An authentic slot machine is a big investment (well over $1,000) to most people. These vintage machines are great conversation pieces as well as a great part of our history. Here are some tips so you don’t get burned!
Take note. The following models of slot machines have been reproduced.
Mills War Eagle, Mills Golden Nugget, Mills Castle Front, Mills Bursting Cherry (AKA Brown Front), Mills Wolf Head (AKA Lion Head), Mills Hightop, Watling Treasury and Watling Rol-A-Top.
For Starters Simply Look At The Machine
Take a look at the castings, the wood base & sides, and the mechanism. If they all look brand new then they probably are. Look at where the door fits into the wood base. Does it have nice sharp edges? If so, then it is probably new. Look at the mechanism, is it super clean? If so, then it is probably brand new.
Most people concentrate on the outside of the machine when they restore it. They will only bead blast the mechanism if it is rusty. In any case, the cabinet, even if it has been restored, should show signs of its age.
Reproductions do NOT have serial numbers stamped in the castings. If you are thinking about buying a Mills machine, for example, ask the seller for the serial number. This is probably the easiest way to determine if the machine is legitimate or not.
More on Mills Machines
Most reproduction Mills machines are quarter denomination. In reality, very few of these machines that were made in the 30′s were quarter machines. Most of them were nickel.
Another warning sign is the payout. If the machine pays on a single cherry, then there is a good chance the machine is a reproduction. However, legitimate machines that were made in the 30s required two cherries before they paid out.
Another warning sign is the back door. If it is totally smooth and painted glossy black, then it is a reproduction back door. Original back doors are not totally smooth. They are made of heavy gauge steel. Sometimes original machines have reproduction back doors because the original got lost.
Some people will say the machine has to be original because it has a red Mills sticker on the side of the machine. You can get these stickers for $1.50 and they are used when people restore a machine. When it comes to proving that a machine is not fake they mean nothing.
Also, look at the slides. If they are plastic (originals are brass) then get away from the machine. Most of the people making the fakes use metal slides, just like the originals. The really bad knock-offs use plastic slides.
Most of the Golden Nuggets listed on eBay are fake, phony, reproduction, remanufactured machines. Very few original Golden Nuggets exist. Fortunately, it’s easy to tell an original from a fake.
Original Golden Nuggets have the following:
1) A formic cabinet – repros have a solid wood base.
2) Extra wide coin tray – repros have a smaller coin tray.
3) Award card is stamped – repros are silk screened.
4) Most repros do not have the horizontal check detector lever on the escalator.
5) Most repros do not have the verticle check detection lever on the mechanism.
6) Most repros have a perfectly smooth reproduction back door.
If you don’t mind owning a reproduction, understand that it has zero value as an antique! It is against eBay rules to sell reproduction machines. If eBay ever decides to enforce their own rules, you may be stuck with a machine that you cannot sell.