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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Cabaret Mechanical Automata Show

Thanks to Mike Dower for alerting me to the Cabaret Mechanics exhibition at the Oxo Tower on the South Bank which runs from December 08 to January 02. There are 60 automata on show, some familiar from the days when the theatre was located in Covent Garden, plus new pieces from Paul Spooner, Keith Newstead, Peter Markey, Ron Fuller, Carlos Zapata, Martin Smith, Matt Smith and Tim Hunkin. It's admission free, so why not call in if you're in the area, or make a special trip? More fun than Christmas shopping. In fact you could do your shopping at the Oxo Tower shops while you're there.
The General

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Nic Costa Sale

Here's what I have so far on Nic Costa's Collection of Amusement Machines sale at Christie's, South Kensington. More details to follow.

Mutoscopes and Stereo Viewers (9)
One-armed Bandits (7)
Dispensers and Vendors (14)
Skill and Chance (9)
Wall Machines (51)
Electric-shock Machines (7)
Fortune Tellers (13)
Bagatelle and Pinball (10)
Parts and Accessories (8)
Working Models and Automata (10)

From Laurence Fisher (+44 (0) 20 7752 3278) :

"The Collector's department is pleased to announce the forthcoming sale of coin-operated machines, vendors and models on Thursday 19 January 2006.

This single owner sale of over 140 lots reaches into the depths of time from the mid 1870s with an unusual coin-operated shock machine in the form of a German soldier, right the way through to a selection of Mills Company one-armed bandits from the 1930s. Interesting pieces include three Mutoscopes (estimates range from £1,000-2,200), an Airship Profit Sharer wall machine by Jentsch & Meerz of Leipzig, featuring the R-100 Zeppelin ball-catcher (estimate £1,800-2,500) and a Rol-a-Top one-armed bandit by the Watling Manufacturing Co., Chicago, 1935 (estimate £1,000-1,200). The defining sections in this sale are entitled Mutoscopes and Stereo Viewers, One-Armed Bandits, Dispensers and Vendors, Skill and Chance, Electric Shock Machines, Wall Machines, Electric-shock Wall Machines, Fortune Tellers, Bagatelle and Pinball, Parts and Accessories and Working Models and Automata.

With so much to offer both the supplier and collector, this sale charts the success of the humble coin-freed device with unique 16mm film footage of the Mills Company factory from the mid 1930s, showing the construction of their machines through the many processes of production, accompanied by further reels of Mills' private family life (estimate £3,000-5,000).

I look forward to welcoming you to Christie's South Kensington when the viewing for this extraordinary sale starts on Saturday 14 January at 10.00am and if you have any questions in the meantime, please contact me."

Costa Sale

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sale of the Last Century Catalogue

Here's the Wookey Hole 12th of November Sale of the Last Century catalogue. There are a few old slots here, plus a heap of other amusement related stuff. I haven't seen any publicity for the sale (apart from a few printed leaflets handed out) so maybe there'll be some bargains. Click the image below, and follow the links for the full catalogue listing.

Wookey Auction Catalogue

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sale of The Last Century

Here's the two sided flyer for the Wookey Hole Sale of The Last Century. No news yet of what machines will be in the sale, but we'll put the catalogue online as soon as we receive it.

Sad to hear Southend pier was up in flames once more on Monday. The damage is extensive, but at least at present the council plans to spend the millions required to restore it - see BBC News Story. How much would it cost to prevent these fires?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Victorian Casino, Wookey Hole & Christies Auctions

Just like buses, after a bit of a lull, three auctions come at once. Well not quite - it's just that they all came to my attention within a few weeks.

The annual Victorian Casino Antique Auction, being the first (October 15-16), doesn't contain much for the British collector, but is nevertheless a significant sale of vintage American machines and related items.

Saturday the 12th of November brings Gerry Cottle's SALE OF THE LAST CENTURY (viewing on Friday the 11th). This will include a number of "Old Slot Machines, Early Video Games, 50 Original Pinball Glasses, Circus and Fun Fair Items including a Complete Vintage Model Funfair and many other Architectural Fittings and Antiques."
It will be run by Southern Counties Auctioneers but held at Wookey Hole Caves.
We should be able to bring you full details next week.

Looking a bit futher ahead, there will be an auction of antique amusement and coin-operated machines and vendors on the 19th of January, 2006 at Christies, South Kensington.
These are the remaining items from Nic Costa's collection (over 120 lots in total), comprising some working models (Laughing Sailor, Laughing Policeman, Charlie Chaplin, etc.), a number of one arm bandits (War Eagle, Roll-a-Top, etc.), electric shockers, three mutoscopes, five stereo viewers, and many early wall-mounted machines (Airship Profit Sharer, R100 Airship, allwins, etc.) plus some gumball and other vending machines. (Entries from other vendors are not being solicited).

