The Sands Mechanical Museum: Coin Operated Games
updated November 2004
Coin operated arcade games are wonderful devices. They are colorful with beautiful wood finish, art work, and flashing lights. They make wonderful sounds including bells, tunes, and voices. Even the mechanical whirrings, clicks, and thumps are musics, evidence of the secret mechanical wonders hidden within. Those things hidden from the player are almost as fascinating as the things visible. The motors, gears, electrical wiring, and gadgets have an appeal all their own.
The Sands Mechanical Museum contains many coin operated games. There are over 30 pinball machines, horse race games, arcade video games, and a shooting game. Some of these are operational and some are awaiting restoration.
Since the Sands Mechanical Museum also restores games professionally, many of the games that were restored for customers also appear on this site.
As an experiment, we have started a antique coin operated game forum. While there is demand and while participants are nice to each other, we will keep it up and running.
Every time a mechanism is restored at the Museum, an attempt is made to document it, how it comes apart, how to put it back together, and how it works. The documentation makes extensive use of photographs. Animations are now available to show how some of the mechanisms work:
Game descriptions include the appearance of the games, how to play the games, what the mechanisms look like, and how they work. I also attempt to document their histories and who invented them if possible. A description of the restoration process is also included. (See also the general restoration techniques.)
There are over 30 games in the Sands Mechanical Museum collection. The museum is virtual, existing only on the Internet, however many of the games are real and are scattered through our home and workshop.
We have tried to distribute the collection evenly across all the decades, from 1930s to the present. The Museum documents and restores mostly older games, generally from 1930 to 1960. More modern examples are also included in the Museum in an attempt to provide examples of historical progression.
Patents are a great way to research old pinball machines. Many patents were developed during the creation of the game and the companies used the patent as a tool to protect their intellectual property.
Patents not only contain mechanical drawings but also wonderful descriptions by the engineers on what they expected from the game or the mechanism. Often schematics are included as well.
There is a branch patent office in Sunnyvale, California, close to the Museum. Patent searches are available as well.
There were many books written on the subject of coin operated games and pinballs. I continue to develop the bibliography of books while others do the same with articles.
I try to acquire the books, even when they are duplicates. The duplicates are offered back to collectors on the For Sale page at cost..
The pinGame journal is a magazine that covers only pinball machines. Jim Schelberg, the publisher and editor, has devoted years to the support of the pinball hobby and his enthusiasm shows. I am prejudiced of course, as Jim consents to publish my ramblings from time to time.
GameRoom Magazine is published once a month and is a hobby magazine for game room collectables. It covers not only pinball machines but also jukeboxes, soda pop machines, classic video games, and slot machines. Tim Ferrante, the publisher, also publishes my articles from time to time.
There are many sources of information on the Internet, including Pinball Pasture and the rec.games.pinball news group. The news group provides access to many pinball enthusiasts and repair professionals. Also located on the web are the following:
Museum quality restoration services for coin operated antiques are available at the Sands Mechanical Museum. We disassemble, clean, restore, assemble, and test old games. Our goal is to make them look like they did after six months of being enjoyed by the players but still be protected from further deterioration.
Here is a sample of the games either restored or repaired at the Museum. We work on a wide variety of mechanical and electrical games and specialize on the Seeburg Rayolite system.
There are also, occasionally, games for sale. Sometimes customers also have extra parts remaining from a previous restorations and are willing to sell them.
Customers can view the schedule.
I enjoy adding unusual games to the collection. I am looking for a dice game (dicer), a manikin bowler like Evans Ten Pins, and a Rockola World Series (1937). If you have a game or even parts for one, please contact me or use the information below.
Copyright 1995 through 2004, all rights reserved.