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The Penny Arcade

 The Coin Operated Machine Information Site 



    Collecting Slot Machines, a  Friendly Guide to Getting Started

                                               By "Badpenny"


                 So you like old slot machines?


Are you the kind of person who scans eBay, idly searching for long lost items from your youth?

Perhaps you've secured a toy from your distant memory to replace the one you had back then.


If this is you and you have a yearn to own the kind of old slot machine you played in the seaside arcades ….. THEN HOW MUCH FUN WOULD THAT BE?!


The good news is, you can.


The even better news is

….. you'll spend a lot more than the £30 that you think they should cost now.

..... although you merely plan to only look at it and play with it, you'll soon be inside it and tinkering away to your heart's panic.

…. you'll be astonished at how much room you have in your house to shove in even more machines.

….. you'll be more than astonished at how many different ways you've just discovered to seriously hack off your wife, girlfriend/significant partner, flat mate, neighbour and even total strangers.


You will soon observe how everyone's eyes will glaze over when you find ever imaginative ways to turn random conversations around to your machines, and the most common question you hear banded around (but not to you directly) is “Why would you want that in your house?”


This is our world, and you are welcome to it!



What about the downsides?


This all sounds too good to be true.  After all how much fun can one person get from one hobby?


Well let's cover the first obvious question.

Is it legal?

The easy answer is YES … well, when I say YES I really mean NO.

However by NO I could be saying …. PerhapsMaybe is another accurate word for this situation.

Glad we got that sorted out then.


If you live in America-land then generally it's allowed if the machine is at least 25 years old and you don't live in

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Nebraska
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee


If I lived in Hawaii, I'm sure I'd find other things to interest me.


Now If you hail from Australia-land, then the legalities of slot ownership in Oz are curious, it comes down to which State or Territory you reside in. Generally speaking the older the machine the higher penalty.  It seems Victoria may be OK, likewise Perth (I could be wrong there, even the Ozzies don't seem too sure)

Otherwise they'll destroy it, fine you $thousands, and lock you up for your troubles. Don't even consider disabling your machine, just having bits or a decorative panel will result in your 'nads being nailed to a public wall.

Secure it in a locked glass case, and you might as well have exposed yourself in church, for the wrath of the authorities is a humdinger!


“Ah, but ….” I hear you say “I don't live in any of these exotic places, I'm from good old Britain-land, where common sense rules and stiff upper lips abound.”


OK, let's try and appreciate British stiff upper lipped common sense.



                                             Mexican one armed bandit for sale,stand not included

“Can I buy or own a slot machine?” ….. Well the worst case scenario is: -


Yes you can, basically so long as only you play it.  You're not allowed to mend it, tinker with it or adjust it, not even with a coat of paint.  All of this also applies to bits, parts or spares.  They'd really like you to buy a permit valid for a year for each and every machine, be it complete, a wreck or just a basket of bits & bobs. However they can be vague about this.


Currently during these times of being under powered and over stretched they would prefer to be raiding “Take Aways” and “Taxi Offices” looking for modern machines being operated illegally. 

Old men drooling over wooden boxes with a ball bearing in them may not be at the top of their list, however don't get complacent as they will investigate complaints from any direction about any gambling machine.


“So if I can buy one, obviously I can sell one too.”

“Well ….No, that would be far too sensible”


Within living memory, selling them was simple, now with the advent of eBay the authorities are much more aware and constantly move the goal posts.

It used to be that you merely informed them with a list of Makes and Models that  you were disposing of.  Now they want you to apply for a £25 licence for each and every machine, in order to sell. 

This might not seem too arduous but they restrict you to how many licences you may apply for and if your name pops up too often then you are likely to appear on the radar of other Government Bods. Inland Revenue and HMRC/VAT, who are more than happy to declare you as a trader and not very politely hit you with a tax demand.

There are plenty of websites available that will merrily explain in full blown jargon'ese all of the attractive penalties available to the unwary. Marvellous reading at bed time, and guaranteed to keep you awake all night.


And of course ignorance is hilarious.  As are some of the ruses tried by the “I know a way around this” brigade. They try things like …...

“It works on obsolete money, so you can't gamble”

“Changed to run on free play”

“Home use only”

None of the above cut the mustard as it's not up to you to interpret the law.


“In accordance with eBay rules …...”

No, don't even go down there.  They aren't eBay rules.  eBay is being leaned on by The Law.  ebay would happily accept your money if you wanted to sell your Granny's foot.  However, they don't want trouble with the defenders of the law.


Then there are the special clever people, the ones that think a law is merely a challenge to find a way around something.  Just remember you are dealing with Her Majesty's Officers of Customs & Excise.  They have more powers than the police do, They can and will enter your property whenever they want and don't need a warrant in order to do so.  They also make no attempt to repair or make good any damage they imaginatively achieve in the process. And they have no sense of humour, nor do they consider negotiation as part of their job.


Do you really want to play games with this bunch?  If so, please video the outcome and put it on Youtube.  We could all do with a good laugh.


Examples of “Wangles” tried out by special clever people include …...


  • For sale one brass screw £2500, included for free a Mills Roman Head Bandit.
  • For sale one empty Bandit Case, no machinery £800
  • Also have a mechanism for sale £800
  • For sale one Bedside Cabinet as shown in photo with a Jennings Governor on top to show how strong it is tel. 01010345678 for full details.


Oddly enough  Her Majesty's Officers of Customs & Excise don't appreciate such clever japes, they tend to take them as an insult to their intelligence as well as cocking a snook directly at their employer, Her Majesty.

