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Posts Tagged ‘coin-op amusement’

Automatic Pleasures by Nic Costa

Nic Costa’s classic Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Op Machine is once again in print and as relevant as ever, considering the resurgence of pinball in bars and the popularity of a new Cupcake ATM on Lexington Avenue that had a line of people 12 to 15 deep on opening day. There’s also the nearly 10,000 slot machines at New York’s Aqueduct and Yonkers racetracks, a harbinger of many more to come with the legalization of casinos in New York State.

Gambling machines, the one armed bandit, penny arcades, fortunetelling machines, strength testers, shooting games, viewers, and vending and service machines are among the automatic entertainments covered in the book, which is illustrated with both black & white and color photos.

Did you know the first-ever vending machine was a coin-operated holy water dispenser invented by Hero of Alexandria nearly 2000 years ago? Costa writes that it wasn’t until the development of markets and a society based on paid labor that devices saving time were valued and produced in number.

The first coin freed patent was in 1857, for “A Self-Acting Machine for the Delivery of Postage and Receipt Stamps.” A penny inserted would automatically feed out a stamp from a roll. By the mid-1890s more than 1,000 patent applications for coin freed machines had been received by the U.K. Patent Office. Tellingly, many of the early machines could be used either as fortune tellers or games of chance. Games with automatic payouts of a cigar, a card or a token became increasingly popular on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1890s.

Automatic Pleasures by Nic Costa

In the U.K. in the first years of the 20th century, there was a spate of prosecutions against businesses, including saloons and shops, which had the automatic machines. The intent was to suppress “public corruption” and “juvenile depravity.” The enforcement of anti-gambling laws resulted in European manufacturers having to concentrate on games of skill with a low pay-out, which led to the later American domination of the world market.

Automatic Pleasures is enlivened by numerous excerpts from firsthand accounts of the era. Herbert Mills of Chicago’s Mills Novelty Company, once the world’s leading manufacturer of coin operated machines, writes about the Automatic Vaudeville or Penny Arcade business in the early 20th century:

The Penny Arcade has become a permanent institution as much as the theater, the opera, the circus, the concert, the lecture or the gymnasium, for it combines in a modified form of all of these and because it makes such universal appeal, particularly to the poorer classes, it is destined to grow constantly in popularity and size. Only about 10 per cent of the total population have an income of more than $1,200.00 per year, and therefore, the percentage of those who can afford a dollar for a concert ticket or two dollars for a theater ticket is very small. But everyone can patronize the Penny Vaudeville and afford ten cents for half an hours entertainment.

Automatic Pleasures: The History of The Coin Machine by Nic Costa, D’Aleman Publishing, 2013. Paperback, $32.42

Automatic Pleasures by Nic Costa

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Miss Coney Island

Carolyn with ‘Miss Coney Island.’ 25¢ to Fall in LOVE. November 10, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Dig those quarters out of your purse. The dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” is open for business this afternoon from 1pm. Still 25¢ to Fall in LOVE! The window featuring the miniature rides of “Coney Island Always” as well as games of skill and Christmas gift shop will be open too. Located on West 12th Street a few steps from the entrance to Wonder Wheel Park.

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Miniature Biplane Ride

New ride at Coney Island Always Window on West 12th Street. February 17, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Among the new amusement rides coming to Coney Island this season are Watermania, a brand-new Zamperla water ride set to debut in Luna Park, and a rebuilt Spook-a-Rama dark ride with props from Scarefactory at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. In the meantime, Benny’s “Coney Island Always,” a window on West 12th Street showcasing a miniature animated amusement park, has the first new ride of 2013 already installed. It’s a model chair-o-plane with biplane seats. Along with its next-door neighbor the dancing doll “Miss Coney Island,” the coin-op attraction has fully recovered from Sandy and will be open for business on March 24th, Coney’s Opening Day. Both attractions still cost “25¢ to Have Fun & Feel Good.” Bring a roll of quarters.

