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Hagerstown 'picker' finds new business in old games

March 11,2017 21:24

Ben Thoburn recalls recently buying some pinball games in Portsmouth, Va. He put photos and prices for a couple of them on Facebook. "Within 90 seconds, both of them were sold," Thoburn said. The business also is preparing a brick-and-mortar location ...



Three unrestored antique jukeboxes sit behind Lloyd Thoburn's desk at his Hagerstown office, but they are not for show.They are sold.One is bound for Austria, the second will be shipped to England, while the third will be on its way to Finland.Coinopwarehouse has four warehouses totaling about 130,000 square feet in Hagerstown. The buildings hold everything from horse-drawn hearses to pinball machines, to arcade video games and scales."I like anything that's cool," he said.When asked how many items are in a particular warehouse, he smiled and shrugged."Thousands," he said."We buy and sell old coin-operated machines, and game-room and garage items, jukeboxes, pinballs, video arcade games, things like that," he said. "We sell them all over the world. We're pickers, is what we are. So we sell things as we find them."Many of those items are loaded into 40-foot containers and shipped to museums, businesses and collectors in Europe, Asia and Australia, as well as customers in the United States.A 40-foot container holds about 50 machines, he said.Thoburn said he has been finding and selling things since he was young."I think before I had a driver's license I owned five cars. ... My first drivable car was a 1937 Chevrolet," he said.As an adult, he spent his career in the mortgage-lending business."That was my last real job," he said. "This was always my hobby, so I always had a hobby business buying and selling."He said he launched Coinopwarehouse in 2000.His wife, Sheree, said some of the items — Thoburn has a soft spot for classic jukeboxes — are part of a rotating collection that come into, and go out of, their possession."He has the ability to not fall in love with anything," said their son, Benjamin, who also works in the business."I do love this stuff, and I love to collect," his father replied. "(But) the guys who fall in love with the stuff go out of business."The Thoburns said they travel across the country to buy items in quantity — a neglected warehouse here, a old barnful there, a few truckloads at times."The hardest part of this business is not selling," Lloyd Thoburn said. "Stuff that is priced fairly sells itself. The hardest part is the sourcing."They also have to know the potential wholesale and retail value of items once they get them. And they have to know the market, Thoburn said.For example, he said many buyers collect out of nostalgia, and that market shifts as people age. A growing market now is in video-arcade games."What you're selling to all these guys is their youth," he said. "They're buying their memories of childhood."However, the company's sales rely on 21st century methods.Coinopwarehouse has more than 45,000 followers on Facebook, Thoburn said.The company has set up something of an auction atmosphere that spurs quick sales on the social-media site, he said.Coinopwarehouse uses a PayPal account for the transactions.Ben Thoburn recalls recently buying some pinball games in Portsmouth, Va. He put photos and prices for a couple of them on Facebook."Within 90 seconds, both of them were sold," Thoburn said.The business also is preparing a brick-and-mortar location in the 300 block of Franklin Street, where the Thoburns are turning a once-vacant building into the Game Room Garage to sell items to the public.Thoburn said he also has investigated other investments in Hagerstown."It's a town that I think has beautiful architecture," he said. "It's a neat old city. It's a great location. It's Interstate 70 and (Interstate) 81, so it's convenient for people to travel to, and I love the buildings. Prices here are good, and I see great opportunity."

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