Cheap, Cool, & Speedy: A Look at Classic Stern Pinballs

“Classic Sterns” are pinball machines made by Stern Electronics between 1977 and 1984. Classic pinball machines that were released between the years 1980-1982 provide a great pleasurable accessory to your game room.

What is so unique about these Stern Games?

Stern Electronics was more open with game artistry design. Stern would allow both artistic themes and styles to their games. For example, artwork that is found  on Quicksilver or Viper has a unique visual appeal than most of the other pinball companies at that period. Moreover,   Stern had the best game designers working for them. For instance, Harry Williams and Steve Kirk are most significant.

Another important aspect to Stern pinball games is they are faster and smoother playing games. In the early 1980’s for pinball games to feature a ball speed so immense, that as a result, the balls would be bouncing over flippers or smacking into the play-field glass. You acquire this great feature with classic Stern pinball machines.

Another important feature of Classic Stern Pinball machines is they are low cost in comparison to other pinball game machines. In fact, most of these games sell for around $400 – $700. This is an extremely low price for the quality of these games and looks so striking. Interestingly, they have classic 80’s arcade 80’s sounds.

Therefore, without a further introduction here are the top ten classic Stern Pinball machines for your fun filled game room:

10. Quicksilver

The unique Doug Watson artwork is a highlight and the game play is nice and fast. Many drop targets.

9. Nine Ball

Lots of drop targets and multiball, which many of the Sterns do not have. Also has a very cool unique floating spinner shot and good opportunities for bank shots.

8.  Galaxy

People say it is an easy game, but if you jack the legs up in the back and polish up the playfield, it is plenty challenging.

7.  Seawitch

Nice swipe-able drop targets and the upper area shots from the upper flipper are fun as well.

6. Split Second

Cool upper playfield and interesting layout. In addition, the backglass and overall art is pretty cool!

5.  Big Game

Trying to fill out the “bingo cards” is a challenge. In addition, it is a widebody, which I like for variety — and yet it still plays nice and fast (unlike most widebodies).

4. Star Gazer

Great backglass. Unique design without any return lanes really keeps you on your toes with this one.

3. Meteor

You just hit those drop targets up high with the top right flipper. It is a classic “just one more game” pinball game.

2. Lightning

Very cool upper playfield, hard to achieve multiball, very fast game play, and cool backglass.

1. Flight 2000

For the encore, coming in at #1 is Flight 2000. This game just has it all. A widebody design, crazy original ball-loading feature that shoots loaded balls over from one area to another. Drop targets all over, multiball, and even voices (although many games currently in existence no longer have this feature working).

So where you can you play some of these games? They are getting harder and harder to find. Nevertheless, as luck would have it, The Texas Pinball Festival is famous for having an entire row of Classic Sterns at its show.

For more information on Collectibles & Antique Coin-Operated Vending Machines, contact Boca Trading Post.


Gameroom Antiques

Do you need more style and elegance to your game room? A vintage game is indeed hard to find. The materials being utilized to make new versions will not match the quality of the original one. Game rooms enhance your living space, while making your home more exciting for guests or utilized for  weekend fun. Check out these vintage game-room antiques that are one of a kind.

For more information on Collectibles & Antique Coin-Operated Vending Machines, contact Boca Trading Post.

Very rare 5-cent crap table. Insert nickels blue carpet moves and dice goes into hole below baby. You pull back spring shooter dice shoots out make your point.

Skee Ball Bowling Machine

Baseball Atlas 1930’s Machine. Art Deco-style gambling game that kept each home run in a verifier window until an over-the-counter reward was paid out. The game is played by inserting a penny into an upper right corner opening and pulling a “baseball bat” lever, which launches the penny onto the playing field.

Manilla style Masters shooting gallery. Great-looking restored machine. Inset penny in gun and pull trigger. Hit the target hole and win. A great conversation piece for your gamely room.

Gum Machine with football field.

Bally Star Special (742 Money Honey) Slot, Circa 1964. One of the first electro-mechanical hopper pay slot machine, it revolutionized the slot machine market – one line, one coin slot.

The History of Slot Machines


Slot machines are unquestionably one of the most important assets that any casino can have. Slot machines always make up a big part of the gaming floor and are one of the biggest draw cards for casinos. The history of slot machines starts in the 1800’s and brings a lot of stories together.

Slot machines first appeared in the late 1800’s in San Francisco and where a long way from the machines that we see today. These early slot machines had card numbers instead of the fruit symbols that are common today.

