PINGAMES AT THE 1988 FUN FAIR
- A Variety -
by Russ Jensen
photos by Sam Harvey
The 10th edition of the Loose Change Fun Fair was again held
at the Pasadena Exhibit Center in Pasadena, California, the
weekend of the 1st and 2nd of October. There were a large number
of visitors as well as exhibitors, the exhibit area even
extending into the seating area for the snack bar.
There were also a large number of pinball games at the show,
both old and modern. I counted approximately 37 pins, including
two FIREBALLs. A majority of the games were owned by three
dealers, the rest scattered throughout the other booths.
This year, rather than describing, and showing pictures of
all the games (the pictures alone would take up more space than
this article is allotted) I have decided to emphasize the large
variety of pingames at the show, including some of their
historical significance, and occasional tidbits of pinball
trivia. I will, however, list all the games (in chronological
order) at the end of this article so you will know exactly what
KOW TOW - Probably the earliest game at the show was a coin-
operated "bagatelle type" game called KOW TOW, produced in early
1932 by Bay City Games of Bay City, Michigan. In a manner of
speaking this game was not actually "at the show" as it was
purchased by my good friend Richard Conger before the doors were
opened to the general public; he being one of those who paid a
"bonus" to be admitted during the exhibit "set-up time" on Friday
night and Saturday morning. The story of how Richard came to
purchase this game is kind of interesting.
He went to the "set-up" on Friday night and noticed an
unusual game, but did not buy it at that time. Early Saturday
morning he came up to my place to pick up a game I had found for
him and told me of this game he had seen which used a "cue stick"
to shoot the balls, but was also coin operated.
His description set off something in my head and I said
"there's a game just like that shown in Dick Bueschel's new
pinball book". I then got the book and sure enough Richard said
"that's the same game". A few minutes later he left in a hurry
to get back before the show opened to the public to buy KOW TOW.
For those of you fortunate enough to own that great book, this
game is shown and described on page 156.
This unusual and rare little game was one of the few early
pins to use a cue stick to shoot the balls, like pinball's early
non coin-operated ancestor, the game of "Bagatelle". Surviving
KOW TOWs seem to be quite scarce as Dick Bueschel states that
only 2 or 3 are known to currently exist. Other than it's method
of shooting the balls, the playfield characteristics are quite
similar to the other "pin and ball" games prevalent in the
pioneer year of 1932.
For more information on this game and it's history I suggest
reading the write-up on it in Dick's book. By the way, I believe
this is the rarest pinball game ever to be sold at a Loose Change
ACES HIGH AND MERRY-GO-ROUND - two other interesting early
games on display were ACES HIGH whose maker I have not been able
to determine, and MERRY-GO-ROUND, made by the ABT Manufacturing
Company, both having a similar playfield format. In both of
these games balls were shot onto a circular playing area with
holes around it's periphery. The playing area of the field was
sloped such that each ball would eventually end up in one of the
holes. These games may not be "pingames" in every sense of the
word (no "pins", for instance); maybe they're more close to being
Trade Stimulators, but their use of a plunger to propel the balls
is enough for me to loosely classify them as pingames.
ACES HIGH had a Poker theme with 4 holes each for 10, Jack,
Queen, King, and Ace. The player apparently shot five balls and
tried to form a "poker hand" from the holes in which they landed.
This was a fairly simple, but well-built, counter-top game.
MERRY-GO-ROUND, on the other hand, had it's holes labeled
with the traditional slot machine symbols (bars, bells, and fruit
symbols). The player apparently shot 3 balls trying to form a
"winning combination" as indicated on the slot machine type
"award card" near the lower end of the game. This game was quite
similar to Bally's SKIPPER from 1933 (not to be confused with the
Ballygame of the same name coming out in early 1937).
