PINGAMES (AND COLLECTORS) AT THE 1984 FUN FAIR
First, let me start out by saying how pleased I am to be
writing for the all new Coin Slot. The first issue was
tremendous, to say the least. It certainly was the best coin-op
collectable magazine issue ever produced. If the Coin Slot stays
on its current path I believe this magazine will continue to
thrive and retain its position as the best coin-op collectables
Now to the 1984 Fun Fair. For the past three years (with
the exception of last year) I have been reporting annually on the
pingames which appeared at each of the Loose Change Fun Fairs.
Last year, for several reasons, I did not produce such an
article; so this year, in addition to reporting on the 1984 Fun
Fair, I will also mention some of the pingames which showed up in
Regarding the past shows, 1982 was the best as far as pins
were concerned, boasting some 12 pingames in the 1931 - 1970 era.
I generally don't say much about games made after 1970 as, in
general, I don't consider them really 'collectable.' This is
beginning to change, however, but for the time being my articles
will primarily deal with machines from the earlier years of
The 1984 Fun Fair was again held at the Pasadena Exhibit
Center in Pasadena, CA; this time on Saturday and Sunday,
September 15th and 16th, a bit earlier than previous shows. Some
people seemed to think that there were more visitors/exhibitors
there this time than last year, while others thought the
opposite. It seemed to me that things were about the same as last
year (maybe a few less visitors), but, as far as pingames were
concerned, things were about the same. In fact, many of the pins
shown this year were also at last year's show.
Before we get into the actual games, a word about the
pinball collectors who were present. Each year the pinball
collectors who visit the show usually meet in small groups to
discuss their collections and show photos of their games to each
other. This year was no exception.
This time, however, one of the collectors, Richard Conger,
decided it would be a good idea to take a group photo of all the
pin collectors he could locate, and this was done.
The collectors included in this photo were, from left to
right: Dan Kramer (with some 15 pins, including many 1960's
classics); Jon Norris (with a collection of some 50 or so games,
including many classics of the 50's and 60's); Sam Harvey (with
over 100 games, specializing in 1960's pins); myself (with a
small collection of 18 machines); Richard Conger (boasting a
collection of over 200 pins of all vintages); and last, but not
least, Daine Smallwood, the "bingo king", with a large collection
specializing in bingo pinballs, but also including other types as
well. incidentally, I should like to mention that Sam
Harvey is the excellent pinball photographer who has been
responsible for many of the photos appearing in my past articles,
and all the game photos in this one. Thank you Sam!
Other collectors who we found out later were at the show,
but who did not get in the picture, were Dick Graves of Oakland,
CA, whose collection of a wide variety of coin machines includes
quite a few pins, and Kirk Beasley of Washington State who also
collects pins. The photo, incidentally, was taken by a new
collector, Gary Crawford of San Jose, CA. There were most likely
other pin collectors there as well but I either did not know
them, or if I did, never ran into them on Saturday.
The earliest pingame at the show was a small, well built,
counter top game, which at the time of the show was a mystery to
me because the marquee at the top of the game was blank - the
name of the game had been removed. The style and construction of
this small machine was, however, very similar to a game that was
at the 1983 Fun Fair, Genco's MONTE CARLO. That game was the
second game to be produced by Genco, a company which was to
become one of the major pingame manufacturers of the 1930's and
A search of my files at home the next week revealed that
Genco's first game, produced in December 1931, was a game called
BUSTER BALL which appeared to be identical to the game at this
Fun Fair. So it appears that the mystery was solved, the game
was apparently BUSTER BALL, Genco's first pingame.
This machine was a small counter-top machine which gave the
player 5 balls for a penny. The game was made entirely of metal,
including a cast aluminum painted playfield. The field had only
8 scoring holes, plus an 'out hole', and was dotted with 'pins'
which were actually part of the playfield casting. It also had a
rudimentary 'score totalizer'. The balls, after dropping in a
hole, rolled to the front of the machine where they were visible
in slots, each with the number of points indicated above it. All
in all, it was a very nice piece of early pinball history. This
game, incidentally, was purchased and now resides in the
formidable Richard Conger collection of well over 200 pingames.