At the start the card symbols were used so that gamblers had a familiar reference for the machines and didn’t see them as something that was “new and frightening”. These machines usually had five reels with 10 cards on each, meaning that there were two cards left out of a standard deck. The cards that were left of were the Ten of Spades and the Jack of Hearts. Leaving out these cards meant that the machines had instantly halved the chances of the player getting a Royal Flush and a big prize. These machines didn’t pay out money, but prizes of free dinks, cigars, etc were given to winning players.

In 1899, Charles Fey produced the first slot machine that resembled the machines that we know today. This machine was called “The Liberty Bell” and featured three reels with various symbols, including a cracked Liberty Bell, the major symbol. this machine had the new parts of a coin acceptor, a payout table and a large handle on the side. Charles placed his first machine in a San Francisco saloon to see how the public would react to this new technology. The machine caused such a sensation that Charles quit his job and focused solely on his new invention. Because of this, Charles Fey basically monopolized the slot machine market and became very successful.

In 1909 Stephen Mill decided to modify Fey’s original design by adding ten new symbols to each reel and making the machine more compact to make moving and installing the machine easier. This new machine became a big smash hit as well, and in time took over from Fey’s machines.

All this changed in 1964 with the introduction of the first slot machines that used electronic micro-processors to determine the outcome of the games. As well as making the machines more secure, the introduction of electronic slot machines also meant that operators could offer larger prizes and jackpots on the machines thanks to the increased ability to have the reels stop where they were determined to stop.

From here, the next step for slot machines happened in 1974 when Walt Freely introduced the first video-based slot machine. This machine was called the “Fortune Coin” and was a very simplified machine, consisting only of the solid-state computer unit, the coin hopper and a TV screen. Even though these machines had huge benefits for the casinos and also meant better odds, highly controlled payout’s and jackpots for the players. slot machine players were very slow to trust this new technology. People were used to seeing the reels actually spinning in real life for the past 75 years, so a machine that there were no actual reels meant that people were skeptical as to how fair the machines would be.

One of the biggest events to help out video-based slot machines was the introduction of video poker games. Even though the two games were only connected by both being video-based, when people found that video poker games were fair and could be trusted, public perception to video-based slot machines grew.

From here, the humble three-reeled slot machine has grown to machines of 3, 5, 7, 9 and even more reels, with huge variations on symbols, pay lines, jackpots, bet sizes and even extra side games. From video slots, the logical jump was made to add slot machines to online casinos, and this has meant that the 100 years of research and development has been put into each and every slot machine that you find at online casinos today.

Take a look at this interesting video of the History of Slot Machines with Marshall Fey,John Burke,John Davis,Claire Carter and Arden Myrin.

For more information on Collectibles & Antique Coin-Operated Vending Machines, contact Boca Trading Post.

History of Wurlitzer Jukeboxes



Rudolph Wurlitzer came to the United States in 1853 and started an import business selling instruments to the U.S. government during the Civil War.

The First Coin-Op Music Boom
Soon he became the largest instrument supplier in America and through a chain of retail stores in Chicago he started marketing a line of pianos which he manufactured. It wasn’t long before Rudolph attached a coin slot to a player piano and literally started the coin-operated music boom of the late 1800s.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Wurlitzer became famous for the large theater organs that created sound for silent films. These large organs and many other types of automatic instruments were manufactured at a large facility in North Tonawanda, N.Y., where the factory still stands today. Rudolph Wurlitzer died in 1914, leaving the business to his three sons. As the demand for theater organs and automatic pianos weakened, Wurlitzer went through some difficult times. The depression of 1929 nearly put the company out of business.

1940 Wurlitzer model 71 countertop jukebox

In 1933, Rudolph’s youngest son, Farny, entered into a deal with Homer Capehart. Wurlitzer would manufacture a coin phonograph engineered by “Erickson” called the “Debutante”. The repeal of prohibition was imminent and the demand for coin-operated music was about to explode. It did, and by 1937, Wurlitzer had sold over 100,000 phonographs.