GOOFY - Bally's GOOFY from 1932 was a very colorful game
indeed! The name probably came from the fact that the playfield
design was radically different from the common simple "pin and
ball" games of that time. The ball, when shot, would circle the
playfield before starting down the field, an idea which was used
on several other games in the early Thirties, and even one or two
in the late Forties and early Fifties.
The "novelty" and "color" of GOOFY was emphasized in the
advertisements for it which appeared in the coin-machine trade
publications. The following is excerpted from an ad for the game
appearing in the September 24, 1932 issue of Billboard:
A GOLD MINE FOR PROFIT - Already the operators who
placed the first few thousand GOOFY machines on
location are burning up the wires with rush orders for
additional machines. They are amazed at the big
profits that they are hauling out of GOOFY. You'll
understand why GOOFY gets the play and holds it after
you've seen this dizzy, dazzling, different game.
Loaded down with new and spectacular ideas . . .
Colorful and flashy and fast as a sky-full of fireworks
on the Fourth Of July GOOFY challenges the skill of the
player . . . Delivers a dozen dynamic thrills with
every shot . . . And piles up profits for the
operator! Put GOOFY on your locations and watch people
pour money into it. Write or wire for complete
details. And do it now . . . So you can start cashing
in on this great, goat-getting GOOFY game. Better
still, hustle down to your jobber. He has GOOFY ready
for you now. Hurry and "get yours while the getting is
So, as you can see, Bally's GOOFY was quite advanced for
it's time, both in it's artistic and play features.
T-N-T - By 1935 the Rockola manufacturing company, which was
well-known as a jukebox manufacturer, was also into the pingame
business. In fact, in that same year they hired a budding young
pingame designer, Mr. Harry Williams, to head their design team.
Whether or not Harry worked on T-N-T I don't know, but it
certainly appears to be an "action-packed" game, the kind that
Harry really enjoyed designing.
The game was very well-built, as were all Rockola's
products, and featured colors on the playfield besides. All in
all a fine addition to the Rockola "pingame stable" during the
very productive year of 1935.
SINK THE JAPS - Shortly after America's entry into World War
II, production of "non-essential" items, such as amusement
machines, was curtailed so that materials needed to produce war-
related products could be conserved to enhance "war production".
game factories also turned to "war work" to do their part in
America's "all out effort".
Even though new pingames could not be produced at that time
the demand for them increased, those games being a popular
diversion for the many military men stationed and trained at
bases throughout the country. In order to keep up with this
demand, enterprising individuals and small companies started
"converting" pre-war pingames into different games, even though
in some cases only superficiality.
These "Wartime Conversions", as they came to be known, were
of two general types. In some cases, typified by games converted
by Harry Williams' and Lyn Durrant's new United Manufacturing
Company, the old games were completely dismantled and the parts
and cabinets re-used to produce the "new game". Most
conversions, however, were of a much simpler type with the
original configuration remaining intact and only new backglasses
(with a new name and theme, of course), instruction cards, and
many times new bumper caps being substituted.
A "conversion" of the latter type was shown at this year's
Fun Fair, a real "first" for this show as this type of game is
quite rare today, to say the least. This game was called SINK
THE JAPS, which was converted from Genco's 1941 pingame, SEVEN
UP. The circle of numbers on the original glass was replaced by
caricatures of Japanese military men, the scoring numbers being
now indicated as representations of Japanese ships and aircraft.
This backglass, by the way, was in "mint condition".
The new bumper caps provided with SINK THE JAPS also had the
caricatures of Japanese military. The caps, however, were
removed from the game at the show to keep them from getting lost;
as the game, for some reason, had no top glass. So, for the
first time in 10 years of Loose Change Fun Fairs, a "Wartime
Conversion" pingame was shown.
OSCAR - One of the pingame manufacturers which got their
start making "conversions" during the war was an outfit calling
itself Marvel. Their first "conversion" was called BASEBALL and
was put on the market late in 1944. They made four more games
between that time and August of 1946, the advertising for which
indicated that they were also "conversions". Their first game
not to be indicated as such was OPPORTUNITY in October of that
same year. After that they produced at least 7 more games until
they apparently folded sometime in 1948.