If you really want everything you've ever done, said or had a hand in scrutinised by rude people, at their convenience then this is the way for you, and no mistake.




                                                                  Always buy from a seller you trust                      


Well you've got this far and are still reading, so you're obviously not put off.


We like the hardy, new enthusiast, they bring fresh blood to the hobby as well as money.

So let's look at the toolbox of skills needed to successfully obtain, maintain and despair at your latest toy.



Negotiation Skills


You will need to be controlled and wary at the point of purchase. 

Recognising that you are desperate to beat anybody else because these machines are rare quickly leads you to a dichotomy. The owner won't budge on price, he tells you he's had so many enquiries his eMail is jammed. The bottom line being that you wouldn't recognise if something was missing, and it almost works, you don't want to buy a crock of sh1t, nor do you want to walk away from a rare bargain …. what to do?…. what to do?…. what to do????!!!


Our Tip: -

Drop to your knees sobbing.

Incoherently babbling to please allow you to buy it you should then tip out every penny you have onto the floor in front of him. Tell him it's a down payment and you'll give him more as soon as you've sold your children.


On your way home keep practicing the story about getting mugged that you're going to tell your partner and how lucky you were to find this antique pile of rust in a skip.  Convincing everybody that it should live in the front room on her Mother's Georgian sideboard is a challenge for another day.

Negotiation doesn't end with the purchase!


                                                            Mechanical Skills


Even if your new treasure is in fine working condition, you'll need to learn how it works.  This is because when you least expect it and are busy scoring bragging points in front of your partner's boss at a dinner party, that is the moment it'll jam. 

Which outcome would you prefer: -


“That's interesting Nigel, the underhand flange has locked against the back peddling flip flap valve.  All I need to do now is hold it down and slowly ease the handle over, and there you are seventy year engineering at its best”.


Or, will you go down the route of: -


“F*ck!! It's never done that before!! Why has it done that?! Oh Christ, everybody clear dinner off the table I need the room for the mechanism, darling pass me the silverware I need to stab it ferociously while crying”.


So don't forget the golden number one rule …..

Immediately after buying a machine you should lay out every tool you possess and mend it until it's broken.

Keep all the screws, washers and bolts left over for the next machine you buy.


Organisation Skills for Preparing a Workshop


Will I need a devoted workshop to take care of my beauties?


Of course you will! Every arcade operator had a space out the back where recalcitrant machines were lovingly adjusted within an inch of their life by heavy pounding with hammers against screwdrivers.  How else do you think you get an Aristocrat mechanism into a Mills cabinet?  Always remember these machines are complicated and delicate, never force any part, just hit it with a bigger spanner from the very beginning.


Should I devote a corner of the garage or buy another shed?

Neither, it's cold out there.  The front room table will suffice, and dearest's lace tablecloth (the one her Mother made) will be just the job for soaking up old oil and grease.

Introduce quite early on the idea to everybody else in the house, that once you've dismantled the mechanism all over the table it might have to live there a while until somebody on the  gets around to telling you what you did wrong and where you can get another “thingy” from.

You'll find the advice and help you get at pennymachines unselfish and essential.  Everyone there is knowledgeable, helpful and not at all obsessed.  Otherwise why would they be sitting inside huddled over their laptop describing to total strangers the intricate workings of a 1930's American slot machine when it's in the 80's outside and everyone else in the neighbourhood is sitting by their pool enjoying a BBQ?



                                                                Sales Techniques


There will come a time when you'll need to move one of your babies on.  Let it spread its springs and allow somebody else to enjoy owning it.

You'll note I said “need” and not “want”.  Your preference will be to keep all of them, however dearly beloved will make that decision for you, and for the sake of trivial issues in your life like: 


Watching your TV programs

Being allowed back into the bedroom …..It's worth picking up on the clues she subtly bawls at you.


So you've taken the leap and advertised it.  Only one person has answered your advert because everybody else in the slot community remembers your machine and every plea for help you publicly, and where its short comings and faults were discussed at full length.


It's essential at this point …....

Never to budge on price.

Tell them you've had so many enquiries your eMail is jammed.

Pray they won't recognise if something is missing.

Concentrate on it almost works.

Plant the idea that they wouldn't want to walk away from a rare bargain ….


Identifying yourself as a knowledgeable “Slotty” to the rest of the Community


This will come automatically in time, but to help you realise how far you've come look for these clues in your day to day life: -


You have no predictable life - and you can PROVE that it's as random as the reel sequence on a Mills Hi-top.


You don't chuckle whenever anyone says the ball went round before disappearing down a hole.


You've actually seen every winning combination on your favourite bandit.


You frequently whistle the theme song to "MacGyver", and identify with “The A Team”


You have a pet named after a type of amusement machine


You know you won't be complete until you get manuals


You awake at night desperate to know what that funny shaped bit is really called.


You have a habit of destroying things in order to see how they work.


You spent more on those reproduction reel strips than on your wedding ring.


You think that when people around you yawn, it's because they didn't get enough sleep.


Your favourite James Bond character is "Q," the guy who makes the gadgets.


You've started waking in the morning with the answer to the problem that last night made no sense at all.


You haven't bought any new underwear or socks for yourself since you found that first slot machine.


You try telling your wife/girl friend that you disappear most evenings because you have a job playing the piano in a brothel.  She snorts at you and accuses you of tinkering with slot machines in your workshop.


        Congratulations, you are now one of us!