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A little lock picking for my antique slot machine, and more!

Started by shortrackskater, November 17, 2018, 11:55:03 AM

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I collect slot machines, along with my payphones, and assorted desk and wall phones. Three years ago I bought a 1927 Jennings "Mints of Quality" slot machine, no key. It worked but I did need to access the mechanism, released by removal of a keyed front panel that reveled a lever inside to release the big back door.
Two locksmith attempts failed and, three years later, on the advice from another forum member for slots, I bought a cheap lock pick set that came with a cool clear lock. Within minutes I had the clear lock opened. A few more minutes later I had my Master padlock opened. With that, I stared picking the Corbin lock on the front of the slot machine. Literally 40 SECONDS later, the lock turns opened!
I found only a few old nickels... a couple shiny 1960 and 1955 Jeffersons but no buffalos - so I knew it had maybe only been 50 years or so that it was last opened perhaps.
The cool thing was that inside the machine was the original sticker on the side with the specific machine number, etc and the original huge label on the back of the big door that has all the oiling and maintenance information. In many cases, those labels are long worn or torn off.
After all this I ended up buying (still am) multiple sets of padlocks with no keys, found on eBay. I've been able to open every standard tumbler padlock including the beefy Yale locks and an old "high security" Illinois lock co lock. Still there's many I can't open.........YET!
Mark J.


Very cool. It's interesting you had two locksmiths try, and fail.
I have to wonder why? They either didn't try very hard, or lock picking was not their thing.
Are you going to try to have a key made? Or just keep picking the lock to open it up.


Well the first locksmith said he probably could open it but I'd have to bring the machine back and wait...or leave it there, which I really didn't want to do.
The second "locksmith" came to my home. The bell rings and I just see a CAR outside. Thought I'd see a van with LOCKSMITH on it. Nope... they just hand a pick set to some person I guess there and call it "mobile locksmith." Hmmmmm
As for the door, no I already had a new replacement lock so it's fine now.
Mark J.


Here's my Jennings future-pay of the same era, revamped by Silver King. Their work on this machine was limited to replacing the top casting and slapping on decals and a new instruction label. It's a Jennings in every other way but you have to know their trademark J or their designs to know it. The machine itself screams "Silver King" all over.

The real deal-maker to me was the decal in the front glass. I just love this sort of thing. They really laid it on thick, with multiple reassurances that it was tax-paid and "positively legal." I researched the "war tax" reference; that was instituted on candies in 1918 and rescinded in mid-1924. But I don't believe Silver King would bother scrapping existing decals when that law changed so this could well have been revamped up to 1926 or so. There's really no way to know.


Thanks for sharing that! Very interesting how they revamped it. I love the vendor on the side too. I've got the holes for mine, but no vender, yet. My story goes on too. I recently got the "delay pay" parts which had been removed. It just needed the release door/spring part. It still had the frame on the bottom side.
Once I installed it, my cash box (that I thought was original) didn't slide in anymore. I gave up trying to find an original or repo so I revamped my own using a Weller soldering iron and some tin snips. After soldering the lids back on, I ground them down (crudely like the original) and painted it.
I really like decal on the front of yours too. Mine also has the future pay window. Now I just need the mint vendor for the side. And of course I need to refinish it, and paint it...
Mark J.


Great job on the coin box!

The future-pay feature is a wonderful part of these, and they tell a great story about trying to evade gambling laws. It can't be gambling if you know how much you'll receive on the next pull of the handle! It was also a great money-making ploy for the operator, since the user was obliged to pay another nickel to retrieve his winnings. Quite the gimmick.

Aside from the replaced locks (which is how I got this) the machine is one of the nicest originals I've owned. I've done no restoration, other than to replace the missing back on the vending attachment.

I still have an all-original Pace Comet that is in very nice condition, though not quite as nice as this one. I sold all my restored slots a long while back.

The only other one I have left is technically a trade stimulator since it doesn't have automatic payout -- an 1897 Reliance Novelty poker machine. These were wildly popular here in the San Francisco Bay Area a the turn of the last century. There are quite a few contemporary pictures that show them in use in bars and cigar stores back in the day.


That's for those pictures. Love the "free cigars" on that one.
With theses slots (like my Jennings and your Silver King) I'm assuming that they weren't played repetitively, like "regular" slots later on, since they'd dispense a pack of mints with each pull. But I'm wondering if people got the urge to gamble, that they'd keep on playing and end up with a pile of mint rolls ?  ;D
Mark J.


Customers could opt to take a roll of mints with every nickel played, but the mints weren't automatically dispensed. The customer had to pull the slide to extract a roll from the dispenser. Reportedly the mints were terrible enough that few people would bother after tasting one, and in any event they were so cheap that the operator had little to lose even if the customer did pile up on them. In reality the mint dispenser was simply a ruse to claim that these were candy machines, not gambling devices, and therefore legal. That argument was so blatant that it  didn't fly in most places.

Doug Rose

Beautiful slot machine. When I was young...many moons Dad has a Mills 25 cent machine in our basement. It was really cool.

One day my father came home and said he had given the machine away to a neighbor. I was not happy with the old man as I was getting ready to move out and wanted it. That's life...Doug