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The modern era of pinball machines started in the early 1930s. The first popular pinballs were the BINGO (Bingo Novelty Company), BAFFLE BALL (D. Gottlieb & Company), and the BALLY HOO (Bally Corporation). In comparison to today's pinball machines, these machines were rather simple, low in cost, and small in size. They were designed to be countertop games, legs were a later addition.

The popularity of the pinball machine, like the popularity of the penny arcade, is attributed to the depression and the desire for low cost entertainment. Since many pinball operators gave away prizes for high scores, some players tried to cheat by shaking and lifting the machine. To counter this problem, the tilt mechanism was invented. Like today's video fads, many pinball machines were popular for only a few months until a newer more exciting machine was introduced. In 1933, electricity was introduced by adding a battery to the machine. As more features were added, the pinball machine was outfitted with transformers so that they could be plugged into an outlet. Lights and backglasses were added in 1934, and the pinball bumper was introduced in 1937.

The pinball machine really took off after World War II. The ten year period of 1948 to 1958 is referred to by many collectors as the "Golden Age of Pinball". The invention of the flipper in 1947 was one of the main reasons for the renewed interest in pinballs. The first flipper game was Gottlieb's HUMPTY DUMPTY. Many people believe that the "Golden Age" pinball machines were pieces of pop art and collect them for their artistic merit as well as their payability.

Two features distinguish the "Golden Age" pinballs from later model pinballs. First, the pinballs of this era have wooden legs and wooden rails on the sides of the machine. Metal legs and rails (for added strength and durability) were added in the late 1950s. Second, these pinballs also had scoring levels (10, 20, etc., 100, 200, etc., 1000, 2000, etc., etc.) built into the design of the backglass with a separate light bulb for each score, whereas in the late 1950s the manufacturers utilized a digital scoring system.


Copyright: Ken Durham.

Ultra Rare
Pair of 1930s Goofy Pinballs

circa 1932s, made by the Bally Corporation, five balls for a nickel, features the Bally free ball hole.

This pair of Goofy pinballs, consist of the original (larger) Bally Goofy pinball, and the smaller copycat pinball, Goofy Junior, that a competitor made. Bally sued the competitor and won. See article below.

As a result of the lawsuit, very few, if any other, Goofy Junior pinballs exist.

See more information and larger photo of the Bally Goofy Pinball from another web site.


Background on the Goofy Pinballs

They are table top size typical of the first pinballs in the 1930’s. One is the 2nd machine Bally ever made, called “Goofy”. It was the first pinball to incorporate moving playfield parts and special features. Before this machine there were just numbered score holes that the ball would drop into. After all the balls are shot, you add up your score. Goofy was so successful, that other Chicago coin machine manufacturers started making almost identical machines, right down to the bright colors and play features.

The Depression had started, and the Government made the N.R.A. Laws (National Recovery Act). Included was a law that forbade the copying of specific features of another’s product, and using the features on your own products.

These two pinballs were the first test of that law. Bally hired a coin machine operator and freelance designer, to buy one of the copycats, and take it and their “Goofy” to the federal court in Chicago. These two machines are the actual machines that the judge looked at.

They have been on warehouse shelves, covered with canvas their whole life. So the colors are bright and vivid, and not faded. These are the two finest examples of these machines. Not only are they excellent working machines, with no play wear, but they are the same two machines that were used to make the Federal Judgement that it was close enough to be a copy, thus the first N.R.A. enforcement of copying features. Enclosed are 3 photos.

The Bally “Goofy” is 30 by 16 by 9 inches high. The “Who’s Goofy” is 24 by 16 by 9 inches high. Below is the article that was in the coin op collectors magazine.

The Big Bally Lawsuit
Goofy Pinball Machine

The early 1930’s were a rough time for the coin-op manufacturers. The Lion Manufacturing company (Later to be called Bally) came out with their first coin operated Pinball game. It was called Ballyhoo. It was a successful format, and they sold a lot of machines.

Pinball machines at the time were countertop games, with no legs and no back glass. They found itself facing increased competition from other manufacturers introducing unique playfield designs. For example, Gottlieb released Five Star Final which has a figure eight playfield geometry.

Ray Moloney, Lions owner, hired New York designer Jack Firestone to come up with a competitive Bally product. Jack designed a game whereby traditional Bally features, such as the Bally Hole (free ball) were maintained, yet it has attractive side alley shots that players could try to reach for additional points.

The game was very popular and several knockoff clones were produced by other manufacturers leading to Bally pursuing legal action in order to stop the clones. As the advertising copy for Goofy, written by Herb Jones went: "Thru 32' twas Ballyhoo ~ Goofy'll smash all records too!"

It was so successful that other Chicago coin game companies copied it with only minor revisions. Some used the same exact color scheme, the same exciting features, and the once around the playfield and then into the playfield concept. The other companies didn't even change the score on the holes. They tried to copy “Goofy” as close as possible.

Finally, under the “National Recovery Act”, designed to get us out of the great depression, Lion sued the other companies. On September 1932, Lion was granted an injunction against another Chicago Company, ACE Mfg. on the grounds of unfair competition.

Johnny Frantz, a freelance designer at the time was hired by Lion Mfg. to buy an “Ace” copycat of Goofy, and he personally carried them both down to the Superior Court for the Judge to look at. The judge saw immediately that ACE copied Lions “Goofy” with a machine called “Whose Goofy”, and even inferred the word “who” was imitating the Ballyhoo machine.

The judge issued the injunction. That stopped all the price cutting and gouging that was hurting Lion Mfg. Lion changed their name to Bally, after their first machine the Ballyhoo, and went on to be the most successful Pinball machine manufacturer ever.







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Ken Durham
Email: durham@GameRoomAntiques.com