The next game in the chronology of Fun Fair pins was a game
called VICTORY BALL by the O.D. Jennings Co. That outfit was
better known for their slots but also produced around 25 pingame
models in the years between 1932 and 1938. VICTORY BALL was
Jennings' second pin and came out around may of 1932. Their
first pin was called JAY BALL and appeared some three months
The game was a simple 'pin and ball' game of the type
prevalent in early 1932 and was superbly constructed. It could
be used either as a counter-top game or set on a metal stand.
The playfield consisted of numbered holes (with score values
between 50 and 500 indicated above them) and was studded with
As was typical of many games of that era, it had a hole
labeled "Free Play" near the bottom of the playfield. That meant
that any ball dropping into it could be shot again, which I guess
had the advantage of letting the player try again for the higher
scoring holes above it on the playfield. It also had a "Victory
Ball" hole at the top of the playfield which presumably doubled
the score of the other balls.
VICTORY BALL was on display in the booth of Metal Form
Products of North Hollywood CA. That outfit also had a list of
other machines (including several more pins) which they had for
sale at what I consider reasonable prices. I understand that
they brought in another pingame on Sunday which was quickly sold,
but I was unable to discover the name of it.
The last of the 1932 vintage pingames at the show was
Rockola's JUGGLE BALL which came out around October of that year.
Rockola was of course better known as a jukebox manufacturer but
they also produced about 40 pingame models from 1932 to 1938.
These included many fine classic pins such as the mechanical
marvels WORLD SERIES and JIGSAW (both of which were seen at
previous Fun Fairs) and TOTALITE, the first game to have a score
totalizer which displayed scores by means of lighted number
'panels' on the backglass. This was to be the primary score
indicating method used on most pins up through the 1950's.
JUGGLE BALL appears to be the first pingame from Rockola.
This same machine was also shown at last years Fun Fair.
Probably the most interesting feature of this game is a player
controlled 'stick', the handle of which protruded from the front
of the game, with which the player could influence the ball in
play. As an original ad for this game proclaimed, "the player,
by means of a control lever which he holds, juggles and battles
with the ball."
This game was certainly one of the first pingames in which
the player could influence the ball in play, other than by
shaking the cabinet. It came out about the same time as another
game with a ball influencing feature, DOUBLE SHUFFLE by Hercules
Novelty, which was at last years show and will be discussed
later. A few such ball control devices were tried in the early
days, but it was really not until the invention of the 'flipper'
in 1947 that player control really became a standard pingame
A special play feature of JUGGLE BALL was that the player
could try to double his score by getting balls in all the holes
marked with the letters J-U-G-G-L-E. This was similar to the
'spell name' features used many years later on pins. The JUGGLE
BALL at the show was in 'mint' condition and was a truly fine
example of early pingame design.
The pins at this Fun Fair next made a chronological skip
from 1932 to 1935. By this time in pinball history the strictly
mechanical games had almost completely given way to games with
battery operated 'kickers' and 'guns', and even some with simple
electric lights, thanks to the introduction of electricity into
pingame design by Harry Williams with his CONTACT in late 1933.
The first of two 1935 machines at the show was IMPACT by
Mills Novelty Co. (another well known slot manufacturer who also
made pins in the Thirties) which came out around February of that
year. This machine, by the way, also appeared at last years
IMPACT was made to be a 'counter game', rather than one
which stood on legs like most other games of the period. In
fact, Mills stressed this in their ads with such comments as
"Mills' IMPACT is a new type of counter pin game - built
especially for the top of the cigar counter, showcase or bar."
They further stated "not a baby, not a miniature - IMPACT is a
man size game." They were referring to the fact that this game
was large compared to most counter type games, measuring 15 by 30
The main feature of the game was four cannon type ball
'projectors', two near the center at each side and two near the
bottom of the playfield. A ball landing in one of these could be
shot out (by means of an electric solenoid kicker) toward the top
of the playfield. The two side ball projectors would shoot the
ball into "auxiliary" playfield areas (one on each side) which
contained higher scoring holes than did the central playfield
area. The two projectors near the bottom of the field shot the
balls directly toward the top of the playfield.
This game was beautifully constructed and in excellent
condition. It was a fine example of the numerous "electric
action" pingames of the mid Thirties.