Wurlitzer dominated the coin-operated phonograph business until the introduction of the 45 rpm record. At that point, Wurlitzer’s mechanism could handle up to 24 records, playing only one side. Seeburg introduced a new mechanism that held 50 records and could play both sides, yielding a true 100-select jukebox. Wurlitzer made many attempts to compete with this by engineering new mechanisms for its machines, but never really caught up with Seeburg’s domination of the jukebox market

1941 Wurlitzer

The Demise and The Resurrection
Operators in the early 1950s considered the new Wurlitzer mechanisms overly complex and not particularly reliable. After nearly giving up on jukeboxes in the early ’60s and early ’70s, Wurlitzer gave one last gasp in 1973 and tried to make a nostalgic-looking jukebox called the “1050”. With only 1,600 units produced, the effort wasn’t enough to bring back what was once the greatest jukebox manufacturer ever. Wurlitzer held on into the ’70s but then when demand for jukeboxes faded, so did the Wurlitzer factory, eventually going out of business.

A new company in Germany has purchased the name Wurlitzer and is manufacturing bubbler CD jukeboxes called “One More Time”.

For more information on Collectibles & Antique Coin-Operated Vending Machines,  contact Boca Trading Post.

Antique Gas Pumps

The first gas pumps were built in the 1880s by the Bowser Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, followed in 1898 by pumps that could drag fuel from an underground tank. As cars grew popular while soaring in the 1920s, service stations sprang up everywhere and the gas pump became a key promotional channel.

The early pumps were ‘visible gas’ pumps, with a clear glass cylinder, usually 5 or 10 gallons on top of the pump, so you could see what you were getting, or if the gas was dirty (a big problem at that time).

Wayne 505 Restored Texaco Fire chief

Next came the electric pump, but people still wanted to see the gas, so they had a small cylinder, called a sight glass. These pumps had a clock face that kept track of the gallons. Finally they came out with computing gas pumps, which would tell you the cost too.

Currently in demand are the computing pumps from the 1930’s into the 1950’s, but in the 1960’s they rationalized them, making them more boxy and plain. Pumps from the 1930’s in particular have a great amount of an art deco style (and are very tall).

Take a look at this YouTube video on  some of the great antiques and collectibles in the showroom at Fast Lane Classic Cars in St. Charles, Missouri. They have a great selection of vintage gasoline pumps, vending machines, antique soda fountains.

For more information on Collectibles & Antique Coin-Operated Vending Machines  contact Boca Trading Post.

The First Pinball Machines



1931 Automatic Industries, Whiffle.
Whiffle is generally regarded as the first ‘Pinball Machine’. Whiffle incorporated a coin acceptor which, when a coin is inserted, will actuate a shuttle board underneath the playfield to drop the ball’s beneath and return them to the base of the game, in order to be ready for a new game. Also note the knob on the right side which turned a wheel ball lifter mechanism inside and brings each ball up to playfield level, ready to be shot by the plunger. Whiffle had moderate success … but it was the first!

1931 Automatic Industries, Whiffle

1931 Gottlieb Baffle Ball.
Dave Gottlieb who produced penny arcade grip testers, observed a potentially huge market for pinball. Dave produced a small coin operated countertop machine and called it ‘Baffle Ball’. The game took the country by storm and rocketed pinball into national prominance. Even working 24 hours a day, Gottlieb just couldn’t produce enough Baffle Ball’s to satisfy the public’s demand for it. This is the machine which launched the whole pinball industry.

1931 Gottlieb Baffle Ball

Ray Moloney saw the explosive demand for Dave Gottlieb’s Baffle Ball and decided to design and manufacture his own game in order to get a share of the market. Ray designed a colorful game and borrowed the name of a popular magazine of that time, Ballyhoo. Ray named his company which would produce Ballyhoo, ‘Bally Mfg. Co.’ This is the game that started Bally. Ray’s advertising slogan was “What’ll they do through 32…. play Ballyhoo”!

1932 Bally Ballyhoo

For more information on Collectibles & Antique Coin-Operated Vending Machines , contact Boca Trading Post.

Fake Slot Machines – How To Identify Them!


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.

Serial Numbers
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.

Golden Nuggets
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.

The Vintage Jukebox



Our Memories are Made of This
Nostalgia lovers and antique collectors all share a fascination with the jukebox. The earliest models, from the ”golden age” of jukeboxes in the 1930’s and 40’s, were beautifully crafted sound machines that ”bubbled,” radiating light and color.

Wurlitzer 1015 JukeboxJukebox production slackened during the war years with the scarcity of materials, but later resumed. A particularly good year was 1946, when the Wurlitzer company, in just two months, sold 56,000 machines of its 1015 model, now known as the most popular jukebox ever made.

