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Archive for the ‘Amusement Game’ Category

Punchy the Clown by Alvin G & Co

Punchy the Clown Pinball Machine, detail of lit playfield. Modern Pinball NYC. November 30, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last weekend at a birthday party at Modern Pinball NYC, Manhattan’s new mecca for pinball, one of the games we enjoyed playing was Punchy the Clown. It’s smaller than the other machines and has a decidedly retro look, calling to mind vintage pinball machines by Gottlieb. “Alvin G. and Co” is emblazoned on the backglass. ATZ asked Modern Pinball co-owner Steve Epstein how old it was and who made it.

It turns out Punchy was manufactured in 1993 and is the most expensive pinball machine at Modern Pinball’s interactive showroom, with a sales price of $24,995 due to rarity, Epstein says. By comparison, you can buy the sleek, full-size games at Modern such as Dr Dude, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Wizard of Oz and Batman for $5,995-$10,995.

Punchy the Clown by Alvin G. & Co.

Lit backglass of Punchy the Clown Pinball Machine at Modern Pinball NYC. November 30, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

“Alvin G.” is Alvin Gottlieb, whose family established D. Gottlieb & Co. Pinball in Chicago in 1927 and sold the business in the 1970s. “In 1991, Alvin Gottlieb and Michael Gottlieb went back into the pinball machine business,” says Epstein. Since the company folded after releasing only five titles, one of which was the 1993 Punchy the Clown, the machine is rare.

On the Internet Pinball Database, only one player has rated it, which is an indication of its rarity. He gave it a 9 out of 10. There’s also an original promo flyer for the game: “Punchy holds your ticket to a carnival of earnings.” The “Mini-pin™ configuration” featured an adjustable leg height for children and adults. It was designed as a redemption game for kids. Only 103 units were produced.

When Alvin Gottlieb, 86, died in October, fans paid tribute on pinball discussion boards. “I’ll play a game on each of my Gottliebs today in his honor. RIP,” one commenter said, echoing the sentiments of many who grew up playing pinball.

As previously noted (“Modern Pinball NYC Opens with New Arcade Business Model,” ATZ, November 15, 2013), players buy time– $7.50 for a half hour, $10 for an hour, and $20 to play all day– in the pinball showroom, which has 31 games. Located on Third Avenue between 26th and 27th Streets, Modern Pinball is open 7 days a week from 11AM to midnight, with later hours on weekends.

Punchy the Clown

Punchy the Clown Pinball Machine at Modern Pinball NYC. November 30, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita


Related posts on ATZ…

May 28, 2013: It’s Loo-ney: Bathroom-Themed Water Race Game Comes to Coney Island

May 16, 2013: Shooting Gallery Revival in Post-Sandy Coney Island

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

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Modern Pinball NYC

Just Opened: Modern Pinball NYC on Third Avenue at 27th Street in Manhattan. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

This weekend, Modern Pinball NYC, a new destination for pinball enthusiasts in Manhattan, will celebrate its grand opening with a couple of tournaments, including a Saturday benefit for the Food Bank for New York City. Located on Third Avenue at 26th Street, the pinball machine retailer and interactive showroom is a brand-new business model for the arcade, which outside of amusement parks is a vanishing breed.

Modern Pinball NYC

Metallica, Star Trek and The Wizard of Oz Pinball Machines at Modern Pinball. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Instead of paying per game at Modern Pinball, players buy time– $7.50 for a half hour, $10 for an hour, and $20 to play all day. The bonus is that whatever you spend can be applied to the future purchase of a pinball machine. The 30 machines currently at Modern Pinball range from beautifully refurbished games from the 1990s like The Addams Family, Fun House and Dr Dude to new titles from Stern and Jersey Jack Pinball.

The Wizard of OZ by Jersey Jack Pinball

Playing The Wizard of OZ by Jersey Jack Pinball at Modern Pinball. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

When ATZ stopped by on Tuesday evening, we met pinball veterans who’d already made the place part of their schedule and passersby of all ages stopping to check it out. “It’s great family entertainment,” says co-owner Steve Zahler, who has fond memories of growing up playing pinball in the 1970s, when the games were everywhere–restaurants, skating rinks and Main Street arcades.

