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 was there.
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 Fun Fair.
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 good"!
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 me!).
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 "400".
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 20 credits!
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 player's score.
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 Pinball".
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 anyone help?
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 reason.
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 from 1983.
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 these events.
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 year.
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 shows.
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