Welcome to this, my second guide on the subject of Amusement Arcade coin or penny pushers. I have heard them called many things in my time - penny pushers - coin pushers - sliders - penny falls - shovers - coin cascades - slot machines, to name the most common. In the trade they are simply known as pushers, although the trade prefer them to be referred to as Penny Falls. Before you read any further it would be advisable to read my first guide "A GUIDE TO BUYING A REAL COIN OR PENNY PUSHER" first before reading on, (if you have not already done so) as this is a follow-up. That way it will all make more sense. Although listed under guides this is more an informative look at pushers for those, like myself, wanting to gain more knowledge in general about these particular types of machines. The pictures which you see here are all of my machines.
These machines interest me vastly, and have done since I was a very young age. It was always my ambition that when I grew up I wanted to own my own arcade. Sadly this never materialised, but I am happy to say that I have the next best thing - my own private arcade within my own property.
Since printing my last guide I now have more machines than I did then and have found out even more about them. I now have FOURTEEN different pushers in my private collection, consisting of seven single player machines, one table top / wall mounted single player pusher totally built by myself from scratch, four 2-player machines (three of which are wall models and the other is a back-to-back), one 3-player wall machine, and my latest acquisition a 6-player hexagonal machine which I am presently working on and restoring at the moment.
What is the fascination about them? I have often asked myself this question. Is it the fact that you can follow 'your' coin from the moment you put it in the slot and watch exactly what it does? Is it all that money piled up on the playdecks? Is it the lit up playdecks and fancy artwork? Is it the sound attract mode that some more modern machines have fitted to them? Is it just the fact that it is a pusher? Or is it all those coins hanging rather precariously over the ledges just waiting to fall when the next coin gets inserted???!!! I don't know! - perhaps a combination of all of the above!
Amusement arcades are obviously on a lot of people's minds when booking their holidays. Research shows it is the 2nd top reason why people choose seaside holidays. The top reason being Funfairs! The pushers can be responsible for up to 50% of a seaside amusement arcade's revenue. The pushers also attract a mixed age group. These machines are aimed more at families - grown-ups like them and so do the kids. Kids don't mind the fact that they have put a £1 of two's in a machine and got 10p back in return. It is the fact that they have won that 10p out of the machine by themselves which means a lot more to them! Pushers are the backbone of a seaside amusement arcade's business. On a good day they are capable of taking in £100's of pounds. Unfortunately British seaside holidays are not as common now as in years gone by - early to mid 70's being the heyday. Cheap foreign holidays where good weather is almost guaranteed, and home gaming consoles being the main contenders to blame!
After writing my first guide I received many e'mails from people interested in the machines. I am pleased that I am not alone in my fascination and now hobby of collecting these machines! I used to think that I was different to everybody else because I was so interested in them. Happily and much to my relief I am beginning to realise this is not the case! When I was a youngster I used to go to the local arcades and head straight for the pushers. My friends would soon wander off in different directions finding other machines more interesting to them. I've been told that it is more interesting watching paint dry than playing or watching these machines! Not for me though, I'd carefully examine all the playdecks of the pushers before finding one which I thought was most likely to pay out! As a youngster I didn't always get it right and often lost or should I say seldom kept what I won, and played it back in the hope of winning more!!! Nowadays, some 30 years later I carefully study a machine before I play it and seldom lose. My biggest days takings on these machines was at the Links Market in Kirkcaldy (a large annual Funfair & Arcades). I made around £80 profit in a day by just going round and playing different pushers in different arcades. My biggest single win on one of these machines was a £20 note which I won off a playdeck on the same day at the same venue. I would consider myself now to be quite an expert playing these machines. Having my own machines and getting to know the characteristics of them certainly is an advantage. I have even been asked to leave an arcade. I asked the proprietor, "Why?". He said, "I don't have to give you a reason!". My guess is that it was the £10 notes that he had put in the multi-player machines that were disappearing at a faster rate of knots than what he could actually believe!!! My assumption is that if I was continually going back and forth to his change desk for change and feeding his machines with a lot of money then I'm quite sure that I would have been allowed to stay and play as long as I liked!!!
Some arcade owners can be really grumpy, and what about some of the people employed in the change booths? I am sure we have all come across some of the "very happy!" ones at some stage. You go up and ask politely, "Can I have a pound of two's please?". Not a word is uttered, the pound coin is casually taken and put in the rack alongside numerous others. In return you receive a dirty look, and the bag of two's is slammed down on the change desk. You pick up your bag of two's and wonder off to find a machine to play, thinking, "What on earth have I done to upset him/her???".
However, having said that, I now know many arcade owners (surprise, surprise!) and I find the majority of them to be very pleasant people. I often chat away to them about (yes, you've guessed it!) pushers. Some say to me "I don't know how you manage it, you hardly ever come up to the change desk for change, and you always seem to win!!!". Guess that's 30 years experience for you! When on holiday at seaside amusement centres £10 or more profit in a day is quite possible for me, and that is after a full day of playing them, and also with several pockets full of keyrings and goodness knows what else which I managed to get out of the playdecks along the way! A complete day's fun!!!