Vintage boxes, fully restored with replated chrome, refinished veneers, rebuilt amplifiers and new cartridges for the tone arms, may cost from $5,000 to $25,000, depending on their rarity!

Tips – How to Collect Vintage Jukeboxes
Many vintage jukeboxes made between the 1930s and 1980s of them are still in excellent working condition. Others are in need of major restoration.

  • Determine if you are going to collect vintage jukeboxes by brand, year or style.
  • Decide if you want to collect vintage jukeboxes that are in pristine condition, or if you will be needing jukebox restoration services.
  • Purchase a vintage jukebox collectors guide, It will help you to determine the price range and value of jukeboxes in various conditions.
  • Check the yellow pages in your area for vendors that specialize in “Amusement Devices.” These vendors, called operators, often have vintage jukeboxes for sale. Also, check for amusement companies that often sell old jukeboxes.
  • Join a vintage jukebox collectors online group, such as
  • Attend auctions that specialize in jukeboxes or have a jukebox listed on their auction program.
  • Research jukebox restoration companies to make sure that if your jukebox needs to be restored, it will be done by someone who specializes in your specific make of jukebox.

Trade Stimulators

Imagine if you were going to the store today and at the checkout register there was a trade stimulator setting on the counter. You just went there for milk and eggs, but for 50 cents you can play a machine and possibly win two packs of gum for the price of one. Well, you didn’t even come for gum but it is so tempting you take 50 cents out of your pocket and give it a spin to try and win.

With only a small percentage of winners, it is doubtful you may actually win two packs but you lose and still get the single pack at the retail price of 50 cents, which is now in the machine. The store owner who only pays off to a few customers is now selling box after box of gum and coaxing most everyone out of money they would have never spent at his store.

Coin operated trade stimulators and counter games got their start in the saloons of the 1880s. Things changed with the coming of the Prohibition and the disappearance of saloons in 1920. Checkout counters in stores, restaurants, and cigar shops became the primary locations, where these counter games helped stimulate trade.

The Great Depression, followed by the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, propelled the industry to new heights and prominent makers such as Groetchen Tool, Buckley, Bally, Pierce Tool, and many others were kept busy until the 1960s.

Trade Stimulators were similar to slot machines in that they have three spinning reels. However, they have no payout and were thus legal in places where slots were not.

The vast range of old Trade Stimulators makes it impossible to describe all of them. Some of the different ways they can be found to play are as race games, roulette, color wheel, pointer, card machine, dial, dice, coin drop, target, cigarette, and the list goes on and on.

Antique Gumball Machines


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Although the first gum was sold from a vending machine in the 1880s, the gumball machine as we know it was first introduced in 1907 – dispensing round gumballs for one cent.

Found in train stations, general stores, smoke shops, and pubs, these machines, constructed of wood and metal, were thought of as “silent salesmen,” working 24 hours a day.

The early 20th-century vending machines looked like what most people think of as old-fashioned gumball machines, with claw feet, scroll embellishments made of cast iron, and glass globes.

Gumball machines made in the 1920s and 1930s were built using steel construction or finished with porcelain enamel over cast iron, giving the device an attractive appearance, often in a cheerful fire-engine red.

During Prohibition, gambling, be it cards or slot machines, was banned along with alcohol. Surprisingly, gumball machines were also considered a form of gambling! One such outlawed machine, the Hawkeye, was built so that on every 10th pull of its lever, a bell would ring and the customer would get his or her penny back along with the gumball.

Vending machines got simpler after World War II. They were made of plastic and cheaper metal like aluminum. In the ’50s and ’60s, supermarkets and drugstores usually had gumball machines, branded Ford, Northwestern 60, Toy ’n Joy, Victor, and Oak Acorn. For beginners, postwar machines are the easiest to start collecting.

The most fragile part of a typical gumball machine is the glass globe that holds and displays the multi-colored balls. While broken globes are often replaced, and restoration doesn’t destroy the value of a vintage machine, dedicated collectors pay the most for original machines in excellent condition, with original parts.

Antique gumball machines increasingly rare
In some cases, the parts are so rare that even a machine casing gets pricey. The outside case for a Pulver Kola-Pepsin gum machine, with some wear and no internal workings, recently captured $1,878 on eBay.

Vintage gumball machines make great display pieces, and collectors of mechanical contraptions know that some machines can bring hundreds, or even thousands, at auction.