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The Penny Arcade

 The Coin Operated Machine Information Site 

.                                             Page 4  Machines That Were Unique

  Now lets look at themes of entertainment using an automatic machine that were original in the amusement they offered.

Types of amusement that had they taken off would most certainly have been snatched up by other manufacturers and replicated ….. yet they didn't really.

Unlike a Bandit or Allwin both of which can be quite generic.


Bryans of Kegworth already on this website under the Bryans collection makes mention of The Three Magic Machines. Two of which were made as commercial machines and the third only in prototype and then a very few for collectors were issued. More details can be found in Melvyn Wright's very splendid website The Bryans Penny Arcade by Melvyn Wright.



          Disappearing Disc (1948)                             String Cutter (1948)                               Magic Spirals (1948)


One can't help thinking that Jim Bryan was pandering to his own intellect and engineering ability when he turned his concentration to these.

They very cleverly borrowed from simple magic tricks of the day.  Making discs diappear and then reappear, cutting and then restoring a rope or causing a spring to change colour having passed it through a short collar. All you had to do was deposit your penny, turn the handle, and gawp in amazement as the miracle was performed in front of your very eyes.

However: -


You didn't win anything, and what did people want? To beat the machine and get their penny back!


After you'd seen it once how many more times would you pay to watch it?


How amazing was watching a machine perform a miracle?  It wasn't really.

To most people all machines perform incomprehensible miracles all the times.  How many truly understand how a zipper works?  Let alone something as simple as a Thermos Flask? It has no moving parts, no power source …. yet if you put a hot drink in it it stays hot, BUT  if you put a cold drink in a thermos flask it stays cold. How does it know?????

Watching a person cut and then restore a piece of rope, now that is wondrous because it means I should be able to do it. A machine though?


These machines didn't fit a need and as such were poor investment for operators. Collectors however (me included) would snatch them up (if the price was a good investment) seventy years on because many collect Bryans machines and these were made in small number which means we can't all have one.  At today's values (Jan 2018) I could have the two most produced models tomorrow but I'd be paying probably in the region of £10K to make them mine.

Perhaps their commercial value is now as a collector's piece and not then as an amusement operator's piece?


The other Bryans machine that didn't match the three criteria mentioned above would have to be The Nudist Colony Viewer otherwise called A Live Peep Show. Cashing in on the lingering memories of Mutoscopes and What The Butler Saw machines Jim went one further.  In his version the images you paid to see were live. The fact they were in a tiny box with no handle to turn probably was the enticement for the punter to want to find out how he was going to deliver without out and out lying.  What it did offer was a chance to then play a trick on your mate and persuade him to waste a penny by extolling the beauty of what you'd just chucked away your penny on.





Oddly enough operators were never the most fastidious when it came to maintaining the equipment that earned them their living.  You only have to look at the condition many machines arrive in our hands to see that.  Yet they bought The Live Peep Show knowing that this small money earner was going to need the most constant looking after than probably any other slot in their armoury.  Failure to go out hunting for the right kind of robust ant and then regularly feeding them honey was commercial suicide. On top of that replacing light bulbs in exchange for taking a few coppers must have left many a punter paying a penny to stare into a dark hole and then being given the ominous excuse “you ain't missed nothing pal they're all dead anyway”



                                               The Samson's Slick …...


     Dating from the late 30s, this machine gave a lot of delight for your penny. This one's mine …....



Housed in an all metal case your penny gave you three different games multi play, a score dial and the chance to win your penny back. What more could you want.

The three games your ball had to negotiate were ….

A double level see-saw. (The one I fail at)

A set of forks (similar to a Payramid)

Finally a drop a bomb type plunger.


Each success moved the score dial on one.  If you achieved the stated required score you got your penny back.

The biggest advantage to operators was if the battery was flat then it still operated, you could play all the balls through all of the games.  The only bit that didn't work was the score dial which in turn meant the coin return didn't happen.


Apparently there was so much going on and for a goodly length of time that players often didn't realise there was a score dial, let alone they could win their penny back.



   For those of us who remember seeing them and playing them back in the day this machine is a cracker!