The Great Pinball Craigslist Hunt

Great Craigslist huntPart of being a pinhead is tracking down the games we know and love. Whether you’re a “project” person or a “collector quality”-only type of guy or gal, the hunt is one of the thrills of the hobby. And like any other type of hunt we must have proper hunting tools and a hunting ground.

By far the best hunting ground is that of fellow collectors. Pinball owners are always fighting their main nemesis — space. That means that every so many months they are looking to circulate an old game for something new again. Usually, the best deals are found from fellow collectors and local communities. Then there are pinball classified sites, the fee-hungry eBay and lastly (in the eyes of many) Craigslist.

Craigslist can be a scary place. To quote Obi Wan, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” I’m sure that’s been the case with many buying and selling experiences. Still, there’s no better place to stumble upon that deal or a steal — if you know what your looking for, have a half tank of gas, and can respond to a new posting within a handful of minutes. And thus begins… the hunt!

The beauty and curse of Craigslist is that it’s divided into little territories. And that can be an awful lot of legwork to keep on top of new postings (unless you live in a large city). The first thing is to decide what your territory will be. How far are you willing to strike out to claim your kill?

The next is to use a scouting service. Something that will give you all you need in one place — instead of hitting individual Craigslist sites all around your area. I highly recommend It’s a simple website, really. You plug in your zip code, what you’re searching for, and how far you want it to search in miles. It then pulls frames of each Craigslist site with your search words into a page for casual scrolling. Easy peasy.

The next step is defining what you want. You can eliminate a lot of time and hassle by customizing a great search string. Some easy tips: if you want to combine words to search separately (for example, if I want to search for “arcade” and “pinball” with the same search, but not pull results that only had both words) use the | symbol in between them. Next, get rid of all the trash that you usually encounter when you search for those words by putting the negative (-) sign in front of it. Common nuisances will be “xbox,” “360,” “ps3″ and “ds.” Now the search results will pull in anything except those posts that contain those nuisance words. This is also helpful for your local Craigslist spammer (doesn’t everyone have them?) who likes to post daily about his termite-ridden collection of barn games. A common search string that I like to use is:

pinball | arcade -xbox -ps3 -ds

There you go. Now you can quickly find your kill. The rest is really up to you. Good luck and happy hunting!