PINGAMES AT THE 1989 FUN FAIR
- Best Showing Yet -
By Russ Jensen
Photos by Don Mueting
The 10th Anniversary edition of the Loose Change Fun Fair was again held at the Pasadena Exhibit Center in Pasadena, CA, where all but the first show (in 1979) were held. This year it was on September 30 and October 1, which just happened to coincide with Pinball Expo '89. For that reason, this was the first year I was unable to attend the Fun Fair. My friend Don Mueting, however, agreed to take pictures of the pingames at this year's show so that I could tell you readers about the pins which were present.
The 1989 Fun Fair was the largest show ever, being housed in three large rooms I am told. There was also a record number of pins there; over 50! As in past years, pingames from the decades of the 1930's and 1970's predominated (between 15 and 20 from each of those periods). The 1940's made a slightly better than average showing with 6 games, which was sort of "balanced" by the 1960's, also with 6. The important period of the 1950's (very rare at most past Fun Fairs) was represented by only two machines (plus 2 others which were not true pinballs), but they were both in from Excellent to "Near Mint" condition.
This year, like last year, boasted a wide variety of pingames, something to suit the taste of almost any pinball collector. Don Mueting provided me with so many great photos of the games there that I have decided to show as many pictures as possible this time, with a minimum of text. After all, isn't "a picture worth 1000 words"?
I have chosen a wide variety of games to show, which again will be presented in chronological order, with a short description of each game's salient features or historical highlights. Following this I will provide as complete a list as I can of all the pingames at the show, again in chronological order. So, ON WITH THE GAMES!
HIGH BALL - One of the several 1932 pins at the show was HI- BALL, put out by Peo Mfg. Corp. That game appears to me to be a "direct rip-off" of BINGO from Bingo Novelty Co, but in those days many such things happened. If you would like to make a comparison, a good picture of the latter game appears in my article in the previous issue of COIN SLOT.
WAMPUM BANK - Another 1932 vintage pin was WAMPUM BANK from Sunnisam Games Co. This typical "pin and ball game" had a very colorful playfield with an "Indian blanket" pattern. The interesting feature of this game, however, was that it had a moveable "ball rebound" (at the upper left of the top arch) the angle of which could be controlled by the player using a lever at the front of the cabinet. This allowed him to alter the angle at which the ball entered the playing area. As far as I know, this is probably the only such device ever used in the history of pinball.
WOW - Also from the 1932 era was WOW from Mills Novelty Co., the well known slot machine maker. This was one of the first pins by Mills; a simple "pin and ball" game with an eye-catching pattern of black diamonds on a yellow playfield. Mills was to continue pin making for several years to come, producing some pingames a few years later actually containing slot machine mechanisms.
UNKNOWN GAME - A very interesting pingame showed up at this year's show with a very colorful playfield. This game appeared to be identical in playfield configuration to the pioneer pingame WHIFFLE, produced in Youngstown Ohio in 1931 and 32. (For more on the story of that interesting game, see my article next time on Pinball Expo '89 and the talk by the son of one of the original designers of WHIFFLE). The game at the Fun Fair had it's playfield painted in 5 colors (red, blue, white, yellow and green) and apparently had no maker's name on it. As far as I know none of the true WHIFFLEs had colored playfields, so this was probably one of the many "rip-offs" of that classic pingame.
LOOP BALL - Another quite unique 1932 era pin (maybe more of a "trade stimulator" because it had no pins) was a counter-top game bearing the name LOOP BALL. This game employed a form of "turret shooter" (an idea picked up many years later by both Gottlieb and Williams). It used standard marbles which the player tried to shoot into scoring "lanes" at the upper end of the field. The player got 12 shots for a nickle, and a sign painted on the glass indicated "orange balls count double".
PLAY ROULETTE - Another unusual and colorful early pingame at the show was a square machine, with a multi-colored circular pin studded playfield, called PLAY ROULETTE. The manufacturer's name was National Games. An interesting feature of this game was that the ball, when shot, made a complete circle in a trough around the playfield before entering the scoring area.
5-GAME - The last of the "pin and ball games" I have shown was a small game which appeared to be a toy "bagatelle" and not coin operated nor covered by a playfield glass. The name at the top of the playfield read "5 GAME - ELECTRIC". The name appeared to imply that any of 5 different games could be played on it, the playfield graphics illustrating such sports as baseball, bowling, and golf. The use of the term "electric" appeared to be because there were 5 "light-up" scoring pockets with lights which were probably battery powered. Although this was not a coin-op pingame, I thought it was interesting to show. Even though it looks "1930-ish", toy games like this were made for many years and therefore it could have been made in the 1930's, 1940's, or even as late as the 1950's.
FIFTY GRAND - A rare and unusual pingame appeared for a short time at this year's show, but was quickly acquired by my good friend Richard Conger (in fact, I believe he purchased it during the "preview evening" before the show opened) to add to his impressive pinball collection. The manufacturer's name on the game was Automatic Games of Inglewood, CA (the town where I went to High School, incidentally). The game had a natural wood cabinet with quite ornate legs. This game's unusual light-up backboard used lighted "jewels" to indicate score of the type that were used in those days for "pilot lights" on electronic equipment. Balls landing in playfield holes simply lighted corresponding lamps in the backboard. By it's overall appearance I would estimate it's year of manufacturer to be 1935. An unusual game indeed!