“Not like nowadays, when they’re mostly in bars,” says Zahler. “That’s why I didn’t want alcohol to be part of this business because I want to help bring pinball back.” His daughter and son, who are 6 and 9, are turning out to be pinball whizzes, but they’re lucky to have several machines at home. Zahler wanted to open a place where kids could play pinball with their friends and family, just as as he did growing up. Birthday parties and special event packages are among Modern Pinball’s offerings.

Steve Zahler, Modern Pinball

Steve Zahler, Modern Pinball’s co-owner, is the #1 Ranked Pinball Player in New York and New Jersey. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Players are encouraged to ask the staff, who include high-ranking tournament players and pinball enthusiasts, for tips and strategies. We were wowed to find out Zahler is the No. 1 ranked player in New York and New Jersey, 14th in the country and 27th in the world out of 21,000 tournament players! Steve Epstein, his partner at Modern Pinball is the co-founder of both the International Flipper Pinball Assn. (IFPA) and Professional and Amateur Pinball Assn.(PAPA) with Roger Sharpe. “We share the same philosophy about business, pinball and promotion,” says Zahler. “We have the same deep passion for pinball.”

AC/DC Pinball Machine

AC/DC ‘Let There Be Rock’ Limited Edition at Modern Pinball. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

With Modern Pinball, Epstein, who was the owner/operator of the Broadway Arcade aka “The Pinball Capital of the World” until it closed in 1996, is back in business. The place was legendary and is much missed. According to a 1985 article from the Times, Lou Reed held his wedding reception at Broadway Arcade, and Broadway stars, cast members and members of orchestras ran in during breaks between performances and during intermissions. At Modern Pinball, we met one of those musicians, a French horn player named Michael, who was ecstatic to have a place to play again. “I haven’t played pinball in 15 years,” he said.

Modern Pinball NYC, 362 Third Avenue (between 26th & 27th Streets), New York, NY 10016. Phone 646 415-8440. Winter Hours: Open 7 days a week from 11AM to midnight, till 2AM on Thu, Fri and Sat.

Modern Pinball

Modern Pinball, November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita


Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2014: Spring Reading: “Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Machine”

October 23, 2012: Playland Arcade Demolition Under Way in Coney Island

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

August 15, 2011: Games: Where You Can Play Vintage Pinball Year Round

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Eldorado Bumper Cars

Eldorado Bumper Cars, Surf Avenue, Coney Island. September 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Bump and dance! Coney Island’s amusement parks closed for the season at the end of October, but this weekend–November 2nd and 3rd– you can still go for a ride at the Eldorado Bumper Cars, play games in the arcade, bust balloons at the stands on the Bowery, and dance with Miss Coney Island.

Gordon Lee, who operates the independently owned disco palace of bumper cars on Surf Avenue, says he will keep it open Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon till whenever–usually 8 or 9pm.

Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island, 25 Cents a Dance. October 20, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

On West 12th Street near the Boardwalk, the windows featuring the dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” and the miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always” will be open from 2pm, along with Skin the Wire, Roll-A-Coaster and other whimsical games. “Don’t Postpone Joy,” says a sign on the door. It’s still costs only 25 cents a dance or to set the mechanical rides awhirl.

Treasure boxes

Next Door to Miss Coney Island: ‘Limoge Inspired’ Treasure Boxes for Sale. October 20, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

You can start your Christmas shopping too. The stand next door to Miss Coney Island has been transformed into a gift shop with glass pendants ($5.00 each) and “Limoge inspired” treasure boxes galore ($8.00 each). ATZ bought a mermaid-shaped treasure box but there are plenty more. Each box holds tiny secret treasures like the three little ducklings seen below.

See “Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round” for info on what’s doing in Coney’s amusement area in November.

