What the List Actually Includes
Understanding the Codes
If You Have Updates...
The WW2/Conversion List
On this page you will find what I believe to be the most comprehensive list of pinball games produced or converted during the WW2 period. A lot of manual tedious scanning, checking, verifying, compiling, editing, guessing, etc. was done to produce this list. The starting point of this effort was the fantastic efforts of Donald Mueting and Robert Hawkins, who created the original Pinball Reference Guide back in 1979, and followed it up with the benchmark Pinball Collectors Resource ("PCR" - ISBN 0-9623962-0-6), published in 1992.
This book is the definitive list of every pinball game ever created. However, with close to 4,000 entries, it is not perfect nor is every game included (and in some cases, some non-pinball entries have made there way in). At the back of the book is a list of all games ever converted, including WW2 conversions. The list contains the name, manufacturer and date of the converted games, plus the names of the games converted from.
I took this PCR conversion list as my starting point. I then used all of the Billboard magazines at my disposal and carefully scanned each page of each issue looking for potential updates. Each issue contained many ads from distributors, operators and manufacturers, listing newly created games and conversions or conversion kits, along with a vast amount of used equipment for sale. Occasional articles also mentioned relevant info related to games produced.
So, after much note taking, photocopying and PCR book referencing, I had my list of updates and additions, etc. My first objective was to take the existing conversion list as published in PCR and expand it slightly to include more detail on the games used for the conversions. Thus my list includes not only the name of the game converted from but also the manufacturer of that game and the year it was originally produced.
I was quite happy to come up with about 125 updates or additions to the original list. It is quite possible that I've introduced some errors or inaccuracies myself, but every update is accompanied by a specific Billboard issue and page reference, allowing the reader to come to his/her own conclusions where there is any doubt as to the validity of the entry or update.
I was uncertain as to what should be included in this list. Converted games only? All games from Sept. 1, 1939 to Aug. 1945? All games from Dec. 7, 1941 onward? In the end, I settled on all pinball games produced from approximately April 30, 1942, to Dec. 31, 1947, with the exception that any games produced in 1946 or 1947 had to be conversions (since they would be converting from the same pre-war game stock as earlier efforts in theory). The April 30, 1942 date corresponds to the date in which American manufacturing was shut down and totally converted to producing materials for the war effort. Hence, all games produced up to pretty much the end of 1945 are conversions or transformations of other games, although this is not known for sure.
For example, the Marvel ads never mentioned that they were converted from other games. Perhaps they were original? Folks who own a Marvel game or recognize playfield layouts could contribute some information here.
Each entry in the list has a description field included in it. Although the field is free-format, there is a set format for describing updates and additions to the original Pinball Collectors Resource entries. If the list entry represents an update to the PCR list, the first character of the descriptions field will be an asterisk (*). This is followed by a series of one or more descriptive codes separated by commas to indicate what it is that is updated from the PCR book. The following codes are used:
Following the above codes, will be a space followed by the justification for the update. Universally this means the edition of Billboard ("BB") in mm/dd/yy format followed by the page number. If several issues were used to justify the updates, the other issues will follow separated by commas and spaces.
The above formatting and codes makes it possible to programmatically update any existing online databases. Other shorthand notation found includes "5bfpg" for "Five Ball Free Play Games". If this code appears it means the new entry was listed in an operator ad under that heading, meaning for all intents and purposes it should be a pinball game.
The manufacturer code id's used are the same as used in the PCR. Only one new code was added - SNA for Sullivan-Nolan Advertising.
It is important to understand that these updates are not cast in stone as being absolutely correct. They represent my best judgement only! Consider the following points:
For example, one late 40's ad by an operator named two potentially new games: "Old King Cole" and "Merry Old King". But common sense told me that these were most likely Gottlieb's "King Cole".
If you have any updates to this list, please let me know what they are! Let's make this list accurate.
Sorry - this info is only included in the purchased version of the presentation. See the Info page for details.
A few observations about the list and some of the entries . . .
Who did the most conversions? What were the most popular subjects of conversions? The answers are at our fingertips given the above table and a little bit of SQL.
|Manufacturer||Games Used For Conversion|
|Chicago Coin Machine||16|
Bally wins here, but throw out Whirlaway and War Admiral conversions and the total would be 46 instead of 59. Genco was very popular in the period leading up to the war!
|Game||Manufacturer||Number of Times Converted|
|10 different games||3|
From A to Z Exhibit Supply is the clear winner here, with Genco running second. I left out the Bally games used for Whirlaway and War Admiral, as there are uncertainties about these games (noted earlier).
|Manufacturer||Number of Conversions Performed|
Victory Games clearly has the highest number here. However, this category is all apples and oranges. Victory created kits that you bought for $9.50 and retrofitted yourself. Glickman just supplied new backglasses with a new name and new artwork only. Bell, United and Westerhuas actually took games and revamped them in house as far as I know.
|Year||Total Games Converted||Unique Games Converted|
As you might expect, the newest games were used for conversions. The unique games column eliminates duplicates. For example, Genco's 1940 Formation was converted into 4 different machines. It thus accounts for 4 of the 67 for 1940 in the total games column, but only 1 for the unique games column.
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Last Update: August 12, 1996© Terry Cumming, 1996