THE FALL 1995 COIN-OP SUPER SHOW
By Russ Jensen
Since I had to miss the Spring 1995 edition of Bill and Roseanna Harris' COIN-OP SUPER SHOW due to a vacation conflict, I vowed I would not miss the Fail SUPER SHOW. So about a month before I made arrangements with my good friend jukebox and pinball collector Ron Tyler to go together since I no longer drive.
This show was to feature a special event, the display of the first 3-reel payout slot machine, the famous Fey LIBERTY BELL. I myself had seen that machine several times in the past during vacation visits to the Liberty Bell Saloon in Reno, Nevada - the LIBERTY BELL's regular home.
Also this year I decided to see if I could meet my old friend from Junior High School, Don Stocker, who I had not seen in 44 years! Over a year ago I located Don's phone number via a computer database which contains all listed phone numbers in the country with the help of pinball fan Gary Marshall in Mississippi. I had talked to Don once awhile back and he lived in Pasadena, the city where the show was held (and also the city where we had attended school together.)
About a week prior to the show I called Don to see if he could possibly meet me at the show. He told me then that he had a previous commitment that weekend and couldn't come to the show. Well, the night before the show he called and said he would be able to meet me after all, so we made plans to contact each other at the show.
On the morning of the show, Saturday September 23, my friend Ron and I drove to the show site arriving at just about the time the doors were to open. We both took advantage of the show's "senior discount" and entered the show room. The Fey LIBERTY BELL was clearly visible when you entered the hall.
Upon entering I first went to Roseanna Harris' booth and told her that my old friend would contact her when he arrived so she could point me out to him (we weren't sure we could recognize each other after all those years). I then started up the first aisle to see what was there, noticing that there were no pingames in that area.
When I had almost reached the end of the next aisle I heard my name paged on the P.A. system, telling me to come to Roseanna's booth. As I started walking toward it I recognized my old friend Don. We greeted each other and then started back at the first aisle together so Don could see what was there. My other friend Ron had previously taken off on his own, especially looking at the jukebox items at the show of which there were many.
As Don and I were perusing the aisles looking at the various items on display, Roseanna announced the first door prize winner of the day. I was surprised to hear that the winner got to actually play the almost 100 year old Fey LIBERTY BELL. By the time I got back to where that machine was located, however, he had already inserted a nickel and pulled the handle, so I didn't get to see that special event.
As far as pinballs were concerned there were not a great number at eh show (approximately 16 by my count), being far outnumbered by slots and jukes. There were two dealers (Herb Silvers' Fabulous Fantasies and Pat Sheehy's P. and S. Amusements) which each had a few pins, plus a few other dealers who each had a single pin in their booths.
As far as the various decades were concerned, there were 4 pins from the 1930's, one from the 1940's (well, maybe not exactly a pin - but more about that later), one from the 1950's, none at all from the 1960's. From the 1970's there was one electro- mechanical pin and 3 solid-state machines. The more modern solid- state pins shown included 2 from the 1980's and 4 from the current decade.
The two earliest pins at the show were the earliest popular pins of two of the major manufacturers. BALLYHOO was the pin which started the Bally company in 1932 and the one at the show was in excellent condition. There was also a BAFFLE BALL from the same year, the first successful pingame from D. Gottlieb and Co., which was also in very nice shape. Two "pioneer pingames" indeed!
There were also two other small 1930's pins there. The earliest of these was called THE MIDGET put out in 1932 by an outfit called E. E. Junior Manufacturing Co. The later of the 1930's pins shown was a little game called BULLET put out by the Pierce Tool and Manufacturing Co. in 1935. Even though made in that year it was very similar in size and appearance to much earlier pingames.
The only 1940's vintage pin-like game at the show was a small counter-top game called WHIZZ put out by Genco Manufacturing in 1946. While not really a pingame in the true sense of the word, WHIZZ had some similarities and is quite an interesting little game.
It has an upright playfield (vaguely resembling the Japanese Pachinko machines) and utilizes 10 ceramic balls a little smaller than the steel balls used in most pingames. The player launches each ball upward, by use of a lever on the cabinet, the ball then falling down the field, deflected in it's path by various steel pins mounted thereon.
At the bottom of the field are nine troughs into which all 10 balls eventually land; each capable of holding one or two balls. The object of the game is to get balls in as many consecutive troughs (starting with the center trough, and either going to the left or right) without leaving any empty troughs in between.
If the player succeeded in getting a ball into the center trough he would score 1000 points (lighted up in numbers at the top of the glass. Each additional consecutive trough (either to the left or right) would score an additional 1000 points. Each 1000 points represented one "free game", although I'm sure that in many locations the player was "paid off" in coins by the location.