Marvel's OSCAR, from October of 1947, was at the show this
year and was in excellent condition. But, I had seen that game
before! Over a year ago, at Pinball Expo '87 in Chicago, I was
approached by game dealer and collector Alan Sax who told me he
had a very nice old pin for sale. Not being able to buy another
game (my game room and garage were already over-crowded) I told
others at the show about what I thought was a good buy.
And sure enough, Arizona collector (and publisher of the
very amusing pinball and jukebox satire magazine, Flashback)
Leroy Harris said he was interested in seeing it. So Leroy,
Alan, and myself (armed with Sam Harvey's trusty camera) went to
Alan's warehouse to see the game, which Leroy purchased.
Incidentally, the photographs of this game shown with this
article were taken by "yours truly" and, believe it or not,
turned out OK in spite of my usually poor photographic skills
(well, it had to be Sam's camera, it certainly couldn't have been
As you can plainly see, OSCAR appears to be an interesting
game of the post-war, pre-flipper era, complete with "kickout
holes" and many of the diamond shaped bumpers which only appeared
for a period of a year or so in the late 1940's. Incidentally,
OSCAR was also purchased at the Fun Fair by Richard Conger and
will be another prime piece in his extensive collection.
"400" - Since the beginning of the Fun Fairs in 1979
pingames from the 1950's (referred to by many as "Pinball's
Golden Age") have been quite rare at these shows. This year was
no exception as the closest thing to a Fifties pin that could be
found was an "upright" game by Genco from 1952 called simply
Genco, founded by the Gensberg brothers in the early 1930's,
was one of the major manufacturers of amusement pinballs
throughout the Thirties and Forties; making almost exclusively
"amusement type" pins; while most of the other manufacturers of
the 1930's turned out both "amusement" and "gambling" models.
With a few minor exceptions, it wasn't until the early Fifties
that Genco tried their hand at "gambling type machines".
In the period between October 1952 and April 1954 Genco
produced four "upright" games, "400" being the first of this
series. The other games in the series were JUMPING JACK, GOLDEN
NUGGET, and SILVER CHEST. In all of these games the balls were
shot upward onto a vertical playfield, would fall toward the
bottom of the field (through a field of pins which changed their
path) and ended up in one of the "scoring channels" at the bottom
of the playfield.
"400" had two groups of six channels at the bottom of it's
playfield, one colored orange and the other blue. The object of
the game was to line up balls in one of these groups in a row
from left to right. If you succeeded in filling up the first
three channels in either group you would be awarded 3 "credits".
Four in a row would get you 7, five got 12; and if you were lucky
enough to fill up all six channels in a group you would receive
The "credits" the player won were indicated by a three digit
counter in the center of the playfield area. These "credits"
could be used to play "free games", but I would imagine that in
many (if not most) locations cash awards were given and the
"credits" erased as was done with most of the "bingo pinballs"
which were popular during this period. In fact, I guess you
could say that these games were "Genco's answer to the bingo".
Incidentally, this was not the first time that Genco
produced a game such as this. In 1946 they came out with a small
counter-top game called WHIZZ with a similar format. This game
also had a vertical field with 10 channels at the bottom numbered
1 - 10. In order to win the player had to get balls in from 4,
to all 10, consecutive channels. WHIZZ had pinball-like scoring
panels on it's glass in units of 1000. Each 1000 points was
equivalent to one "replay". Scoring a winning combination
resulted in 1 to 20 thousand being scored (depending on how many
consecutive channels were filled) which represented 1 to 20
"replays". The machine could then be played for "free", each
game played resulting in 1000 points being subtracted from the
A friend of mine several years ago gave me a WHIZZ to repair
and I really enjoyed playing it for hours on end after I got it
going. It was really a challenging little game. Incidentally,
in case you're wondering, more than one ball can fall into any
channel which is usually the case, thus making it more difficult
to complete a long sequence of numbers. Most of these games, I
believe, gave the player 10 balls for a nickel.