Many e'mails I've received have also asked me what the secret is to obtaining such a machine, where to get a hold of them or do I have any contacts etc. The simple answer is NO. Yes, I do know quite a few people in the trade now but they seldom have machines for sale or types of machines for sale that I am particularly after. The majority of my machines have been purchased from eBay. The remainder have been purchased privately from amusement arcades and travelling funfair arcades. If you're reading this and wondering how to get one of these machines, then follow these simple steps - 1. Try eBay. Go to the coin operated section and type in 'pusher'. If nothing comes up try 'coin push' or 'shover'. Try also looking under fruit machines. I don't know why but some people list them under this section instead of under 'other coin operated machines'. Remember, if you are lucky enough to spot one on eBay, and are even lucky enough to win it, chances are it will be hundreds of miles away, that's if your luck is anything like mine! If you do go ahead, be ready to pay a hefty courier's bill to get it delivered or be prepared to travel for it with a suitable vehicle. - 2. Ask around your local arcades to see if they have anything that they are willing to sell - the worst they can say is no. Some will refuse point blank to sell to the general public. Some will sell you a machine quite happily. - 3. Ask around your local travelling funfair arcades. I have obtained pushers through all of the above. Most importantly, be patient. If you persevere long enough something will eventually turn up. I have just recently managed to get hold of a machine which I have wanted for years, one which I remember playing as a boy in one of my local arcades - that certainly brought back childhood memories!
Where are the best places to find and play these machines? The simple answer to this is seaside amusement arcades and travelling funfair arcades. The inland amusement centres generally don't tend to have many, if any at all. They concentrate much more on fruit machines.
There were the main BIG 3 manufacturers of these machines. Cromptons, Harry Levy and Whittaker Brothers. Sadly Cromptons are no more. There are of course other manufacturers of these machines too, but to a lesser extent than the aforementioned trio. Personally, after a lot of painstaking research about these machines (and there is very little on the internet) I have been compiling a list of pushers made and it so far stands at 175 different names of machines.
Further research has also shown that older pushers for collectors are becoming harder to obtain nowadays, chiefly because of their age, as amusement arcade owners will often break them up when they consider the machine has come to the end of its useful life. Amusement arcade owners will also at times trade in their old pusher in part exchange for a new or newer model from certain dealers/distributors. I have also heard that some dealers/distributors will break up the old machine that they have taken in part exchange (even after having paid the amusement arcade owner a certain amount of money for it) simply to get rid of it and to get it off the circuit, so that they can make more money selling newer machines.
The majority of pushers nowadays are on either 2p or 10p play. They have been geared up by the manufacturers to work on these particular coinages. A lot of newer machines can be altered so that they can accept 2p's or 10p's. It is usually just a case of purchasing kits from the manufacturers, basicly changeable entry slots and price of play stickers. It can be a little more complicated if the machines are fitted with features or changers. 1p and 5p pushers do exist but to a much lesser extent. The old 10p coins in my opinion were the best, (pushers used these up until 1992 until the new smaller lighter 10p coins were introduced) the coins were bigger and heavier and it was easier to win and get big wins from the machines. With the new lighter and smaller 10p coins it is so much harder to win. Modern pushers are also harder to win from. It is the way that the playdecks have been very carefully constructed. Take a look at some of the modern machines with small playdecks. When a coin pushes, the pile moves about 1mm at a time if that. The modern pushers also have larger ledges at the front of the machines than the older models did.
Although now absolutely necessary, alarms on modern machines can be very irritating and annoying, especially on a multi-player machine. For instance you're happily playing away and have just won a pile of money, ironically someone round the other side of the machine gets frustrated and dunts it at the same time - result - the alarm goes off, the lights go out, the diverters come into effect and the money you have just won is diverted into the bank instead of the payout chute. Many of the pushers of today have much more technology attached to them than their older counter parts. This is fine when it all works, but a disadvantage to the player when it goes faulty. For example - with many of today's machines, after a certain time has elapsed and the machine has not been played, the diverters come into action, therefore any coins falling go to the bank and not to the payout chute. When a coin is inserted it triggers a microswitch which opens the diverter - if the microswitch is faulty, stuck or broken the diverter will not open and any winnings you get will go to the bank. Another point - if the solenoid which triggers the diverters is faulty or sticking it will not open, or not open properly which in turn will result in any winnings going to the bank or a smaller amount of winnings coming into the payout chute than there should be.
A novice would think that all pushers would pay out the same amount, regardless of the model of the machine - Wrong. I am not going to name particular models of machines because I don't think that it would be a fair thing to do, but some machines pay out (are a lot easier to win from) a lot more than others. There are one or two machines that I would not even contemplate playing for this very reason. However, having said all that - LONG LIVE THE PUSHER and a big thank you to the manufacturers of these machines for keeping us so entertained over the years.
If you found this guide informative, amusing or even vaguely interesting I would be obliged if you would click the 'YES' button. This way I can guage interest and decide whether it is worthwhile writing any more about the subject.