Years ago I repaired one of these games for a friend of mine. After fixing it I began playing it and became "hooked" and played it for hours on end. WHIZZ is a very hard game to beat! A few years later Genco produced a series of larger games using the same general principle.
The only 1950's pin at the show was a restored Gottlieb ROCKET SHIP from 1958. This game had been skillfully restored by Herb Silvers and had a quite high asking price. The only other electro- mechanical pin at the show was from the 1970's. It was Bally's HOKUS POKUS from 1975.
The following is a chronological listing of the pingames I saw at the show:
GAME MANUFACTURER YEAR PRICE BAFFLE BALL GOTTLIEB 1932 525 BALLYHOO BALLY 1932 550 THE MIDGET E.E. JR. MFG. 1932 575 BULLET PIERCE TOOL 1935 595 WHIZZ (Upright) GENCO 1946 450 ROCKET SHIP GOTTLIEB 1958 2000 HOKUS POKUS BALLY 1975 800 HOT TIP WILLIAMS 1977 450 POWER PLAY BALLY 1977 450 XENON BALLY 1979 995 CYBERNAUT BALLY 1985 795 PINBOT WILLIAMS 1986 850 HARLEY DAVIDSON BALLY 1991 2395 TERMINATOR II WILLIAMS 1991 2495 FLINTSTONES (THE) WILLIAMS 1994 3600 THEATER OF MAGIC BALLY 1995 3600
Now a little more about the extremely rare Fey LIBERTY BELL slot machine at the show. It is one of only four (I believe) known to exist and one of the two owned by Marshall Fey, the grandson of it's inventor Charles Fey. Marshall was kind enough to bring this extremely rare machine to the show for all to see.
Also on display in Marshall's booth (which was also manned by his son) was the first one-dollar play gambling machine (also created by his grandfather) and the Mills LIBERTY BELL slot, the idea and name of which was "stolen" by Mills from Charles Fey. At one point in the show I noticed that Marshall had even opened up his LIBERTY BELL to show it's construction, but again by the time I got over to it it was "buttoned up" again.
Incidentally, by the time you read this one of the other Fey LIBERTY BELLs (from the collection of long-time Philadelphia coin machine operator Stan Harris) will have been sold at auction in Illinois. When Marshall was asked what he thought it might bring he said he really had no idea, but the talk he had heard indicated that the selling price might be in the 150-200 Thousand dollar range!
UPDATE: On November 15, 1995 the Fey LIBERTY BELL was sold to a Midwest collector for a bid of $130,000! With auctions fees, etc. he actually had to pay just under 150 thousand; the highest price, by the way, ever paid for any coin machine!.
All during my visit to the show I roamed around with my friend Don looking at different interesting things on display as well as listing the pingames which were there and taking some photos. I also visited with other old friends who were at the show, for one talking with my friend Sam Harvey about our upcoming visit to Pinball Expo '95 the next month (more about that in the next COIN SLOT). The friend I had come with, Ron, spent much of his time negotiating with a couple dealers on a Wurlitzer electric neon clock.
At one point during the show my old friend Don and I sat down over a soft drink and reminisced about our Junior High School friendship. We both remembered the day, while hiking in the hills, that we wandered into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory site only to be escorted out in a jeep by an armed guard.
While Don and I were visiting I heard Roseanna announce another interesting door prize. This time it was a copy of a book to be released in November by Roseanna's company, Royal Bell Ltd. When I heard her announce the name of the book I was really surprised. It was LEMONS, CHERRIES, AND BELL FRUIT GUM a history of the slot machine industry by Dick Bueschel.
The reason I was so surprised was because I had first heard of that book in an advertisement in a book catalog sometime back around 1972! The ad said that the book was "coming soon". In a recent conversation with Dick I found out that he had actually been working on the book since 1967! Well, it's finally coming out and I can hardly wait for it as it will give the history of the slot machine industry right up into the 1990's.
Later, Don, my friend Ron, and I had dinner at the nearby Holiday Inn restaurant. After dinner we returned to the show for about an hour and did some last minute looking around. My friend Ron ended up buying one of the Wurlitzer clocks he had been eyeing and carried it out to the car when we left.
All in all, it was a very nice show and had a wide variety of coin-ops and other nice collectables. I will probably be able to attend the next SUPER SHOW which is scheduled for March 1st through 3rd, 1996 (before my usual vacation time).
After leaving the hall I said goodbye to my Junior High buddy Don, inviting him to come visit me and my wife at our home. After that Ron and I drove back home, ending a very enjoyable "coin-op day".
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