As a sidelight to the story of the Genco "uprights" of the
early Fifties, let me say a little about Genco's last pinballs.
the last true Genco pin made before the "uprights" just
described appears to be SPRINGTIME, coming out early in 1952.
After that year the only Genco pinball that appears in any list
of games was a game called SHOW BOAT, listed in Pinball Reference
Guide as coming out in December of 1957. Incidentally, I
recently discovered that a picture of that game appears in the
"color section" of Steve kirk and Bobbie Natkin's book "All About
There was, however, at least one other pingame made bearing
the Genco name which apparently came out sometime in the late
1950's. I first saw one of these games operated in an arcade in
Thousand Oaks, California back in the mid 1970's; a "woodrail"
amongst a room of current 70's pinballs! I remembered that the
game had the appearance of a pinball from the late Fifties, which
seemed unusual to me at the time since I had never seen a Genco
of that late a vintage. I could never exactly remember it's
name, but did remember it having a "shooting gallery" theme.
Well, in October, during a visit with pinball collector Stan
Muraski in Rockford Illinois, I again saw this game among Stan's
exquisite collection of prime pingames. The name of the game
was, of all things, FUN FAIR (a very rare game indeed!), so I
thought a mention of it here would be appropriate. As of yet,
however, I do not know it's exact date of manufacture. Can
LAGUNA BEACH - Although a few "bingo pinballs" have appeared
at past shows, this year was the first time for one of the "OK"
variety. For a detailed description of the characteristics of
such games I refer you to my past article "Bally's Bikini, It's
'OK'" in the Fall 1987 issue of Coin Slot.
The "OK game" at this year's show was Bally's LAGUNA BEACH
from early 1960. I used to think that this was the first "OK"
but I was later corrected, being told that it was preceded by
COUNTY FAIR in late 1959.
The LAGUNA BEACH at the Fun Fair was in almost "mint"
condition, and was displayed by a dealer from Las Vegas. This
machine, as with probably all "bingos" operated in Nevada, was
converted to a "coin payout" by the addition of a bottom cabinet
section replacing the original legs of the game. It is my belief
that there were no bingo pinballs equipped for coin payout during
manufacture, probably because the "payout one-balls" (the
predecessor of the "bingos") were "outlawed" primarily for that
Anyway, I was glad to see one of my favorite type of "bingo
pinball" (the "OK" machine) at the show. Maybe there will be
more at future shows.
RACK-A-BALL - Pins from the early 1960's have also been
fairly rare at past Fun Fairs, but this year there were four of
these "classics". A fine example of such a game which was
displayed this year was Gottlieb's RACK-A-BALL from 1962. This
was one of the many "pool theme" pingames that have appeared in
every decade since the 1930's. In the Thirties, for example,
there were such games as Gottlieb's KELLY POOL in 1935 and
Bally's POCKETS in 1936. In the Forties we had Gottlieb's SPOT
POOL in 1941. Examples of Fifties "pool pins" included
Gottlieb's BANK-A- BALL in 1950 and SKILL POOL in 1952, plus
Williams' EIGHT BALL in 1952 and SPOT POOL in 1959.
In the 1960's (besides RACK-A-BALL) we had Gottlieb's BANK-
A- BALL from 1965, as well as Williams' SKILL POOL in 1963 and
MISS-O (and it's 2 player version EIGHT BALL) in 1966. The
1970's brought us Williams' SOLIDS AND STRIPES and Chicago Coin's
HI-SCORE POOL (to be described later) both from 1971. Then came
the solid-state era with Bally's pioneer electronic game EIGHT
BALL in 1977 as well as Gottlieb's PINBALL POOL in 1979. The
current decade has had both Bally's EIGHT BALL DELUXE from 1981
and EIGHT BALL CHAMP in 1985, as well as Gottlieb's RACK 'EM UP
As you can plainly see, the game of pool was indeed a very
popular theme throughout pinball's history. I'm sure you've also
noticed that the names of these games, with the exception of
MISS- O (I really don't know where that name came from), are very
similar, many being identical. One reason for the popularity of
pool as a pinball theme was probably that pinball machines were
often found in locations were pool was played. Another reason
was probably that the numbered balls used in pool lent themselves
quite well to the "number sequences" which were a popular
"scoring objective" in pinball over the years.