Coney Island Always

Coney Island Always. 25 cents To Laugh and Feel Good. West 12th St, Coney Island. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“Coney Island Always” is located on West 12th Street next to the Coney Island History Project and across from the Steeplechase coaster. The model amusemwnts include a Carousel, Wave Swinger, Parachute Jump, Giant Wheel and Ice Skating Rink. During the season, children and their families crowd around the window to see the miniature park awhirl. Miss Coney Island, whose motto is “Don’t Postpone Joy” and “25¢ to Fall in LOVE” is very popular too. Earlier in her career, the shimmying mannequin was an Indian Princess automaton at a fairground exhibition. You can read ATZ’s interview with her here.

Miss Coney Island

After Sandy: Miss Coney Island and Her Dancing Cat Peek Out Their Window. January 30, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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CIA Cobra

Say Hello to the Coney Island Arcade's Cobra! April 2, 2011. 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

You’ve heard of the Bronx Zoo’s Cobra aka Missing In Action, the twitter sensation and New York’s most celebrated snake. Say hello to the Coney Island Arcade Cobra! Though it’s gone unreported till now, Brooklyn has a cobra too and you can safely interact with her because she’s an arcade game. The cobra-themed “Boxer” is the newest model manufactured and distributed under the Coney Island Boxer brand by Coney arcade owner Manny Cohen and his partner Stanley Fox.

Cohen and Fox have already introduced the 300-pound machine to the amusement industry at trade shows from Vegas to China, but last week the game made its debut on Coney Island’s Bowery. You’ll find the Cobra in front of a tiny stand with a handful of other games.

As you can see in the above photo, the sign for the Coney Island Arcade was resurrected. Unfortunately the arcade on 12th Street will not be rising from the ashes of the fire that destroyed it last May. ATZ has learned that the burned ruins of the building, which are a blight on the Bowery, may finally be demolished in the next few months weeks.

The Coney Island Arcade Cobra and Pretty the Cat Hang Out . April 2, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island Arcade is the name of the arcade that Cohen has operated for more than three decades at 12th Street and the Bowery in the heart of Brooklyn’s world-famous amusement area. Since the fire, he has continued to operate games on the Bowery, but there’s space for only a handful of arcade machines. Alas, the Coney Island Rumor Mill is saying the owner of the building has no plans to rebuild.

What’s more, penalties for “Class 1 – Immediately Hazardous” and “Class 2 – Major” ECB (Environmental Control Board) violations relating to fencing and failure to maintain the building are pending and must be resolved before a demolition permit can proceed. The Coney Island Arcade fire was our number one story of “Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2010,” ATZ, January 1, 2011.

We’re sad to report that if Cohen is unable to find another location, his 12th Street arcade will join the ranks of Coney’s lost arcades. Among the arcades that have closed due to the redevelopment of the past few years are Astroland’s three arcades and the Fascination arcade in the now-demolished Henderson Building. Coney Island’s last remaining arcades are located in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Eldorado on the Bowery.

Cobra Art

Cobra Art. April 2, 2011. 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Nobody was around to feed money to the cobra when we took these photos. She’s hungry! Stop by and play on Coney Island’s opening weekend. The boxer game is a 21st century version of the classic bag-punching machine. The concept is a classic—many manufacturers such as Sega (1960) and Zamperla (1980) have produced similar machines since the heyday of the penny and nickel bag punchers.

“This is a new and better form. We knew it would make money,” Fox told me when I wrote a story about their then-new business for IAAPA’s Funworld Magazine in 2005. “If you get a good score you’ll hear cheering. But if you do poorly, it’ll say something like ‘that was a chicken blow.'”

The Coney Island Arcade Boxer is available in eight languages and features three types of games play, speed measurement, power measurement, tournament mode and high score display. The game is popular at amusement parks, bowling alleys, pool halls, sports bars and nightclubs. Hey, you can even buy one of these babies for your home rec room.

Coney Island Arcade and Games, 30-19 West 12th Street, Coney Island, 718-372-8811

Cat and Cobra

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