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WW2 Pinball Stories - 1930's Reflections

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OK - this page has nothing to do with World War 2 at all. It merely presents some reflective tidbits from the 1933-34 period, as retold in the "Ten Years Ago" column from Billboard. A little off topic but interesting nonetheless. Lots of good pinball stuff happened in the early 30's (birth of the game as we know it), so it's always worth talking about!

Reflections on Pinball in 1932

The end of 1932 completed the first year of the coin machine industry in its modern phase or, rather, the first year of modern pinball games.

Introduced in 1931 as a commercial game, pinball had grown rapidly in popularity. An interesting sidelight on the progress of pinball machines was the fact that two manufacturers had introduced new games at the close of 1932 and used good advertising space to say definitely that they were "not pinball games." In fact, there was general argument in the industry at that time whether pinball was a passing fad or would last.

The year 1932 was one of business depression, and because of the rapid rise of amusement machines during that year, it was generally said in the trade that amusement machines were a depression business. The depression had certainly brought the end of the great vending machine boom that developed in the late '20s. Now, amusement machines were growing by leaps and bounds. [...]

Tommy's Grandad?

A news report from Newark N.J., said that operators had found a pinball champ and were challenging the rest of the country to produce a player to meet him in a public contest. That was just one of the ideas at that time for promoting interest in pinball.

January 16, 1933 - New Games

Among the new pinball games announced in The Billboard 10 years ago was a racing table game called "Jockey Club" and another called "Handicap." Both machines indicated that the racing theme was becoming predominant in the pinball field. Prices ran about $17.50 for pinball games, and one senior table had a price of $37.50.

Trains and Boats and Planes

Other news indicated that amusement machines were being placed on boats and ships. Two reports in that issue mentioned coin machines being placed on ships.

Editorial on Pinballs

Note the use of the "pinball" to describe pinball games! Prior to seeing this I had thought that the first general usage of that term had not come until 1936. Yet here we see it in January of 1933.

Editorial comment on pinball games ran something as follows: "Whatever is said, for or against pinball, it is not likely to affect their future one way or another. The whims of the public are most likely to be the deciding factor. As long as the pin games pay on locations, there will be plenty of operators to place them out. But differences of opinion help to spur that search for new ideas, and one of these days there may be a new invention that will swamp the pinball in its advance. "The last several weeks have witnessed new popularity for counter games and particularly those with a chance appeal. Some feel that they might displace the pin games. My guess is that they have been merely filling up a vacant field which pinball could not cover. The field for both should be permanent and have little effect, the one upon the other."

Editorial Predictions - Prospects for 1933

"How does the coin machine industry stand at the beginning of 1933? It would be interesting if an accurate answer could be had to that question. Among the many members of the trade there will be as many differences of opinion. With respect, to machines, there are three tendencies recognizable at this moment before the new machines for 1933 have been announced.

There is a tendency among manufacturers to stick to the pin-game principles and still build pin games; there is the tendency to try and find a new idea that is not a pin game; and there is the tendency to build the small counter games and cater to that market.

The greatest single factor in the trade, for three months at least, will no doubt be the annual trade convention and show in February. The approach of the convention will stimulate inventors and manufacturers to get their newest ideas ready.

Every week from now until the show is sure to witness the announcement of some new machine or idea. The increasing momentum as the show draws near should prove helpful to the entire trade. The best policy would seem to be to get into the swim and make the best of it. An extra amount of favorable publicity will gather about the idea of the show, and it is possible for both manufacturers and operators to cash in on this." [...]

Top Games - 1934 Coin Machine Show

Following are the names of some of the outstanding games displayed at the 1934 Coin Machine Show:

View 8 of the top games from 1934.

Players Get Real Treat


Among the new machines advertised was Bally's Champion, in which players "buy" out-hole balls, and Genco's Step Up, "with the four musical chimes." Exhibit advertised Lightning, described as the first game that ever gave players a real treat.

New Games From Bally and Daval

Bally Manufacturing Company said in their ads that their new game Fleet had "captured the U.S.A." Golden Gate was another new game announced, by Exhibit Supply Company. Their ads asked ops to watch for distribution date on the new machine [...]

Daval, Inc., Chicago, made use of the ever-popular cartoon ads to announce a new game, "Big Bertha." The ad was done in the style of the familiar "Believe It or Not."

Game Sent Via Parcel Post

Bally Manufacturing Company, said they had shipped "Fleet" to a West Coast distrib and believed it was the first time in the industry this kind of equipment was sent via parcel post.

1934 Madison Square Gardens Pinball Tournament!

Could this have been the first ever large scale pinball tournament? At Madison Square Gardens (sic) no less! PAPA6 at MSG perhaps?

The Skill Games Board of Trade of New York, in co-operation with Chicago manufacturers, planned the first pin game tournament which was to be held in Madison Square Gardens, New York City. Nat Cohen, treasurer of the Skill Games Board of Trade of New York, met a group of pin game manufacturers in Chicago to discuss cooperative plans for the tournament which was intended to create good will for the industry, attract publicity to skill games generally, and to gain a better public understanding of coin-operated games of skill.

Manufacturers of pin games were to furnish a wide variety of the newest pin games and Eastern jobbers made arrangement to absorb all these games as soon as the tournament was over.

Adding to the good will building efforts of the tournament, arrangements were made to contribute all proceeds of the tournament to the New York milk fund which was sponsored by a large newspaper chain.

Formula For a Successful Amusement Machine

Claude R. Kirk presented the following formula for the successful amusement machine for 1934:

"It must be amusing, simple and require no mental effort on the part of the player. It must pay a reward to the player because players have been educated to receive rewards in the event they we successful. The game must be fast and the player must be able to play goodly sums in the short period of leisure time which he has."

The Giant Crusader

I would like to know exactly what constituted a "giant" pinball machine in the early 30's . . .

Officials of Bally Manufacturing company revealed that while their Crusader, a giant pin game table, had been selling steadily for more than a year, demands following the 1934 Coin Machine Show had obtained the proportions of a "run." They attributed this fact to the hundreds of operators who had their first look at giant pin games at the 1934 Coin Machine Show.

Manufacturer Listens To Operators


The following comments are made by one of the three Gensburg brothers who controlled Genco.

One important benefit of annual coin machine shows, as revealed by Meyer Gensburg, of Genco, Inc., was the flow of suggestions by operators for the improvement of coin-operated amusement machines. Following the 1934 Coin Machine Show, Gensburg announced that their new game called Pontiac was a "reborn babe" as the result of suggestions received from operators.

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