MULTIPLE COIN PINBALL MACHINES
by Russ Jensen
When the pinball industry began in the early Thirties the main
competition to the fledgling pinball machines were the three reel
slot machines, commonly referred to as "bell machines". Slot
machines were still legal in many areas of the country at that time
and were a major product of the coin machine industry.
Slot machine players deposited many coins in a relatively
short period of time as opposed to pinball in which a game of 5 or
10 balls - at a penny or nickel a game - lasted a minute or two.
The introduction of electricity (first from batteries and then
A.C.) into pinball during the 1934-1936 period made possible a new
concept in pinball design, the "multiple coin" pinball. In this
type of pingame the player could deposit more than one coin (if
desired) before starting the game to increase his chances of
winning. In addition, in most of these games, the number of balls
per game was decreased to one and these games were soon referred to
as "one-ball machines".
MULTIPLE COIN POPULAR
Two elements - the increase in the number of coins played per
game, and the reduction in the number of balls from five or ten to
one - made the operator's earnings from the new type of pingame
more comparable to those from the bell slot machine. (Note: Some
one-ball payout pinball games were made with single coin operation
before the introduction of multiple coin games.)
Early in 1936 D. Gottlieb and Co. introduced a game called
DAILY RACES which was to set the pattern for almost all one-ball
multiple coin machines for the next fifteen years. (It's
interesting to note that Gottlieb used the name DAILY RACES again
on their last one-ball machine in the early 1947.)
The 1936 DAILY RACES had it's playfield divided into three
sections labeled WIN (near the bottom), PLACE (in the center), and
at the top SHOW. Each of these sections contained 8 consecutively
numbered holes. The backglass had lighted panels corresponding to
each of these numbers, and additional panels to indicate the "odds"
to be won by matching a number in each of the three sections of the
playfield. In order to "win", a player had to get his one ball
into a hole whose corresponding number on the backglass was lit.
If he succeeded, he would win whatever the lit odds were for
the section of the playfield (WIN, PLACE, or SHOW) in which his
ball landed. Since the chance of the ball reaching the lower
sections of the playfield (without dropping into a hole) were less
than it going into one of the top holes, the odds for WIN were
highest, PLACE a little lower, and SHOW the lowest.
In most of the early games of this type the first coin
deposited would light number '1' and select a set of odds.
Additional coins could then be deposited to light additional
numbers (generally in order) and to possibly advance the odds. A
player could therefore cause all the numbers (generally referred to
as "Selections") to be winners but could still "lose" if his
"winnings" were less than the number on coins initially deposited.
Shortly after DAILY RACES, Bally - who was to become the major
producer of multiple coin machines - introduced their first multi-
section playfield game, HIALEAH. By the end of 1936, a fourth
section (usually called PURSE) was added at the top of the field,
and most one-ball machines from then on had four-section
The years between 1936 and the start of World War II saw much
advance in the technical development of these machine, but the
playfields and backglasses (except for getting taller) changed very
little. Most of these machines had a horse race motif with the
"numbers" ('1' through '7' on most machines) corresponding to horse
"selections" in a race, and the "odds" displayed on the backboard
corresponding to the "winnings" on the horse - depending on where
it placed in the race - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. (NOTE: some games
of this type had other themes such as baseball, and Gottlieb's
DOUBLE FEATURE in 1937 had a motion picture Academy Awards theme).
One significant change made in the operation of these machines
was a change in what each additional coin would do. Instead of
each coin lighting one additional selection, later one-balls
offered a random selection or selections with each additional coin
- from one to possibly all selections could be lit with each coin
In addition to extra coins lighting additional numbers (or
'features' in later machines), many of the later pre-war and early
post-war machines had a "multiplier" feature. The depositing of
the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th coins would light "multipliers" on the
backglass which indicated that the payoff for achieving a "win"
would be multiplied by the numbers of coins inserted (up to 4). If
more than four coins were deposited the "multiplier" would remain
at four. These machines came to be know as "One-ball Multiples"
within the industry.