Again, Christies have promised to send some sneak preview details shortly, which I'll publish here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Southern Counties Sale Report

The Southern Counties Dispersal Auction of Vintage and Classic Amusements & Fairground Relics near Salisbury on Sunday May 22nd provided the finest assortment of vintage slot machines available in a British sale room for many years. The selection ranged from rare to common and excellent condition to good for spares.

Ample parking, comfortable and spacious exhibition areas, seating for bidders, on-screen auction lot display, full facilities including a bar and cafe, plus the benefit of a viewing day before the sale, made for a pleasant auction experience instead of the torture to which we've almost become accustomed. The low 5% buyers' premium was a bonus too.

There were roughly 250 lots in total, and with a mid sale break, this seemed about right. Much more than this, and I find my interest in all things coin-operated beginning to fade.

Allwin prices were relatively low - at least relative to a couple of years ago. This could be put down to the abundance of decent allwins available in the room, but also seems to be part of a general slide in their value witnessed on eBay and elsewhere. Some are putting it down to domestic economics in general such as the housing market downturn, but the fact that almost any day of the week you can find one for sale on eBay must also be having an effect.

Oliver Whales allwins were selling in the £300+ range and less for poorer examples. £400 seemed to be the cut-off point for most. It took the nicest auto-payout B.M.Co.'s to top £700. Over five years ago almost any allwin in good condition was guaranteed£500+. One happy buyer went home with a complete (but rough) early Bryans Fivewin for £300 plus premium.

Talking of which, it was a bit of a black day for Bryan's. The first Windmill ever up for auction failed to make it's reserve (maybe on account of the very drab look of this particular example) and the Bran Tub also failed to find a new owner. Other Bryans machines (and there were several good ones) made respectable but not spectacular prices. Only the Retreeva (mechanism incomplete) lived up to former glories. Has the Bryan's bubble burst? Discuss.

"Quality will out" and this is where the record prices were set as always. Keen bidding against an American "celeb" collector took the Matthewson cast iron Footballer up to £18,600, but it was bought in the room, and will be staying in the UK.

The bizarre Drinking Babies two player arcade racing game, on the other hand, did make its way to the States. In fact the competition over there for this item was so strong, it prompted another British collector to sell his.

Overall, there were some excellent items and quite a few bargains (I took one home with me). If you weren't there, you should have been. There's a full illustrated list of sale results in the Arena.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Mechanical Memories

Jerry Chattenton assured me on Sunday that John Hayward's Mechanical Memories Penny Slot Arcade on Brighton Seafront is fully up and running. It was the other vintage arcade a few hundred yards away that was undergoing renovation when I visited in April.

Australian Auction

There were a couple of noteworthy prices at Malcolm Jones auction held on May 14th by Bonhams & Goodman in Sydney, Australia. A Matthewson Automatic Sports Company cast iron "The Football Game" sold for 26,290 AU (about £11,000) and an Ahrens Ltd. "The Firefighters" working model sold for 9,560 AU (about £4000).

Monday, May 23, 2005

Chartres Mechanical Music Sale

If you didn't spend all your money in last Sunday's Salisbury auction, there's another chance to do it at the Chartres mechanical music and automata sale which includes a number of fine French, British and German slot machines on 29/05/05.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Christie's Mechanical Music Sale

Lots 284 to 296 in Christie's Mechanical Music Sale on 26th May 2005 are jukeboxes and slot machines. A few quite nice items, but with the high estimates plus Christie's whopping 17.5% buyers premium, most of us will be keeping our hands in our pockets.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Deserted Mill Reclaimed

The Deserted MillNot all the traffic is one way fortunately. A British collector just bought The Deserted Mill, an important English working model, from the recent Reno Casino sale (see below) for $2,500. Reworked by the Dennison sisters from a clockwork model their father made, and catalogued by them, it has long been considered a lost machine.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

25 cent machine sells for $210,000

A 25 Cent Caille Roulette Gambling Slot Machine sold for $210,000 plus 10% buyer's premium and 7% sales tax at the Las Vegas Victorian Casino Antique Auction last weekend - surely a new record in the world of slot machine collecting.

Meanwhile, back home at the Brighton Jukebox Show, moans were heard from exhibitors about the lack of visitors. The move from Copthorne does not seem to have paid off. I think the venue could have been filled had the affluent, upwardly mobile and trendy folk of Brighton known what was taking place within a mile of their town...

Sad to see a pile of rusting scrap iron in the sea, the ravaged remains of the old West Pier. A national heritage tragedy with a grubby narrative of neglect, procrastination, greed and wanton destruction to rival Brighton Rock.

