PINGAMES AT THE 1982 LOOSE CHANGE FUN FAIR
By Russ Jensen
The 1982 edition of the annual Loose Change Fun Fair was held on September 25th and 26th in Pasadena, California. From the standpoint of early pinball this was probably the best Fun Fair yet, boasting some twelve early (pre-1960) pingames. This may be indicative of an increased interest in pinball machines among coin-op collectors, but only time will tell.
Asking prices for these games ranged from $350 to $900, plus one a great deal higher. I, personally, know of only one of these machines actually being sold, although at least one collector I know of is considering making an offer on one game to one of the sellers at a later time.
In addition to these early machines, four or five late mode1 (1970s) solid-state machines were also offered for sale. This article, however, will deal only with the early games, each being described briefly in chronological order of their dates of manufacture.
The earliest pingame to be offered was DUTCH POOL, manufactured by ABT Manufacturing Co. in 1931. An early advertisement for this game appeared in the September, 1931 issue of Automatic Age, and it was one of the first pingames to be advertised in that trade publication. This machine was indeed one of the pioneer pingames and boasted a beautifully carved wood cabinet simulating an antique pool table. This game was a simple "pin and ball" game but extremely well constructed and appointed. The game was a counter top-model with short legs to further simulate a pool table design.
The small counter top game, ROLLET, is probably more properly classified as a trade stimulator than a pingame, but bears some resemblance to the pinball format. This machine was sort of a combination of pinball, roulette, and slot machine.
The player shot balls with a pinball type plunger that entered a circular playfield with holes around its periphery, as on a roulette wheel. Each hole was labeled with a slot machine type symbol. The object of the game was to get balls to land in holes corresponding to winning combinations of symbols shown on a slot machine type award card below the playfield.
ROL-LET was manufactured by the ABT Manufacturing Co. in the early 'thirties'. Bally also made a game with the same format in 1933 called SKIPPER, not to be confused with the later game by that name, which was actually a payout version of the first game to have bumpers, Bally BUMPER.
The third game in the chronology of pingames was a square counter top-game called JOYBALL. This game was advertised in July of 1932 by the Supreme Vending Company, Inc. (probably not the manufacturer). Like the other square machines of this period, it had a circular playfield dotted with metal pins and containing scoring holes. These games were probably not very exciting to play, but I would consider them a novelty among pinball collectibles due to their uncommon cabinet and playfield shapes.
As some of you may remember, Rockola's game, WORLD SERIES, was present at last year's show. Well, this year another of David Rockola's mechanical marvels, JIGSAW, appeared. This game has to be considered one of the most collectible of the pingames of the early 'thirties'. Appearing on the market late in 1933, this game not only tried to capitalize on the jigsaw puzzle craze that was sweeping the country in the early years of the depression, but also exploited a most popular event of 1933, the Chicago World's Fair.
The game featured an actual jigsaw puzzle below the playing area. The playfield contained an array of holes that, when a ball dropped into one of them, would mechanically cause one or more pieces of the puzzle to be flipped over displaying part of a picture. If a player succeeded in completing the puzzle, which was extremely difficult to do, the complete picture revealed a pictorial map of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. The Fair's popular theme, "A Century of Progress," was also displayed below the puzzle area
This machine was beautifully constructed and has superb graphics. It must be considered one of the best of the purely mechanical pingames of the early 'thirties'.
As was true of several of the large slot machine manufacturers of the 'thirties, the O.D. Jennings Company delved into pingame manufacturing in the mid-thirties. Probably the most popular of all Jennings pinballs was an automatic payout machine and was electrically operated, either by batteries or AC. (house current) if desired.
The theme of the game was hunting. The beautiful playfield graphics are well described in one of the advertisements for this game, which boasted, ďA gorgeous, colorful, painting of the out-of-doors; a thrilling picture of a hunter's paradise showing beautiful birds, dogs, and fowl in their brilliant original colors" The numerous holes on the playfield represented various birds, fowl and rabbits. The payout combinations were obtained by shooting balls into holes representing two or more targets of the same species.
This game was also beautifully constructed and certainly one of the better examples of early payout pinballs The game was so popular, in fact, that later Jennings came out with two updated versions with lighted back-glasses HUNTER in 1935 and SPORTSMAN DELUXE in 1937.
The Daval Manufacturing Company of Chicago, probably best known for its line of trade stimulators, also got into pinball. Their game, SPOT LITE, released around May of 1935, was one of the early games to have a small lighted backboard. Daval bosted of this in their advertisement for this machine as, "the world's first zig-zag, flicker-flash lights." A picture of this ad can be seen on page 45 of Roger Sharpe's book Pinball. Further mention was made of these lights as "lighting the way to bigger and better profits"
The game had pins, holes, and two kicker cannons, which could shoot a ball up toward the top of the playfield. This game also featured an out ball return hole. The lighted backboard was not a score totalizer, as in later games, but merely indicated into which playfield holes balls had been placed.