Another 1935 pin at the show was TEN GRAND, also made by
Mills. This was a fine example of the many payout pinballs so
prevalent in the mid Thirties. TEN GRAND, however, was not just
an ordinary payout. This machine internally contained a full
(less reels) Mills 'Silent Bell' slot machine mechanism, with a
slot machine type handle on the side of the massive cabinet.
The machine worked like this. The player would insert a
coin and pull the handle. The hidden bell mechanism would
operate, just as in a standard slot machine, but no reels were
used. The result of the 'stopping position' of the bell
mechanism was reflected in a number indicated by lighted panels
in the center of the pinball playfield. This number represented
the amount of "free games" which would be awarded if the player
could score 10,000 points during pinball play. The "free games"
in this instance were of course actually nickles payed out. If,
as would happen most often, the spin of the bell resulted in a
'losing combination' the player would still have the opportunity
of winning 3 "free games" by obtaining a pinball score of at
least 5000 points. Incidentally, the player was only allowed two
balls for pinball play in either case.
Mills, in their advertising of TEN GRAND, compared its
earnings to that of bell slot machines using statements such as,
"TEN GRAND is the first table to use the marvelous money-making
superiority of the bell, an earning power that has never been
matched by anything in the pin table field." They further
stated, "TEN GRAND not only employs all the bell's sure-fire
money-making ability but combines it with a clever, unusual and
interesting playing panel based completely on skill."
As you can see from this description, TEN GRAND is certainly
a classic in the field of payout pinballs and could even be
called a "pin-bell machine."
Pamco's PALOOKA was the other payout pin at this years Fun
Fair. It was manufactured in early 1936 by Pacific Amusement
Manufacturing Co. of Los Angeles, otherwise known as "PAMCO".
This, incidentally, was the same company that a few years before
made Harry Williams' classic, CONTACT, referred to earlier. By
1936 PAMCO was a well established pingame manufacturer, but this
only lasted until mid 1937 when they produced their final
PALOOKA, like many other PAMCO pins of the time, was a
payout with a novel play theme. It was essentially a horse
racing game in which the player would 'bet' on one of six horses
by inserting a coin in one of six coin chutes at the front of the
machine. The player would then shoot a ball into a circular
playfield, similar to a Roulette Wheel, with 25 holes all
numbered between 1 and 6. If the number of the hole in which the
ball finally landed corresponded to the number 'bet' by the
player he would win. The number of coins payed for a win would
depend on an odds indicator on the short backglass, which would
change with each play, indicating the payout amounts for each of
the six 'horses'.
This machine, like many payout pins of its time, was
beautifully constructed in a massive wooden cabinet and
colorfully decorated. While maybe not strictly a pingame in the
truest sense of the word, it is indeed a fine game typical of the
'pin format' gambling machines of the mid 1930's.
A game that has been at the Fun Fair for the past three
years was Mills' SPINNING REELS, which came out around 1940.
This year, however, there were two! Both were on display at the
booth of Fallitech Enterprises. One was the restored machine
which has been present in past years. The second was unrestored
but in very good condition.
As many of you probably know, SPINNING REELS was a later
version of Mills' very popular game "1-2-3" which came out a
couple of years before. That game was so popular that it was
advertised in the trade papers for about two years! Both games
featured a stainless steel playfield containing three sets of
colored bumpers, each set corresponding to one of the slot
machine type reels behind the backglass. Balls hitting the
bumpers advanced the corresponding reel, one symbol at a time.
At the conclusion of the game, the symbol combination on the
backboard determined the payout - a real 'pinball slot machine'.
In addition to the early pins mentioned above, there was one
other electro-mechanical pingame at the Fun Fair. It was
Williams' "OXO" from 1974. Games from the period between 1937
and the beginning of the "solid state era" have been fairly rare
at past Fun Fairs. This machine was owned by my good friend, ace
jukebox collector and restorer Ron Tyler who is also into pins
(in fact, he started out with pins and later converted to jukes).
The machine seemed to bring quite a bit of interest and was sold
quite early in the show.
