Slot machine from 1920s


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Here is a recent appraisal from Michelle’s column in Discover Vintage America:

Q: I have a Bell Fruit Gum 1910 nickel slot machine #99096. It is also identified as BD Novelties, L. A. Calif. It is in original condition and works perfectly. After I owned it for 60 years, my grandson hit the jackpot, which explained the upper discharge dish, which had puzzled us for as many years. Does this machine have any value?

A: Your slot machine was probably originally made by Mills Novelty Co of Chicago, IL. During most of the 1920s slot machines did not have an “extra” jackpot on them. The maximum jackpot payout on machines during the ’20s was 20 coins. During the very late 1920s slot machines started coming out with a “new” physical jackpot on them that would dump extra coins when three of the same graphics were lined up. Immediately after these initial machines came out, non-jackpot slot machines were obsolete.

A few smaller companies saw a window of opportunity and decided to buy up the old slot machines and “restore” them. This process consisted of tuning the machine up, possibly repainting it and installing a new upper or lower casting on the machine. This casting was made by the new company and would have a jackpot compartment on it. The company would then re-name the machine and sell it as its own.

Your machine was “restored” by B.D. Novelty, also known as Bull Durham Novelties of Los Angeles, CA. Bull Durham installed a new lower front castings that features an American shield, a bull, new award cards and jackpot housing (the paper strips on the reels of all Mills machines have the 1910 date) so we can assume that the reels were not redone by B.D.

As for its current market value, since your machine is functional and appears to be in excellent cosmetic condition including the wood enclosure and should sell for $1,800-$2,500.

Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.

Written by Michelle Staley

Michelle Staley has over 35 years of experience as an antique collector, picker and dealer. She has done hundreds of insurance and IRS appraisals in addition to just satisfying another collector or dealer’s curiosity concerning what an item is, does or its worth. Other experience includes her work as a forensics consultant and in archeological identification and dating.

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