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Monday, March 21, 2005

BBC 20th Century Roadshow

The 20th Century Roadshow, spinoff of the BBC's Antiques Roadshow is launching next month. Hosted by Alan Titchmarsh (presumably looking for a job indoors now), it aims to do for collectables what the latter program has done for antiques (ie. foster a wider appreciation of their appeal and cultural significance and/or make them more expensive, while drumming up trade for the auction houses). It's bound to feature some old slot machines sooner or later. The valuations should be "interesting."

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Dr Who?

Coin-op Dalek
Edwin Hall & Co. coin-op Dalek Circa 1964

A prediction: Social attitudes are already changing, and soon it will become acceptable (if not exactly cool) to talk about in public.

All Brits of a certain age who share an interest in mechanical things that go clunk in the night will be curiously awaiting next week's re-launch of Dr Who.

One little known fact about the program we can exclusively reveal here - William Hartnell was not only the first Doctor - he was also the best. That's official, and is not offered as a point for debate or discussion.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Saturday, March 12, 2005

New UK Working Models book reviewed


Penny-in-the-Slot Automata & The Working ModelBritish books about early coin-operated machines don't come along often. In fact Darren Hesketh's 224 page Penny-in-the-Slot Automata & The Working Model is only the second UK coin machine hardback published, and the first in any language to focus entirely upon coin-operated automata. Like it's cinematic counterpart, mechanical animation maintains an undiminished fascination and has enjoyed something of a resurgence over the last few decades. These quirky miniature re-enactments of the tragic, comic, dramatic and mundane; of gory tortures, grim executions and ghostly visitations, stand quite apart from the more well known gambling machines and skill games and deserve a guide book of their own.


As a relative newcomer to the world of antique slot machines, Darren dived in at the deep end and immersed himself in the subject for several years (he now runs a vintage arcade exhibiting his working models and games at the Cheshire Workshops). A book of this sort depends for its content upon winning the co-operation of many collectors and museum curators at home and abroad, and Darren must be commended for the amount of information and pictorial content he's garnered from them. The main contenders are all well represented: Ahrens, Bollands, Canova, Dennison, Kraft and Lee. The rarely seen, elaborate and intricate Tansley models were a revelation and left me hungry for more. There are chapters on the related fields of mechanical music, coin-operated merchandisers and some contemporary examples by Tim Hunkin, plus a section on American models (mostly fortune-tellers and animated vendors) which seems to confirm that the working model per se was a uniquely British tradition.


Image quality is good with many photographs supplied by the author. Aside from brief histories of working models in general and of the major manufacturers, the text is confined to concise and pithy descriptions of the actions. The copious pictures which attest to the visual appeal of these machines are allowed to speak for themselves. The price guide at the end (insisted upon by the publisher) is fairly pointless - infrequency of sales and their one-off nature makes generalized values meaningless. Inevitably there are many models which could not be included, (some of which have come to light since publication) but this book provides a substantial sample of what's out there. I want to see more now, but that's really a measure of the book's success.


The £100 cover price is going to be the stumbling block for many. However, Amazon are selling it for a more bearable £70, but you won't find it any cheaper than at this site. Buy it now for £60!



Penny-in-the-Slot Automata 1Penny-in-the-Slot Automata 2Penny-in-the-Slot Automata 3

Sell your stuff in a major slot machine auction

Southern Counties Auctioneers are now accepting items for their May 22nd Vintage and Classic Amusements & Fairground Relics sale catalogue. Entries can be submitted online or by post. So if you have any old slot machines or similar items you would like to put in the auction, now's the time to dig 'em out.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Fire at the Candle Factory

There was an extensive fire at the Cheshire Workshops Candle Factory on Wednesday night (02/03/05) which houses Darren Hesketh's vintage arcade of working models and slot machines. It started after closing time and is believed to have been deliberate. There was no night security in the building and no fire sprinklers. Whether the machines have suffered more than smoke damage is not yet clear. I feel very sorry for Darren who has put so much effort into setting up one of the nicest public exhibitions of its kind in the country. More details.