The physical appearance of one-ball machines, while generally
similar to other pinball games, differed mainly in their massive
cabinets. Instead of individual legs, many one-balls had the front
and back of the cabinet touching the floor. The artwork on the
cabinets (as well as the backglass and playfield) were usually
based on horse racing scenes. The names of most of these games
were those of famous racehorses, racetracks, or other "racy" terms.
During World War II production of all pingames was, of course,
banned. Conversions of older one-balls, like amusement pinballs,
did occur frequently during the war however. When the war ended
Bally celebrated the event by coming out with their first new
pingames, a pair of one-balls called VICTORY SPECIAL and VICTORY
DERBY. These two games were virtually identical except that the
former indicated "awards" as replays, with the latter paying off
directly in coins.
This idea of "replay/payout pairs" became pretty much standard
with Bally after the war. The names of both games of a "pair" were
usually quite similar, with the word SPECIAL in a name usually
signifying a "replay" model. Other examples of such pairs were:
BALLY ENTRY / SPECIAL ENTRY, and JOCKEY CLUB / JOCKEY SPECIAL.
From the end of World War II to the end of the "one-ball era"
(1951), several "come-on" features were added to these games. One
of these new ways to attract players was generally referred to as
a "spell name feature". When this feature was incorporated into a
game two additional holes (often labeled simply "L" and "R" for
"left" and "right", or occasionally by some "horsey" name such as
"boot" and "saddle") were added at the extreme bottom of the
playfield. Two corresponding lights were found on the backglass
which lit at random intervals (called "Mystery Intervals" by the
manufacturers) upon insertion of additional coins.
If a player succeeded in getting a ball in one of these holes,
when the corresponding light was lit, a small number of replays
were awarded. In addition, the next letter of the name of the game
on the backglass would light up and remain lit from game to game.
When the final letter of the name was eventually lit, a large
number of replays would be awarded (or in the case of a few games
all seven selections would light for the next game) and the name
lights reset to a predetermined minimum number of letters.
Another popular feature which was added to many post-war one-
balls was the so-called "A-B-C-D Feature". Four standard pinball
bumpers (or in a few cases extra holes) were added to the playfield
and labeled 'A', 'B', 'C', and 'D'. These bumpers would each light
when lit in sequence and remain lit from game to game. When the
"D" bumper was finally hit, the next coin deposited would turn on
some special feature such as lighting all of the seven "selections"
on the backglass for the next game. At the start of the next game
these bumpers would be reset to their unlit condition.
One of the most widely used "come-on" features on one-ball
games was simply called "Feature" (standing for, I believe,
"Feature Race"). A hole bearing that label was placed at the
extreme bottom of the playfield, but just slightly above the "L"
and "R" holes making it even harder to get a ball to land in. A
lighted panel on the backglass, also labeled "FEATURE", would flash
on and off as coins were deposited. This light would rarely
(usually once for each 400 coins deposited) remain lit. If it did,
and a player succeeded in getting his ball into the "Feature" hole,
a special payoff would be made.
There were two common types of payoffs associated with the
"Feature", "direct" and "build-up". If the game was designed or
set (many machines had an operator option as to which type of
payoff a game would use) for a "direct" payoff a large number of
replays (or coins if it was a coin payout machine) would be given.
The usual amounts of these payoffs were between 40 and 320 in
multiples of forty. If the machine was set for "build-up" payoffs
the scheme was somewhat different. A feature build-up award was
indicated somewhere on the backboard, such as by using lighted
numbers, a projected number, or, as in the later machines, a number
shown in a window much the same as the free game window in most
This number started off at a minimum value (usually '1') and
would be incremented at 'mystery intervals" as coins were
deposited. The number shown generally represented the feature
payoff in dollars which would be awarded to a player successfully
landing in the feature hole when the feature light was lit. If a
player succeeded in doing this he would have to call the location
owner over to the machine, show him he had made the feature, and be
paid off by him directly in cash, the amount of dollars indicated
on the backboard. The next coin deposited (or the depression of a
button underneath the cabinet by the location man) would reset the
award number to it's minimum value and the whole process would be
Designers of these games incorporated these "come-on
features", which remained "on" from game to game, to tempt either
the current player, or one who just happened to be walking by the
machine; after all, the potential special condition was "only a few