, certain people overvalue antiques and refuse to budge on the price.
If you’re buying antique games, then you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the market and find what’s valuable. Just remember that the most-popular slots games of yesterday don’t always make the best investments, because they were overproduced.
Knowing the market gives you a better chance to find slot machines at the best price you want. After all, you’ll be looking for specific slots in these cases and can comparison shop easier.
If you’re simply buying a slot based on nostalgia from old casino trips or to show off to friends, then you won’t have to be as selective. You can find a wide range of slot machines for sale at prices ranging from $300 to $1,200.
Pay Special Attention to the Shipping
Another major factor to consider when collecting slot machines is how much you’ll spend on shipping.
The average slot machine weighs around 200-250 pounds. You’ll also find that some games weigh even more than this.
Those who sell slots use freight shipping, which can involve moving goods through air, land, or sea. Slot machines are obviously too large to send through regular parcels, which is why freight shipping is needed.
The shipping costs can sometimes outweigh how much a machineis worth. In these cases, you must decide if it’s even worth buying the game.
Many sellers offer a pick-up option too. This is great for when you live within driving distance and want to cut out a few hundred dollars from the price.
You can instead rent a U-Haul and dolly, then drive to the nearest location that’s selling a slot machine. Depending upon the distance and gas prices, you could potentially pick up a nearby slot for around $100 or $200.
This is preferable when you’re considering a slot machine that would cost between $400 and $600 to ship.
Know the Laws in Your State
One big thing that you should do before purchasing a slot machine is check the laws in your state.
America doesn’t have a federal law against owning antique gambling equipment. But state governments have differing options on the matter.
Reasons vary on why state governments care about people collecting slot machines. One is that they don’t want people turning their slot machine collection into an illegal casino.
Another is that you’re more likely to continue playing slots at land-based casinos when you don’t have games at home. Finally, certain states like Hawaii and Alabama are so staunchly against gambling that they don’t even want you collecting slots.
Over 40 states allow you to purchase slots, meaning you only must worry about a few states that won’t let you start a slot machine collection. Some of these include Alabama, Hawaii, Nebraska, and South Carolina.
This is no surprise, considering that these states are among the most conservative when it comes to gambling.
Other states are completely the opposite and allow you to own antique slots without restrictions. Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Utah are among these states.
The biggest surprises on this list include Kentucky, Texas, and Utah.
Kentucky is all about protecting their lucrative horse racing industry, which is why they don’t offer much gambling beyond racing. But they’re lenient about people purchasing slot machines.
Texas doesn’t allow gambling beyond approved charities, horse racing, and their lottery. Utah is the most-surprising state that allows slots collections, because they ban all forms of gambling.
These three places show that you can never assume where owning old slot machines is and isn’t allowed. This is why I suggest that you read up on your state’s gambling laws here.
Over a dozen states allow people to collect slot machines under certain restrictions. The most common rule is that a slot must be at least 25 years old before you can buy it.
This rule seems strange, but it makes sense when you think about the matter. A slot machine that’s 25+ years old is more likely to be a collector’s item, rather than a game that could later be used for illegal gambling purposes.
Most states don’t allow private ownership of TITO slot machines, which also keeps people from buying newer slots. Slot machines that have been produced within the last 20-30 years operate through the TITO system.
Some states also require that slot machine purchasers be of a certain age. This doesn’t play much of a factor in Florida and Illinois, where people can own slots if they’re 20 years old.
Other states like Georgia and Idaho require that people be 50 years of age, which limits many residents from collecting slots.
Another law requires that a slot machine has been manufactured before a specific year before collectors can purchase it. For example, some states require that people can only buy slots that were made in the 1950s or earlier.
Colorado is more lenient in this respect because they allow people to buy slots that were made up until 1983. This is the point when most manufacturers quit making mechanical reels and switched to video slots.
The law on slots being made before a certain year is another rule designed to ensure that only collectors buy these machines.
In summary, you should look over your state’s gambling laws and pay special attention to excerpts on antique slot machines. This will give you a clear picture on what’s legal and illegal.
Buying and collecting slot machines isn’t difficult once you get the hang of it.
The best way to start is by figuring out if it’s legal to own slot machines in your state. You don’t want to go through the work of finding the perfect slots, only to discover that it’s illegal to own one.
The next matter involves looking for slot machines that you’re interested in collecting.You can do this through eBay, other auction sites, businesses, or private collectors.
Entire businesses are dedicated to selling slot machines to smaller casinos and private individuals.
I suggest that you check out all types businesses and sellers to find the best price. It also helps if you know the market and what you’re looking for.
Knowing different slot machines allows you to google or run an eBay search for them. You can then find out which sellers/dealers offer the best prices.
Consistently getting the best deal lets you grow your slot machine collection without spending a fortune.