Tiny ducks

Tiny ducks inside the duck-shaped treasure box. October 20, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita


Related posts on ATZ…

September 2, 2013: Photo of the Day: Skin the Wire and Feed the Clown

March 21, 2013: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island Meets Miss Coney Island

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

March 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Eldorado Auto Skooter at Coney Island (2011)

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Coin-Op Sputnik Game

Coin-Op “Sputnik” Space-Themed Skill Game. Victorian Casino Antique Auction, Oct 13, 2013

Vintage arcade games and coin-op fortunetelling machines are among the collectibles on the auction block this weekend at Victorian Casino Antiques in Las Vegas. Online bidding is already underway for the October 12-13 sale. A number of the items like this very rare Sputnik Journey into Space-themed machine have strong graphic appeal. The arcade game was inspired by Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite. Launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, the Earth orbiting satellite began the Space Age and triggered the Space Race with the U.S. The countertop game (Lot #1151) was manufactured in the UK in the 1950s by Parker’s Automatic Supplies. It works with a large British penny and approximately 30 coins are included in the lot.

According to a post on the Penny Machines Forum, “Parker’s Automatic Supplies Ltd. were established in Rhyl in 1947 by Solomon Parker in order to supply new machines for the Parker-owned Black Cat Arcade on the promenade. They copied and improved upon existing designs and started to supply machines to other operators on a small scale. Their machines had a good reputation for reliability, had colourful, expressive backflashes and attractive veneered cases.”

The coin-op “Esmeralda” type fortune teller machine (Lot #688) is equipped with an Edison Cylinder Player and in working condition with keys. The manufacturer of this very old, rare machine is unknown. The starting bid is $10,000.


Coin-Op “Esmeralda” Type Fortune Teller Machine. Victorian Casino Antique Auction, Oct 12, 2013


Related posts on ATZ…

May 7, 2013: Video of the Day: Restoration of Grandma’s Predictions

May 31, 2012: Up for Auction: “Fool the Mad Genius” Carnival Scale

September 28, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Auction of French Fairground Art

March 9, 2011: Inexhaustible Cows & Bottomless Cups of Chocolate Milk

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Mangels Shooting Gallery

1940s Mangels Shooting Gallery, Coney Island USA. August 3, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The restoration of the 1940′s Coney Island shooting gallery that ATZ wrote about earlier this year was completed in August and boy is it a beauty. Located next-door to Coney Island USA’s main building, the vintage gallery brings an authentic, old-timey ambiance to that part of Surf Avenue. It’s the third shooting gallery to debut in Coney Island this season as a replacement for equipment and businesses damaged by flooding from Superstorm Sandy.

Made in Coney Island by William F. Mangels, it’s also the only publicly operating shooting gallery of this vintage that we’re currently aware of. There are a few in private collections. Very few. A collector who contacted ATZ, said he had installed one in his home for family and friends to play. Another gallery is used as a decorative piece at a bar in Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio, where it was discovered when the restaurant owner was renovating. No shooting allowed!

The gallery restored by Coney Island USA is on loan from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, where it was uncovered during post-Sandy renovations. Intact Mangels shooting galleries are exceptionally rare since most were long ago sold for scrap metal or broken up by antique dealers who sell the targets individually. In May, a Mangels cast-iron gallery with over 150 targets from the Elli Buk Collection sold at auction for $60,000 after competitive bidding.

Related posts on ATZ…

July 22, 2013: The World’s Largest Traveling Bonanza Shooting Gallery

May 16, 2013: Shooting Gallery Revival in Post-Sandy Coney Island

April 2, 2013: Shoot the Freak Reborn in Coney Island as Shoot the Clown

February 25, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Coney Island’s William F Mangels

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Jones Walk

Long-shuttered storefronts on Thor Equities side of Jones Walk. Luna Park games on City-owned land on the Walk’s east side. June 21, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

With Mayor Bloomberg, Councilman Domenic Recchia and other electeds responsible for the rezoning of Coney Island leaving office in 120 days, and their would-be successors campaigning for the September 10th Primary, it’s time to look at the City’s accomplishments in Coney Island and what has yet to be done. The New Coney Island. We’ll also take a look at some of the casualties as well as some of the survivors of the July 2009 rezoning. ATZ hopes to cover these topics in a series of posts over the next couple of months.

