Blackpool Pleasure Beach relic helps arcade machines collection hit auction jackpot

A father and son have hit the jackpot after selling the UK's largest private collection of classic arcade games at auction - for more than £80,000.

Ken Jackson, 89, and his son Stewart, 49, spent almost four decades lovingly restoring dozens of historic slot machines dating from the 1890s to the 1970s. They amassed a collection of 82 arcade games and one-arm bandits during their 34-year hobby - including a relic from Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

The pair decided to part with the machines in order to downsize house and they went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on Thursday (May 30). And they were left coining it in after their collection achieved a hammer total of nearly £64,000 with the total including buyers premium topping £80,000.

READ MORE:

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: "Life can be a gamble but the Jacksons’ lifelong love for slot machines proved to be a winner. It was a fantastic sale of an iconic collection.

"These beautiful works of art lit up the saleroom. They showcased decades of design.

"We’re always thrilled to handle objects of luxury and lifestyle. Vintage amusement machines have become a new stylish must-have in modern homes celebrating a golden age.

"The first one-armed bandit appeared in San Francisco in 1895 invented by Charles August Fey but, as this auction shows, they’re still on trend today."

Buyers from France, Belgium, Ireland and the UK all bid on the items during the sale, which was held in Derbyshire. The top price was £7,000 for a Jennings Prospector 1946 Club Console Machine, emblazoned with ‘Nevada Club’, first introduced in 1946 and with a jackpot of $1,000 in coins.

A scarce 1970 Bryans Works Penny Go Round sold for £5,500 - only two or three are known to exist. Other big hitters included a Chicago-made Bally Manufacturing Company Reliance Dice 1936 Craps Game, which made £3,400.

A Bryans Works Double Decker 1969 wall coin pusher fetched £2,200 while a 1950 Pee Jay Manufacturing Company Steer-a-Ball made £1,600. The collection was inspired by a Stewart's childhood love of slot machines and his father’s ability to mend them.

Ken, of Birmingham, said: "As a child Stewart was fascinated by seaside slot machines when we visited Blackpool, Skegness and Torquay. This inspired him to build his own primitive slot machine out of cardboard and wood when he was 10.

"Though I didn’t share Stewart’s passion for penny arcades, I discovered a passion for the restoration process. In 1990, when Stewart was 15, we saw a machine advertised - a 1961 Mills Bell-O-Matic Spanish Gold one-armed bandit (sold at auction for £1,300).

"We purchased our first machine but when we got it home it wouldn’t work. We took it back and the seller thumped it with a hammer to make it work. We obviously knew this was not correct, so took it to pieces, bit by bit, taking photographs as we did.

"Eventually it worked correctly. I discovered I really enjoyed restoring machines to their former glory, so I had the bug for more. All the machines were stripped down, repaired and restored.

"Neither Stewart nor I have a mechanical engineering background, but I am a cabinet maker by trade which made it easier to restore the cabinets. The mechanical side we learnt as we went along.

"Stewart was very interested in design and technology at school which gave him a grounding in mechanical problem solving. As we stripped the machines we took photos of each part, cleaned them up and eventually put them back together by looking at the photos.

"The first machine took two months to restore. All the work was done in our spare time, evenings and weekends. On average, it probably took a couple of months per machine - some longer, others shorter.

"We didn’t buy any from seaside towns but we acquired one, a Bryans Bullion, when it was retired from Blackpool Pleasure Beach Dipper Amusement Arcade in the 1990s. It was never our intention to create an amusement arcade. Once the machines were fully restored, we just wanted to retain them in pristine condition.

"We had the space at home to house them and, if we moved, we made sure there was a suitable room for them – they were part of the family. Sourcing them was a task. We found the first one, Spanish Gold, in Exchange & Mart in 1990.

"There were no internet classifieds such as eBay or Facebook back then. Also, in the 1990s travelling fairs and seaside penny arcades had machines in storage which they’d taken out of operation and replaced with electronic machines.

"We sourced others from auctions all over the UK. But as the collectors’ market grew it became more and more difficult to purchase vintage machines. But after decades of dedication, it was time to say goodbye.

"At the age of 89, it was time to look at downsizing and, unfortunately, Stewart’s home is not large enough to accommodate the collection. Obviously, because of all the work and effort we have put in on the machines, we wanted them to go to good homes where they would be loved and well cared for."