The Experts Speak
HOW DO YOU TELL
THE AGE OF A MACHINE?
- Dick Bueschel, Historian, Author of numerous books, Editor of Coin Drop International and Coin Op Classics magazine
- Marshall Fey, Publisher of Slot Machines, A Pictorial History and Service Manuals for Bally Slot Machines
- Ken Durham - Publisher of Antique Amusements, Slot Machine & Jukebox Gazette
- Gene Steve, Collector
Dick Bueschel Speaks:
By its materials. I always carry a refrigerator magnet (it looks like a Chinese carry out carton and gets good natured laughs!) and if it sticks, it's iron, and it's old.
Clockwork mechanisms are 1880s to 1890s. Bronze mechanism parts are usually 1895 through 1905.
Castings in the mechanical parts are up to 1919, with stamped steel mechanism parts -- even if castings are around them -- are 1920s or thereafter. Nickel plating is 1897 or so through 1922,, when chrome plating came in and stayed.
Crackle finish is late 1920s through mid-1930s. Smooth non-chipped paint is post WWII, likely 1950s or later. Formica cabinets are after 1960.
Marshall Fey Speaks
The simplest and most accurate way to substantiate the year of a
collectible is to refer to the multitude of early trade magazines, catalog
reprints and current publications (reputable books specializing in specific
collectibles). The latter best serves the majority of collectors as they are
There are some generalizations that apply to slot machines, pinballs and
arcade machines. Cast iron was in general use up until the early 1920's when
it was replaced with aluminum. The electro- mechanical age began for pin
games and arcade machines in the mid 1930', but it was not implemented with
slot machines until1964 . By the mid 1970's solid state was used on pins,
arcade machines and Jennings slots. It was not until 1980 that Bally slots
converted to microprocessors.
The most spectacular innovations which gave birth to the modern pinball was
the advent in 1947 of flippers and the first use of free games (year not know
by this writer).
The most dramatic generation change to juke boxes arrived in 1949 when
Seeburg introduced the 100 selection machine, followed a year later when this
new leader of the industry replaced 78 rpm records with the much smaller 45s.
Ken Durham Speaks
One way is by the patent number. For example, the patent number 1,743,000 was issued in 1930. Therefore, if you machine bares that number, you know that your machine was made after 1930.
Here are some key patent numbers. The first patent number was issued in 1836. Number 650,000 - issued in 1900. Number 1,350,000 in 1920, and Number 2,200,000 in 1940.
The patent date, however, can be very misleading because sometimes a patent on a specific part of the machine was patented many years before the machine itself was manufactured.
Gene Steve Speaks
One of the missing topics on machine age is serial number and yearly or
total machine/model production numbers. I am new to collecting jukes,
but not new to collecting. I have found that this is often a resource
Usually the total production of a model can be obtained from the
manufacturer on any model. The Years of Production for a model# will
also be known. With those, one can accurately determine the age of a
given model#, possibly in the range of months that a particular unit was
In some cases, the manufacturer's data is lost, or not accessible. So
NOW what? Well, there are other areas to turn to as your authors have
noted. Couple that basic information with any flyers, and the serial
numbers and you can get very close. If the total production run is not
known, then I usually start a campaign at various shows to gather serial
numbers on models. That is updated as I find a new "high" serial number
for a model. There are some cases where the serial number is non-linear
and relates to things only the manufacturer can decode, but personal
experience says this is rare.
It's a lot like being a private investigator!!
Gene Steve - Genes09@ibm.net
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