TRACK MEET - A distinctive game from the 1937 era was Exhibit Supply's TRACK MEET. It had a short backboard, typical of the 1936 - 1938 period, with "light-up" scoring (there were apparently 2 separate scoring systems - "Distance" and "Time"). The advertisement for this game, appearing in BILLBOARD Magazine, boasted "10 New - Different Money Making Features". Among these were its metallic playfield (which they emphasized had "double reflecting action") and "light-up" bumper springs. Games from the 1937 - 1941 era have been fairly rare at past Fun Fairs, and this was an outstanding example of the early end of that period.
ROCKET and BALLYHOO - Passing from the pre-war to the post- war era, we next had two fine examples of Bally "amusement" pins from 1947. The first of these, ROCKET, came out around April of that year. It had an interesting depiction of a rocket ship on it's backglass. The playfield contained one of the diamond- shaped bumpers very popular at the time, as well as five "kickout holes".
BALLYHOO, which was released a couple months later, had two diamond bumpers and 7 kickout holes arranged in such a manner that the balls could be kicked from one to the other, etc. Many of you should know that this game was named after the first Bally pingame which came out in late 1931. Probably a much smaller number of people are aware that this famous name was used once more by Bally for a four-player pingame in 1969.
NIFTY - The pingames of the 1950's (referred by many as "Pinball's Golden Age") have been quite rare at past Fun Fairs. This year, however, there were two games of that decade, both in almost "mint" condition. The first was Williams' NIFTY from 1950, boasting a colorful backglass, by pinball art great George Molentin, depicting an ice-skating scene. The playfield contained two of the new "thumper bumpers", which I believe were introduced by Williams on SARATOGA late in 1948.
WONDERLAND - The other 1950's pin at this year's show was also by Williams. It was WONDERLAND, coming out in the Spring of 1955. It's beautiful George Molentin backglass depicted Lewis Carroll's famous Alice in Wonderland. Its playfield, also beautifully decorated by George's artwork, boasted three "thumper bumpers:, one "kickout hole" and a hole labeled "Skill Hole" in the center of the playfield. A ball falling into that hole would score 500,000 points, but would be lost from further play. This type of hole was frequently used on pins of the mid to late 1950's, and is often referred to by players as a "gobble hole". The WONDERLAND at the show appeared to be in almost "mint" condition.
BEAUTY CONTEST - Passing into the 1960's, we next see an interesting Bally game called BEAUTY CONTEST from early 1960. At this point in time Bally had not yet re-entered flipper game production which they quit for all practical purposes in the early Fifties, except for 3 flipper games which they came out with in 1956 and 1957. During the period between 1951 and 1963 Bally concentrated on their "bingo" pinballs and other types of coin-operated machines. BEAUTY CONTEST was the first of a series of four flipperless pingames which Bally released in 1960 which resembled flipper games, except for the absence of flippers. These games are what I refer to as the "Queen's Games" as all but this one had the word "Queens" in their name (BEAUTY QUEENS, BEACH QUEENS, and ISLAND QUEENS). These games employed point scoring as well as a number sequence (1 - 11 on BEAUTY CONTEST) each number always being represented by a beautiful girl on the backglass.
TEXAN - Gottlieb's 4-player TEXAN, also from 1960, was a good example of the multi-player pingames which originated in the mid 1950's with Gottlieb's SUPER JUMBO in late 1954. As you can see, the four player games had little room for artwork on their backglasses due to the space required for the new digital "score reels" which indicated the player's score, instead of the lighted numbered panels (which were integrated into the artwork) which were still being used for score indication on most single player games at that time. On TEXAN's playfield you will notice two of the "gobble holes" which I mentioned earlier, in addition to 2 "kickout holes", 3 "thumper bumpers", 5 standard bumpers, and a "roto-target" in the center.
KING OF DIAMONDS - Jumping ahead to 1967 we had two nice examples of the pingames from that year. KING OF DIAMONDS, coming out early in the year, was one of the many Gottlieb pingames over the years using a playing card theme; in fact some have called that company "the king of the card games". The game employed a "card sequence" (2 thru 10, J, Q, K, A) the cards spotted being indicated by a "drop flag" unit behind the backglass, which incidentally also boasted an interesting "old West" scene, probably done by famed pingames artist Roy Parker. These cards could be spotted by the player via various targets and rollovers on the playfield, as well as by the "roto-target".
APOLLO - The other 1967 pin was Williams' APOLLO which came out around the middle of the year, and obviously commemorated the famed space project of the same name. This space theme was depicted by the game's artwork as well as the play characteristics. The series of "count-down" rollover buttons on the playfield, when lit one-by-one in sequence until the top one was lit, triggered the "rocket launcher" unit behind the backglass. This launched a small steel ball which fell through the small "pachinko game" unit and eventually scored either 50 or 300 points, or one replay if the ball landed in the "special" lane.
