Pinnovations logo

Williams Phoenix (1948/49)


Pictured below are photos of a rare 1948 Williams Phoenix woodrail pinball. This game belonged to Richard Bednarcik, who recently sold it.

Rich added that there was no printed matter on the machine except the serial number, which is in several locations on the game.

Below are three thumbnails of the pictures.

Phoenix backglass Phoenix cabinet Phoenix playfield
Backglass (85K) Cabinet (65K) Playfield (81K)

What is interesting about this game is that it appears not to be very well known, and the evidence suggests that it was only produced in very small numbers. In fact, the serial number of this game is 10001, which could very well mean that is was the very first instance of this model produced, and thus would be a prototype or sample game!

Larry Bieza's 2001 Pinball Price Guide serial number section helps us to mail down the possible production range of this game. Speedway is shown with a high known serial number of 9736, while the next game, Rainbow, has a known low number of 10232. If Phoenix was produced between these two games, it's potential production would be no higher than 496, and most likely lower than that.

Phoenix was evidently one of the games in the Williams "city" series of games, a sequence that included such titles as El Paso, Tuscon, Dallas, St. Louis, Maryland and Boston. In fact, based on serial numbers, Phoenix would have been the first of that series.

Why was it not produced in greater numbers? Does anybody know of any other instances of this game (and what serial numbers do they have)? If you have any information, I would appreciate it if you would share it with me so that I can update this page.

Some information has been supplied thus far by Duncan Brown and Russ Jensen. The playfield is identical to Rainbow. Based on serial numbers, one could speculate that Williams started out with Phoenix but then changed the game name and art for Rainbow. Later on a game was christened with a name from an Arizona city but Tuscon got the honor, not Phoenix.

Here is some conjecture on that: around the time Williams was transitioning from Speedway to the Phoenix/Rainbow game, the city of Phoenix was attempting to ban coin operated diggers from the city. Perhaps this negative coin-op sentiment extended to pinball and the vibes made their way to the Williams marketing department. A decision to abort the Phoenix theme could have been made. Why support a city that would be happy to put you out of business?

The backglass for Phoenix appears in Mike Pacak's flyer book. It was taken from a photo of one owned by Sam Harvey. We are hoping Sam can provide some information. I checked Billboard magazines around this time period but did not find any mention of Phoenix (but note that I do not have all issues).

Update May 2005: A Phoenix recently traded hands that had a serial number 10895. That would put in right in the middle of the Rainbow serial number range. Given that Phoenix appears to just be a backglass change with Rainbow, we can speculate in a couple of different ways.

Perhaps this game was a Rainbow, but the backglass was broken and a Phoenix glass was available. Or perhaps, the Phoenix and Rainbow games were built on the line at the same time, with the game's identity being determined at the moment the factory worker dropped the backglass into the head.

The owner of this Phoenix said there were no markings in the game to indicate the game's name.

Last updated: May 13, 2005

© Terry Cumming, 2001-2005