You can hit the jackpot every day at your house when you bring home an antique slot machine. These machines not only make beautiful antique decorations, but they can provide fun for all of your friends and family. And if you're thinking about heading on a big vacation soon, then they're a great way to practice your slot slinging technique for a big time reward at the casino.
How to Determine Antique Slot Machine Values
A genuine antique slot machine can be a big investment. The best way to determine if you're getting a fair price is to do as much research on the machine you're planning to buy as you possibly can. The more details you have, the better informed you'll be about what exactly the machine in question is worth, and some of the pieces of information that you should get are:
- The serial number
- The manufacturer
- The number of original parts
- The number of replacement parts
- Whether the machine still has a cash box
- Condition of the machine
- Appearance of the machine
- Certificate of authenticity
Identify Their Approximate Ages
The more original parts that an antique slot machine has, the more value it holds. A real antique machine should have a serial number, unlike a reproduction slot machine. Reputable antique slot machine dealers will usually offer a certificate of authenticity with the machine. Yet, if you can't find any hard documentation stating the machine's manufacturing date, you can rely on the visual component to see if you can figure out a ballpark date range.
Generally, the oldest slot machines were significantly smaller than those that're currently being used and were approximately the size of an old cash register. These early registers were made out of various heavy metals and usually featured a less ostentatious design element in comparison to their modern counterparts. Additionally, there are also slot machines that were built on metal frames so that they could stand upright, much like gumball machines. These early machines were mostly created out of wood, and were even less decorative than their metal contemporaries. Designs grew increasingly bold as the decades passed, and the sizes increased with the passing years as well. So, if you find fluorescent lighting or digital components, then chances are your machine isn't an antique.
Another visual identifier is to look for machines with brands that were making machines at the time, such as:
- Sittman and Pitt
Assess Their Overall Condition
Most antique machines have been refurbished, as these metal and wooden machines can take quite the beating over time. This restoration process involves taking the machines apart to clean and re-lubricate all of the internal working parts. Damaged or lost parts are replaced and the machine is then reassembled and packaged for sale. According to famed appraiser Dr. Lori Verderame, the most valuable machines are those that're in working order and have had the fewest number of replacement parts needed. Per her expertise, these antiques can sell for a few thousand dollars at worst, and tens of thousands of dollars at best.
Current Market Value of Antique Slot Machines
Unfortunately, with such a niche market as antique slot machines, you always run the risk of not having an abundance of information at your fingertips. When it comes to these playful recreational antiques, there's very little evidence of their sale on the current digital market. This isn't to say that they aren't being traded privately or at local antique stores that aren't recording there wares publically, but it's safe to say that you're not going to find these up for sale very often, so it's absolutely best to talk to an appraiser if you have one in your possession to get a better understanding of what it might be worth.
That being said, there're a ton of vintage of machines that've been repaired and restored available online to purchase. These machines typically sell for the high hundreds and low thousands, which means that--due to their rarity--antique slot machines in similar conditions could be worth at least the same, though probably more if they're marketed to the right clientele. Some of these vintage machines that've recently sold include:
Legal Issues of Owning an Antique Slot Machine
Before you consider purchasing an antique slot machine, it's important to find out what the laws are in the state or country that you live in. For example, some American states prohibit the ownership of a slot machine, no matter what the age of the machine is or what it's intended to be used for. The states where it's illegal to own a slot machine include:
- South Carolina
In contrast, many other states already allow the private ownership of slot machines with certain restrictions. For instance, in California, Delaware, Montana and a number of other states, you can own a slot machine that's 25 years or older. New Jersey and Pennsylvania laws allow private slot machine ownership of machines that were manufactured prior to 1941. Machines manufactured before 1952 are legal in Washington D.C. and machines manufactured before 1954 are legal in Vermont, as long as they're not used for gambling.
Given the nuanced legality of owning slot machines--at least in the United States - you should make sure that you've researched what you are and aren't allowed to own in your area before making any purchases.
Resources to Help Research Values of Antique Slot Machines
The best place to start your research for figuring out how much an antique slot machine that you own or someone you know owns is online. There're several easy-to-access websites that offer price guide information, as well as dealers and private collectors abound which offer information and advice about buying and selling antique slot machines. These are three of the best places to head to first.
The Antique Slot Machine Price Guide
The Antique Slot Machine Price Guide is an online database with over 8000 slot machines and they source their prices from auctions completed through eBay, Victorian Casino Auctions, James D. Julia Auctions and Inman Auctions. It's important to note that you have to subscribe to be able to see prices for any of these antique slot machines, if you're interested.
Slots Etc. has been buying, trading, selling and restoring vintage slot machines since 1987. They offer top dollar if you're selling an antique slot machine or will help you find the machine that you're looking for if you want to buy. The company has extensive knowledge on the following brands, of which they're always open to buying:
Antique Slot Machines
Bob Levy started Antique Slot Machines, which he claims to be one of the largest dealers of antique slot machines in the United States. Levy deals exclusively with vintage machines from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and a few from the 1950s, and for $50, you can get an official written appraisal for your antique slot machine from Levy. Here you can also view Bob Levy's private collection of vintage slot machines or look for one to purchase yourself.
Take a Chance on These Antique Slot Machines
Slot machines are where history and merriment collide. Although it may seem like an unconventional recreational toy to bring into your house in comparison to the millions of air hockey tables and pinball machines people bring home every year, an antique slot machine might just be the icing on the cake of your game room. In this way, there's so much more to antique slot machine values than just money, as your friends jubilant shouts from hitting big are sure to confirm.