ODDS & EVENS - Of the 15 or so games made during the 1970's which were at the Fun Fair, I have chosen four interesting and varied examples to show. The earliest of these was Bally's ODDS & EVENS which was released in the Summer of 1971. This single player game, and it's two-player version, MONTE CARLO, released over a year later, both depicted the popular gambling game of roulette. This theme is very nicely depicted by the artwork on both the backglass and playfield.
OLYMPIC HOCKEY - An example of a Williams game from the early 1970's was OLYMPIC HOCKEY from 1972. Ever since the beginnings of pingames in the early 1930's, sports themes have been very popular, especially baseball, football, and horseracing. The game of hockey was only used as a theme on a few games over the years including this one. I showed this game here for that reason, and because of the interesting hockey game "animation unit" in it's backboard. This is connected with the "advance buttons" on the playfield which advance it.
TIME ZONE - Another nice example of 1970's era Ballygames was TIME ZONE from 1972. The artwork's space theme was complimented by the three-dimensional "time tunnel" unit near the bottom of the playfield.
CINEMA - The old Chicago Coin Machine Co., later renamed Chicago Dynamic Industries, was in the coin machine business since the early 1930's, but never at the "top of the heap". During the 1960's and 1970's that outfit was always "number 4" in the pinball business, behind Bally, Gottlieb, and Williams. For this reason Chicago Coin pinballs are somewhat more difficult to find today than those by the major manufacturers. Their 1976 game, CINEMA, shown at this year's show, was somewhat typical of that companies pingame output. I thought the backglass was interesting because of it's depictions of old movie personalities and themes.
NOTE: About a year after producing this game Chicago Dynamic Industries was taken over by veteran pinball executive Sam Stern and renamed Stern Electronics to produce the new solid-state games which began to replace the old electro-mechanical games at that time.
SEXY GIRL - Although my personal interest in pingames and their history essentially ends with the end of the "electro- mechanical era" around 1977, I usually show at least one interesting solid-state pin in my Fun Fair coverage. This time I have chosen SEXY GIRL made in 1980. I thought this game was interesting because it was made in Switzerland.
Well, that ends my discussion of some of the more interesting of the 40 plus pingames appearing at the 1989 Loose Change Fun Fair. Following is as complete a list as I can give of all the pingames shown, their manufacturers, and year of release:
GAME MANUFACTURER YEAR ________________________________ ______________________ ____ BINGO Bingo Novelty Co. 1931 ? (Like WHIFFLE) ? 1932? ?? (Like Bally PRESIDENT) Automatic Games 1932? '5-GAMES (ELECTRIC) ? 1932? ACE HIGH Pierce Tool & Mfg. 1932 BAFFLE BALL (BABY) Gottlieb 1932 HI-BALL Peo Mfg. 1932 LOOP BALL ? 1932? MONTE CARLO Genco 1932 PLAY ROULETTE National Games 1932? WAMPUM BANK Sunnisam Games 1932 WOW Mills 1932 JIGGERS Genco 1933 SKIPPER Bally 1933 WORLD SERIES Rockola 1933 T-N-T Rockola 1935 FIFTY GRAND Automatic Games 193? Inglewood, CA TRACK MEET Exhibit 1937 SPINNING REELS Mills 1940 BOSCO Genco 1941 BALLYHOO Bally 1947 RANGER Exhibit 1947 ROCKET Bally 1947 STOP AND GO Genco 1949 NIFTY Williams 1950 WONDERLAND Williams 1955 SKILL PARADE Bally 1958 SKILL CARDS ? 195? BEAUTY CONTEST Bally 1960 TEXAN Gottlieb 1960 2-IN-1 Bally 1964 BANK-A-BALL Gottlieb 1965 APOLLO Williams 1967 KING OF DIAMONDS Gottlieb 1967 ODDS AND EVENS Bally 1971 FIREBALL Bally 1972 FIREBALL (GERMAN) Bally 1972 HONEY Williams 1972 NIP-IT Bally 1972 OLYMPIC HOCKEY Williams 1972 TIME ZONE Bally 1972 TRAVEL TIME Williams 1972 TWIN JOKER Bally 1972 JACK IN THE BOX Gottlieb 1973 RIVERIA Chicago Coin 1973 SPANISH EYES Williams 1973 WIZARD Bally 1974 CINEMA Chicago Coin 1976 SPACE MISSION Williams 1976 EIGHT BALL Bally 1977 VULCAN Gottlieb 1977 FLASH Williams 1979 STAR TREK Bally 1979 SEXY GIRL Ranco (Switzerland) 1980 SPACE INVADERS Bally 1980
That's it for this year! I was sure sorry I was not able to attend this show, especially since I have attended ALL of the past 10 Fun Fairs, but when it came to a choice between the Fun Fair and the ALL PINBALL Pinball Expo '89, the latter won out.
Next year, however, I will have no such problem as Pinball Expo '90 has already been scheduled for November, one month later than the usual Fun Fair weekend. Also, I have been given to understand that there will be two Fun Fairs a year starting in 1990, the next one being held in the Spring.
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