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Pinball History Articles A collection of Pinball History Articles, includes bagatelle, bingo, payout and coin-op machines! Imported from Pinball Nirvana's old home page.

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Old 11-07-2014, 08:19 PM
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Default History of Payout Machines

By Will Degelmann, druadic

Clicking on a name below opens a IPD link

Flipperless payout machines first appeared about 1933, when folks seemed to enjoy a good challenge, and a quick way to double their lowly penny, nickle, or dime. Many payout machines were made by rather obscure manufacturers, but some of the best known machines were made by Bally and Keeney. Both companies were somehow always came up with many new, inventive ways to fatten their own pockets, as well as help operators, who bought their machines. What set these machines apart from more standard flipperless was the difficulty factor. This varied with each of the machines, but they all were tougher to play, and much more of a challenge, than regular games. Other companies jumped into the fray, hoping to make a fast buck, and perhaps earning even higher profits from the sales, as each new machine offered different gadgets and gimmicks.

Flipperless Payout Machines
Western was perhaps the pioneer of payout machines, ranging from singles to 7 ball games. They created some of the most amazing machines this author has ever seen. Tiny, one of the Smallest payout machines ever in flipperless machine history, used a ball that was five times bigger than a pinball, which was made entirely of wood. This not only made the game very tough, but nudging was nearly impossible, due to the fact the metal pins would slap the wooden ball around like a slingshot.

Actually, you could argue that Western Supply made the first ever realistic
bumper, which required no electricity, only using nails. Weighing a hefty 60
pounds, and yet being a tabletop model, Tiny was a both a wierd and neat payout machine.

Western Supply made one game in particular that has caught my attention, Shell Game. About the size of a normal flipperless, Shells game had a few holes
strewn over its playfield. Before a new game began, the payout for that player would show, informing him what his odds would be. If a hole was made, the ball would then land underneath a lower section of the playfield, an under a set of three nutshells. Just like the stret game of shells that many ruffians used to play in hopes of hoodwinking hapless folks for a quick buck, this game had the same premise. You would press one of the three buttons on the front of the machine, and hope your guess would be correct. If it was, the payout was collected.
The higher the odds, the better the payout. The shell would lift up and expose what was underneath. If it was empty, you would have to play again and chance another nickel.

Western Supply made another machine that was truly incredible, called Par-Lay.
Made in the mid 30's, Par-Lay was not only a very gorgeous machine, covered filled with some beautiful metal work, but was weird in how the payouts were achieved. The difference with this machine was how the payout holes were setup.
The better the player was, and the father down the playfield he got, the larger the payout. Another thing that made the machine odd were the payouts themselves.
The bottom center of the game was an Always Payout area; no matter where the ball landed within this section, the game would pay. The top of this game was a bit different, along with the sides, where the ball would roll during play. For the game to pay, you had to get a ball on the left and right sides in the same numbed payout holes.

If one of the shots made a right side 20 cent hole, another ball would have
to land in the left side 20 cent hole. If you didn't want to play this way,
you could hit the center top hole, while balls were collecting down the side
center areas, and kick the balls, yes kickers!. down into that center payout
section. Par-Lay also had 3 hole payouts, which played just like the double
payout holes, and these were much tougher to win from. Truly an amazing piece of machinery to say the very least. This is probably one of the most complicated machines I've ever seen or heard of.

Some of the machines Western Supply made were so complicated that only adults could play them. Not only did Western make the first Bingo in 1935, called Line-O but they made a machine that built up payout odds using statistics, by stacking
balls upwards within a thin wire collector. Western Supply is one of the best
companies I know of at pushing the envelope when it come to payout machines.


Another noteworthy mention is the game Mammoth by Keeney and Sons. This game, made in the 30s, was a marvel to look, as well as amazing how the playfield had been set up. This game was a 5 or 7 ball payout machine, unlike that of Shell Game, and the main reason was the size of the game. Landing the specific balls within payout holes, you would then land the ball within the upper center and collect your payout. You could fill easily up all the playfield holes and not even get the payout cup. And without the payout hole filled, there was payout, and you had to pay again. Of course, folks would always be drawn in by the thought of winning double or maybe more on their money. But when they played the machine, they were in for a big surprise at how tough these machines really were. Just as a carny would use his shells for a game of chance, these games did exactly that in their own way. The possibility of winning up to 1.50 on this machine was one of the things that kept folks playing this machine.


Bally made quite a few payout machines, but not many of them are known as well as the likes of Keeney and also Western Supply. But one particular machine that is extremely well known is Silver Streak. Made in 1935, this little tabletop game was regarded as the best one ball payout machine to almost every collector, and still is today. The ball would stay on the playfield at all times. As the player would insert a coin, a small set of prongs would allow the ball to trap itself until the coin slide was pulled out. Once the slide was pushed in, the second prong would open, and allow the ball to drop to the plunger, and wait for the shot to be played. A machine with some nice artwork covering it's playfield, this game was not what it seemed. When willing the player inserted his nickel for a single ball game, he more than likely did not notice how hard it is to get the ball to payout double his money. The tricky payout mechanisms were surrounded on each both
side with tiny rigid wire guide rails. Getting the ball through one of those
sets of guard rails was an absolute chore considering this little machine had
a tilt mechanism. I personally got to play one of these this year, and found
that it's so darn touchy, that if you even sneeze wrong, the machine will tilt.
One of the biggest perks of Silver Streak was the unique layout of payout mechanisms, even though the guard rails made it tough. If the ball went through a set above the other guard rails and paid out your two nickels, you still had a chance to make more money below. This is one machine that was very well built for its era.

You can look at other companies as well, like Mills and Jennings.
These companies didn't make very many payout games, but they excelled at them. Jennings in particular made some of the most gorgeous artwork I've ever seen on any payout machine. The entire playfields were covered in such amazing detail, and if you run across one of these, take the time to marvel at the amount of work that was handcrafted onto each machine. Truly awe inspiring to say the very least. Sportsman was probably the most beautiful machine I've ever come across, and to collectors is a very much prized machine. I also got to play one of these in 2003, and found that despite it's whirling artwork and wonderful metal castings that cover much of the machine, making it look like a victorian style era flipperless,
this is one of the toughest machines I've ever played.

This machine, as well, sports a tilt mechanism, but it's a very different type
of mechanism; the ball is placed on a small hole, then the sides slide down
using an air pressure dropper. The tilt mechanism then is ready, and the ball
sits atop a small, thin post. It really is quite amazing to watch the machine
moving while you're loading the next ball up for another shot. Sportsman was played just like Mammoth, but in a different way; you had to land the ball into 2 or 3 of the same holes as the animals shown on the playfield. Once you collected all the correct holes for your payout, you had to make the top center hole, which sported the rugged Sportsman with his rifle, surrounded by his dogs. Failure to make this hole resulted in no payout.

Mills Novelty was a company that historically has produced some of the strangest machines you'll ever come across. The cross between a slot machine and flipperless pinball was something to behold. Mills made quite few of these like Owl, Hi-Boy and about five others before abandoning them, and going on to being one of the most famous companies to produce slot machines. Running across one of these machines really is a treat. The back glass contained an actual slot machine with all the original spinning wheels, and of course all these old Mills' machines were one ball payouts. Seeing what these machines could pull off was truly something
to be inspired by. And yes, for the most part, a Flipperless Payout Machine
was almost a license to steal, and the players seldom minded.

druadic, commercial flipperless table author


(druadic has recreated many payout machines for Visual Pinball,
here are download links for Mammoth and Silver Streak)

Updated Jul 05, 2004 Written by druadic
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