RACK-A-BALL was certainly a fine example of the pool theme
games. The artwork on both the backglass and playfield featured
several female pool players which was typical of most of the
"pool pinballs" made since the 1940's. This game featured a form
of "mechanical animation" in it's backboard with it's "rack of
balls" behind the backglass, an idea used on several games in the
Sixties. The game at the show was in excellent condition and
certainly a very collectable pingame of the period.
CAPERSVILLE - Bally's CAPERSVILLE from 1966 was somewhat
typical of Ballypins of the mid 1960's. The artwork on the
backglass was of a "modernistic" style with very angular
depictions of human figures. The game's asymmetric playfield
design was also characteristic of Bally designs of the period,
and featured several of the "mushroom bumpers", a Bally
innovation of that decade. While this game was probably "nothing
special", it does serve to illustrate the wide variety of
pingames available at this year's show.
HI-SCORE POOL - Chicago Coin's HI-SCORE POOL of 1971 was
certainly an unusual game, as well as being another of the "pool
theme" games described earlier (also note the female pool player
on the backglass). Two unusual features of this game were it's
"turret shooter" and the fact that the ball, after being shot,
was hidden from the player's view part of the time.
The "turret shooter" (a constantly moving device which
launched the ball onto the playfield whenever the player pressed
a button) was not new to this game. To the best of my knowledge
it was first used on several Gottlieb games in the early 1950's,
games such as SELECT-A-CARD and JUST 21 in 1950. Williams also
used "turret shooters" on three of their "horserace" games which
will be discussed shortly.
HI-SCORE POOL'S unusual playfield had replicas of the
fifteen standard pool balls mounted on it's upper panel. The
scoring switches for these balls were hidden from the player's
view, with arrows indicating to the player in which direction to
aim to "hit" certain combinations of the numbered balls.
The player used the "pointer" arrow on the "turret shooter",
and the arrows painted on the playfield, to determine when to
press the button to release each ball. After the ball was shot
it disappeared beneath the top panel, "hitting" various "pool
balls", and then re-appeared. The player could then use the
flippers to try to "hit" additional "balls". Two "slingshot
kickers" at the bottom of the playfield also aided the player in
hitting more balls.
This indeed was an unusual game and certainly added to the
wide variety of games shown at the Fun Fair this year.
WINNER - Of the several games from the early 1970's at this
year's show I have chosen Williams' WINNER from 1972 to again
emphasize "variety". WINNER was the last of a series of
"horserace theme" pinballs produced by Williams beginning with
HAYBURNERS in 1951.
Other games in that series included two NAGS (1951 and
1960), SPARK PLUGS (1951), HORSEFEATHERS and HANDICAP (1952),
DAFFY DERBY (1954), TURF CHAMPS (1958), DERBY DAY (1967), and
HAYBURNERS II (1968).
All of these games were very well described and pictured in
an article titled "Playin' The Ponies" by Dennis Dodel, published
in the July/August 1987 issue of Dennis' fine pinball
publication, Pinball Trader. Each of these games had a
mechanically animated "horse running unit", usually located in
the game's backbox. TURF CHAMPS had it's horse unit in the
center of the playfield, and WINNER's was located below the
playing surface, covered by a plexiglass sheet.