Let’s start with the Surf Avenue side of Jones Walk, the last of Coney Island’s historic walks. Before Thor, it used to be a vibrant and authentic place, a midway of midways. Now “the Walk” looks like a victim of a split personality disorder. The City-owned east side of Jones Walk, re-activated by Luna Park with cute carnival games and a few food stands, and Thor Equities-owned west side, vacant since 2009, offers a stark contrast between Coney’s largest property owners. While the City has brought in replacement amusements, Thor–whose slogan for a time was “Coney Island, Retail Ride of a Lifetime”– has gotten rid of amusements.

Stinky Feet Water Race Game

Luna Park’s Stinky Feet Water Race Game, Jones Walk. Coney Island. May 27, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

You’d never know from looking at it, but the building on the west corner of the Walk is Coney Island’s oldest, the circa 1880s Grashorn Building. Originally Henry Grashorn’s hardware store, the building later housed shooting galleries, arcades, and cotton candy and taffy stands. Now it’s a victim of the continuing decimation of the amusement area by Thor CEO Joe Sitt. The Grashorn building fronts Surf Avenue and extends along the west side of the walk, yet this location has remained vacant and devoid of activity for five seasons. WHY? A business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us in 2009 that the rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island, never to return.


Thor Equities Vacant & Shuttered Grashorn Building. August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Since then, the Grashorn has fallen victim to squatters, blight and burst water pipes. A parade of sideshow operators and arcade owners tried but failed to lease the Jones Walk space from Thor. The only use that it has seen since we started blogging in 2009 was as a set for HBO’s Bored to Death (2011) and an office for the production company filming Men in Black 3 (2012).

Meanwhile, on the east side of the walk are carnival games, including the comical “Stinky Feet” water race, newly installed this year by Luna Park on property leased by the City to Zamperla in 2012. The city displaced independent operators with an RFP for a single operator to renovate and re-activate the property. The result was a few unsavory operators got the boot while the good guys relocated to City-owned or private property elsewhere in Coney.

We’re lucky the Grashorn Building is still standing. Unlike the Bank of Coney Island, the Surf Hotel and the Henderson Building, which Sitt demolished, the Grashorn parcel at Surf Ave and Jones Walk was not rezoned by the City for a 30-story high rise hotel. There’s also the fact that the building is just a few doors away from Luna Park’s entrance. And there’s also the fact the City owns the east side of Jones Walk. The demolition of the Grashorn would have created a desolate empty lot right next to the City’s showcase amusement park and completely killed business on the Walk.

 New Games on Jones Walk

Luna Park’s New Games on Jones Walk. Coney Island. May 27, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In Coney Island: Lost and Found, historian Charles Denson writes that the building at 1104 Surf dates back to the 1880’s and the Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years: “The clapboard façade, dormers, cast iron resting, chimneys and fish-scale shingles were removed when the building was renovated in the 1980s but the mansard roof retains its shape.”

What will be the fate of Coney Island’s historic Jones Walk and its oldest building under the next administration? Will Thor Equities’ property remain vacant? Will it be sold? Will Joe Sitt seek a zoning variance from the next administration for this property or for any of his vacant lots? To be continued…

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project

Grashorn Building in 1969. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project


Related posts on ATZ…

June 18, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Shoe Store Invades Amusement Area

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

October 7, 2012: ATZ’s Big Wish List for the New Coney Island

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Games on W 12th St, Coney Island

Wonder Wheel and Games on West 12th St, Coney Island. August 6, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Next door to vitrines housing the famous dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” and the toy amusement park “Coney Island Always,” you’ll find Skin the Wire, Roll-A-Coaster and Feed the Clown. These independently owned and operated games are located on Coney Island’s West 12th Street under the Wonder Wheel. After Labor Day, the games are open weekends and school holidays in September and part of October, weather permitting. ATZ will be posting some of our favorite photos of the summer through September 21st.


Related posts on ATZ…

June 3, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island’s Indie Game Operators

March 24, 2013: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island Meets Miss Coney Island

September 30, 2012: Photo of the Day: Last Dance With Miss Coney Island

July 21, 2012: Photo of the Day: 6 Balls, Score Under 14 Or Over 28

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