“This is a fun show,” chirped one youngster to his dad as they moved down the aisles of the semi-annual Chicagoland Slot Machine, Juke Box and Advertising Show at Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles, Ill.
The 300-dealer event ran April 9-11 some 35 miles west of Chicago and appeared to draw a good mixture of serious collectors, young and old, families and singles to “ooh” and “ahh,” play and maybe purchase collectables on display, priced from a few bucks to many thousands of dollars.
Serious buyers forked over $50 for early admission on Friday, while others paid $7 per person for general admission Saturday and Sunday.
Had there been a prize for the biggest item, Mike Russell and John Troxell would’ve won for their 10-foot-long, 6-foot-tall double-sided porcelain and red neon sign featuring the famous Mobil Oil winged horse. The working device, a spinning beauty circa 1954, was transported to the show via a custom trailer. It had an asking price of $40,000.
Dealer Frank Zygmunt of Westmont, Ill., has gained a reputation for coin-operated crowd pleasers. Just ask Meriam and Jurg Muller, who flew in from Switzerland to purchase — among other things — a 1932 Little Duke penny gambling slot machine, with a gumball vendor on the side, for $2,900, from Zygmunt. It was the third time the Mullers had visited the show over the years, and they called attention to “good buys on smalls and game room items.”
Among the dozens of slot and music machines Zygmunt brought to the show was a 1925 Mills coin-operated Music of Masters combination horse-race game and piano-roll music player. The 5-1/2-foot-tall, 4-foot-long mahogany device features tiny metal jockeys and horses behind glass, moving along a racetrack, while music plays on the bottom portion. The electric-pneumatic vintage machine was priced at $75,000; other items at his booth were available for $600 and up.
Did the sagging economy bog down any buying at the Pheasant Run show? At a glance, sales appeared to be brisk, and show vendors expressed the usual bag of good to not-so-good results. But when was all said and done, many expressed almost the same theme, word for word: “It’s been OK. It wasn’t awful and it wasn’t fabulous; it was just okay.”
Orange Park, Fla., dealer Frank Hamwey drove for two days to get to the show with a load of vintage jukeboxes. But, the 30-year show veteran figured the trip would be worth it.
“The slow economy has not affected me at all,” Hamwey said.
Drawing the most attention at Hamwey’s exhibit were a pair of Wurlitzers, circa 1940s. A model 850, known as “the peacock” because of its elaborate design, was priced at $17,000, and a model 800 E priced at $7,700. Both play 78 RPM records.
Those with a taste for 1950s jukeboxes that play 45s checked out two offered by John Johnston, Jukebox Classics, Hawley, Pa. The dealer pointed out a Wurlitzer model 1900 priced at $4,850 and a Seeburg “C” for $3,750.
Buyers seeking vintage 45s and 78 RPM records for their jukeboxes could stock up the Primeau Music booth. Lori Primeau brought a thousand titles to the show from her London, Ontario, Canada, shop. Jukebox lovers and serious record collectors who missed her at the show can check out the 40,000 records she has in stock online at PrimeauMusic.com
The collection of vintage coin-operated vending machines Erick Johnson and David Cook brought from Phoenix filled more than a booth. Many browsers stopped to check out a 1930s porcelain 30-inch-tall, cop-and-robber gum machine that featured animated characters ($1,200) a 14-inch-tall green porcelain Northwestern 33 peanut machine offered for $945.
Pat Hamlet’s calling card states “Fun For Sale,” and many visitors stopped by his booth to see whether his booth for Chicago Pinball, Libertyville, Ill., lived up to the promise.
Players of all ages gravitated toward an 8-1/2-foot-long wooden 1962 Skill-Ball game that sold for $1,200. Hamlet said he brought a truckload of pinball and arcade games to Pheasant Run and was happy with sales.
At Kurt Hill’s Hemisphere Amusements booth, a selection of 10 pinball game models were available.
“Families want a game for the basement,” said Hill, of Lombard, Ill. His games ranged in price from $1,200 to $4,400.
Finely refinished slot machines filled the booth of veteran dealer Alan Sax of Long Grove, Ill. Many folks stopped to admire — and play — two light-up 1940s Jennings Sun Chief slot machines. A quarter-play countertop model was priced $2,600, and a 50-cent floor model machine, $5,750. At the same spot, a 1930s Buckley Bones dice-throwing slot machine carried a price tag of $15,000.