OXO is a very interesting game and, as you might infer from
its name, has a Tic-Tac-Toe theme. The lower center of the
playfield has a light-up replica of a Tic-Tac-Toe game which can
display either X's or O's in each of its nine squares. Various
rollovers on the playfield light the various squares with either
an 'X' or an 'O' depending on other game conditions. Achieving a
line of three of either symbol will of course reward the player
with replays. All in all, it is a very fascinating game to play
and probably ranks with the top pinballs of the early seventies.
SOLID STATE PINS
In addition to the older games at the show there were, as
their have been in all the past Fun Fairs, several of the modern
"solid state" electronic pinballs. All but one were offered by
the same dealer. The games offered for sale were: WORLD CUP
(one of the very early electronic pins of 1977), JUNGLE LORD,
JOKER POKER, FLASH, FIREPOWER, MELODY LANE, and BLACK KNIGHT.
The latter game was even a "talking pinball" that actually speaks
to the player using a limited electronic vocabulary. In
addition, it has one of the new 'multi-level' playfields.
While the collectability of solid state pins may still be
somewhat in question, I feel they will be collected in the
future, if not already by some collectors. Games such as FLASH
(which has some outstanding visual and audible effects) and BLACK
KNIGHT will certainly be prime candidates for solid state pin
A LOOK BACK TO LAST YEAR
Before concluding I think it might be in order to describe
some of the early pins that were at last year's show and which
have not already been mentioned.
Certainly the most historically significant of those was
Bally's ROCKET which came out around October of 1933. This game
competes with Harry Williams' CONTACT as the earliest 'electric'
pinball machine, however, the use of battery power in these two
machines was for quite different purposes. CONTACT was the first
pingame to use electricity to provide playfield 'action', whereas
ROCKET used its power only to operate an automatic coin payout
mechanism. As such, however, ROCKET was the first of many
electric automatic payout pingames which were extremely popular
during the rest of the Thirties and even into the Forties.
ROCKET was a well constructed, durable looking, machine and
certainly one of the classic Bally pingames of all time.
As I mentioned earlier, another game at last year's show was
DOUBLE SHUFFLE by Hercules Novelty Co., which came out in
September of 1932. This game, like Rockola's JUGGLE BALL, was an
early example of a game in which the player could exercise some
control over the ball in play. In fact, DOUBLE SHUFFLE could be
considered the first 'flipper game' as its action was similar to
that of the 'flippers' which were to come some fifteen years
There were four "flipper like" devices on each side of the
playfield. Each set of four was controlled by a separate lever
in front of the playfield. As each ball was released it started
out on the 'flipper' at the lower left hand side of the
playfield. The player would then attempt to flip it to the first
one on the right by operating the left hand lever. He would then
try to advance the ball toward the top of the field, by using the
flipper devices, first on one side and then on the other.
Painted arrows on the playfield indicated the path which would
lead to the top.
The playfield contained a series of scoring holes, some of
which were partially protected by metal pins. The highest
scoring holes were of course at the top of the playfield,
requiring much 'flipper skill' to advance the ball to those
heights. This machine was indeed novel in two senses. First, it
had no plunger to propel the ball (only the 'flippers') and
second, of course, were the 'flippers' themselves (a
"premonition" of things to come). This game was a novel
historical piece and would make a fine addition to any early
Other pins at the 1983 Fun Fair, which were not at this
year's show, included Bally BONUS, a 1936 payout; Genco's MONTE
CARLO, which was mentioned earlier; and a game called ZIG ZAG.
This later machine is another 'mystery' game as it appeared not
to have any manufacturer's name on it, and I can find no
reference to it. It was a medium size, all mechanical 'pin and
ball game' with a playfield painted mostly green. A legend at
the bottom of the playfield proclaimed "Not A Gambling Device."
The date was probably 3932 (or early 1933 at the latest).
This concludes my description of the pinball games which
were offered for sale at the 1984 Fun Fair, as well as a look
back to the 1983 show. The price range appeared to fall into two
groups; those with asking prices around $300, and those with
price tags of $1000 or more. There were also a few smaller
machines in the $100-$200 price range. Since prices of pingames
have not really stabilized, its hard to say what is a fair price,
but the old law of "supply and demand" should eventually
establish pin prices at whatever the average collector is willing
to pay. After all, that's really what determines prices of
anything, especially antique items. So for now we'll have to
wait and see what 'pin games appear at next year's show.