Genco's SPIT-FIRE, of 1935, was a typical electric action game of this period. The game utilized several ball kicking tunnels to propel balls caught by them to different areas of the playfield. The name also referred to the use of flashing red lights accompanying each of these actions. The machine offered at the Fun Fair' was in good condition. The playfield graphics and metal appointments were quite eye-atching. All in all, this is a desirable machine typical of action games of that era of pinball history.
During the mid 'thirties' Bally came out with a series of 1-ball automatic payout pinballs, one of the best known being JUMBO appearing in the fall of 1935. In all of these games every scoring hole on the playfield awarded a payout of from 10 cents to one or two dollars, the value in cents being the score value marked next to each hole. This meant that if a player succeeded in getting a ball into any of these holes he would have made a profit! For this reason these games were skillfully studded with pins and springs by the manufacturer such that a majority of a players' balls ended up in the out hole at the bottom of the playfield
Bally BONUS which was displayed at the show, boasted of an out hole bonus giving the player a possibility of winning something even if his ball went into the dreaded out hole. The value of this bonus (which, of course, would many times be zero) was displayed by a dial at the lower corner of the playfield area
One of the most popular formats for payout pinballs from the mid 1930s until the early 'fifties' was the one-ball horserace game. These games, typically, had a playfield divided into four groups of holes (usually labeled Win, Place, Show, and Purse) with the holes in each group numbered from 1 to 7. Upon depositing a coin, lighted panels indicating these seven numbers would flash and finally one (or occasionally more) of the panels would remain lit.
The object of the game was to get your ball into a hole corresponding to this lighted number. If you succeeded, you would receive a payout, the amount of which depended into which of the four sections of the playfield you matched the number. The amount of the potential payouts were indicated by an odds panel of lights, which would also light up with each coin.
Most of the games of this format had a horse racing theme, the seven numbers representing seven horses (selections) in a race, and the four playfield sections representing the finishing position of that horse. A few games of this format were made using other themes, however Gottlieb's MISS AMERICA, which was for sale, was one of these using, a beauty contest theme with the seven numbers representing seven contestants and the four playfield sections representing Winner, Runner Up, 3rd Choice, and 4th Choice. The game was in excellent operating condition and was constantly being played.
In my personal opinion, the hit of the show was Genco's CADILLAC. This 1940 model was in almost mint condition, its condition rivaled only by one other superbly restored machine. The art-deco playfield graphics and the spring bumpers with their shinning plastic caps visually left nothing to be desired. Especially attractive was the integration of the playfield art with the written indications on the playfield of the various scoring features of the game ("Special When Lit," etc.)
The game was also intriguing to play and was constantly in use until it was sold and subsequently removed from the hall. It was, in fact, the only one of the games mentioned in this article that was sold that I know of, despite its rather high asking price. But it was probably worth it considering the game's condition, playability, and beauty. The machine had been restored by Alan Tarsky
Rivaling CADILLAC for most mint machine was Mills' SPINNING REELS which had been flawlessly restored by Greg Falletich of Westminster, California. This machine looked like it had just come from the factory, including its gleaming stainless steel playfield.
SPINNING REELS was essentially a 1940 remake of Mills extremely popular ONE-TWO-THREE, which was originally released in 1938 but continued in production for several years. The format of both games was the same. Behind the backglass were three slot machine type reels that could advance only one symbol at a time, the symbols appearing through windows in the painted backglass.
The playfield contained three groups of four bumpers each, one group corresponding to each of the three reels. Balls striking the bumpers would cause the associated reel to advance one step for each hit. At the conclusion of the game a possible payout would occur based on the final symbol combination appearing on the backboard reels. The winning combinations were indicated by a simulated award card, which was part of the backglass artwork.
The final game in the chronology of early pingames was Bally's DUDE RANCH. This was, by the way, the only pingame of the 'fifties' ever to be offered at any of the Fun Fairs. This machine was one of the special type of pinball games commonly referred to as "in-line" or "bingo" machines, the primary object of the game being to light three to five numbers in a line on a simulated bingo card(s) on the backglass.
The bingo pinball was the successor to the one-ball horserace pingames previously described. They were developed due to restrictive legislation that made legal one-ball distribution and sales almost impossible. During the mid 'fifties' these machines were quite popular in many areas of the country, but additional legal action since that time has virtually eliminated bingo pinball from the land.
DUDE RANCH was typical of the bingo machines of the mid-fifties' and was in very good condition. Unfortunately, this machine had suffered damage to its electrical cord during shipment and could not be operated, thus depriving potential customers of the opportunity to play one of these fascinating games.
This concludes the description of the variety of early pingames offered at the 1982 Fun Fair. It is hoped that the trend of increased pingame availability at future coin-op collectibles shows will continue, thus acquainting more collectors with "the wonderful world of collectible pinballs"
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