Dennis mentioned in his article that WINNER, as well as the
two previous Williams "horse games", were designed by veteran
pinball designer Steve Kordek. Steve has been in the industry
for over 50 years, starting with Genco in 1937. He has been with
Williams since 1960 and is currently Vice President of Game
Design. Steve is a wonderful fellow and has participated now in
all four Pinball Expos, and has won the hearts of all who attend
Dennis Dodel described the operation of WINNER as follows:
The last of the horse race games and also one of the
strangest. Steve Kordek placed the horse running unit
under the playfield this time. The entire playfield is
covered with a plexiglass sheet to allow viewing of the
horses underneath. Mr. Kordek is fond of saying that
all WINNER playfields are in as good of shape today as
when they were built in 1972. If you own one, you know
this is true. To allow space for the horse running
unit, most mechanical parts are located in the head with
a swing open door reminiscent of the bingo games. The
WINNER has the same oscillating ball shooter as DERBY
DAY and HAYBURNERS II. A randomly selected horse is lit
at the start of the game and each horse is coaxed
forward by six targets at the top of the playfield.
Hitting two targets on either side of the horse targets
lights an A-B-C and D light on the playfield which in
turn lights Specials in either side drain. Bringing in
the selected horse first awards 1 replay.
So here, as you can see, is another very interesting type of
pingame, further emphasizing the "variety" of games shown this
HAUNTED HOUSE - Even though my interest in solid-state
pinballs is "minimal", in all fairness to some of the younger
collectors (and older ones too who are fascinated by these games,
for that matter), at least one of these games should be mentioned
here. Of the 5 or 6 "digital" pins at this year's show I chose
Gottlieb's 1982 model, HAUNTED HOUSE, because of it's uniquely
different style, both in artwork and playfield design.
The "haunted house" on the backglass is certainly "eye
catching" as is the game's "multi-level" playfield. One
interesting thing about the backglass is it's lack of scoring
displays. While this is somewhat common today, in 1982 most
games still had scoring indicated on their backglasses. HAUNTED
HOUSE, by the way, was designed by former Gottlieb designer John
Osborne who has since left pinball design and now lives, and
works in another field, in Southern California.
That rounds out my coverage of the wide variety of pingames
making an appearance at the 1988 edition of the Loose Change Fun
Fair. The following is a chronological listing of all the
pinballs I saw at the show:
NAME MANUFACTURER YEAR
---------------- ------------ ----
ACES HIGH ??? 1932
BALLYHOO Bally 1932
FIVE STAR FINAL Gottlieb 1932
GOOFY Bally 1932
JIGGERS Genco 1932
KOW TOW Bay City Games 1932
MERRY-GO-ROUND Abt 1932
WOW Mills 1932
TNT Rockola 1935
SINK THE JAPS ??? 194?
OSCAR Marvel 1947
"400" Genco 1952
LAGUNA BEACH Bally 1960
RACK-A-BALL Gottlieb 1962
SKILL POOL Williams 1963
SLICK CHICK Gottlieb 1963
NORTH STAR Gottlieb 1964
CAPERSVILLE Bally 1966
SUPER SCORE Gottlieb 1967
GRIDIRON Williams 1969
MILLS 0FFICIAL (Reproduction) 197?
GALAHAD Bally 1970
HI-SCORE POOL Chicago Coin 1971
FIREBALL Bally 1972
OUTER SPACE Gottlieb 1972
SPACE TIME Bally 1972
WINNER Williams 1972
NIP-IT Bally 1973
SPANISH EYES Williams 1973
OLD CHICAGO Bally 1976
VOLLEY Gottlieb 1976
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS Gottlieb 1978
DRAGON Gottlieb 1978
STAR TREK Bally 1979
SPACE INVADERS Bally 1980
HAUNTED HOUSE Gottlieb 1982
RAPID FIRE Bally 1982
It was sure nice to see so many pingames at the show,
especially such a wide variety of types and vintages, from simple
"pin and ball" games of 1932 to the "solid-state" marvels of the
present decade. Here's hoping this trend will continue in future