Sad also (to a lesser degree) to see John Hayward's vintage arcade closed and surrounded by scaffolding and boards. I trust it's being renovated for the Summer season?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Monday, March 21, 2005

BBC 20th Century Roadshow

The 20th Century Roadshow, spinoff of the BBC's Antiques Roadshow is launching next month. Hosted by Alan Titchmarsh (presumably looking for a job indoors now), it aims to do for collectables what the latter program has done for antiques (ie. foster a wider appreciation of their appeal and cultural significance and/or make them more expensive, while drumming up trade for the auction houses). It's bound to feature some old slot machines sooner or later. The valuations should be "interesting."

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Dr Who?

Coin-op Dalek
Edwin Hall & Co. coin-op Dalek Circa 1964

A prediction: Social attitudes are already changing, and soon it will become acceptable (if not exactly cool) to talk about in public.

All Brits of a certain age who share an interest in mechanical things that go clunk in the night will be curiously awaiting next week's re-launch of Dr Who.

One little known fact about the program we can exclusively reveal here - William Hartnell was not only the first Doctor - he was also the best. That's official, and is not offered as a point for debate or discussion.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Saturday, March 12, 2005

New UK Working Models book reviewed

Penny-in-the-Slot Automata & The Working ModelBritish books about early coin-operated machines don't come along often. In fact Darren Hesketh's 224 page Penny-in-the-Slot Automata & The Working Model is only the second UK coin machine hardback published, and the first in any language to focus entirely upon coin-operated automata. Like it's cinematic counterpart, mechanical animation maintains an undiminished fascination and has enjoyed something of a resurgence over the last few decades. These quirky miniature re-enactments of the tragic, comic, dramatic and mundane; of gory tortures, grim executions and ghostly visitations, stand quite apart from the more well known gambling machines and skill games and deserve a guide book of their own.

As a relative newcomer to the world of antique slot machines, Darren dived in at the deep end and immersed himself in the subject for several years (he now runs a vintage arcade exhibiting his working models and games at the Cheshire Workshops). A book of this sort depends for its content upon winning the co-operation of many collectors and museum curators at home and abroad, and Darren must be commended for the amount of information and pictorial content he's garnered from them. The main contenders are all well represented: Ahrens, Bollands, Canova, Dennison, Kraft and Lee. The rarely seen, elaborate and intricate Tansley models were a revelation and left me hungry for more. There are chapters on the related fields of mechanical music, coin-operated merchandisers and some contemporary examples by Tim Hunkin, plus a section on American models (mostly fortune-tellers and animated vendors) which seems to confirm that the working model per se was a uniquely British tradition.

Image quality is good with many photographs supplied by the author. Aside from brief histories of working models in general and of the major manufacturers, the text is confined to concise and pithy descriptions of the actions. The copious pictures which attest to the visual appeal of these machines are allowed to speak for themselves. The price guide at the end (insisted upon by the publisher) is fairly pointless - infrequency of sales and their one-off nature makes generalized values meaningless. Inevitably there are many models which could not be included, (some of which have come to light since publication) but this book provides a substantial sample of what's out there. I want to see more now, but that's really a measure of the book's success.

The £100 cover price is going to be the stumbling block for many. However, Amazon are selling it for a more bearable £70, but you won't find it any cheaper than at this site. Buy it now for £60!

Penny-in-the-Slot Automata 1Penny-in-the-Slot Automata 2Penny-in-the-Slot Automata 3

Sell your stuff in a major slot machine auction

Southern Counties Auctioneers are now accepting items for their May 22nd Vintage and Classic Amusements & Fairground Relics sale catalogue. Entries can be submitted online or by post. So if you have any old slot machines or similar items you would like to put in the auction, now's the time to dig 'em out.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Fire at the Candle Factory

There was an extensive fire at the Cheshire Workshops Candle Factory on Wednesday night (02/03/05) which houses Darren Hesketh's vintage arcade of working models and slot machines. It started after closing time and is believed to have been deliberate. There was no night security in the building and no fire sprinklers. Whether the machines have suffered more than smoke damage is not yet clear. I feel very sorry for Darren who has put so much effort into setting up one of the nicest public exhibitions of its kind in the country. More details.

Friday, February 25, 2005

New British Slot Machine Book

A review copy of Darren Hesketh's new book Penny-in-the-Slot Automata and the Working Model arrived in the post this morning. First impressions - great. I'll post a full review once I've had a good read.

An expensive book but one that I certainly plan to stock:

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Another way to kill your computer

A bit of early Spring cleaning, turfing out junk files left on the computer by my old ntl service provider etc. A file called ntldr. Don't need that do we? Deleted! It's not hidden, no warning messages - must be ok.

Oh dear. Sound of breaking Windows. There goes the operating system again.

Attempts to recover the file (which is unique to my system and contains all the settings) fail.

Two weeks later I'm reinstalling printer drivers etc. to a new hard drive.

This is my roundabout way of apologizing for not adding much content to since Christmas. Things should pick up next month. Am I setting my hopes too high by longing for the day when computers become as trouble free as turn of the century slot machines?