A Beginner’s Guide To Buying Antique Slot Machines

A Beginner’s Guide To Buying Antique Slot Machines

It seems like we do everything online these days. Booking tickets, paying bills, reading the newspaper for today's latest grim forecasts. But it's not all drudge, there's lots of fun things online too. Gaming, of course, and the ability to watch or listen to almost whatever we want, whenever we want. However, for some, the physical experience is just as important as the virtual.

Despite many old video games being emulated and available to download from sites, the retro game scene has been on fire in the last few years. Nintendo cartridges sell for blistering amounts and the rise of the barcade has seen the cabinets from the seaside amusements of the 80s and 90s relocated into the hippest quarters of cities around the country. While home console and computer technology now comfortably crush the coin-ops, there's still something magical about getting four mates round the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or NBA Jam machines and bashing the buttons. Indeed, a market has now sprung up for at-home cabinets, from the old school machines themselves bought on our very own Ex-Display, to new purpose-built products like the AtGames Legends Ultimate that comes preloaded with 350+ games in a cabinet featuring both joysticks and trackballs.

It could be that fruit machines are the next segment of that niche to take off. They've also gone from taking pennies on a day at the coast to logging in with a credit card, and the amount of games now is staggering. For example, there are more than 25 different variants featured on the Jackpot section on Foxy Bingo, including Goldfish Fortunes and Hyper Star, and that’s one genre offered by the provider. In total, there are hundreds of games offered on that platform alone, which underlines how the slot industry has evolved. It means the traditional one-armed bandit, seen in pubs up and down the country, are rare. They’ve been replaced by video machines that have created a market for the older cabinets. If that sounds interesting, there's a few considerations to take on board.

The first is space. Pre-1970 machines tended to be tabletop and can be easily moved from place to place. With the classic side lever, the original one-armed bandit can make a really nice conversational and decorative piece. Post-1970 slots moved to being mostly floorstanding, and while keeping the arm, they do tend to run smaller than the present day button-only style that started to take over in the 1980s.

The second is maintenance. Are you buying an antique slot machine to keep or to sell? Fully mechanical slot machines can often be maintained with generic, easily available spare parts. Likewise, pre-decimal coins – or slot machine tokens, which were commonly used – can be bought in bulk fairly cheaply. Expect to pay less than £10 for a pack of 50 tokens or old pennies, although be aware different manufacturers had different tokens so get the correct type. If you're keeping it, you'll need these! If you're flipping the machine on, it can put some extra on the sticker price as part of a ready-made package to the buyer.

Price also needs to be taken into account. A trawl around eBay will net you many vintage machines in non-working condition for around £300-£400 at the time of writing. There's a growing community of hobbyist fruit machine restorers who are very generous with their knowledge and have uploaded a goldmine of helpful videos to YouTube. Likewise the things you can't do such as manufacture reel decoration cards are offered surprisingly economically by some dedicated printers. For the Rolls-Royce of slots, antiques expert Dr Lori Verderame testifies that antique machines from Mills can fetch six figures in perfect condition.

If you fancy having a spin, the world of antique slots can certainly be fun and might lead to profit. And until computers come with a pull lever at the side of the monitor, there'll be some things that the internet can't replace.