It only takes a penny to have your fortune told by a countertop 1926 Mills Wizard Fortune Teller. Of course, if you want your own fortune teller on call, 24/7, you’d need to come up with 280,000 of them to afford the model offered by John Mahar, Saginaw, Mich. Mahar also offered a set of 8-inch-tall Beatles nodding-head dolls (circa 1964) for $395.
Among the dozens of Coca-Cola machines available at the show, a slimline Cavalier 44 small bottle vendor from the 1950s ($1,500) lured many guests to Rodney Hellemn’s booth. The dealer, from Buford, Ga., also quickly sold a Coca-Cola drag racing advertising sign for $100, which was offered for sale by his 14-year-old daughter, Brittney, who finished in the top five Junior Dragsters for two years straight.
Bill Howard of Akron, Ohio, was “thrilled” to find a 3-1/2-foot-tall restored early standing 1900s black Palmer Cox Brownie papier mâché man. The oddball piece, which is one of two known, features two hand-wound clockwork mechanisms that move the eyes and mouth, was bought by Howard for $10,000.
“You find something like this, and it takes the gas out of your tank,” Howard said, gazing at the figure, complete with a formal stovepipe formal hat.
Farm toy collectors stopped for a closer look at a mid-1950s metal Farmall pedal tractor, complete with rubber tires, an I.H. advertising sun umbrella and a hauling wagon on back. The set, made by Eska, was offered for $2,750 by Dale Robinson of St. Charles, Ill. At the same spot, a 1980s new-old-stock 3-by-10-foot tin embossed John Deere sign was available for $850.
What some call “fine art” advertising was featured at the booth of illustration art collectors Tim and Michelle Smith. On display was an original 30-by-40-inch pastel painting of a girl and horse, along with printed commercial examples of the same piece. Also shown were advertising calendars from the Gerlach-Barklow Calendar Co., a personal favorite of the Smiths. Besides buying and selling, the Smiths were promoting the twice-per-year Chicagoland Petroleum and Advertising Show they co-host. The next show is slated for Oct. 17 at Peotone, Ill.
At John Turney’s booth, Boy Scout memorabilia collectors checked out a Scout-themed 1930s Keds Shoe cardboard advertising sign. The 14-inch-tall piece was priced at $425. Soda fountain enthusiasts were drawn to an 8-inch-tall, cup-and-saucer-form Johnston Syrup hot chocolate dispenser from the 1930s ($900). Turney, a retired Chicago police detective, is a 23-year show regular.
Radio collectors admired his 3-foot wingspan full figure papier mâché eagle advertising Majestic Radios, priced $1,650, that was offered at Skip Urich’s booth. The Pittsburg, Kan., dealer pointed out a circa 1910 soda fountain with a three-spigot dispenser, fancy slag glass lampshade and an alabaster base priced at $2,450.
“I’ve been buying and selling before this stuff was antique,” said Urich said.
A Mills Target Practice coin-operated trade stimulator caught the eye of Jim Johnson of Bowling Green, Ky.
“It’s going home with me,” Johnson said as he tucked the piece under his arm. The restored, polished aluminum beauty features Olympic discus athletes embossed on the front and was “snagged in the parking lot during the first hour of the show.”
John Carini and his son, Nick, traveled to the event from Milwaukee. John Carini wrote “The Pocket Guide to Coin-Op Vending Machines, With Price Guide,” which was published by Schiffer in 2002. Nick said he has been buying and selling since he was 12 years old.
At Paul Voska’s exhibit, a 6-foot-long, full-dimension aluminum submarine that advertised a sandwich shop was priced at $6,500. The show regular from Perrysburgh, Ohio, also pointed with pride to a 2-1/2 by 3-1/2-foot framed paper 1920s carnival poster from the 1920s priced at $2,800.
Some visitors enjoyed a little atypical showmanship at Michael Clardie’s Such-A-Night Productions booth. The Elvis Presley impersonator from Sterling, Ill., would, on request, belt out a few lines from a roster of more 768 songs Clardie said he could perform. His booth was filled with collectable soda pop and soda fountain items and, of course, those commemorating “The King.”
The next Chicagoland Slot Machine, Jukebox and Advertising Show will again be held at Pheasant Run, in St. Charles, Ill., Nov. 12-14.
Dealers can get information from co-promoter Bob Traynoff at 1-847-244-9263. Show information also is available from co-promoter Kevin Greco at 1-815-353-1593 and at www.chicagolandshow.com. ?
Jack Kelly is an Illinois-based freelance writer who last covered Renninger’s Antiques & Collectibles Extravaganza in Mt. Dora, Fla., for the March 31 issue of Antique Trader.
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