Father And Son’s Vintage Arcade Machine Collection Could Fetch Upwards Of $125,000 At Auction

A father and son duo from England are hoping to hit the jackpot when they auction their extraordinary collection of 82 amusement arcade machines. Ken Jackson, 89, and his son Stewart Jackson, 49, have dedicated the last 34 years to rescuing and restoring these machines to their former glory, and their efforts could potentially yield a staggering $125,000 at Hansons Auctioneers on May 30.

The Jackson family’s collection, believed to be the largest privately-owned assortment of arcade machines in the United Kingdom, spans from the early days of the one-armed bandit’s invention in the 1890s through to the 1970s. Among the treasures is a relic from the iconic Blackpool Pleasure Beach, evoking memories of carefree seaside holidays and the excitement of penny arcades.

Vintage arcade games
Vintage arcade games. (credit: Hansons Auctioneers)

Ken Jackson, hailing from Birmingham, recounted how his son Stewart’s fascination with slot machines began during childhood trips to Blackpool, Skegness, and Torquay. At the tender age of 10, Stewart’s enthusiasm even led him to construct his own primitive slot machine out of cardboard and wood. While the elder Jackson didn’t initially share his son’s passion for penny arcades, he discovered a love for the restoration process that would ultimately shape their shared journey.

“All the machines were stripped down, repaired and restored. Neither Stewart nor I have a mechanical engineering background, but I am a cabinet maker by trade which made it easier to restore the cabinets,” explains Ken Jackson. “The mechanical side we learnt as we went along but I have the correct machinery such as lathes and a sandblaster. Also, I had some mechanical experience from stripping down and rebuilding car engines during my youth.”

The pair’s first acquisition came in 1990 when Stewart was 15. They purchased a 1961 Mills Bell-O-Matic Spanish Gold one-armed bandit, but upon bringing it home, they found it wouldn’t work. Undeterred, Ken and Stewart took the machine apart, piece by piece, documenting the process with photographs. Their perseverance paid off, and the machine eventually worked correctly. This experience ignited a spark in Ken, who found great joy in restoring these machines to their former glory.

“The first machine took two months to restore. All the work was done in our spare time, evenings and weekends.  On average, it probably took a couple of months per machine – some longer, others shorter,” notes Ken.

Over the years, the father-son duo has painstakingly stripped down, repaired, and restored each machine in their collection. Despite lacking formal mechanical engineering backgrounds, Ken’s skills as a cabinet maker proved invaluable in restoring the cabinets, while Stewart’s interest in design and technology at school provided a foundation for tackling mechanical challenges.

The restoration process was a labor of love. Ken and Stewart relied on photographs, original manuals, and step-by-step instructions to guide them through the reassembly process. They acquired parts and manuals from the family of the man who manufactured these machines from the 1920s, many of which are now part of the Jackson family’s collection.

As the collectors’ market grew, sourcing vintage machines became increasingly challenging. The pair scoured auctions across the UK and seized opportunities when traveling fairs and seaside penny arcades replaced their older machines with electronic ones in the 1990s.

One of the most prized possessions in their collection is a Mills Novelty Company Dewey 1898 floor roulette machine, imported from America and estimated to be worth between $19,000 and $25,000. This rare gem, made between 1889 and 1930, was named in honor of American Admiral George Dewey, hero of the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.

Mills Novelty Company Dewey 1898 floor roulette machine
Mills Novelty Company Dewey 1898 floor roulette machine. (credit: Hansons Auctioneers)

Another favorite of Stewart’s is a Watling Manufacturing Company Rol-a-Top, Bird of Paradise one-armed bandit from 1936. This high-quality machine still retains its original special award gold coins and is expected to fetch between $3,800 and $5,000.

As Ken approaches his 90th birthday and considers downsizing, the decision to part with their beloved collection has been bittersweet.

“Obviously, because of all the work and effort we have put in on the machines, we would like them to go to good homes where they will be loved and well cared for,” he says.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, praised the Jacksons’ achievement.

“What Ken and Stewart have achieved here is simply amazing,” says Hanson. “It’s a fabulous museum-worthy collection documenting the history of the amusement machine from the Victorian era through to the early 1970s. Interest is strong and deservedly so.”

Click here to view the full catalogue up for auction.

Leave a Reply